Fancy Fish: My lemon salmon with creamed green bean pasta.
It’s funny how things change. When I was a child I used to hate my grandmother’s creamed beans. Now, quite a few years later, they remind me of all the shared meals and just the very thought of them is making me look forward to coming home again. Green beans in a bechamel sauce are a classic dish of my home region. But they are also rather heavy. For this week’s post, I have decided to go for something more fitting to the season. My lemon salmon with creamed bean pasta is a fresh take on an old classic. Instead of a heavy bechamel sauce, I slightly dress the beans in a smooth cream sauce, that tastes surprisingly light. For further lightness, I slice the beans thinly, to serve them as you would the greenest pasta. An addition to this most amazing green bean pasta I serve a succulent and tender salmon fillet, infused with butter and lemon. There is just nothing better for a special spring lunch. Well, maybe a large glass of white wine with it all.
I’m not much of a fish fan, despite the fact that I have posted the odd fish dish (More precisely My oven-baked trout, Panseared Mackerel and a lovely potato salad with smoked fish fillet). I quarrel with fish, because it often is either too bland or, even worse, too fishy for my liking. But in all my years of suspiciousness towards the creatures of the sea, one trusty companion never disappointed me: the Salmon.
Salmon is the ideal go-to fish. It is rather fat, and thus stays moist, very firm and yet tender, making it ideal for poaching, baking and pan-frying. And it’s really cheap. If you are not very sure about cooking fish – try salmon. Also, if you want our oceans to slowly die – try salmon. If you want food pumped full with anibiotics – try salmon. Unfortunately, this is the truth.
I have a confession to make. I am a fool. I truly am and there is no denying it. When I bought the slab of farmed salmon fillet, that I later cut and shaped and then cooked to present it on here, today, I was being foolish. I had a choice to make: wild salmon or farmed salmon?I chose farmed and I hope that it really was because the fillet looked better, fresher and not because it was 30% cheaper – but now, a few days later, who’s to know what influenced my decision. But regardless of why I decided to buy a piece of fish from one of the most destructive production-sites on this planet, the reason for not having done so, for having bought wild Scottish salmon, wouldn’t have been any better: it would have been ignorance, either way.
When making food choices I recently started to apply a new rule: Only eat organic animal produce. A heuristic I apply, regardless of the situation, it has become my automatism. I don’t buy organic products for the environment, I buy them for my own consciousness. It’s not that I don’t care – I do. I care for the environment, for the food I eat especially. I am aware of my consumption, sometimes more and sometimes less. And I realize that, as a consumer, I have power, but that I also have responsibility. The power I am talking about is real. It is not the many who can change the world, it is the few who do. Our choices as consumers can have rather direct effects. Think about your meat-consumption. Imagine you were eating meat three times a week – a consumption that would amount up to somewhere between 150 and 160 times a year, and to about 3100 times in the next 20 years. 3100 times. That’s 3100 costumers. That is power. Imagine 3100 consumers would decide, at once, to boycott the industry feeding us with unsustainable fish. They would make a difference. And so would we.
And yet, knowing all this, I just destroyed part of our ocean, because I was mindless and because I didn’t know any better. Because I was being too comfortable to look around and to actually learn about the consequences of my actions. As consumers we have power, and regardless of how little impact any single one of our purchases might have, in the course of twenty, thirty or forty years, they will accumulate. They will matter.
I don’t believe that I will ever be able to act 100% sustainably. I will find myself too comfortable every now and then, because that is who I am. And maybe I don’t need to change dramatically, but since every single of our choices matters, I will try to make better choices. On a choice-by-choice basis, if you will. So when you go to the store, to buy a delicious salmon fillet for this dish, and you really should, have a look at the label. Or even better, go to the market and get yourself a piece of sustainable fish. It will cost you a bit more, but it will also pay back in quality. Make my lemon salmon with creamed green bean pasta a choice towards mindful consumerism. It will be worth it. The sweet and succulent pink fillet of salmon goes incredibly well with the freshness of the beans. The creaminess of the fish and the tenderness of the beans are just further highlighted by the rich sauce covering it all. Eat this on a special occasion. Eat this when it matters. The slicing of beans into fine threads takes some time and patience, but if the occasion is right, it is worth to walk the extra mile.
My lemon salmon with creamed green bean pasta
Salmon fillet, fresh Shallot Cream Parsley Lemon Butter Salt Pepper Sugar Green beans, see below
I use a Dutch green bean variety called Snijboon – I have been trying to find an adequate translation, but apparently this variety is rather unknown in most parts of the world. And then it dawned on me, that I had never seen it before I came here, either. If you can’t get this particular variety, it might be worth looking out for chinese long beans (also known as yard-long beans). And if you can’t manage to find them either, your regular green beans will do just as fine – though much of the fun of this dish is in the length of the beans-strings. Per person I allow about 200 g of beans, half a cup of cream and 200 g of salmon fillet.
Wash your beans. Trim off the ends and then, with a sharp paring knife, slice them thinly (I try to get them to about the width of linguini pasta). Around this time, start making the sauce. Bring a large pot with water to the boil – add both salt and sugar (Seasoning the water will help season the beans. The water should neither be very salty nor very sweet). Add the beans to the water and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and allow to cool down a bit.
Finely dice half a shallot. Add a small lump of butter to a small sauce-pan and let is gently melt. Add the finely diced shallot and allow to brown slightly. Add the cream and a pinch of salt and allow to reduce a bit, for a bout 10 minutes. It’s important that you never heat up the cream too much, as it has a tendency to split. A slow simmer will do. Just before serving, turn off the heat, add a few teaspoons of finely chopped parsley and let infuse for half a minute. Then, check for seasoning and squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice. Mix the warm beans with a few tablespoons of the sauce. Arrange on plates and spoon over the rest of the sauce. The beans will add cooking liquid to the sauce, so your sauce can be slightly thicker.
Quickly rinse the salmon fillets and press dry with kitchen towel. Bring a non-stick pan up to a medium to high heat and add a bit of oil. On a plate mix equal parts of sugar, salt and pepper and press the fillets down on it. Add the fillets to the pan – the longer you wait, the more water will the salt have extracted from your fish and, thus, make the flesh less moist). Allow to quickly brown from all sides, turn the heat down to low. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish. Add a knob of butter and let it melt. With a spoon, baste the fillets with the hot butter, while you allow them to cook for another 2-3 minutes. You might need to turn the fillets. I personally like my fish with a bit of a glassy core, if you don’t allow for a bit of extra pan-time. Plate the fillets and if you like, spoon a bit of the butter or cream-sauce over the fillets.
Enjoy and have with quite a bit of white wine.