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Eric Akis: Roasted fish, with an Asian twist

If you’re in the mood for an Asian-style fish dish accented with an in-season vegetable, you’re in luck — that’s exactly what I’ve prepared for today. The fish is salmon fillets that I put in a pan, simply seasoned and roasted.
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Simply roasted salmon is plated and topped with richly green stir-fried asparagus, flavoured with ginger, garlic and citrus/soy-flavoured ponzu sauce. ERIC AKIS

If you’re in the mood for an Asian-style fish dish accented with an in-season vegetable, you’re in luck — that’s exactly what I’ve prepared for today.

The fish is salmon fillets that I put in a pan, simply seasoned and roasted. Not all that exciting, but that changed when I plated the fish and topped it with an asparagus stir-fry.

To make it, thick slices of asparagus were quickly sizzled in hot oil, then flavoured with garlic, ginger and citrus/soy-flavoured ponzu sauce.

Like the roasted fish, the stir-fry was not an overly complex creation, but when spooned over the flaky, healthy-fat-rich fish, the two tastes swam brilliantly together.

You could simply serve the fish with steamed rice, or be more adventurous and serve it with my second recipe, curried fried rice, made by frying cold, cooked rice with curry powder, vegetables and mushrooms until piping hot and golden in colour.

As noted in a past column on fried rice, it’s important that you use cooked rice that was cooled and allowed to dry before being fried. Rice in this form will easily separate when fried and nicely combine with other ingredients. Hot just-cooked rice would overcook and clump together when fried.

When I make fried rice for dinner, I’ll cook the rice in the morning, cool it and refrigerate it until I’m ready to fry it.

If you don’t want to be stir-frying asparagus and frying rice at the same time, make the fried rice before you roast the fish, then quickly reheat it, even in the microwave, when you’re ready to serve it with the salmon and asparagus stir-fry.

B.C.-grown asparagus is sold at some grocery stores, smaller food stores and farmers markets. I recently found some at Dan’s Farm and Market in Saanich (dansfarm.ca), but it was selling out quickly. You can also buy asparagus direct from a few farms. To find those selling it, go to the Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association website, islandfarmfresh.com, click on menu and search asparagus.

Roasted Salmon with Stir-fried Asparagus

Simply roasted salmon, plated and topped with richly green stir-fried asparagus, flavoured with ginger, garlic and citrus/soy flavoured ponzu sauce. To ensure things quickly come together, have the ingredients needed for the stir-fry, chopped and ready, before you roast the fish.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 12 to 14 minutes

Makes: two servings

2 (140- to 170-gram) salmons fillets

2 tsp orange juice

2 tsp lemon juice

• salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup ponzu sauce (see Note 2)

1 Tbsp water

1/2 tsp cornstarch

• Sriracha or hot Asian-style chili sauce, to taste (optional)

200 grams asparagus, tough lower stems trimmed or snapped off, spears cut, on the bias, into 2-inch pieces (see Note 1)

1 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1 small garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place salmon in a single layer in a parchment-paper-lined baking pan. Drizzle with orange juice and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon 12 to 14 minutes, or until cooked through.

When fish has been roasting for about seven minutes, in a small bowl, combine the ponzu sauce, water, cornstarch and chili sauce, if using. Pour the oil into a skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is very hot, add the asparagus and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 15 seconds more. Now add the ponzu sauce mixture (be mindful of splatters), simmer and cook 20 to 30 seconds more, then remove from the heat.

When the fish is cooked, set a fillet on each of two plates, top each fillet with some of the asparagus and its sauce, and serve.

Note 1: The stems of the asparagus I used were about 1/2-inch wide and 12 spears yielded the 200 grams needed here.

Note 2: Citrus/soy-flavoured ponzu sauce is sold in the Asian foods aisle of most supermarkets. If you want to make your own ponzu sauce, in a jar combine 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp orange juice, 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 3/4 tsp water, 3/4 tsp rice vinegar and 3/4 tsp honey.

Curried Fried Rice

Fragrant, golden-hued fried rice, with vegetables and mushrooms, all flavoured with curry powder.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: About six minutes

Makes: two to three servings

2 cups cold cooked basmati or white long grain rice (see Note)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot or red onion

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup grated small carrot

8 medium fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced

1 tsp mild or medium curry powder

1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock

1 large green onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced widthwise

• salt to taste

Let rice warm at room temperature 20 minutes. Now heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet set over medium-high. Add the onion, bell pepper, carrot and mushrooms and stir-fry two minutes. Add the curry powder and cook and stir one minute more.

Mix in the rice and stir-fry one to two minutes. Add the stock, bring it to a simmer and cook until rice is piping hot, about one minute more. Mix in the green onions, and then serve.

Note: 2/3 cup of raw rice, when cooked and cooled, should yield the two cups needed here.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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