This is not a helpful “pantry staple” recipe. If your grocery store is overrun by panicked shoppers a la my Safeway, you might be out of luck. But after an overly indulgent few days of comfort food I was eager to eat a veggie-heavy meal. My grocery store had no spinach, romaine, or salad-type veggies, no carrots or “easy” veggies, but they had loads of asparagus for $1.29 a bundle. I always assume that when vegetables are cheap, it’s because they’re abundant and therefore in season (somewhere, at least). So I grabbed two big, medium-stemmed bundles of asparagus.
If the vegetable section looks pathetically decimated, the meat section is even worse. At our shop the management actually turned off the coolers and lights because there was no need to get people’s hopes up from the end of the aisle. No chicken, no lamb, no pork, no beef. But seafood? In abundance.
So, salmon. Conveniently, I like to cook salmon and often pick up a vacuum-sealed fresh Atlantic salmon fillet when I’m at Trader Joe’s. They’re generally the perfect size for two hearty dinners and one good lunch (usually they’re just over a pound each). This recipe tasted great with a fresh fillet, but thanks to the very flavorful marinade a frozen fish or a more questionable-looking piece of salmon would work just fine (take what you can get when it comes to protein, right?)
Now usually salmon is my 15-minutes-or-less wonder meal. But these days? Fifteen minutes or less is wholly unnecessary. Matt was rushing me to do something the other day and I froze and asked him, please, could we please just savor this time when we literally never need to rush anywhere? But I digress. Back to dinner.
This quick meal still calls for a marinade, and I’ve found that the perfect activity to do between endless conference calls is some sort of dinner prep work. Whereas in my old life I’d, say, walk and catch up with a colleague about so-and-so’s outfit or grab a coffee at Blue Stone Lane, these days, I have to forcibly remove myself from my basement “desk” to take mental breaks. Dinner prep also keeps my hands busy enough that I don’t snack (and snack and snack and snack). The marinade is an easy soy and honey marinade, I’m sure you’ve read lots of them from insta-cooks and other places, they’re all variations on a pretty solid theme. The asparagus is my side dish take on Smitten Kitchen’s Asparagus Stir Fry.
Ingredients for Honey Soy Salmon & Stir Fry Asparagus
1 pound-ish salmon fillet (skin on or off, whichever you’re lucky enough to get)
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed into about one-inch slices (cut diagonally, if you want to be fancy)
9 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
3 teaspoons or so of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon or so of olive oil
4 inches or so of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or really finely minced if you’re living like a vagabond and can’t find a grater)
⅓ cup and 2 tablespoons soy sauce (for salmon and asparagus, respectively)
⅓ cup honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil (if you don’t have this, order some; it will make all your stir fries better)
6 green onion stalks (scallions), sliced finely into little disks
Whenever you think about it, prepare your marinade and put your salmon in it. Mix together ⅓ cup soy sauce, ⅓ cup honey, half the minced/grated ginger, half the garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and about a half teaspoon of red pepper. Put half the marinade into a container with the salmon to marinate. I use a pie plate, putting my salmon skinless-side-down in the marinade for maximum soaking-up.
When you’re ready to get cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil in a wok or a cast iron skillet. Put the salmon skinless side down in, pour in the remaining half of marinade and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the salmon and cook until just undercooked. Remove from heat and cover while you cook the asparagus.
Wipe out your pan with a paper towel. Turn the heat up a bit and add in about a teaspoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is good and hot (it should be smoking), put in half the chopped asparagus. Now, do not touch! Let the asparagus cook, getting blistered in parts, for about four minutes. At some point during those four minutes, season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Remove the cooked asparagus and put it on a plate while you finish off the other half of the asparagus. Heat up another teaspoon of vegetable oil, add in the remaining five-ish cloves of minced garlic, the leftover two inches or so of minced ginger, and the six chopped green onions. Then add in the rest of the asparagus. After about 3 minutes, add in the last two tablespoons of soy sauce and two tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and cook for one minute longer. Toss the already cooked asparagus back into the pain, drizzle the sesame oil on top, and shout, “Dinner’s ready. Hurry before it gets cold.”
Then curse yourself that you told someone to hurry during this time when we’re all supposed to be enjoying the bliss of not having to be anywhere on time. Pour yourself a glass of dry white wine and spend a little time plating a big portion of asparagus with a nice slice of salmon for each of you. Add some green onions to the top. Do whatever makes you feel a little fancy. Food right now is so much more than nourishment.
Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.