By El Lower, Michigan Sea Grant GLANSIS Research Associate
One of the nicest things about late summer is the plethora of wildflowers popping up in fields and roadsides across the Midwest. One species in particular, wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), is both beautiful and tasty — this tall purple flower is a member of the mint family, and it tastes just like its close relative: oregano. The aromatic, slightly spicy leaves are a perfect substitute for store-bought oregano in most recipes, and as a bonus, those showy flowers make a fun garnish.
While looking for ways to cook with this plant, I came across an Italian herb sauce called salmoriglio that traditionally uses cultivated oregano as its base, and thought it might be fun to pair this sauce with salmon in a sort of food-based pun. Luckily, the results are delicious: the lemony, herbal sauce is not unlike a salsa verde, and it makes for an excellent dinner drizzled over a protein of your choice. I’ve served the fish in the photo above with homemade stuffed grape leaves and garlicky roast broccoli, but a crisp green salad and some fresh bread to soak up any extra sauce would be an excellent accompaniment as well. Leftover sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to a week and is great on toast or tossed with roast vegetables or a white bean salad.
Salmon with salmoriglio sauce
- 1 skin-on salmon fillet per serving
- 1 cup wild bergamot leaves
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- ½ cup olive oil, plus a splash for cooking the fish in
- ¼ cup water
- Juice and zest of half a lemon
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First, make the salmoriglio sauce. Add the herbs, oil, water, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking, and then set aside.
- Heat a medium-sized skillet until it is very hot, then add a splash of olive oil.
- Season the salmon with some salt and pepper and carefully place the fillets into the pan, skin-side down. Press the fillets flat with a spatula and let cook, undisturbed, until the salmon is almost cooked through, about three minutes.
- Once the fish is nearly cooked, turn off the heat and then flip the fillets over in the pan, where the residual heat will finish the cooking process without overcooking the fish. The skin should be crispy and the interior should be a perfect medium.
- To preserve that crispy fish skin, put a small pool of sauce on each serving plate and place the fillets atop the sauce skin-side up — this way the texture won’t get soggy. Serve with something green and something to mop up the additional sauce, and enjoy!