Food, Wine

Take It Outdoors!

Where salmon is king: There are lots of fish in the sea, but for many Californians, it’s salmon or nothing. Wild ocean-caught king salmon, aka chinook, tops the pecking order (although coho and sockeye salmon make very fine eating). Fun fact: King salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than any other wild fish, and in summer, its fat content climbs. Time to cook some salmon.

Pan-searing is just about the easiest method. You don’t have to light a grill, or clean one. You don’t have to turn the fillets. Even if you choose not to eat the skin, cooking the fish with the skin on helps protect and baste the flesh. Just slide an offset spatula between the flesh and the skin when you’re ready to serve and the fillet will lift right off.

Here’s another beautiful thing about king salmon: It’s delicious hot or cold. Planning a picnic? Seared salmon fillets will hold up admirably from your kitchen to the park. (If you’re traveling far, use ice packs.) The cool corn and poblano salad is equally portable; pick up some corn from a farmers’ market so it’s super-fresh. If you’re picnicking, put the avocado in your hamper and add it to the salad on site. An extra step, but worth it for quality.

No wild salmon where you live? Substitute the freshest fish you can get but check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for a sustainable “green light” choice.

sustainable label


Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword in California’s wine country. It’s a broadly shared vision. Did you know that more than 90% of California wine is produced in a Certified California Sustainable Winery? Each winery’s path to sustainability is unique because each business faces different challenges, but the commitment to improve is widespread and deep rooted. Click here to learn what individual wineries are doing to operate more sustainably.

The Pour

Which Wine?

You don’t have to agonize over the right bottle for this salmon dinner. You can hardly go wrong. A light- to medium-bodied red wine with moderate tannin (think California Pinot Noir or Merlot) works, thanks to the heightened flavors contributed by pan-searing. But a bright, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc makes a lot of sense, too—like adding a squeeze of lemon to the fish. And don’t rule out a California Chardonnay. Its rounded, mineral notes match the lushness of salmon and the milky sweetness of fresh corn—a complementary pairing rather than a contrast.

Meet the Grapes: Explore more wine pairings

Pan-Seared Salmon with Corn and Poblano Salad

Wild-caught California salmon is one of the culinary highlights of summer in the Golden State. A fresh corn salad with a Mexican accent is the perfect complement and would be just as compatible with halibut fillets, scallops, or shrimp.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Corn and Poblano Salad



  • 2 large poblano or Anaheim chilies 
  • 2 ears yellow corn, husked 
  • 1 cup (40 g) very coarsely chopped cilantro 
  • ½ small red onion, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Juice of 3 limes, or more to taste 
  • 1 large avocado, ripe but firm, diced 
  • 3 ounces (2/3 cup/85 g) coarsely crumbled queso fresco 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • 1 serrano chili, finely minced (optional) 
  •  4 six-ounce (175 g) skin-on salmon fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Lime wedges for serving 

Serves 6


Make the salad: Preheat the broiler. Put the poblano or Anaheim chilies on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until blackened on all sides. Let cool, then peel, remove stems and seeds, and dice. Turn the oven to 425°F (220°C). 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the corn to the boiling water and boil 30 seconds, then remove the ears with tongs and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain when cool and pat dry. With a chef’s knife, cut away the kernels. You should have about 2-1/2 cups (350 g). 

 In a large bowl, combine the diced poblano or Anaheim chilies, corn, cilantro, red onion, olive oil, and juice of 3 limes. Add the avocado and queso fresco and toss gently.  

 Season well with salt and add more lime juice if desired. If the salad is not spicy enough for you, stir in some or all of the minced serrano chili.  

 Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and put the skillet in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Season the salmon with salt. Place the fillets in the skillet, skin side down, and bake until they just flake when probed with a paring knife, about 10 minutes.  

 Serve salmon immediately with the salad on the side. 


Recommended Pairings

California Pinot Noir or California Sauvignon Blanc

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