Ge Ge fancies himself to be, at the ripe old age of five, quite the food critic. Lately this has meant that anything I put in front of him is carefully sniffed, dissected by fork and knife, and tasted slowly, bit by bit. He uses words like “satisfying,” “savory” and “buttery” to describe dishes, and has, on more than one occasion, given me “more than 3 stars, less than 6” as a rating.
The worst review I’ve gotten to date is for a daal (red lentil) curry that I made a few weeks ago, which I’ve made lots of times before. Ge Ge took a few bites of the lentils, which had been simmered with potatoes, carrots and tomatoes in a thick sauce of coconut milk and Indian spices. He put his fork down and scowled.
“Mama, you made the ginger into big chunks this time. Don’t you usually grate it?”
I wish I was kidding. The kid was right. In my haste to make the curry, I’d taken a shortcut and chopped the ginger instead of using my Microplane grater. Ge Ge had bitten directly into a chunk of ginger, and the sharpness of it had slayed his little taste buds.
Since then, Ge Ge’s been on High Ginger Alert. Every dish gets a 20-point inspection before it passes into Ge Ge’s gullet, and it’s been really exhausting, both as a parent and as a cook. Just so I wouldn’t get grilled about every single step I took in making a dish, earlier this week I made this teriyaki salmon and brown rice salad mixed with chopped avocados, peanuts, pickled ginger and cucumber. And thank the dear sweet heavens that I did, because for the first time in weeks I hit a home run. Everyone in my family loved it. That’s why you need this recipe, too.
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The teriyaki salmon is a staple in our house (I’ve featured it in a recipe for salmon soba noodles here, and the marinade I adapted from Skinny Taste’s recipe here). The kids love the sticky-sweet, soy sauce-based glaze that crystallizes on the flaky, fall-apart salmon, and I’ve paired it with everything from simple roasted green beans to glazed tempura sweet potatoes. Last night, it was time to try this brown rice salad from Saveur. I bookmarked this recipe a few weeks ago because it has everything my kids will eat — peanuts, crispy Persian cucumbers, creamy avocado and a soy-based teriyaki sauce. To avoid scoring a DEFCOM-5 on the Ginger Alert Scale, I omitted the pickled ginger from the kids’ version.
When dinner (which also included some simple roasted asparagus) hit the table last night, there was nary a protest from our in-house Ruth Reichl. The kids and hubby gobbled their dinner while I yelled “CHAMPION!!!” repeatedly and fist pumping.
It was a totally peaceful meal. Just like we have every night. With candlelight. And real linen napkins.
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce plus 3 tablespoons, divided
- 3 tablespoons mirin plus 3 tablespoons, divided
- 3 tablespoons sake plus 3 tablespoons, divided
- 2 tablespoons honey plus 1 tablespoon honey, divided
- 1 steelhead or other wild salmon filet, skin on and cut into four pieces (approximately 1 pound), skin on
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 cups brown rice, uncooked
- 2 avocados, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
- 3 Persian cucumbers, cut in quarters lengthwise and then into ½ inch chunks
- 1 cup cilantro, de-stemmed, leaves left whole
- ½ cup chopped peanuts
- 4 tablespoons pickled ginger
- juice and zest of 1 lime
- 4 scallions, diced
- In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce, 3 tablespoons mirin, 3 tablespoons sake and 1 tablespoon honey. Pour into a gallon Ziploc freezer bag. Add the salmon and seal the bag, then turn it over and over in your hands to thoroughly coat the salmon. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours overnight.
- Cook brown rice according to the package instructions (or in a rice cooker; note: the brown rice can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). Remove from heat and set aside.
- Whisk together the remaining soy sauce, mirin, sake and honey in a small bowl and set aside.
- Find a skillet (preferably nonstick with a lid) and heat it over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat the oil to shimmering, then remove the salmon filets (reserving the marinade in the Ziploc bag) and place on skillet. Sear the salmon for 3 minutes, then, using a spatula, carefully flip the salmon filets and sear the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and pour the remaining marinade all over the fish. Put the lid on the skillet and let the salmon cook an additional 4-5 minutes until the filets are completely opaque and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove the filets from the skillet to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
- In a large bowl, mix together the brown rice and the soy sauce mixture. Add the scallions, peanuts, pickled ginger, lime zest, lime juice, avocado and cucumber and toss carefully to combine. Garnish with the cilantro and serve along with the fish.