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Grilled Salmon with Roasted Pumpkin, Fall Greens and Cheddar Risotto

Salmon and Pumpkins


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The arrival of fall signifies so many different things, and depending on where you live, how much work you have to do before winter arrives. However, it’s always been my favorite time of year whether I was living in the Deep South or New England.  No matter where you live, the change in nature is evident and beautiful. I love the change in light, the foliage, the crisp morning air and seeing the change in wildlife behavior. 

Fishing is at its best, with most all species feeding heavy in preparation for the winter months and the fall salmon run is a well-known ritual in many parts of the country.  Even if you’re not close to a river where this natural phenomenon occurs, there’s still landlocked salmon and other salmonids to be caught, cooked and enjoyed. Not only are there several different species and numerous ways to catch the various members of the salmon family, salmon is also one of the healthiest foods you can put on your table. They are loaded with protein, rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids and loaded with B vitamins.  Other possible benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease, helping with weight control, fighting inflammation and new studies are showing that it can improve brain health.  I would have to say an all-around superstar of a fish……..a true fighter that’s versatile in the kitchen, delicious on the plate and healthy. 

 Some good friends with Lake Ontario King Salmon. Photo credit: @jbrouillardfishing

Some good friends with Lake Ontario King Salmon. Photo credit: @jbrouillardfishing

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Another star player in the fall months is the iconic pumpkin. Seriously…...what would Halloween be without the pumpkin?  While the pumpkin and its alter-ego, the Jack O Lantern, does a great job of playing the symbol of Halloween, it also does a stand-up job in and around the kitchen. Pumpkins are a winter squash, but to me at least, other than pie, it seems they get less play in recipes than some of its cousins like the Butternut, Acorn, Delicata or Hubbard squash. I’m not a fan, at all, of any “pumpkin flavored” items but real pumpkin, especially roasted, has both a sweet and savory flavor that lends itself to everything from soups to pies to pasta to breads.  Pumpkins are another super food. They are packed with beta-carotene which may help reduce heart disease as well as certain types of cancer. They are also a great source of fiber and full of vitamins and nutrients. 

Salmon and Pumpkins are wonderful together anytime of year but freshly caught salmon and pumpkins fresh off the vine really make the perfect combo for a wonderful fall dinner.  

 

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Pumpkin, Fall Greens and Cheddar Risotto

Ingredients

4 salmon filets, 7 to 9 ounces each

3 cups roasted pumpkin, recipe below

2 cups of your favorite greens, I prefer baby spinach and arugula but kale, chard or any lettuce will work. However, if using greens such as chard or kale it's best to saute them a little first.

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dry sherry

2 cups arborio rice

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

4 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar grated (about 1 cup), plus more for garnish

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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To roast the pumpkin, cut the stem and a little bit of the top of the pumpkin off with a sharp knife.  Then cut the pumpkin in half and clean out all the seeds and pulp. Cut the halves into 2” to 3” wedges and drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Place skin side down on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the skin from the roasted pumpkin and, for this recipe, cut the roasted pumpkin in 1” chunks


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For the salmon, prepare a charcoal grill or preheat gas grill. Lightly brush the grill grate with olive oil. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and place them skin side down on the grill. Cook for about four minutes then use a spatula to gently flip the filets over and cook for another few minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

 


For the risotto, in large sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat butter over medium heat until melted and hot.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions just start to soften.  Splash sherry over vegetables and let simmer for 2 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat with liquid, and let cook until liquid is absorbed. Reduce heat to medium-low Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time and cook, stirring often, until all of the broth is absorbed before adding more. (Add just enough of the broth to make rice firm but cooked through to center.) When about half of the broth has been used add about one-third of the pumpkins and continue slowly adding the broth and pumpkin until all the broth and pumpkin have been used and the rice is nice and tender about 20 minutes. Add the greens and cook while stirring for 3 or 4 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and parsley and season with the salt and pepper.  Plate the salmon and risotto, garnish with a little extra cheese and enjoy.

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OUTDOORS & IN-SEASON

Cheddar Quesadilla with Fresh Sunfish and Green Tomato Salad, Tostado Style


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This recipe blends the classic quesadilla with the toppings of a tostado. Corn tortillas may be my favorite “food vehicle” for both flavor and versatility. The ways to incorporate them into recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks are almost endless and, to me at least, always delicious. This recipe also uses three other of my favorite ingredients; fresh crappie, green tomatoes and Cabot cheddar. 

Also, almost endless are the many different species of panfish and sunfish, even largemouth and smallmouth bass are a member of the sunfish family.  While most anglers practice catch and release for largemouth and smallmouth, other members of the sunfish family are more sought after for table fare, with black and white crappie at the top of the list.  Crappie, or sac-a-lait, as we referred to them as kids, or specks, as they are called in some parts of the country, are highly regarded as the best tasting freshwater fish and I couldn’t agree more. The seasons for crappie vary from state to state, but they are long and generous, with many anglers devoting their entire season toward catching and cooking this tasty fish.  Crappie fillets are usually breaded and deep-fried, but my favorite way to cook this delicate fish is to quickly pan fry it in a couple tablespoons of butter with just a little salt and pepper and a slice or two of lemon.   

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For the recipe, first of all, try and catch or acquire some crappie fillets. If not possible, any other delicate white meat fish will suffice, such as yellow perch, bluegill or bass. If all else fails, you can always pick up some flounder or haddock at the local grocery store. 

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This is also an opportunity to use those green tomatoes in yours or your neighbor’s garden. Green tomatoes, un-ripened red tomatoes, have a much longer season than red tomatoes, and the un-ripened sugars of a green tomato give it a tangy and tart flavor that lends itself nicely to all sorts of recipes, not just fried green tomatoes.

For the recipe:

6 tostadas, quick-fried tortillas

1 to 2 lbs. crappie fillets or other white meat fish, cooked and gently broken into pieces

1 cup refried beans, warm

2 cups mixed greens, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup Cabot Sour Cream

2 tablespoons whole milk

¼ cup chopped onion

1 avocado, pitted and diced

1 medium sized green tomatoes, diced

1 cup Cabot Mexican Blend Shreds or your favorite Cabot Cheddar shredded

2 tablespoons Cabot salted butter

salt and pepper to taste

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Melt the butter in skillet and place over medium-low heat. When hot, place one tortilla in skillet. Sprinkle with ½ cup of grated cheese. Cover with the second tortilla. Turn the quesadilla over with a spatula, when lightly browned on the underside and cook until cheese is melted and is lightly browned. 

In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper until well blended.  Add the diced green tomatoes, toss then set aside.  I like to let them marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes are marinating, whisk the sour cream and milk together in a small bowl until well blended.  If you have a squirt bottle, transfer the cream mixture to the bottle. If not, you can always just use a spoon to garnish with. 

To assemble the tostados, spread a layer of the refried beans over each tortilla. Follow that with a little bit of the fish, then the onion and avocado. Garnish with a stripe or dollop of the sour cream and don't be afraid to be generous. Place the mixed greens in the bowl with the dressed green tomatoes and toss.

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Add the green tomato salad and top with the Cabot Cheese. 

Enjoy and good fishing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OUTDOORS & IN-Season

Trout Season, Fiddleheads and Grills

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Spring in New England means many different things to the residents that have endured and, hopefully, enjoyed the long winter. At least to myself and many friends and acquaintances, one of those long awaited events that spring brings is the opening day of trout season. The streams, rivers and lakes can still be ice cold and the weather inclement at best. However, it’s not always so much about catching fish as just dusting off the rods and reels, changing mental gears, spending time with the family and enjoying the beginning of the glorious spring season.  Whether you fish or not, opening day is an important ritual for all. It’s a piece of New England culture and it’s a day that signifies what’s here and what’s to come. 

Also, while walking the banks in search of fish for dinner, don’t forget to look around for another New England tradition…....fiddleheads. 

 

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Grilled Trout with Fiddleheads and Cabot Cheddar

Two trout fillets, 7 to 9 oz each

8 garlic cloves

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cabot Cracker Cuts, 6 pieces of your choice

olive oil

2 tablespoons Cabot butter

fish seasoning


Prepare your grill or an open fire with a grate. 

For the fiddleheads, I like to par cook them a little by boiling for a few minutes. This helps to further clean them as well as get a jump-start on the cooking process.  Bring water to boil in a small saucepan or pot to a boil. Add the fiddleheads and lower to heat to low boil and let cook for 5 minute or so. Drain in a colander and set aside. 

Place the trout fillets on a plate and sprinkle or “rub” the flesh side of trout with the seasoning. It doesn’t have to be heavily coated just a nice dusting.  Set aside.

 

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Set a cast iron or heavy bottom sauté pan on the grill you will be cooking the trout. Lightly coat the bottom on the pan with olive oil and the Cabot butter. Add the par-cooked fiddleheads, the garlic cloves and the lemon wedges and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange the trout, skin side down, on the grill next to the pan over the hot part of the grill or near the direct heat of the fire.  Cook the trout for a few minutes with the skin side down then, very carefully, using a spatula flip the trout to flesh side down.  Cook for a few more minutes and make sure the fiddleheads in the pan are cooking and stir occasionally. When the trout is done, using the spatula, flip the trout back to skin side down.

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Divide the fiddleheads evenly between the two trout, placing on one side of each fillet. Add three or four of the cracker cuts on top of the fiddleheads and very carefully fold the trout to cover the fiddleheads and cheese. Remove to a plate and garnish with the grilled lemons

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Remove to a plate and garnish with the grilled lemons. Serve with cole slaw, green salad or your favorite side dish. Enjoy!

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