Melina Hammer's New Book Is Perfect for Every Season

This salmon with fried sage is at the top of our spring wishlist.

May 30, 2022
Photo by Julia Gartland

Buttermilk panna cotta with roasted rhubarb. Duck eggs with crispy brown rice. Lamb skewers with labneh, ramp salt, and buttery potatoes. The hardest part about reading Melina Hammer's new book, A Year at Catbird Cottage, is picking what to make first. Driven by the seasons and inspired by her cozy home in New York’s Hudson Valley, the recipes jump off the page, grab my hand, and ask me to follow them to the farmers market, the backyard, the bustling kitchen. And I'm very happy to let them lead the way. Today, Melina is sharing one of her favorite recipes, aka your new favorite way to serve salmon. —Emma Laperruque

The garlic shoots in my garden have grown tall. And with their long leaves, curly scapes emerge. Meanwhile, wild salmon fishing season has just begun in the bracing waters of the Pacific Northwest. Nelly and Michael Hand, who run Drifters Fish in Cordova, Alaska, sustainably harvest wild salmon throughout the season, and each year I have been a lucky recipient of their sockeye and coho varieties.

Add all that up and you get this recipe from my book, A Year at Catbird Cottage. As with all of the dishes in the book, it’s a celebration of peak ripeness.

To top the buttery fish—sautéed until the skin gets crispy—I developed a riff on gremolata, a simple Italian condiment made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. Mine incorporates those garlic scapes (if you can’t find them, garlic chives or minced garlic work just as nicely) and sage leaves, fried until crisp in walnut oil.

Walnut oil imparts a subtle but rich quality to whatever it touches. Here, it enhances sage’s natural earthiness, a nice foil to the zippy gremolata. When I fry the sage, I do so in batches, so I can retain control of how quickly they cook. The tender leaves only need a minute or two, as it’s easy for them to burn. To check if your pan is ready, add one sacrificial sage leaf, and if it sizzles upon contact, you’re ready.

What to do with the rest of that bottle of walnut oil? Lots of things. Use it for both savory and sweet recipes, wherever you can imagine its nuttiness adding verve. Swap it in for olive oil in this loaded mushroom galette or this wheat berry and avocado salad.

However you use it, I hope it’s in the spirit of Catbird Cottage—lovingly guided by the seasons, so every meal feels like a celebration.

What are your favorite seasonal vegetables to eat with salmon?
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Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.

1 Comment

Ruth June 5, 2022
This is a great feature. More articles to celebrate new cookbooks, written by the author?