Monday, June 6, 2011

Copper River Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad

Updated Bistro Updated - Grilled Copper River Salmon with Herb Butter and Warm Lentil Salad
Hopefully by now you know that Atlantic Salmon is a catchy name for farm-raised salmon.  If you're into food quality issues at all, you've probably seen Food, Inc. or read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  You probably know the horrible conditions that cows live under and how that affects our health as a result.  Now imagine those cows are fish and in the same conditions but in water.  That's Atlantic Salmon. They swim in their own waste, are fed unnatural pills of food (that consequently create a fake color) that contain antibiotics to combat the disease that occurs when animals are raised in close quarters - a fenced-in pen underwater if you don't know.  There are many naturally occuring side-effects to the entire ocean eco-system and particularly the salmon population but I won't go into that now.  Suffice it to say, we don't buy it.

How do I fill my salmon craving?  Most of the year, it's Costco's Wild Salmon Burgers.  But during the summer, when I can find it for $10/lb or less (a splurge, but totally worth it) I buy it and savor it while I can.

When you look at wild salmon fillets next to Atlantic salmon you can see the difference.  The Crayola crayon color of Orange Red is probably the closest match to the Copper River salmon's color versus the light pink of the Atlantic.  There are other wild varieties and I urge you to look for them in the coming months.  This is the season for fresh salmon so enjoy it before it goes through the factory chilling process and sits in the freezer section for months. I did freeze some fillets for later, however, and they had the exact same texture and flavor after being frozen - bright orangey pink and buttery in the center even after being a little over-cooked.  (I don't know what happens in the factory freezing process, but they always seem to have a tougher texture.) 

On this particular night, I had lots of fresh herbs in my fridge so I made a compound butter with them and let that melt over the fish after grilling.  With family in town that eat very few carbs, I paired it with a warm lentil salad that made use of the variety of fresh produce in my veggie drawer.  This very earthy but bright combination is a perfect pair with a Pinot Noir, but we happened to have Mourvedre which is a less known varietal from France.

CWYG Stats

Veggie Box Items -  Fresh oregano, Tokyo turnips, purple carrots

CWYG Items - French green lentils, olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, shallots

Grilled Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick) preferably unsalted
1/2 chopped fresh herbs (any combination of basil, oregano, mint, parsley, cilantro, chives, summer savory)
zest of 1 lemon, reserve juice for later
1 cup green lentils (preferably tiny French lentils such as Du Puy)
1 tbsp bacon fat (I am a Southern girl by birth and yes, I keep this in my fridge)
or 1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sherry vinegar3 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced (I used a purple carrot since that's what I had)
3 Tokyo turnips or radishes, finely diced
1/2 green apple, finely diced, optional (I had it and decided at the last minute to throw it in)
2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced (use a variety of color if you have them)
4 6-oz wild salmon fillets
olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Mash the butter with the herbs and 1 tsp of salt (only if unsalted butter.) Scrape onto a square of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll up.  Twist the ends to make it look like an old-school piece of candy. (Think Tootsie Roll).  Place in freezer.  (Freeze for up to 3 months as long as it's stored in a ziploc bag.)

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils well and check to make sure there are no little pebbles or sand.  In the bacon fat or olive oil, saute 1/2 the shallots and garlic.  Add the rinsed lentils and saute for 30 seconds then add 2 cups of water.  When boiling, lower heat and simmer until the lentils are done which usually takes about 25 minutes.

While the lentils cook, soak the remaining shallot in warm water and a big pinch each of salt and sugar.  Combine the garlic, sherry vinegar and olive oil with the carrot, turnip and apple or tomato.  Add a lot of fresh black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.  Let stand until lentils are done then add the warm drained lentils.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

Preheat grill.  While that's happening, brush the salmon with olive oil and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.  When the grill is very hot, place the salmon skin side up for 2 minutes or until the bottom 1/8th inch of salmon is opaque and significantly lighter.  Turn gently a quarter of a turn to get good grill marks.  Grill for another 2 minutes. Turn over and grill skin side down for 2 minutes or until both sides have about 1/4' of opaque flesh with the middle of the salmon remaining dark pink.  (If you like it well done, just cook it until it is all opaque.)

Slice off a pat of herb butter to top each salmon fillet then serve immediately over the lentils.

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

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