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Eric Akis: Mexican-style meal an example of foods that work well together

Salmon fillets are grilled and served on a bed of chipotle pepper-flavoured cream corn drizzled with green cilantro oil. Pair it all with a blueberry citrus margarita for a tasty summer meal.
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Grilled B.C. salmon served with Mexican-style cream corn and a cool, blueberry lime margarita. ERIC AKIS

Fresh B.C. salmon and corn are available in the summer and are foods that work well together on the plate. Today’s Mexican-style meal, which serves two, is a tasty example of that.

To prepare it, salmon fillets are coated with a seasoned oil mixture and grilled on a barbecue or indoor grill. To prevent the salmon from sticking to grill when cooking it, ensure the barbecue or indoor grill is properly preheated and oil the bars of the grill before setting on the salmon. Also, once the fish is on the gill, be patient, and let it cook three to four minutes undisturbed. The salmon should easily release itself from the grill when ready to flip and cook on the other side.

When cooked, the salmon is served on a bed of Mexican-style cream corn. To make it, fresh corn kernels are sautéed with onions, bell peppers, garlic and mildly spicy chipotle peppers, which are canned, smoked, jalapeño peppers. Some stock is then added, the corn is simmered and when tender, some cream is poured in, creating a rich and inviting side dish for the salmon.

To give the salmon and corn one more hit of colour and flavour, once plated, they are drizzled with cilantro oil. Puréeing some fresh cilantro leaves and stems with olive oil and then straining the mixture is how this aromatic, vibrant green oil is made.

I served the salmon and corn with steamed, locally grown greens beans. You could also serve the fish with rice or miniature potatoes. And, if you’re looking for a cool summer beverage to serve with the meal, try today’s other recipe for blueberry citrus margaritas, made with in-season, fresh B.C. blueberries.

Grilled Salmon with Mexican-style Cream Corn and Cilantro Oil

B.C. salmon fillets, grilled and served on a rich bed of smoky, chipotle pepper flavoured cream corn, both drizzled with vibrant green cilantro oil.

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus oil steeping time

Cooking time: about 15 minutes

Makes: two servings

For the cilantro oil

1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems

1/2 cup olive oil

For the corn

2 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell peppers

1 cup fresh corn kernels (see Note 1)

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 chipotle pepper, minced (see Note 2)

1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 cup half and half (10 percent) cream, plus more if needed

• salt to taste

For the salmon

2 (5- to 6-ounce/140- to 170-gram) sockeye or other salmon fillets

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus some for the grill

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

• cilantro sprigs and lime slices, for garnish

To make cilantro oil, place 1/3 cup cilantro leaves and stems and 1/2 cup olive oil in a food processor or cup that came with your immersion (hand) blender. Pulse until the cilantro is finely puréed. Let the puréed cilantro steep in the oil one hour at room temperature.

Set a small, fine sieve over a jar. Strain the cilantro/oil mixture through the sieve, pushing on it with the back of a small spoon to get all the oil out of it. Seal the jar and refrigerate this cilantro oil until needed below (see Note 3).

To make the corn, place 2 tsp olive oil in a 9-inch skillet set over medium, medium-high-heat. When oil is hot, add onion and bell peppers and cook until softened, about two minutes. Add the corn, garlic and minced chipotle pepper and cook one minute more. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the corn is tender and the stock has mostly evaporated. Remove skillet from the heat and mix in the 1/4 cup cream. Season with corn salt, and then set it aside for now.

To cook salmon, preheat your barbecue or indoor grill to medium-high. Combine the 1 Tbsp oil, cumin, oregano and smoked paprika on a sided plate. Add the salmon and turn to coat with the oil mixture. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.

Oil the bars of the grill. Set on salmon, skin side up. Grill salmon three to four minutes undisturbed. The salmon should easily release itself from the grill when ready to flip. Cook two to three minutes on the skin side, or until the fish is just cooked through.

When salmon is almost cooked, set the corn over medium heat and make warm again. Add a bit more cream to the corn if your want it even creamier.

When salmon is cooked, set some corn on each of two dinner plates. Top the corn on each plate with a piece of salmon. Drizzle salmon with some of the cilantro oil, garnish with cilantro sprigs and lime slices, and serve.

Note 1: One large cob of corn, after shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob, should yield the 1 cup needed here.

Note 2: Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapeño peppers. They are sold in cans in the Mexican foods aisle of supermarkets. Unused peppers can be stored in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Note 3: You’ll have cilantro oil leftover after drizzling some on the salmon. It will keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Drizzle and use it on other things that will benefit from its flavour and colour, such as tacos, soups, chili, grilled chorizo sausages, egg dishes and other Mexican-style grilled fish, chicken and meat dishes.

Blueberry Citrus Margaritas

Cool and refreshing margaritas flavoured with citrus juice and mashed, strained, fresh B.C. blueberries.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: two servings

• flaked sea salt or kosher salt

1 lime wedge

• ice cubes

2/3 cup ripe, fresh blueberries, plus some for garnish

3 ounces tequila

1 ounce orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

1/3 cup lime juice (see Note)

2 Tbsp orange juice

2 tsp honey

Spread a thin layer of salt on a small plate. Rub and moisten the rims of two rock or margarita glasses with the cut side of the lime wedge. Invert, twist and lightly coat the rim of each glass with salt. Set glasses upright and fill each one 1/2 full with ice.

Set the 2/3 cup of blueberries in a cocktail shaker and use a cocktail muddler or long, heavy spoon to thoroughly mash them.

Add the tequila, liqueur, juices, honey and 3/4 cup of ice cubes to shaker. Put on the shaker lid. Hold the shaker firmly and vigorously shake it for about 30 seconds, or until too cold to hold. Divide and strain the margarita mixture into the prepared glasses, making sure you get all of it. Garnish each drink with a few blueberries and serve.

Note: Two or three limes, depending on size, when halved and firmly squeezed, should yield the 1/3 cup of lime juice needed here.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.