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Perla Meyers shares technique for cooking cedar-roasted salmon


When Perla Meyers demonstrated this first recipe at the culinary college event for Diversions, she confided, "This is my favorite summer recipe." Other tips: "Here is how you use zucchini: Cut off the outsides, discard the insides . . . I never devein shrimp . . . You can do this same dish with crab."

Fusilli with shrimp, zucchini and tomato

Serves four to five.

1/2 pound small shrimp

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small dry red chili pepper, broken

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger

6 small shallots, peeled and finely minced

4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded and chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/2 pound imported fusilli

4 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian parsley

3/4 cup mild goat cheese, crumbled.

Peel the shrimp and dry thoroughly on paper towels. Set the shrimp and shells aside separately.

In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chili pepper and shrimp shells, and saute quickly until the shells turn bright pink. Remove the shells and chili pepper with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the hot skillet, add the shrimp without crowding the pan and saute until bright pink and slightly browned. Immediately transfer the shrimp to a cutting board with a slotted spoon, dice and set aside.

Reduce the heat and add another 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Add the garlic, ginger and shallots and cook for 1 minute or until soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes, oregano and thyme, season with salt and pepper and simmer the mixture, covered, until most of the tomato juices have evaporated.

In another heavy skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and saute quickly until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, add to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Keep the sauce warm.

Bring plenty of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the fusilli and cook until al dente (just slightly firm to the bite). Immediately add 2 cups cold water to the pot to stop cooking.

Add the diced shrimp to the tomato-zucchini sauce and remove from the heat.

Drain the fusilli well, return it to the pot, and toss with the shrimp, zucchini and ginger sauce. Add the basil, minced parsley and goat cheese. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding a large grinding of black pepper. Serve at once with a crusty loaf of French bread.

The next recipe is from "The Art of Seasonal Cooking." In the introduction to the recipe, Ms. Meyers says, "The first time I saw someone roasting salmon on a cedar plank was in a Seattle restaurant several years ago. I was totally fascinated by this cooking method, as were other professional chefs across the country, and cedar- or oak-plank roasting now appears on the menus of an increasing number or restaurants.

"What makes this cooking method a natural for the home cook is its simplicity and the special advantage it offers in cooking the fish virtually without fat. The cedar plank, which is first heated in the oven for about an hour, imparts a slight but very pleasant smoky taste to the salmon that I find most appealing . . ."

Cedar-roasted salmon with chive-butter sauce

Serves four.

1 untreated hardwood plank, preferably cedar or oak, measuring 18-by-9-by- 3/4 inch thick.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, skinned

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1/4 cup Noilly Prat vermouth

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh shallots

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 pound unsalted butter, slightly chilled, cut into 16 pieces

2-3 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

salt and freshly ground white pepper

drops of lemon juice to taste


fresh chives, cut into 3-inch matchsticks

Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Brush the smooth side of the hardwood plank with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place in the center of the heated oven, oiled side up, and bake until it starts to brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Brush both sides of the salmon with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Remove the plank from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Place the salmon on the plank with what would have been the skin side down. Place the plank in the center of the oven and roast the salmon for 16 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through but still very moist.

While the salmon is roasting, prepare the butter sauce: In a heavy-bottomed 2 1/2 -quart saucepan, preferably copper, combine the vermouth, white wine and shallots. Cook over high heat until reduced to a glaze. Add the cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half.

Reduce the heat to very low. Add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking constantly and making sure that each portion of butter is absorbed before adding the next. The sauce should be smooth and creamy. Add the minced chives. Season with salt, pepper and drops of lemon juice to taste. Cover and keep over pan of lukewarm water until the salmon is done.

When the salmon is done, remove from the oven and cut into serving pieces. Place on individual plates, spoon some sauce over each portion and sprinkle with the chive matchsticks. You may also serve the salmon right on the plank for a more informal dinner or Sunday brunch, with the sauce on the side.

(Note: Ms. Meyers' book is full of tips about cooking methods. This is how she explains how you tell when a fish is done:

"The old-fashioned method of testing the doneness of fish by determining if it flakes easily is no longer valid. . . . The new test is to pierce the fish -- be it a steak, scallop or fillet -- with the tip of a sharp knife for 5 to 10 seconds, then test the temperature of the knife tip against the side of your wrist. If the knife is cold, the fish is not done; if the knife is warm, the fish is just cooked; if the knife is hot, the fish is overdone. Use this test more than once as the fish cooks.")

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