Blackened Salmon with Feta-Yogurt Sauce and Golden Couscous

This recipe was particularly fun to make, and especially fun to photograph.  For some reason I ended up putting it on my floor, taking a photo of it there, and then sitting in the same spot and eating the whole dish.  There is a small window of time, usually around 2pm, when sun manages to find a small crevice between all of the tall New York City buildings and floods into my second floor apartment, and therefore onto me.  I love sitting and eating under the sunshine during this brief moment, which is what I was able to do today.

The truth is that I just got back from a relaxing and much-appreciated vacation with my mom and sister in Barbados, and I’ve got fish on my mind in a major way.  Almost every meal we ate there featured grilled fish – usually mahi mahi, snapper, or dorado – lightly seasoned and served with plenty of Scotch bonnet hot sauce (my new favorite hot and slightly sweet sauce, in case you’re wondering).  For this reason the only recipe ideas that were swimming in my mind were fish, spicy, and sweet.  Thus was born this recipe which I am delighted to share with you!

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Pistachio-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have to thank my friend Kelly for introducing me to this amazingly easy yet flavorful recipe.  Last Saturday night we were celebrating a friend’s birthday (the big 2-6 what what), and Kelly mentioned that she’s starting to cook more for herself at home- yay, one more for the good guys!

She told me that she came across a great recipe by the Barefoot Contessa , a simply delightful human whom I believe every one adores.  Ina’s recipe was a little more straightforward than mine, however, because I couldn’t resist slathering the salmon in Dijon mustard and coating it with ground pistachios and breadcrumbs.  If you’re looking to keep this recipe simple, check out Martha Stewart’s version, which only needs 4 ingredients!

Perhaps I should remind you now of my love for breadcrumbs.  They are cheap, easy to store for a long time, and they pack flavor into anything they touch.  Mix them with some mustard (also a kitchen staple of mine) and pistachios, and I think we’re all going to have a great dinner boys and girls.  Now let’s hold hands!

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Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta

 

Another recipe to celebrate the warm weather season, highlighting the deep and plentiful flavor of green asparagus which has popped up on almost every bistrot menu around Paris.  This year more than ever I’m learning to embrace the seasons, which bring along with them the adventure of learning to cook with what nature gives you.  Asparagus is a great ingredient to experiment with because it can be eaten in so many forms, whether puréed in a soup, tossed in a spring salad, or incorporated with eggs as is done here.  If you are left with extra asparagus spears while making this recipe, I suggest tossing the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting in a 220°C/400°F oven.  Once cooked you can top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar.

The pairing of green asparagus and eggs is effortless and harmonious, and by tossing pan-seared salmon into the frittata you include enough protein and energy to make this meal for a healthy lunch or dinner.  Fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, or parsley add brightness and a strong summer flavor.  If you decide to add a cheese such as feta, be prepared for a very particular tang with a slightly salty aftertaste.  Other cheeses that would work equally as well would be goat cheese, ricotta, or perhaps blue cheese for the strong-hearted.

I would definitely pair this frittata with a white wine with hints of spices, such as the Californian J Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.  For dessert, you could chop up two nectarines and slice a few ripe cherries, and toss them with 1 tablespoon honey, a drizzle of oil, and a handful of sliced fresh mint.  If you prefer to finish this frittata in the oven, instead of flipping it over and cooking the other side, place the (ovenproof) skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until set.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta – serves 1

1 salmon filet, about 6 ounces/185 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
3-4 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon

1. Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Rub all over with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
2. Heat a small 8-inch/20-cm skillet over medium heat. Add salmon filet, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides until cooked through. Remove salmon from heat, and with a fork gently break the fish apart into small, bite-size pieces.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, herbs, heavy cream, and a pinch each of salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper if you like things spicy). Whisk together with a fork. Add in the salmon bits and feta cheese, and combine gently.
4. Heat the teaspoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus bits to the pan and cook until tender but still crunchy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the egg mixture to the pan; swirl the pan around to coat evenly. Let eggs cook over medium heat, occasionally tilting the pan to one side and pushing the eggs to the center of the pan to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the skillet.
6. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back onto the skillet to heat the runny side. Cook until frittata is set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve on same large plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon

If I tell you my inspiration for making this comes from airplane food, would you hold it against me?  I certainly made it my own by adding ginger and fennel, but the origin of this recipe has to be credited to the wonderful chefs creating food for Air France. I know you will all disagree with me, but I really enjoy airplane food, especially on Air France.  A little baguette, a little wheel of brie cheese, and a pretty decent hot meal are enough to keep me hooked on this airline.

I prefer using French lentils to anything else because they keep their shape well and have a substantial texture and flavor.  The fennel is great because it adds the unique licorice-like, aniseed flavor (the same flavor you would find in anise or star anise), which goes well with both the salmon and the ginger.  However, if you can’t find fennel easily or don’t like it, you can replace it with celery, although you won’t achieve quite the same thing.

One other suggestion is to replace the fennel garnish with thinly sliced scallions – this was actually my original idea but unfortunately fennel was all I could find at the farmer’s market. 

So I’ll keep my post short for today, and thanks again to every one who comments and gives feedback, it helps me out a lot!

Happy Tuesday, eat something delicious.

French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon – serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly chopped or ground ginger
1 small fennel bulb
2/3-cup french lentils
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 smoked salmon fillets

1. Prepare the fennel: cut off the fronds and the root. Roughly chop the bulb as you would an onion. Discard all but one of the fronds; cut it on the diagonal into horizontal slices (for garnish).
2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
3. Add the ginger, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the lentils, chopped thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the lentils by about 1/2-inch (1.5 cm). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until lentils are softened, about 20-25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cut your salmon slices into small bite-size pieces.
6. Stir the vinegar into the lentils, discard the bay leaf, and ladle into a bowl. Serve topped with salmon and fennel.

>Saumon en Papillote (Salmon in Foil)

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I would say the title of this recipe represents perfectly one of those instances where, although in both french and english it says essentially the same thing, this dish sounds infinitely better in french.  Pronounced pah-PEE-y-ote, I love not only this method of cooking but also just saying its name out loud; its inundations flitter on ones tongue like a dancing butterfly.  No matter what language you say it in though, the process is always the same:  wrap the fish or meat in question entirely in foil or oiled paper so no air can escape, and bake it in the oven in order to give the food a replenishing and hearty steam.
I find that this method works particularly well with salmon, because it’s a fatty fish and when it is heated in a small, confined space (as you create with the foil) the layers of fat in between its pink meat break down and soften the fillet in order to provide a tender texture which is very rich in flavor.  I also think that we could call this dish “party in a bag,” because the experience of opening up the foil to discover what has been produced inside is quite a fun event, and one which is highly satisfactory once you taste the first bite!  I can’t deny that I also had a grand old time opening the foil and watching pockets of steam rush out, then peering closer and seeing a perfectly cooked salmon surrounded by softly steamed mushroom slices, all of which smelled herbacious and highly fragrant.
To top it all off, this recipe only requires 5 ingredients!  
A couple of notes: I mention in the recipe that you can use either olive oil or butter; I used a combination of both (a scant tablespoon of each), but you can certainly use just one or the other if you would like.  I also love the combination of salmon and mushrooms – actually I love almost everything with mushrooms – but I’m sure you could put some fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach or kale in its place.  I’m just thinking out loud, but we could probably even put some wild rice and a few tablespoons water alongside the fish, because everything is getting steamed and it may come out richly flavored and having absorbed some of the salmon fat.  And now my stomach is growling just thinking about it. 
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Saumon en Papillote – Serves 1
1 salmon fillet
4-5 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
4-5 thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp chopped
1 bay leaf
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1.  Wash and dry the salmon fillet and the mushrooms.
2. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  On the bottom (skin) side of the fish, cut an incision length-wise and insert the bay leaf.
3. Cut a large piece of aluminum foil – large enough to comfortably wrap around the salmon and mushrooms. 
4.  Place the thyme sprigs in the center of the foil; put the salmon on the foil, and surround it with the mushroom slices.
5.  Drizzle everything with olive oil if using, or cut the butter into tiny pieces and drop them over the fish and mushrooms.  Give a final sprinkling of salt and pepper for good luck, sprinkle the chopped thyme over the mushrooms, and pinch the foil together so the salmon is totally encased and no air can escape.

6. Bake in the oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

>Honey and Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon

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Ingredients: Salmon, Honey, Dijon Mustard, Hazelnuts

I got the idea for this either last night, or at some point today while I was daydreaming, of course, about food.  The dish is so simple (there are four ingredients), but because each component has such a distinct flavor, the end result is very tasty. 

I ate this with some steamed artichokes, but I think this would also go great with some lentilsbrussel sprouts, steamed broccoli, or roasted potatoes.  The choices are endless, and of course depend on your tastes.   Additionally, I had a package of hazelnuts which I have been itching to use for the past two weeks, which I why I chose this particular nut.  However, I think many other variations, such as almonds, pistachios, pecans, or walnuts, would also complement the salmon.

Enjoy!

Honey and Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon – serves 1

1 6-oz. (170 g) salmon fillet
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4-cup (80 g) crushed hazelnuts, roughly chopped.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
1. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil; place salmon on foil, skin-side down.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, dijon mustard, a dash of salt, and a dash of pepper.
3.  Rub mixture all over the salmon (bottom too); press the hazelnuts into the top and sides of the fish, and bake until cooked through, about 12-14 minutes.
4.  When removing the salmon from the tray, gently detach the salmon from its skin (if it’s cooked through it should detach easily).  Serve.