On Your Plate: From Lake to Plate

Salmon makes a fresh feast in the summer heat

When the Midwest heat and humidity set in, I don’t want to eat heavy food. Little snacks throughout the day carry me through. My family gravitates to eating lots of fruit, salads, light meals and smaller portions, with the occasional Popsicle to cool down. 

When we do sit down to share a meal, I gravitate toward fish — salmon, specifically — during the summer more than at any other time of the year. Salmon is versatile, light and so delicious!

Did you know that salmon are prevalent in Lake Michigan, and July is the perfect time of year to go after them?

“Nearly every Lake Michigan fisherman I’ve met in Door County commits to very little other than fishing in the month of July,” said Drew Reinke, an avid Door County angler. “What tops warm mornings with calm waters and hungry king salmon? If you’re lucky enough, you’ll hook one of those monsters that screams line out for minutes. When you land it and fillet it, you will not believe the thickness of the fillets. Your friends will gather to share this meal.”

Drew Reinke with his catch: a lake salmon. Submitted.

Fishing the waters surrounding Door County goes back many generations, and the abundance of fish played an important role in the cultures of both the Native Americans and the European settlers who chose to set down roots here. Since then, the peninsula’s fishing industry has supported many families: Charter-boat captains and commercial fishers have shared these waters for a century or more. 

Although the waters were overfished years back, most species are making a resurgence. If you want to experience the thrill of deep-water fishing but don’t have the equipment, I highly recommend booking a trip with one of the many local commercial-fishing guides — you will not be disappointed! 

For those of us who prefer to slay salmon at the market, Door County has many options. You can find fresh fish in most communities at a fish market (we’re so lucky to have these dotting the peninsula) or grocery store, and in some instances, even the gas-station convenience stores will have what you’re looking for. 

Regarding sourcing fresh berries, produce and herbs, count on farmers markets to offer the freshest local produce available. Markets pop up nearly every day of the week throughout the county, so stop by often to see what’s currently in season. Enjoy!

Pan-Seared Salmon with Basil-Berry Compote and Brie
Serves 4


3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Bragg amino acid
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp sriracha sauce
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, diced
Pinch of salt 
Freshly cracked pepper to taste 

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Pan-Seared Salmon

2 lbs salmon fillets
Olive oil
4 slices of Brie, cut ½ inch thick 

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Place the salmon fillets in a Pyrex baking dish, and pour the marinade over the fish. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Heat a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet to medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan. Pan-sear the salmon fillets for approximately three minutes on each side. Pour the marinade over the fish, and bring the pan back up to temperature. You will want to see the marinade bubbling. Place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking the salmon, about five minutes.

Place a slice of Brie on top of each salmon fillet, and allow the cheese to melt. Finish with a dollop of the basil-berry compote (recipe follows) and a fresh basil leaf for garnish. Serve with a scoop of jasmine rice topped with more fresh, diced basil.

Basil-Berry Compote

¼ cup red onion, diced 
1 stalk celery, diced
1 Tbsp fresh jalapeño pepper, diced
Splash of red wine
1 pint blackberries or black raspberries
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

In a small saucepan, add the red onion, celery, jalapeño and splash of red wine. Sauté, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the berries, honey and fresh ginger. Cook at medium heat for a few minutes, just long enough to soften the berries. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. This is best if made in advance to allow the flavors to meld.

I recommend enjoying this meal outdoors with your favorite dinner guests, surrounded by the murmurs of the Door County summer night. If you’re lucky, fireflies may join you, and a shooting star may illuminate your evening!