This recipe comes to us from Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Roadtrip by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. If you can't forage for your own spruce or pine tree tips, you can order them from Forbes Wild Foods (or use any other pesto in a pinch).
What could be more Canadian than eating a tree? As we made our way across the country, spruce and fir tips kept popping up and flaunting their culinary uses. Foraging for them is easy... unless you’re us. On our first attempt, we went too late in the season to a forest with no spruce trees, got caught in a rain-storm, and came home soaking wet with nothing but empty buckets. Though it may take one or two springtime hikes to get the timing right, you want to get the new, bright green buds at the ends of the branches. You can store any excess tips in the freezer for several months. An extra piece of advice: if you just missed the season, head to a higher elevation where the spring’s new growth is slightly later.
We’d like to say thanks to our friend Joel, who happily endured the rainy first foraging trek with us, then later picked the fir tips we used for this recipe. Spruce or fir tips will work for this pesto—whatever your forest happens to provide!
1 cup (250 mL) loosely packed fresh (or frozen and thawed) spruce or fir tips, or 2 cups (500 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup (125 mL) Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, grated then measured
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) coarsely chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
4 to 6 wild salmon or Arctic char fillets, about 1/2 pound (227 g) each, skin on, scaled and deboned
2 Tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain yogurt, 6% or higher
Put the spruce or fir tips, cheese, salt, olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, and garlic into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if desired. Set aside in the refrigerator until needed.
Preheat the barbeque to medium-high (450°F to 500°F/230°C to 260°C). Brush both sides of each piece of salmon with the olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Let the fish rest a few minutes.
When the barbeque is ready, place the pieces of fish skin side down on the barbeque and close the lid. Let cook for 3 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the edges of the fish are opaque. Carefully turn each piece over, close the lid, and let cook another 2 to 3 minutes. The fish will be opaque and flake easily when done.
Serve the salmon with several spoonfuls of the pesto over each piece, also adding a dollop of yogurt if desired. Serve with a green salad and/or spring vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, peas, or even fiddleheads if you’re in the mood for more foraging!
Recipe and image excerpt are copyright © 2017 Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.