Some dishes are so ridiculously simple it's a little stretch to even give a recipe for them, but this is something I put together this summer that made me very, very happy. Sockeye goes particularly well with a little sugar, and the melon and basil give the lovely, minerally fish a crisp, aromatic, sweet foil.
- 4 6-ounce sockeye salmon fillets
- 2 pounds of watermelon, cubed
- 6-8 leaves basil, sliced into thin ribbons
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Olive oil, to taste,
- White wine vinegar, to taste
- Splash of oil of your choice, for searing
- In a big bowl, toss the watermelon and basil with a few generous pinches of salt, enough to make you realize there's salt in there, but not enough to make it taste salty. The salt will draw out a fair bit of juice from the melon and firm up its texture. Let this marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. No harm if it's out longer than that.
- When you're ready to eat, splash a little olive oil on the salad, just enough to give it a roundness in the flavor. Give it a taste. If it's nice but you feel like it could use a little more perkiness, splash on a little vinegar, too.
- Lay the salmon fillets out on a couple of thicknesses of paper towel skin-side down, and cover the other side with paper towel as well. This draws moisture away from the surface, and will let the skin crisp nicely.
- Select a pan -- if you have one that will fit all the fillets comfortably with no bunching, great! If not, use two pans, or cook them in batches. Generously season the skin-side of the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the pan over medium high heat with a splash of oil, just enough to coat. Swirl it. When the oil is at the "wavy" shimmery stage, lay in the fish skin-side down and gently press on the fillets with your hand or a spatula to keep them from bowing. Keep pressing until the skin has set and they can lie flat on their own. Salt and pepper the flesh side while the skin is cooking.
- After 2 or 3 minutes, take a peek at the skin; if it's a little golden and crisp, flip the fillets and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. You want sockeye to stay pretty rare to medium rare, so check on the doneness either by cutting into it (should still be glossy looking but not, you know, cold), or poke at it with your finger. It should have a firmness somewhere between your earlobe (raw/rare) and the tip of your nose (medium/medium well done).
- Serve the fish immediately, skin-side up, with the salad alongside; the juices from the salad will run off and become something of a sauce for the salmon.