Quintessentially West Coast, planking pays homage to the First Nations peoples of North America, who were cooking salmon on wood planks over an open fire long before Europeans arrived. It’s an ingenious way to impart earthy, smoky, and even floral notes to the fish, depending on the type of wood you use. Although cedar is a classic choice, alder and oak work beautifully with 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.
1 (1 1/2 lb) skin-on salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only, plus extra for garnish (divided)
4 nectarines or apricots, halved
2 Tbsp honey
Flaked sea salt
4 oz (1/2 cup) fresh whole-milk ricotta
Sliced toasted almonds, for garnish
Garden salad, to serve
Soak a cedar planks 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 planks get too hot and ignite, spritz them 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.