Monday, November 2, 2009

Pre-Halloween Dinner, and Salmon with Wasabi Peas

I really wanted to make something that would fit in with a Halloween theme for the Friday dinner the night before, something like sweet potatoes with hijiki seaweed. The color scheme is right -- orange and black, and the hijiki looks like some kind of mysterious vermin. (The guest to whom we ultimately did not serve it said that she loved it, because it looks like worms and tastes like dirt.) At least it seemed like the perfect idea until I picked up a package of dried hijiki and saw the price: $18.94. It seemed like a lot for something that I was sure most of the people at the table wouldn't eat, so I decided to spend the money on better fish. For the seasonal touch, we had monster eyeballs for dessert. (Basically sugared peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate with M&Ms for irises -- the recipe was from Epicurious at which were lots of fun. We sent Maya (now in Wisconsin) a picture, and she was very upset that we made them without her. She taked Halloween very seriously.

For the main dish, we had Salmon with Wasabi Peas, which is always a big hit. This is my adaptation of a dish that some friends of ours serve pretty frequently, which is baked salmon topped with mustard and black sesame seeds, but, as they say in Yiddish without any modesty whatsoever, "fartaytsht un farbesert," or adapted (literally translated into a Germanic language) and improved:

Salmon with Wasabi Peas
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Take a salmon fillet and season it with salt. I usually use a roasted Sichuan peppercorn and salt mix by Penzey's spices, but sea, kosher or even plain salt is fine.
  3. Take 1 tablespoon sweet white miso and mash it up well so that it is almost smooth. Mix in 1 tablespoon mayonnaise until smooth. (This amount is sufficient for 1.5 to 2 pounds of salmon.
  4. If you want (and you should) wash a small knob of ginger, less than 1 inch -- no need to peel. Grate it on the coarse side of a grater, take the grated ginger in you hand, and squeeze the juice into the miso-mayo mixture. Mix until smooth.
  5. Spread a thin layer over the salmon. Don't overdo it, a little is plenty, and even though we are in a recession, you can afford to throw what is left away.
  6. Take a handful of wasabi peas and whirl in a food processor (a smaller one works better here) or blender until the texture of bread crumbs.
  7. Sprinkle evenly over the salmon -- not to thickly.
  8. Bake the salmon for 10-15 minutes. Broil briefly at the end if you want it browner.
  9. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.


  • The better the salmon, the better the dish. Wild Alaskan salmon is in season, inexpensive and was really good. This can also be made with arctic char. You can also use farmed salmon.
  • How long does it cook? One day I will devote a blog posting to this question, but the answer is simple. It depends. In this case, on how cold the fish was when it went in the oven, the thickness of the fish, how much coating you put on, and the kind of fish. In my experience, wild salmon cooks faster and is usually somewhat less forgiving than farmed, but tastes better anyway even if it is a little overcooked.
  • The inspiration for the miso topping in dengaku, a Japanese grilled tofu dish. To prepare the dish authentically, you make a sort of custard with miso, sake, eggs, dashi and seasonings. I just use miso, mayo and ginger juice and no one notices.
  • One variation worth trying (I haven't done it yet) would be to broil the fish with the miso-mayo but without the peas.


  1. I demand you de-Germanize the spelling! Fartaytsht un farbesert.

  2. My brother sent me this recipe recently (he has become famous among our family for making your sumac chicken...), and I tried it out last night. AMAZING! Thanks for an awesome recipe!

  3. Glad you liked it. You should also try the salmon with dark miso and black sesame seeds. I think that it has displaced the wasabi salmon in our hearts. Check it out"