I am lucky enough to call the Pacific Northwest of the US home. Not only do we have a nearly unlimited variety of foods available from around the world, but we have a HUGE abundance of locally raised, grown, and harvested products – all kinds of fishes, wild game, a wide variety of grains and legumes (Did you know Washington state even hosts the National Lentil Festival? Who knew!), veggies of all sorts (from asparagus to zucchini, and every letter in between), and some of the best tree fruits in the world (Wenatchee, Washington is considered the apple capital of the world). And that is just the shortlist!
This recipe features some of the best of these Northwest foods – salmon, morel mushrooms, lentils, and asparagus.
The richness of the morel cream sauce complements the oily, flavorful salmon, and the lemony, fresh flavors of the lentils with asparagus provide a refreshing accent and tastebud pleasing balance to the dish. Enjoy any time of year, but especially in the spring when the asparagus is fresh off the farm.
Zingy lentil and asparagus salad
16 thin asparagus spears, woody ends cut or snapped off and discarded
1cup dried lentils
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Salmon with morel mushroom cream sauce
1/2ounce or about 12 dried morel mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2cup dry white wine
1cup heavy cream
2 green onions, sliced into thin rounds
About 10 pieces of parsley, roughly chopped
4 – 4 to 6 ounce salmon filets, deboned and skin removed
Salt and pepper
For the zingy lentil and asparagus Salad
In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the lentils according to the package directions in water with a pinch of salt. Different types of lentils take significantly different cooking times. Cook until al dente – tender enough to be tasty, but still slightly firm and holding their shape.
When the lentils have finished cooking, drain immediately and mix with the mustard, oil, and lemon dressing.
Cut the asparagus into bite size pieces, and gently toss into the lentil salad.
Equally tasty served warm or chilled.
For the salmon with morel mushroom cream sauce
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil, pour over the dried morel mushrooms, and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Once softened, if the mushrooms are whole, slice in half lengthwise. Don’t throw out the soaking water – it’s going in the sauce!
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium sauce pan. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds or until the garlic begins to soften and become very fragrant.
Add the wine, the mushroom soaking liquid (taking care to leave any grit or sand from the mushrooms behind), and the mushrooms to the sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling until the liquid is reduce by half, about 5 minutes.
Once the liquid is reduced, add the heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cream sauce has reduced slightly and easily coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the sliced green onions and chopped parsley, reserving a few pieces for garnish.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper.
When the skillet is hot, add a lug of olive oil, and gently place the fillets into the skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.
Remove to a serving plate, spoon over the morel cream sauce, and garnish with the reserved green onions and parsley.
Serve the salmon over the zingy lentil and asparagus salad.
While salmon is my preferred fish in this recipe, it would also be tasty with a meaty white fish like halibut.
Morel mushrooms, with their wonderful woodsy flavor, can be a bit tricky to come by. They are harvest in the wild in the spring, and are often dried so they can be enjoyed throughout the year. The grocery store will typically sell them in small, dried packs. While they won’t be an exact substitute, any other dried mushrooms will do the job.
I like using red lentils in this dish because they’re pretty (that’s a good reason, right?), but feel free to substitute any grain or legume you like.