created at: 2013-07-24
Last weekend I participated in what I hope will become a new summer tradition: I attended a barn concert. It’s exactly what it sounds like. My parents’ neighbors are major supporters of the arts and also happen to have a beautiful, open-air wooden barn on their property. Every summer, they open the barn’s doors, set up a stage, and invite 100 fellow music-lovers over to watch a performance by one of their favorite singers, Boston-based blues singer Danielle Miraglia.

It felt like a cross between a trendy, rustic wedding reception and an Americana music video. The music was great—Miraglia certainly earned herself some new fans that night—and the atmosphere was warm. A big contributor to that was the food: tables and tables of tasty dinner and dessert options (including a make-your-own s’mores station set up next to a fire pit), all prepared by the hosts. Among the typical cookout fare were less standard options, such as toasted Israeli couscous salad and my favorite, an eye-catching Moroccan carrot slaw.

This vibrant orange salad flecked with bright green herbs and bold spices was so good that I decided to make a version of my own, incorporating some fennel into the mix. And because I didn’t want to eat the slaw alone (though it’s good enough to do just that), I paired it with some simple salmon you can prepare on your stovetop. Sprinkling brown sugar and cornstarch on the fish may seem a little unusual, but both of these ingredients help to create a desirable, crisp crust. And the sugar gives it a sweetness that complements the fragrant vegetables. Together, they make a striking duo. (The barn is optional.)

Salmon with Moroccan Carrot and Fennel Slaw

Serves 4

Carrot and Fennel Slaw
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated on grater or in food processor
1 small fennel bulb, grated on grater or in food processor
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
½ cup currants
2 tablespoons cilantro or parsley

Salmon
½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 pounds salmon fillets (skin scored if skin-on fillets)
Salt and pepper
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. For slaw: Combine carrots and fennel in medium bowl. In small bowl, whisk together honey, vinegar, lemon juice, curry powder, paprika, cumin and cinnamon. Slowly whisk in oil until combined.

2. Add spice and oil mixture to bowl with vegetables and stir until well combined. Stir in currants and cilantro or parsley, then season with salt and pepper.

3. For salmon: Combine cornstarch and brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle half of mixture evenly over first side of salmon (skin-side first, if fillets are skin-on). Season salmon with salt and pepper.

4. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat until just starting to shimmer. Place salmon seasoned side down and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. As first side is cooking, sprinkle remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture evenly over second side and season with salt and pepper.

5. Carefully flip salmon over and cook until fish is done to your liking. (I prefer mine about medium, so another 5 minutes was enough.) To serve, place salmon on plate and top with slaw.