How to Grill Cedar-Plank Salmon

Meals are the world’s most underrated storytellers. For those of us who are fortunate and privileged enough to not only eat, but several times a day, food has the ability to stir our senses, to transport us. It seems like a waste to simply shovel in food and not hear the story it has to tell.

Cedar-plank grilled salmon sounds somewhat romantic, a dish you’d enjoy at a fine rustic restaurant or at a specialty party. But when you think of the salmon, think of the wild river, think of the smokiness of the rough wood, think of salt and rock and cold water, and let it transport you. Let it tell you its story.

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There are many ways to travel without traveling, and food is probably my favorite vehicle for that.

Salmon in any form takes me back to the days I lived in Washington State, and to trips hiking up the snowfields of Mount Index and other peaks, or rushing down the rivers, and the salmon bakes that followed. Cedar-plank grilled salmon just adds an extra element of smokiness and woodiness and flavor that makes the forest and the trees and that wild, rushing river come alive for me again.

If you’ve never grilled on wood, let me take you through some of the basics. I promise, it’s not too tricky, and in the end, it’s totally worth it!

1. Choose your plank.

Cedar-plank salmon is my absolute favorite, and it’s probably the one most folks have heard of, but you can use a number of other different planks to add different flavors. Hickory/mesquite, for example, adds a much heavier, smokier flavor to the meat. Maple, on the other hand, lends it a sticky-sweet flavor.

To get a good plank, you can buy a specialty grilling plank at a specialty cooking store {hint: the more times you use specialty in a sentence, the more $$$s it indicates}. Or you can go pick up an untreated plank at your local Home Depot and make your own. Just in case I didn’t emphasize it enough, make sure it’s untreated. The chemicals used to preserve wood are no good for your food or your stomach.

2. Prep your plank.

Sand your plank to prevent slivers from getting caught in your food, rinse it off to remove dust, and then soak it fully submerged in water for anywhere between 1 and 4 hours. I generally err on the longer time for that just to make sure the wood is fully soaked through. You don’t want your plank to catch when you grill.

You can marinate your plank as it soaks also, to give it some extra flavor. I’ve tried extra salt, a healthy splash of apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and even brandy. Depending on what you add, you can tease out some extra nuances in the salmon, which is always fun.

3. Prep your salmon.

You can cook your filet whole, but I prefer to cut my salmon into serving-portions and line them up along the cedar plank. I season them with a mixture of salt, pepper, and Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset blend, but you can use any other dry rub or marinade that you prefer. If you’re using a cedar plank to grill, though, think of spices that would complement a deep, woody flavor.

4. Let’s grill.

Fire that sucker up. You’ll want your gas grill on medium, and you’ll want your charcoal grill to burn down until the charcoals are just glowing ashy embers. You can adjust heat levels by raising or lowering the lid.

I have a large Brinkermann grill + smoker combo that lets me use either of these options, and also has a built-in thermometer in the lid to let me monitor the heat levels. I typically use the charcoal side and put the plank on the upper rack so I can move it out of the heat as necessary.

My salmon is usually done in about 15 minutes, but depending on your grill, it could take anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes. Check it frequently. I check by pressing it with a fork. If it flakes easily, then it’s done. If it just squishes a little, it needs some more time.

When the salmon is close to done, I throw on my veggies to grill with it. I leave the lid up and think of the upper rack as my warming rack.

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For my veggies, I use a mixture of chopped broccoli florets, chopped zucchini, chopped onion, and sliced red peppers with the same seasoning mix as I used on the salmon and a few garlic cloves tucked in throughout. It makes a really tasty complement to the smoky spice on the salmon.

So the next time you break out the grill, don’t just throw on burgers and hot-dogs. Take a little trip to the beautiful mountains and wild rivers of the Pacific Northwest and smoke yourself a cedar-plank salmon filet.

Have you tried plank grilling before? What’s your favorite method? Oh, and while I paired this meal with my favorite spicy Malbec, what would you use for a pairing?

k.c.s.

You Deserve Your Time, Too

It’s the last week of January. Somehow, that happened. But the passing of January 2015 hasn’t hit me as hard as the whirlwind debris trailing behind December and November 2014 did as they rocketed by me. Time flies, no matter how much we might be trying to live in the moment. And half the time, we don’t have anyone else to blame. Half the time, we’re being spun about in a three-ring circus of our own making, where we are the ringmasters of this chaos.

My husband and I are always busy with one project or another. We’re just not the kind of people who are good at sitting still for too long, or saying no to friends or a meet-up or to trying that new wine bar we’ve been meaning to check out, or not starting work on a new idea that’s beginning to form itself into a project. That’s a hugely energizing part of our lives.

However, we’ve done something different since we got back from our holiday travel that has surprisingly eased the flight of time and the impact of business. It’s kind of deceptively simple, but a month into the process, I can’t see how we got along without doing this.

For the month of January, we’ve been getting up half an hour earlier. Now, I’m an early riser to begin with, so a half-hour earlier than early is, well…dark. Still, the alarm goes off and I don’t let myself hit the snooze alarm. We get up, get a coffee, and I head to our office and Scott heads to the living room for what I can only call our time. And we give ourselves about an hour to ourselves to do whatever we feel like doing that morning. Scott reads, plays online games with his buddies who he doesn’t normally get to chat with due to our time difference, or watches software tutorials, and I read, watch TED talks, reply to blog comments and emails, work on posts, or whatever else I feel like doing.

For an hour, it’s just a little time for us to do whatever we feel like we need to do to get started on our day. It’s a blessed hour before the world gets noisy to have to ourselves, to fully wake up and get centered before the sun comes up and the chaos begins. It’s a half-hour earlier on the alarm, a half-hour later on breakfast or a morning run or whatever the day might start with, but having that hour to myself, to do whatever I feel like doing, really sets the tone of my day. I’m beyond grateful for these mornings.

The hardest part, though, hasn’t been getting up early in the morning when the sky is still dark. It’s actually easier for me to wake up during that time than it was the old half-hour-later time. Maybe it’s just how my biorhythms are set. The hardest part was explaining away the seeming selfishness of carving out a whole hour for myself. A whole hour for ME stuff. No projects. No work. No hustle, no fuss. Just ME stuff. Seriously? Who has time for that? Who can afford that?

Answering that question was harder than actually getting up a half-hour earlier. But I’m convinced a big part of living with gratitude in your life is believing that you’re worthy of receiving something you should be grateful for. And that’s what takes the work.

k.c.s.

Sunday Currently, vol. 50

Clockwise from top left:

  1. So far, we’ve made espresso Americanos, caramel macchiatos, and the best straight up foamy coffee ever.
  2. During all the construction, some of our neighbors’ roses germinated over into our yard, and the new plants are blooming their hearts out.
  3. I’m still beyond happy with how this floating curio shelf turned out!
  4. I may not have decorating skills but I make a tasty cupcake.

Currently…

Reading…I haven’t started anything new, but I’m kind of itching to crack open The Devil Wears Prada again. It might sound funny, but I learn something about management and strategy, even if it’s a lot of how-not-to, every time I page through the book.

Watching…probably too many HGTV and DIY shows. You’d think that doing all the work on the house we’re doing lately would make that the last thing we’d want to watch in our downtime, but it just kind of feeds the hunger for more projects. Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict are tops on our DVR schedule.

Listening…to some perfect wake-up music from Dressy Bessy. They started on the Denver indie circuit where my sister-in-law’s band plays and although they’re making a name for themselves, they haven’t abandoned the scene. Love them.

Smelling…the rich, roasty scent of espresso. See #1 above!

Wishing…for more time to get back to yoga class. I took a wonderful class this at the Yoga Loft not far from where we live and I can’t wait for my next one!

Wanting…a pedicure. But not. I love getting my toes done, but my feet are going to be in shoes and work boots most of this week, so what’s the point?

Needing…to figure out what we’re doing for the Super Bowl. Is it wonky if we just decide to make some snacks, sit on the couch, pop open some brews, and watch at home? This week is going to beat us up and the last thing I want to do is plan on hosting a party or going anywhere.

Cooking…cedar plank salmon on the big grill outside, stuffed peppers, and all the soups and stews I can possibly fit in my crockpot. Our crockpot has been the greatest during this work we’ve been doing on the stairs – chop up ingredients, throw them in, and by the time we’ve cleaned up and showered, all we have to do is pop it open.

Loving…our lovely neighbors, who brought us some freshly made beef jerky yesterday that was absolutely delicious. If I can finish my recipe for Hawaiian sweet rolls {just needs a couple tweaks}, I’ll bring some over to them this week.

Feeling…happy. Clap along. {but how the heck does a room without a roof really feel?}

Clicking…on the links below.

Weekly Reads

  • I’m loving Casey’s new blogging series on how to handle the business side of blogging effectively – she’s written it with travel bloggers in mind but there are lessons in here that pertain to everyone.
  • I don’t know how I didn’t discover The Points Guy before this, but I have totally not been making the most of my frequent flyer miles or hotel points!
  • If you’re in media and marketing and you’re not on Shocase, the social network for marketing professionals, you should be. Just saying. Let me get out from under this construction and I’ll tell you why.
  • Trying to monetize your blog but feeling, well, icky about it? Regina and Holly both have some solutions for you that are definitely worth reading.
  • Melissa Alam’s photo essay Dear Paris is everything you should – and probably do – love about Paris mixed in with some new nuances and findings that will make you want to pull out your passport.
  • Unroll.me will let you roll up your subscription emails into a single daily email or will unsubscribe you from all those annoying emails altogether. It’s kind of like Bloglovin’ for email, and I kind of love it.

Weekly Posts

  • To Those Who Speak – this week’s gratitude post, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Day, is about the gratitude we should have for those who not only understand the freedom of speech but have the courage to act on it.
  • Shelf Life – a few thoughts on what shelves can add to your space as design elements, and a look at the floating curio shelves I finished this week.
  • Be Our Guest – we went to Disney’s new Be Our Guest restaurant and couldn’t help but marvel at the ability of the Disney imagineers to bring ideas, concepts, and dreams to real, tangible life.
  • “Gray Stuff” Cupcakes – yes, inspired by the “gray stuff, it’s delicious” at the Be Our Guest restaurant.
  • Step Up Your Game – stairs are one of the most overlooked design elements in a home, but with a little imagination, you can really make them pop. I just wish ours would pop as much as the ones living on my inspiration boards!

So what are you up to, currently? Feel free to link up below and share!

k.c.s.

 

Step Up Your Game

Better Homes + Gardens
Better Homes + Gardens

When most people design their spaces, they put a lot of focus on their primary spaces – living room, kitchen, bedrooms – forgetting sometimes how all the little details come together to make a larger picture. Take stairways, for instance. Lots of people don’t pay them much attention – they’re for going up and going down and maybe displaying a few pictures for people to glance at as they go.

In a small space like ours especially, everything needs to play a part. We’re finally working on our stairwell – scraping the popcorn ceiling, ripping out the horrible awful carpet, pulling all the nails and screws left by years of renters hanging things on the walls – and as we piece it all back together, we’re selecting elements that will carry on the design elements of the house and present {hopefully!} a polished, cohesive product. Out with the bad carpet and awkward flat matte orange-red-brown accent walls! In with a more classic beauty with a Hawaiian twist. Hand-scraped espresso bamboo treads, white risers, local decor, reclaimed light fixtures, and lots and lots of paint.

The “before” shots are too truly awful to show without “afters,” but here’s a quick snap of the work in progress.

This is after I made my muscles all kinds of sore by ripping out carpet, prying up carpet tack boards, and prying the old faux nosing off the steps, but before I got the arm workout of the century by bleaching and scrubbing and scraping all of these boards. Whoo!

Depending on the progress we make this weekend – finishing hardwood and trim, making and hanging drapes {because I cannot for the life of me find affordable drapes in the size I need}, and accessorizing – you may get to see the afters next week. But we’ll see how it all goes.

Until then, I’d love to share some of the staircase design ideas floating around in my files and on my Pinterest boards. Obviously, some of these are beyond what we could ever do in our space, but I believe in starting big with ideas that just make you go Wow. Even if you can’t use that design in your space, you can still figure out what elements catch your eye the most, and try to pull those into your space.

Better Homes + Gardens
Better Homes + Gardens
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Better Homes + Gardens
Cowan Residential Designers
Cowan Residential Designers

 

Seattleite
Seattleite

 

In all of these images, I’ve honed in on the use of natural materials but with a little polish, whether it’s juxtaposing them with bright white spaces or giving them a sleek more modern look.

My biggest dilemma is that all the stairways I love are bright and open with beautiful banisters. My stairway is closed in except for a window and a peek-through into the living room that lets the light fall through. I haven’t fully figured out how to incorporate the airiness I love into that space. Ideas?

Wishing everyone a happy Friday and the very best of weekends! I’ll see you back for the Sunday Currently link-up this Sunday at 12EST!

k.c.s.

“Gray Stuff” Cupcakes

Yesterday, I mentioned that a creative’s greatest skill is bringing a little spark of idea into something real and tangible, in bringing little concepts from sketchbooks and whiteboards into reality, just as the Disney Imagineers did with the gorgeous Be Our Guest restaurant. Creativity is more than just coming up with a good idea, but it also needs the ability to act on it.

One thing I didn’t mention was the second greatest skill. The second greatest skill a creative can have is letting your imagination seize upon inspiration and turn it into an idea.

I don’t know whether these things are innate to the creative minds at Disney or if it’s something they practice, but I know I love to practice taking little things that capture my imagination or my taste when I travel and turning them into something that I can enjoy at home and share with others. There’s just something about being able to share something you found or, better, something you made based on those experiences. I don’t know if it helps you share the story of the experience or enrich the imagination, but there’s definitely some magic at work.

So after sharing the pictures yesterday, I just had to take the delicious “gray stuff” home from Disney – and make some pretty fantastic cupcakes out of it.

This recipe is awfully simple, but that just makes me love all the more the creativity that lets someone turn “cake with buttercream frosting” into something magic. And I consider it even more magical that I actually got the frosting somewhat neatly onto the cupcakes {decorating cakes is not one of my strong-points – but I’m learning!}.

Enjoy – and don’t skimp on the sprinkles!

“Gray Stuff” Cupcakes

What you’ll need -

For the cupcakes -

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the “gray stuff” frosting -

  • 2 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • chocolate sprinkles and/or grated chocolate for garnish

How to make them -

For the cupcakes -

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees if you’re using a metal pan, 350 if you’re using anything else. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a second bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

3. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, beating until the whole mixture is fluffy. At this point, you can switch to a mixer with a whisk attachment – because your arms might be getting tired.

4. Add the sour cream and whisk in, and then add the flour gradually until the whole mixture is nice and creamy.

5. Pour the batter into cups. It takes a little trial and error to get the right fill, but about 3/4 of the way full gets you that nice little puff over the top of the liner.

6. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack and go make the frosting.

For the “gray stuff” frosting -

1. Mix flour and milk together in a small saucepan and cook them over low heat until they form a paste. Remove them from the heat and let them cool.

2. In a small bowl, cream together the butter, salt, and sugar. Add the flour paste, and beat together with a small mixer until the mixture is nice and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar if it’s too thin. Just as a warning, you’re using real butter, and if it’s too warm in your kitchen, the mixture will get a little runny!

3. Add the vanilla – and food coloring, if you’re looking for it – and beat again.

4. Design cupcakes according to your taste – and skill set. Sprinkles are highly encouraged.

k.c.s.

Copyright KC Saling | Design by: The Nectar Collective