Sea asparagus (B.C.), aka sea beans (U.S. East Coast), aka samphire (UK), is not your typical vegetable and few have probably heard of it. Officially known as Salicornia, sea asparagus is a great delicacy in the early summer months (at least on Canada’s West Coast). With a bold flavor and a nice salty crunch to it, sea beans make a wonderful (or would that be perfect?) pairing with various seafood like salmon, cod, scallops, oysters, or mussels. I’ve even seen a recipe for it to be served separately as a salad with radishes or daikon and a light vinaigrette and I look forward to trying that.
I should mention, since it grows in ocean marches and along the shoreline, it does have a salty or briny taste to it. Because of that, you do need to consider seasoning when cooking, otherwise the dish can be overpowered by salt. Having provided the necessary caveat, I would encourage you to give it a try! It has a nice unique flavor and if you are into enjoying dishes which reflect the seasons, than sea asparagus or sea beans are a great addition to a spring and early summer dish.
The recipe below is for salmon and sea asparagus with a lemon buerre blanc. If anyone is wondering, I like to pair it with a nice white wine, with Chenin Blanc being my preference, but a nice unoaked chardonnay also works. 🙂
Salmon with Sea Beans
- 4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin on
- 1/2 lb. sea beans (about 4 cups)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
For the Buerre Blanc:
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. heavy cream (or half and half)
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- For the salmon, pat the fillets with paper towels to remove moisture, then season with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salmon to the skillet skin side down, pressing gently with a spatula for one minute in order to allow the skin to stick to the pan.
- Occasionally spoon butter over the salmon and let cook for about 5-7 minutes (depending on size) or until it appears cooked two-thirds through on the sides. Flip and cook for 1 minute longer, until the salmon is opaque (if the skin is sticking to the pan, allow it to cook a tad longer). Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
- For the buerre blanc, melt a little butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and sauté the shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and lemon juice, simmer until reduced to a syrup (roughly 2 tablespoons), about 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove solids and return to saucepan (this can be done in advance).
- Reduce heat to low and add 1 tablespoon heavy cream, bring to a low simmer for 1 minute. Start adding a cube of butter, whisking until just melted, then adding the next cube. Continue until all the butter has been whisked and melted in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- For the sea beans first remove any tough woody ends (only with thick stalks), bring a medium pot of water to a boil, place the sea beans in a large mesh strainer and pour the boiling water over the sea beans to blanch and brighten the color. Immediately place in cold water to stop the cooking. Let drain (this can be done in advance). When ready to serve, heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of butter. Sauté the sea beans for about 2 minutes and serve.
- To plate, spread about one cup of sea beans on each plate and add the salmon fillet on top. Drizzle with the lemon buerre blanc. You can also serve with lemon wedges if desired.