My dad’s friend is from the Yurok (Puliklah) tribe of the coastal redwoods, along the lower Klamath River. A recent visit coincided with their salmon festival, and this recipe is based on what I had. It was one of the best meals of my life.
In late summer, in the morning, go out with your family and friends and catch some salmon (make sure to thank the salmon for giving you sustenance). Prepare a bed of coals by making a shallow ditch in the earth and filling it with flaming hardwood. When the coals are smoldering and hot, cut the salmon’s gorgeous, watermelon-colored flesh into generous pieces with the skin still attached. Skewer the pieces onto long shards of redwood and season with salt and freshly cracked peppercorns. Plant the skewers in the ground around the ditch of coals, so the meat is suspended above the heat. Allow to cook for about an hour. The skin will be crisped, the outside of the meat will be caramelized with smoke, and the inside will be fragrant and moist.
My dad’s friend’s sister, who had tattooed her chin in the traditional manner as a near-political declaration of heritage (female tattoos are no longer widely practiced), had made huckleberry shortcake. I took some of her huckleberry compote and spooned it over the salmon—delicious.
Gather as many huckleberries as you can. This may be difficult, as I’ve noticed that huckleberries have grown scarcer in recent years (perhaps due to climate change?). You may supplement with wild salal berries (if they grow in your area) or store-bought blueberries. Californian blackberries are more abundant, and I don’t see why you can’t use these as well. Sweeten with sugar to taste and simmer in a small saucepan (blackberries will need more sugar than less). You may also use a squeeze of lemon juice and/or a dusting of cinnamon if you feel so moved.
Serve the salmon with the compote, outside, surrounded by redwood-covered hills. Late summer brings mosquitoes, so be aware of this as well.