Pan roasted wild salmon with blackberry lavender vinaigrette

I remember the first time lavender left a lasting impression on my memory. It was mid-summer, many years ago, and I was riding a train through Provence, where it blooms in fields as far as they eye can see. That vision cemented lavender's place in my mind as a beautiful and abundant French herb. Some years, lavender has grown into a major industry in Oregon, complete with its own association.  

Lavender belongs to the mint family, but has more limited culinary applications since U.S. consumers associate the fragrant purple flowers primarily with soap, oil, aromatherapy, and shampoo. For now.

When the seasons for lavender and blackberries collide in July, my wife makes a blackberry-lavender ice cream that I savor each and every bite of.  And since she makes it just once per season, the combination is eagerly anticipated, and held in high regard! 

On the savory side, a red wine vinaigrette infused with lavender blooms is delightful on almost any ingredient, including salad greens. English lavender is the variety used in the kitchen, and for drying. If you're in doubt about whether the variety you're considering will be palatable, smell or taste it, to see if the flavor is pleasing, and not too perfume-y. All varieties of lavender are edible, so be selective about the floral content, and whether it complements the ingredients you'll be pairing the lavender with (as opposed to overwhelming them). 

If you saw me prepare this recipe on KGW's Portland Today show, you might remember that I served it with polenta (here's that recipe ).

The photograph below shows the blistered green been, potato and onion sauté included in this recipe.

If your berries are tangy or not especially sweet, add a bit of honey to the recipe.  Or, if you're a fan of blueberries or raspberries, try one of those berries instead for a vinaigrette with a different but equally pleasing floral effect.


Makes 4 servings

 

Ingredients

8 small red or gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

One 1 to 1-1/2 pound side of salmon (Sockeye or Silver), or 4 salmon filets 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound green beans, trimmed

6 green onions, white portion only, cut in half lengthwise (Cippolini or pearl onions can be substituted)

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Blackberry-Lavender Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F if you think the salmon will need to be finished in the oven. (If your filets are about 1-inch thick, you'll want to use this stovetop and oven combination to cook them.)

Bring a pot of salted water large enough to hold the potatoes to a simmer over high heat. Add the potatoes to the water once it comes to a light boil, reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes if they are small, or between 8 and 10 minutes for larger Yukon Gold or Red Bliss potatoes.  Test the doneness by sliding a small knife into the potato. If there is little resistance, the potatoes are ready. (The potatoes will be cooked again with the onion and beans, so you can err on the side of underdone for this initial cooking.) Drain and set aside.

Heat a heavy, oven-proof pan large enough to hold the salmon with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Meanwhile, season the salmon with salt. Brown the salmon pieces, flesh side down, flip over and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking for 4 to 5 minutes. Or, if the filets are thin, flip them over and finish cooking skin side down on the stove top. The heat remaining in the pan will carry over the cooking as the fish rests in the pan.

For the sauté, heat a pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add the beans, cook for 1 minute and toss before adding the onion pieces and potatoes. Continue to cook and brown for several more minutes, until the potatoes are heated through and slightly crispy and the onions have softened.  Add the lemon juice and butter, mixing to combine, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat and arrange on a large platter or individual plates.  Place the salmon on the potato and green bean sauté (or polenta) and spoon the blackberry lavender vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle a few lavender flowers if desired and serve immediately. 

 

blackberry-Lavender vinaigrette

1 cup blackberries

1 teaspoon lavender flowers, coarsely chopped or crushed using your fingers

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground

1/4 cup olive oil 

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, crushing the blackberries to extract their juices, color and flavor.  If your berries are slightly tangy, add a teaspoon or 2 of honey to sweeten the vinaigrette.