So far in the category of things I wasn’t expecting from 2018, I’ve been having a major love affair with both salmon and kale salads. I legitimately crave both almost every day, and both have been making it onto my menu plan weekly. While most weeknights I prefer keeping the salmon in fillet form for the sake of speed and simplicity, these salmon burgers have been a favorite dish of mine for a while now and it is high time I shared them with you.

You know the recipe is good if it means I am willing to turn a gorgeous salmon fillet into patties. The particular genius of this recipe is in making a portion of the salmon into a paste which then becomes the binder for the patties. This avoids additional binders such as bread crumbs, egg, etc. Having tried them both ways, I must say that I prefer them as pictured here: over the bed of tender herbs topped with pickles and with mayo on the side, no bun necessary. (This is coming from a carb and gluten lover, so just trust me on this one.) All of the components here – the patties themselves, the tender herb salad, the quick pickled cucumbers, and the sesame mayo – combine to create a beautifully balanced dish that is light and incredibly satisfying. The flavor balance is on point.

If you are looking to make these even healthier, I would recommend skipping the mayo in favor of a greek yogurt-based sauce. Whenever I’m trying to trick my appetite into considering it remotely okay that I have run out of sour cream, I microplane a clove of garlic into some greek yogurt, season well with salt and pepper, and add a squeeze of lime juice. I think a similar effect could probably be achieved here with garlic, ginger, and sesame, though I haven’t tried it yet myself. Let me know how it turns out if you do!

Ingredients

For the salmon patties: 

  • 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless salmon fillet(s), patted dry
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated (whites used below)
  • 1 (1-inch) segment fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup rice flour

For the sauce: 

  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise

For the pickles and herb mixture:

  • 3 Persian cucumbers, shaved lengthwise
  • ½ serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 tsp. rice vinegar, divided
  • 2 cups tender herbs such as cilantro and/or mint, with tender portions of stems
  • ¾ cup watercress, stems trimmed
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

  • 01

    Cut the salmon into 2-inch pieces. Transfer one third of the salmon the the bowl of a food processor and process, scraping down the sides as needed, until a smooth paste forms. Add the remaining salmon pieces and pulse 4-5 times, so the pieces are no bigger than ¼-inch. Transfer the salmon mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in the scallion greens, ginger, mayonnaise and salt, and mix until evenly combined. Form the mixture into four patties about ¾-inch thick. Transfer to a parchment lined baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.

  • 02

    In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar and mayonnaise. Season lightly with salt. Set aside.

  • 03

    In another small bowl, combine the cucumbers with a pinch of salt and toss, massaging lightly to expel excess water. Discard any excess liquid. Add the serrano, sugar, and 2 teaspoons of the vinegar to the bowl. Toss to coat, and chill until ready to use.

  • 04

    When you are ready to cook the burgers, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Remove the patties from the fridge just before cooking and sprinkle lightly to coat the outside with rice flour (you won’t need all of it.) The patties will be a bit loose, but they will firm up more while cooking. Cook, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown and the patties are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side (cooking in batches if necessary.) Remove to a plate to rest briefly before serving.

  • 05

    In a medium bowl, combine the tender herbs, watercress, scallion whites, remaining 1 teaspoon of vinegar, sesame seeds, and a pinch of salt. Toss to mix. Serve with the salmon patties, pickled cucumbers, and sesame mayo.

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