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Eric Akis: Sheet-pan dinner shows off Island produce

COVID-19 has caused planners to cancel, reschedule or rethink how they’ll hold events around the world. I got firsthand knowledge of how one group in Europe took the latter approach.
B.C. salmon and seasonal vegetables star in this late-summer dinner for two. ERIC AKIS

COVID-19 has caused planners to cancel, reschedule or rethink how they’ll hold events around the world. I got firsthand knowledge of how one group in Europe took the latter approach.

A few weeks ago I received an email from freelance facilitator Sarah Watson, who co-ordinates events for a number of organizations, including the European Union’s Agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI). In Europe, they work to foster competitive and sustainable farming and forestry that “achieves more and better from less.”

In her email, Watson said she was organizing an event tied to EIP-AGRI on a new European Union policy called AKIS, an acronym for Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems. It describes the ways people and organizations interact within a European country or region and can include such things as farming practices, businesses, authorities and research.

Watson said that representatives from European member states had initially planned to meet to discuss AKIS in Warsaw, Poland back in April, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. The meetings will now take place online this month.

You’re now probably wondering what this has to do with me, a Canadian food writer. Well, Watson said that AKIS members talking policy online for two days had the potential of becoming a little dull. So she and other organizers of the meetings sought ways to liven things up.

Someone in their group suggested they get short videos from people in a food-related activity who had Akis in their name or had a business called Akis, to give people something a bit different to watch. Through the magic of Google they found me, as my name and the Times Colonist appear on the first page when you search Akis.

After a back and forth with Watson to ensure this was real, I agreed to do a video in my kitchen. The idea of supporting sustainable farming even in this very small way, no matter where it was, appealed to me.

In the video, I proudly spoke about the many farms we have on Vancouver Island and the wide variety of things grown here. At the end of the video, I said I would create a salmon recipe that those partaking in AKIS could try. Here it is. It serves two and is rich with seasonal vegetables.

Late Summer Salmon and Vegetable Dinner for Two

Here’s a colourful, flavourful late-summer dinner cooked on a sheet pan featuring B.C. salmon and seasonal vegetables. Serve it with orzo, couscous, quinoa or boiled miniature potatoes.

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 30 to 33 minutes

Makes: two servings

4 to 6 mini bell peppers (see Note)

1 medium pattypan squash, cut into wedges (see Note)

1 small red onion, halved and sliced

1 shucked cob of corn, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil (divided)salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2 tsp lemon juice

2 (5 to 6 oz/140 to 170 gram) sockeye, coho or steelhead salmon fillets

8 to 10 cherry tomatoes, pricked a few times with a paring knife (see Note)

1/2 cup chicken, fish or vegetable stockfresh basil leaves or parsley sprigs, for garnish (optional)pesto caper mayonnaise (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 F .Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper, unless it’s nonstick (my pan was 17-by-11 inches). Place peppers, squash, onion, corn, garlic, zest, paprika, oregano, cumin and 2 Tbsp oil in a mixing bowl. Toss everything together. Spread vegetables on the baking sheet, leaving spaces for the salmon fillets. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Roast vegetables 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Set salmon on the pan, skin-side-down, and drizzle with lemon juice and remaining 2 tsp olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Set tomatoes on the pan. Pour stock into the pan.

Put pan back in the oven and roast 12 to 15 minutes more, or until fish is just cooked through. Serve salmon and vegetables right from the pan, garnished with basil leaves (or parsley sprigs), if using, with the pesto caper mayonnaise alongside.

Note 1: Mini bell peppers and pattypan squash are sold at farm markets and some grocery stores. If you can’t find them, replace mini bell peppers with half a medium bell pepper, cubed, and the pattypan squash with half a small zucchini, thickly sliced. Pricking each cherry tomato a few times with the tip of a paring knife should prevent them from bursting when roasted.

Pesto Caper Mayonnaise

Tangy, herbaceous flavoured mayonnaise you can dollop alongside the salmon and vegetables once plated. Leftover mayonnaise can be refrigerated several days and be used as a sandwich spread or dip for raw vegetables.

Preparation time: five minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: about 2/3 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

2 Tbsp homemade or store-bought pesto

1 Tbsp drained capers, chopped

* splash of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with the salmon and vegetables.

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