- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

While passing the seafood counter at my local supermarket recently, I noticed a prominent display of packaged cedar planks.

Since I follow food trends, I knew that when fish is set atop a wooden plank, then placed on a grill (whether charcoal or gas), the wood imparts a lovely smokiness to the seafood.

Until recently, it was up to the intrepid cook to locate these planks: You could buy them in specialty cookware shops, order them from catalogs or, if you were handy with a saw, make your own. Here they were, conveniently placed next to the fish counter, so I picked up a package right away along with some beautiful salmon fillets. I couldn’t wait to get home to cook my salmon on these redolent planks.

I decided to marinate the fillets in a simple yet distinctive marinade made with maple syrup, lime juice, soy sauce and fresh ginger. This provided, respectively, sweet, tart, salty and spicy notes. While the fish was marinating, I soaked the cedar plank in water.

After preparing the grill, I heated the plank for a few minutes, added the marinated salmon, then put down the lid. A little more than 15 minutes later, the cedar had infused the fish, which had turned a light mahogany color.

To the delight of my guests, I served the salmon right on the plank, with a garnish of chopped cilantro and green onions sprinkled over each fillet.

Planked salmon makes an attractive and delectable summer main course for entertaining. I offered this entree with corn on the cob and slaw, but some steamed sugar snaps and a plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes would also make tempting sides.

Our two guests certainly liked fish cooked this way, since they both asked for the moist, smoked salmon recipe.

Grilled salmon on a cedar plank

One cedar plank (see note)

Water

4 salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick and 6 ounces each

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped green onions, white and green parts only, for garnish

4 lime wedges for garnish

Soak the cedar plank in water in a roasting or other pan big enough to hold it for at least 40 minutes; leave the plank in the water until ready to grill.

Place salmon, skin-side down, in a shallow nonreactive dish. Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, lime juice and garlic in a small nonreactive bowl and whisk to blend. Pour half of this mixture over the salmon, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Marinate at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade; bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.

To cook the salmon, prepare a grill for high heat. If you have a grill that registers the heat inside the grill, the thermometer should read about 350 degrees.

Remove the plank from the water and place on the hot grill. Cover the grill; heat for 5 minutes, then turn plank to the other side. The plank may be charred, which is fine — it will add to the smoky flavor of the salmon.

Place salmon, flesh side up, on the plank. Cover grill and cook until fish flakes easily and is opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully as time can vary depending on the type of grill and the intensity of the heat. Remove and serve the salmon on the plank.

Spoon some of the reserved marinade over each fillet. Mix together the cilantro and green onions, and garnish each serving with some of this mixture. Serve each fillet with a lime wedge to squeeze over. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Cedar planks are available in the seafood department of many supermarkets, in cookware shops and through some catalogs. I used a cedar plank about 12 to 14 inches long by 6 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. If the cedar plank is not too charred after you have used it, you can reuse it.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “The Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

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