In California it’s officially salmon season and my fig trees are loaded to the gills (forgive me) with lush leaves. It’s like Mother Nature is sending a signal to us backyard growers to prepare them together. Who doesn’t love being pointed in the right direction?
Farm-raised salmon is at our Whole Foods right now for $12.95/pound and it’s lean and tasty, especially when wrapped in fresh fig leaves. The leaves impart a lovely coconut-y flavor and keeps the fish incredibly moist. It changes up our ordinary pan-seared salmon into something special, delicious and seasonal — a line-up of my favorite words!
I first shared this recipe last summer in Flutter Magazine and turned to it again when hosting a luncheon for the PTA crew last week. This is a great recipe for entertaining because you can prep the fish in the morning on a baking sheet and store in the fridge. When show time approaches, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then slide into the hot oven.
The spring leaves on our fig tree are just right, soft and pliable, they wrap easily. When picking fig leaves off the tree, try to select spots where you can still allow for a cluster of three leaves on the branch to protect the fruit — you don’t want to leave the figs exposed to the blazing sun.
Last week, I asked the fish monger at Whole Foods fillet the salmon into perfect little portions for lunch. I happened to have some chive blossoms blooming in the veggie beds that I added to the butter mixture. However, the simple preparation below is flavorful and delicious all on its own. I admit, it always feels special to bring these bright green packages to the table, especially sitting on the secret of how easy it is to pull off.
Salmon Wrapped in Fig Leaves
Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by Alice Waters
4 4-5 ounce fillets salmon or halibut
4 fig leaves, washed and stems removed
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven 400.
Combine the butter with olive oil. Season fish both sides with salt and pepper. With a pastry brush or spoon, slather the butter mixture on each side of the fish. If you have flowering arugula or any type of herbs from the garden you can press them to the top of each fillet.
Lay each fig leaf shiny side down and each fillet skin side up on top of the leaf. Next, wrap the leaf around the fish like you would a present. Turn the fish over on a baking sheet so the weight of the fish secures the leaf in place.
Alternatively, you can fasten the leaves together with butchers twine — this is a good option when your leaves aren’t super pliable. Also note, the leaves don’t need to entirely cover the entire filet. As the fish cooks the leaf will form a secure wrapping around the fish.
Bake for 10 -12 minutes. You can serve all of these little fish packages on a platter still wrapped or plate them individually removing both the leaf wrapper and the skin.