After a long string of unrelated career choices in my early youth, including a detective (ages 8-10), a freelance spy/mercenary who resembled the comic book hero Punisher (ages 10-11), a professional baseball player/owner of baseball card store (age 11), a writer of paranormal fiction (age 12), I finally decided on horticulture (ages 13-18). I was obsessed with plants. I filled my dad’s house with so many potted plants that the windows would fog up. I couldn’t eat a fruit without planting its seeds, or enjoy an avocado without removing the pit and placing it in a glass of water to entice its roots to grow. Our kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory and windowsills became expensive real estate.
Looking back, it was a little eccentric that I spent several minutes each day breathing on each houseplant, to give them more air; or that I flipped yearningly through plant books while my friends were reading Batman comics or Playboys. I knew the Latin name for every potted plant and became irritatingly pedantic when visiting friends, if I came across a neglected or ill specimen. Nitrogen deficiency, I would say; or don’t give this guy a south facing window – shade is preferable; or, your fern needs watering (with a condemning scowl). I didn’t get invited out much.
During my last year of high school I was given a shiitake log by someone who knew of my love of growing things. These logs are pretty remarkable if you’ve never seen one before. It is a small log that has been coated, I’m guessing, by spores from this delicious fungi. After a few weeks sitting in a cool damp place, mushrooms begin to grow on and off for several months. I hadn’t really been a huge lover of fungi until then, but there is something wonderfully meaty and exotic with shiitake. Ranging anywhere from $4 to $8 a pound, I don’t often buy these expensive ingredients; although they are always a welcome treat in my kitchen, especially in this ginger-shiitake glaze paired with salmon which I know you’ll love.
1 pound salmon fillet, skin on
2 tbsp canola oil plus 1 tbsp for greasing the pan
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Roughly 1/2 cup of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or rice wine vinegar, if you have none on hand)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp water
1/4 tbsp dried red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cornstarch and 1/2 tsp water, for thickening
2 tbsp chopped italian parsley or cilantro, for garnish
1. Grease a large cooking pan or baking sheet with a tbsp oil. Place the salmon, skin side down on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the ground coriander. Set aside while you prepare the glaze.
2. In a large frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir for 2-3 minutes or until garlic begins to brown slightly. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook for 2-3 more minutes, or until they begin to brown. Next, add the remaining ingredients, except the cornstarch, and let simmer for 1 minute. In a separate small bowl, mix together the small amount of cornstarch and water, then whisk together. Pour this into the cooking glaze, then stir for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
3. Broil the salmon in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until nearly cooked all the way through. The salmon should have started to brown a little and become firm to the touch. Spoon the glaze over the salmon, then return to the oven to broil for another minute or so, or until cooked through at the thickest part. Garnish with cilantro or parsley. Enjoy.