Weather: after weeks of record-breaking warm weather it’s 51 degrees and overcast
What I’m listening to: big machines doing roadwork on our dirt road outside
A couple from our church caught some sockeye salmon on the Kenai River, and when we got home from church, there were fresh fillets, only hours out of the water, perched on the shelf in our refrigerator – the first fresh salmon of the season to grace my kitchen. There will be more in July, much more, but there is always something extra special about the first catch, that beautiful bright red, fleshy meat.
A couple of notes. First, birch syrup – like salmon, it’s one of our stunning local Alaska products. It looks like maple syrup, but it’s tapped from birch trees instead, and it less sweet and a little more savory than maple. It has a slightly smoky, almost umami quality, like hints of soy sauce mingling with traces of molasses and honey. It’s amazing for marinades. But, birch syrup is rare and pricey, so if you don’t have some on hand, maple syrup or honey are nice substitutes in this recipe.
The second note is about the use of lemons on kebabs. Slice them very thinly, season them with salt and pepper and brush them with the marinade right along with your protein, and let them get all caramelized and crispy over the fire. Prepared this way, they’re not just a lovely garnish or a touch of acid, but you can eat them whole right along with your fish. They’re delicious.
Salmon Skewers with Rosemary Birch Syrup
A delicious way to prepare fresh salmon in the summertime with grilled lemons and rosemary-infused birch syrup.
Yields: 8-10 skewers
- 1 1/2-2 pounds fresh salmon, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 2 inch cubes, and patted dry
- 1-2 large lemons, very thinly sliced and deseeded
- 1/2 cup birch syrup (maple syrup or honey can be substituted)
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
If using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes before preparing kebabs. Prepare your grill or fire for grilling (we made ours on a grate over our backyard fire pit).
Arrange the skewers beginning with salmon, followed with lemon, then salmon, lemon, salmon. Set aside and repeat with remaining salmon. Season the kebabs generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
In a small saucepan, heat the birch syrup and rosemary over medium-low heat. When the mixture just comes to a simmer, remove from heat and brush liberally over the skewers, being sure to coat the lemons as well as the salmon. Reserve any remaining rosemary syrup to brush over the skewers as they grill.
Grease your grill to prevent the salmon for sticking as needed. Place the skewers on the grill over a hot fire, brushing with syrup as you go, cooking until salmon is cooked to medium in the center (or to your preference), and has grill marks on both sides (ours took 2-3 minutes per side, but this will depend on the heat of your fire and the proximity of the skewers to the flame). Drizzle any remaining syrup over top of the skewers and serve promptly.