Chef Ned Bell suggests you try planking. Don’t worry, there are no exercises or 2000s internet fads involved – for the executive chef at Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Inn, planking is an “ingenious” way of imparting the notes of different kinds of wood into food by cooking it on a wooden plank.
Chef Bell takes great pride in his West Coast roots, and it shines through in his cooking and recipes. Sustainably-sourced seafood gets the BC treatment in a range of recipes from his new cookbook Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast. Bell’s planked salmon recipe has caramelized nectarines (also grilled on a plank), then comes together with cool ricotta and a crisp garden salad for a summer meal.
Chef Bell is originally from nearby Penticton, and has returned to his home province of BC after a stint as a world-traveling celeb chef to both explore and share the food that the region has to offer – off camera for a change. The Naramata Inn and its restaurant occupy a stunning historic property that has stood on the shores of Lake Okanagan since 1904. The rooms have been recently renovated to outfit them with all the plush trappings necessary for an elegant winery getaway, but the original woodwork and radiators throughout the “restaurant with rooms” serve as an enjoyable lesson in century home renovation – and fine cuisine.
Planked Wild Salmon with Nectarines and Ricotta
- 1.5 lbs salmon fillet skin-on
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 dash flaky sea salt
- 1 dash black peper
- 4 sprigs sprigs thyme leaves only, plus extra for garnish
- 4 nectarines or apricots halved
- 2 tbsp honey
- 4 oz fresh whole milk ricotta
- garden salad to serve
- Soak the cedar plank in water for at least 30 minutes and up to a day before using.
- Preheat the grill to medium (about 350°f).
- Use paper towels to pat the fish dry.
- Rub all over with olive oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the salmon (leaving some for the nectarines and for the garnish), and press to adhere.
- Put the plank on the grill directly over the flames. Cover the grill and allow the plank to heat until starting to just smoke, about 2 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side.
- Add the fish skin side down to the plank.
- Add the nectarines cut side up.
- Drizzle the nectarines with honey, sprinkle with most of the remaining thyme leaves, and a little salt.
- Cover the grill and cook for 7 to 12 minutes or until fish is almost opaque all the way through and flakes easily and the nectarines are caramelized and tender. (If the plank gets too hot and ignites, spritz it with water from a spray bottle.) Alternatively, you can grill the salmon directly on an oiled grill grate for 3 to 4 minutes per side, and roast the nectarines in a baking dish in a 400°f oven for 12 minutes.
- To serve, add a couple tablespoons of ricotta over each piece of fish, and sprinkle with the almonds. Garnish with thyme. Serve with a garden salad.
The best wood to use for grilling planksAlthough cedar is a classic choice, alder and oak work beautifully with the salmon, too. You can find grilling planks at gourmet retailers or go the DIY route with untreated wood from the hardware store. Look for 1-inch-thick and 8-inch-wide pieces, and have them cut 8 to 12 inches long. Just be sure to give them a good sanding first to remove splinters, and allow time to soak them before using. For this recipe, you’ll need two planks: one for the fish and one for the nectarines.