Virginia Willis Blog

Quick Weeknight Dinner: “NY Times Salmon”

NY Times Salmon

The recipe in the photo above is one of my new favorite dishes. We’ve been buying Copper River Sockeye Salmon at the local fishmonger and I’ve asked for it 2 times in less than 2 weeks. I love it. I love the dish, it’s so tasty. I love it’s a family dish with a well-loved, spattered recipe. (I also love it’s being made for me instead of the other way round!)

See the note in the corner under the splotch? Where it says “NY Times” and directly underneath it the word “superb?”  I adore that the descriptive is the word “superb” not “good” or a star or checkmark. Considering the cookery wordsmith who wrote it, of course it is.

Recipe Attribution and Testing

When I said I was going to write about it in this week’s blog my highly ethical salmon chef said, “It’s not an original. I think it’s from the NY Times.” (It wasn’t until a bit later I understood the scribble in the corner.)  I googled a bit and discovered the original recipe was from 1996. There’s been a lot of fuss and worry about recipe testing – or the lack thereof – and plagiarizing amongst a group of culinary professionals in the blogosphere of late. I came to a powerful realization a few weeks ago – I can’t worry about what others do, I cannot worry about what I am not, and lastly, I can only worry about what I am.

I admit it makes me a bit crazy to read blog posts (with huge traffic) that have recipes that I can tell clearly don’t work or that are essentially overblown uncredited ads. Several weeks ago I saw a post with a recipe for really delicious looking grilled herbed chicken — but the bean recipe was to heat the can of beans. I saw another popular blogger had softly lit, shallow focus bags of frozen vegetables in her post. Seriously.

You know what? I don’t have to read them so I don’t. And, if a company or a PR firm wants to pay that person for those recipes – tested or untested, original or stolen –  then so be it.

I can’t worry about what I am not, I can only worry about what I am.

Earlier this week a journalist interviewed me and relayed praise that Central Market Cooking School raved about my recipes and how well they work. I was thrilled and it brought a big smile to my face. I love teaching at Central Market and it’s very professionally satisfying that I have their respect.

I can’t worry about what I am not, I can only worry about what I am. You know, that’s a whole lot of freedom.

In terms of the “NY Times Salmon” I’ve made a small number of changes in the original. There’s some magic number, supposedly 3, that transfers recipe attribution. Frankly, my version is probably altered enough that I could more than likely get away with not acknowledging the original source from 16 years ago. After all, there’s no copyrighting of recipes, which is part of the larger issue, and no one would know.

I would know — as would my kind and honest salmon-cooking wordsmith. And, that’s what’s only worrying about what you are and what you are not really means.

Bon Appétit Y’all

Salmon Recipe on


1 large salmon filet, scaled, with skin and pin bones removed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamari, preferably wheat free
6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme leaves, cilantro, and chives
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup extra virgin oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 sweet onion, preferably Vidalia, thinly sliced, optional
Coarse Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the salmon in a shallow ovenproof baking dish or rimmed half sheet pan. Set aside. Combine the garlic, sugar, soy sauce, herbs, oils, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir to combine and pour over salmon. Turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate to marinate, 30 minutes to an 1 hour. (Set the table and do your other food prep. Pour a glass of wine.)
  2. Meanwhile, place the top rack about 4-inches from the heat source. Heat the oven to broil. About 15 minutes before ready to cook, remove the salmon to the counter to take the chill off and come to room temperature. Scatter around sliced onions. Broil to medium rare, 5 to 7 minutes depending on the strength of your broiler. Serve immediately.


Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Food pics by me.


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32 Responses to “Quick Weeknight Dinner: “NY Times Salmon””

  1. I bookmarked this recipe almost a year ago…boy how time flies…and I’m now clearing out a bunch of old links that I’ve never used and, fortunately, came upon this one again. It seems somehow relevant that your mantra, ‘I can’t worry about what I am not, I can only worry about what I am.’ speaks to me today when the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether gay couples should be allowed to marry. I applaud your objectivity and can not wait to try this recipe and many others on your blog that, by the way, I am deleting.

  2. Bravo, Virginia, for both an outstanding recipe and your insight into your values and ethics. Recipe attribution and recipe testing are taking up a considerable amount of space in the blogosphere…no doubt about that. Someone recently suggested to me that a google search should be performed to see if the recipe THAT YOU JUST DEVELOPED as ever been done by someone. If it has, then you must give credit to them. To that I say, “Poppycock”. If I develop a recipe from my own experience and knowledge, why should I give someone credit if I didn’t “steal” their recipe. I have an ethical code that I strictly adhere to. If I used a recipe for inspiration, I freely and willingly give credit. As far as recipe testing goes, how on earth can anyone publish a recipe that God and everybody can see and not test it first?

    I will continue on doing what I’m doing because i’m think I’m doing the right thing. You words will forever ring in my head, “I can’t worry about what I am not, I can only worry about what I am.”

    Bravo, Virginia.

  3. I get a lot of grief for not including recipes on my site. I only post the recipe when I have publisher’s permission, or when the original source is out of print, or when I’ve changed the dish significantly–then I still mention the inspiration. Next time I get a hateful message about this, I’ll remember that I can’t worry about what I am not. Thanks for that!

    And, I love, love salmon. Can’t wait to try this dish.

  4. Leslie is right about attribution. And you’re right about everything, Virginia. We try to be as honest as we can–and of course have a good time along the way!

  5. Thank you Virginia for sharing this “superb” recipe and for sharing your thoughts as well! And you are absolutely “spot on” with your observations! I recently posted a recipe on my blog without any attribution – aside from the fact that it’s dessert my mother made my whole life. I have her recipe card but alas, there is no indication where she got the recipe. She passed a number of years ago so I can’t ask her and it will probably forever remain a mystery. But I’d like to think that whoever wrote the recipe (way-y-y-y back when!) would be happy that a new generation of people are making it and enjoying it.

  6. Jan Marlor

    Hey VA! Thanks so much! I made the recipe last night and, if I do say so myself, it was superb! It beats the plank anyday! I like salmon but don’t eat it on a regular basis and I’m always looking for a good – quick and easy recipe. This one was, and I’ll definitely have it again and againl. I had just about everything on hand but the tamari, so I used soy sauce. Also, I was eating alone last night and so I liked not having to fire up the grill for this one thing. However, I do have one issue with the original recipe that indicates “yield 6 servings”. My piece was about one pound and I ate the whole thing! So there! Thanks again!

  7. Can’t wait to try this and I am always excited to try your recipes and even your version of recipes. I made your peach upside-down cake for my son’s birthday and he loved it. He said, “Momma, you know what I like better than I do.” Made my day. Thanks for sharing your love of cooking and your wealth of knowledge.

  8. Funny, I was just thinking about Copper River salmon. Looked longingly at it but passed it by knowing I wouldn’t be able to cook it for several days. Now I’m glad I waited; I’ll try it this way instead.

    And a note to those who don’t know how kind and warm you are: I often think how you responded to my call while you were in the midst of a conference a couple years ago. Very kind indeed!

  9. As a participant in the fuss and worry (or at least reader of same; the conversations about attribution/plagiarism/recipe stealing etc. have been so extensive I don’t remember any more), I was delighted to see – via Adam – that you’ve posted this. Pretty much my sentiments exactly. I might be less large-hearted about the people who lift things to make $$ from them, but you’re sure dead right about self respect being the bottom line.

    What I don’t get about this whole thing (from the blogging, not recipe-selling point of view) is the widespread reluctance to attribute. As so nicely illustrated here, it’s still YOUR blog, and would be even if you copied the recipe word for word. What you’re sharing is that you found it, and that you found it good, your lovely – original, it must be said – picture of what you made, etc. The fact that the recipe originated in the Times has nothing to do with my appreciation of Virginia Willis. Which is considerable.

  10. You’ve inspired me to make this. That’s about the best compliment I can think of.

  11. You’re an original. And a beauty, at that. Whatever you post on your blog is your bees-wax, and we know your attributions are solid gold. Nice post.

  12. Thrilled to find your blog! And as salmon is my favourite food… I heartily thank you for the new recipe!

  13. This entire post is fantastic, but I can’t help being drawn back to that photo of the recipe. It reminds me of my grandmother’s handwriting, and it makes me sad that we’ve lost that quality of penmanship – myself included. Damn computers! Time to grab a pen and start practicing!

  14. I so knew this issue would strike home in reply to both you and Barbara! This is a gorgeous recipe from a gorgeous women 🙂 I admire you so much. Thank you for posting!

  15. I could not agree more Virginia as a matter of fact I’m in such agreement that some wonder why I am so laissez faire about the whole thing. I can only bring my sense of ethics to the table; I simply can not nor do I care to police others. I get emails notifying me that someone saw my photo or ‘my’ recipe on another site and to a person the writer’s are shocked when I respond and say, ‘Thank you but I just don’t spend my time hunting down these things; I prefer to spend my time making something new.’

    I started a blog 17 years ago to share what I love from my kitchen with my family and friends and despite some of the trends today that place making money above making good food; I keep that at the forefront of my mission, always. I’ve seen those photos you cite and have done the same. It was liberating.

    That salmon looks fabulous; I passed by the Copper River Salmon at Costco the other day, doggone you have made me regret one thing…that I didn’t buy any!

    • I was so worried about it. The whole “Why not me? And, you know — that doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good. It was hugely freeing. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate your support.

  16. I know we’ve never met (yet), but I just have to say: I absolutely love you! Its not just your recipes, or your cookbooks (even tho they are great). Its your heart, your courage, your soul, that comes thru in your writing and sharing via blog. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks/feels this way, but I wanted to be one who would take the time to let you know how appreciated you are. Thanks!


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