Seared salmon with berries, a meal for group celebration

What does the word “team” mean to you? I suppose for me, as a huge sports nerd, the first things that have always come to mind are professional and college sports teams: ubiquitous images of teams celebrating big plays, big wins and big championships.

Those people start as a diverse group of individuals coming from all sorts of different walks of life. Then, through long practices, long seasons, and facing and overcoming adversity together, that group of individuals becomes a team.

I have had teams on the mind a lot lately as we at Le Jeune Chef Restaurant recently finished catering the Little League World Series. It was a huge honor and a huge responsibility to be in charge of feeding 300-plus people three meals a day for over two weeks. Add in the fact that those 300-plus people are using your food as fuel to power through one of the most widely recognized and respected sporting events in the world, and that responsibility becomes even that much larger.

As the architect of the menus and creator of all the plans for executing this huge endeavor, it can be all too easy to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. What I found, as we went through this past month, is that a team is not just something that you see on a field or a court; there are teams all around us in every walk of life.

A quick Google search of the definition of “team” gives you an overly simple response: A team is two or more people working together. In many walks of life, people may work together and not be a team. Co-workers can all be paid by the same company, and they may work together, but they might not necessarily be a team.

There should be a more specific definition that truly conveys what it means to be part of a team. Over the last month, I learned that the word team can mean so much more than that short definition. A team is knowing people around you have your back no matter what adversity we may be facing. A team is looking at those around you, knowing that your burdens and responsibilities are their burdens and responsibilities.

No matter how much, at times, I felt like I was alone in this endeavor, I could never have catered Little League as an individual. But after all parts of our department, from top to bottom, came together and rallied as a team, we were able to not only complete our objectives but flourish in the process. Through the challenge that was catering the LLWS, we learned a lot as a department about what we are capable of. I learned, as an individual, that nothing great can be achieved without a total team effort.

So, in honor of all things teams, I have decided to share one of the recipes the Le Jeune Chef team served to the Little Leaguers during this year’s tournament.

To try and break up the standard kid food of pizza and hot dogs and add a little bit of Le Jeune Chef flair to the event, we decided to highlight cuisine from all parts of the country the players came from. We served things like Southwest pulled pork enchiladas, Nashville hot chicken, and Pennsylvania-style chicken and waffles. Some things were better received than others, but to the players’ credit, a lot of them were willing to broaden their palette and try some foods they might not have ever tried on their own.

One of the more surprising dishes that went over well was inspired by the Northwest region of the country. Since it is known for its ample supplies of fresh fish and wild berries, we served pan-seared salmon with a berry and balsamic sauce.

Fish like salmon is a super healthy protein, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, and berries contain tons of useful vitamins and nutrients. They are not only healthy foods but can be delicious, too. By adding a spice blend and getting a good sear on the fish, you can all but eliminate any traces of a “fishy” flavor. Especially when you top it with a sauce packed with flavor and a fun color.

So, try this recipe at home; maybe your team will surprise you, too, and start to like eating salmon instead of pizza and hot dogs every meal. Cheers!

Pan-seared Salmon with Balsamic Berry Puree

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Four 5-ounce boneless, skinless salmon fillets

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Remove the salmon from any packaging and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Use the towels to pat dry the salmon on both sides.

In a small bowl, combine the spices. Liberally season the salmon fillets on both sides with the spice blend.

Carefully add the oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Once the oil is almost smoking, carefully place the salmon fillets into the pan, making sure to set the fillets away from you. Allow the salmon to cook on the top side for 2 to 3 minutes without moving the fish. This will allow the fish to sear and get a nice golden-brown crust. After the fish is seared on the top side, use a spatula to carefully flip the fish over to the other side and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake the fish for an additional 5 to 8 minutes or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you like your salmon less done, then remove from the oven after 2 minutes. For more well-done salmon, leave it in the oven for 10 minutes.

After removing the fish from the oven, cover it lightly with more foil and allow it to rest before plating. While the fish is baking and resting, start the berry sauce.

Berry Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup fresh blackberries, halved

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, stem removed and halved

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup honey

Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Heat a medium-sized sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and once it is hot, add the shallots and garlic. Sweat until softened and translucent. Do not allow them to burn or toast.

Once the vegetables are sweated, add the balsamic vinegar, berries, broth and honey. Allow this mixture to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until all the berries burst and the liquid begins to reduce.

Once the berries have burst, turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a blender. Carefully put a lid on the blender and blend the sauce on low, gradually increasing the speed until the sauce is fully pureed.

Strain the sauce through a fine strainer and return to the pot. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the berry sauce over the salmon. This dish pairs great with wild rice pilaf or roasted red potatoes. Enjoy!

Culinary Creations is a partnership with Pennsylvania College of Technology’s School of Business & Hospitality and its Le Jeune Chef restaurant, a column by Christopher R. Grove, executive chef at Le Jeune Chef. Watch for Grove’s culinary tips and advice the last Wednesday of each month in The Taste.


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