Recipes for Pietro’s Salmon

Here’s an initial batch of recipes designed to make the most of the wild salmon (from Alaska) offered by Pietro Parravano, a fisherman who sells his wares at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park farmers markets. For overall ideas inspired by Pietro’s fish, see my earlier post (Pietro’s Fish: What Comes After Wild Salmon?). These salmon recipes vary from something easy for everyday to dinner-party dishes designed to compete with the conversation. Another excellent local source of fresh wild salmon is Cook’s Seafood in Menlo Park., whose wares are fresher than what I’ve found at other stores.


Slow Roasted Wild Salmon in Dill

Brining fish?You bet.This recipe is a take-off from one created by Jerry Traunfeld, formerly of the Herbfarm near Seattle.It’s very easy but plenty elegant enough to serve to guests. Brining does magical things to the salmon, changing the texture into a meltingly tender, moist bite of heaven.

Serves 6


2 1/2 lbs.wild King salmon fillets, skinned
2 large bunches fresh dill


1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 small bunch fresh dill, stems removed


1.Bring water, salt and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan and stir until the salt and sugar dissolves. Stir in dill. Transfer brine to a large liquid measuring cup and add enough ice to dilute the brine to 3 cups.
3.Remove any pin bones in the salmon, cut away any gray flesh that was next to the skin, slice the fish into six equal pieces. Place it in a bowl or plastic container and pour the brine over to completely submerge the fish. Let the fish sit in brine for one hour at room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Drain the brine and rinse the salmon to remove excess salt. Blot the fish dry with paper towels. Spread 1/2 the dill on the bottom of a large shallow baking dish. Arrange the fish fillets on top of dill, leaving space between them. Cover the fish with the remaining dill. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the fish flakes very slightly when pressed on, but is still slightly translucent. Do not over cook. Remove the dill and serve right away.

Can be served with:

lemon wedges and/or melted butter

a simple beurre blanc (look in any cookbook or online), with some dill added at the end

Wild Salmon with Olive-Almond-Fennel Topping

This was inspired by a recipe in Gourmet some years back, but “improved.” Olives and salmon are a wonderful match.This simple, fast topping can be thrown together quickly and is good on just about anything (well, not chocolate cake). Here, the salmon is pan roasted but it could just as easily be grilled or baked.And the topping is good with other fish – say, Pietro’s halibut, fur instance.

For topping

½ cup slivered almonds, roasted just until slightly browned

1 cup pitted green olives (see below)

2 tablespoons drained capers

1/3 teaspoon each coriander and fennel seeds, cracked & roughly ground but not turned into dust

half of the grated zest from one Meyer or Eureka lemon (Meyer is best)

3-5 tablespoon (to taste) fresh lemon juice

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For fish

4 wild King salmon filets

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, roughly ground
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly ground

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

high-temperature oil like grapeseed

Make topping:

Pit olives if necessary and chop into medium-small pieces. Add other ingredients, mix and set aside. Can add salt and pepper to taste, but it likely won’t need salt.

Prepare fish:

1. Preheat oven to 375-400

2. In a mortar and pestle, roughly grind seeds.Remove to a small bowl and add lemon zest, salt and pepper.Mix.
3. Rub olive oil on top of filets (not skin side) and distribute topping among them.

4. Coat an oven-proof fry pan with high-temperature oil and turn on high until hot but not smoking. Add filets skin side down and cook on stovetop for 2 minutes (or less for thinner filets).

5. Move pan to oven and cook for 12 minutes (or less if filets are thin; or more for those who liked overcooked fish).

Serve fish topped with olive-almond mixture.

The bright-tasting topping is terrific with other kinds of meaty fish (tuna, halibut, sturgeon), chicken, or pork and is also delicious with grilled summer vegetables. My guests spoon it all over whatever’s on their plate. Unless they don’t like olives (yes, such people exist).


The absolutely best olives for this recipe are Lucques, from the south of France. They used to be available locally but since Oakville Grocery closed, they’ve disappeared. So ordering them online is advisable. Once you taste a Lucques olive, you’ll be hooked. It’s the most delicious green olive in the world, I believe.

However, other tasty green olives – or a mixture – is still quite nice. Try picholines from olive bars or any green olive you like. An acceptable solution is the “Provence green” type olives from olive bars and/or the big pitted olives with stuff on them from Whole Foods, which taste good and are quick because they allow you to avoid the tiresome pitting process. Taste the olives first to be sure you like the flavor before buying.

Salmon Tartare

Serves 4 to 6

With super-fresh fish, the preparation options can also include not cooking it at all.I’ve been making this recipe for years. It was developed a couple of decades ago by chef Michael Roberts but I’ve done some little tweaks. The flavors here are amazing; a mouthful of taste with no added fat/oil other than the omega 3s from the salmon. And it’s gorgeous to look at, too.Serve this as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. It’s so delicious, though, that you’ll be tempted to eat it for your whole meal.If you’ve got guests that simply won’t eat raw fish, it also makes some out-of-this-world salmon patties (just sauté in a little butter or oil).


1 pound salmon fillet, with skin, bones and purple-colored area next to skin removed

1 plentiful bunch fresh parsley

2 anchovy filets

4 T minced shallots

2 T prepared horeseradish (creamy kind ok)

2 T grainy prepared mustard (French is best)

at least 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer or Eureka)

salt & pepper to taste


Chop the salmon reasonably fine by hand. Chop the parsley, anchovies fine, adding the shallots and other ingredients so everything is mixed together. Right before serving, add the lemon juice (add more to taste), salt & pepper. Serve with crackers, toast or whatever.

Salmon Cakes

Here’s an excellent way to use the flavorful, cheap salmon backs available from fisherman Pietro Parravano — or use fresh salmon (farmed is ok) from Cook’s in Menlo Park. Almost any kind of fish can be used in fish cakes (aka, little patties of fish and whatever that are lightly fried) but salmon is particularly delicious as well as pretty. There are plentiful approaches and recipes for fish cakes.This one is easy and adaptable.


1 lb. of salmon meat from salmon backs or from filets, steaks, etc. with all skin, bones and dark purple flesh removed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup breadcrumbs (homemade, store bought, or use panko* for good results) and more for coating

2 diced shallots

grated zest of one lemon plus 2 T fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

less than ¼ cup of another compatible chopped fresh herb of your choice.Recommendations: tarragon, basil** or marjoram

salt & pepper to taste

high-temperature oil for frying like grapeseed oil

* info on panko breadcrumbs here; they’re great.Sold at Nak’s Market in Menlo Par, Nijiya in Mountain View, Draeger’s and probably other places.

** if using basil, a nice Italian-style addition is some diced sun-dried tomatoes


Cut up fish into little pieces (some recipes recommend a food processor but that produces inferior results), say, diced into 1/4″ or less pieces. Mix all ingredients except for the oil together in order listed and adjust as desired (it tastes quite good at this stage, actually).

Form into little patties (say, 1 ½ inches thick and 3-4 inches in diameter), pressing them together as well as possible. This works best if done on a flat surface.Heat a generous amount of oil in a fry pan. Sprinkle the extr breadcrumbs onto a plate; dip each side of each patty in the crumbs to lightly coat. Cook the patties on medium to medium-low heat, being careful they don’t burn.Cooks for about 4 minutes per side — or less if they seem to be cooking too fast. They’re cooked when you thump them and they feel a bit firm. Drain them on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce or whatever seems appealing.


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