Spice Marinated Roasted Salmon

Between the holiday gatherings and indulgences it is becoming increasingly more important to eat well whenever possible. I hate the thought of a “diet” as to me that triggers images of falling into the droning pit of Hell that is salad and cans of tuna.

The better antidote is to eat well AND eat healthily. Healthy for my heart, healthy for my hips, and healthy for my soul. We eat at least three times a day, and will do so for the rest of our lives. These are multiple opportunities a day to take the power to create your own best self. It’s also multiple opportunities a day to celebrate and enjoy. ENJOY!

This salmon dish is perfection. Easy to prepare and super kind to the heart and hips. I’m sure by now you don’t need me to tell you how good salmon is for you. Rich in omega 3’s- so good for keeping those blood vessels flexible and healthy. We don’t get nearly enough in most cases, and though taking a supplement can seem like a good idea, the power of food is far healthier- not to mention more delicious.

Roasting is a miracle to fish cooking. First off it’s virtually fool proof (I’ll teach you how), it minimizes the fish smell in the house that you get from stove top preparations, it requires less attention at the stove, and it’s super healthy. If you have any fears of preparing fish this can save you.

Not only that but roasted salmon is so moist, almost creamy in texture, that I promise you’ll fall in love. If you like your fish with a crusty skin, a quick sear in the pan on top of the stove does the trick. Then  simply toss your oven proof pan directly into the oven.

The spice marinade is where the fun is in making this dish. Quick toast some spices in a dry pan. This only takes a minute or two. When the kitchen fills with warm spicy goodness remove the pan immediately and set aside a minute to let the grains cool. Then simply mash them into a powder (or use a spice grinder), add a touch of oil and apply paste to the top of the fish. You can just let this sit for a bit while you set the rice to cooking for instance, or even marinate the fish do the night before and keep in the fridge until ready to roast.

The simple sauce is made with Greek yogurt with chopped fresh mint and cilantro. The combination added a bright fresh note that played against the depth of the rich fish and the spices.

What is also fantastic about this meal is it’s a wonderful thing to prepare for a group. The fish can be lined up on baking sheets and kept in the fridge. The rice can be made ahead of time and rewarmed, leaving just quick sautee of asparagus for last minute.

Spice Marinated  Roasted Salmon
serves 4

4 5oz pieces of fresh salmon
1T cumin seeds
1T caraway seeds
2t fennel seeds
1T white peppercorns
2T olive oil

3T finely minced fresh mint
3T finely minced fresh cilantro, including stems
1t olive oil
1c Greek yogurt
milk for thinning- if desired

In a dry frying pan place the spices over medium heat. Toast carefully until they begin to release their aromatics. Taking care not to burn. This will take just a minute or two.

Remove from the flame and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Place the spices into a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder, and reduce to a rough powder.

Stir in olive oil and salt and pepper, creating a paste.

Rinse and pat dry fish, then place skin side down onto a lined baking sheet. I use paper shopping bags to line my sheets, cut to size.

With fingers, spread the marinade paste over the entire top of the fish. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and allow the flavors of the marinade to permeate the fish for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 400˚

In a small bowl combine the herbs, yogurt, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

When the oven is ready set the fish into the center of the oven. The rule of thumb is ~10 minutes per inch of fish. After about 8 minutes I employ the poke method. I simply press down on the top of the fish. If it feels jiggly or resistant in the middle I give it more time. A minute or two later I’ll check again. The feel is one of give, not resistance.

When it comes to salmon you can err on the side of undercooking, and some people even prefer it. After you remove the fish from the oven it will continue to cook for another minute or so, so be brave and go for the sooner than the later.

Roasted Salmon Rosettes with Pistachio Cruda

Because it’s the simple little touches that can make all the difference. Tucking salmon into pretty little rosettes looks fiddly, but is really quite simple, and for so little effort, how lovely.

Cold Salmon is sliced into long thin strips and the rolled and tucked into little bundles. You could pin with a toothpick if you desire, but I find that they hold together just fine on their own.

I oiled them with a light olive oil and gave each rosette a healthy grind of pepper and splash of salt-Simplicity at it’s grandest.
The sauce is a sort of herby “cruda”, fresh chopped herbs tossed with lemon zest and pistachios. The result is a bright light sauce with a little crunch. Serve this sauce on top of just about any fish (including lobster or shrimp) or even a grilled lamb chop or chicken. It also takes to the addition of a chili or two, if you like that bit of bite.
The rosettes are also delightful served at room temp, making this a lovely presentation for a buffet or brunch party- a tray of pretty pink blossoms.
Salmon Rosettes with Pistachio Cruda
serves 6-8 depending on size of rosettes
(sauce adapted from Gourmet March 2005)
2# fresh Salmon filet, from mid section
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves and stems, chopped
4T chopped fresh mint
1 small clove garlic
.5 c shelled unsalted pistachios
1 lemon, zested and juiced
.5 c fruity olive oil
S & P
If your fish monger hasn’t done it for you, remove the skin from the salmon.
With a thin bladed knife, cut .25″ (or thinner) strips of salmon. The colder the salmon the easier this will be. Consider popping the fish into the freezer for a few minutes if it helps.
Starting at one end of a salmon strip, fold it over to make the center “bud”. If you can’t do this- let it go, it’s just a nice added touch.  Then wrap the strips of salmon around the center, overlapping the way rose petal do. I used 2 per rosette, but you can improvise here to make your flowers look good.
Place on oiled baking pan and sprinkle with a light olive oil, a healthy grind of black pepper and a sprinkling of salt. Roast in a 350˚ oven for ~ 12 mins
Rough chop the parsley and mint and place into a medium sized bowl.
Rough chop the pistachios and toss in on top of herbs.
Smash and finely mince garlic and add into bowl, along with lemon zest and juice. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
It’s best to make the salsa a little in advance to allow the zest and garlic to infuse into the oil. I’ve made this as far ahead as a day and it was divine.

Sublime Sunday: Gravlax

Sunday mornings are for ease and quiet and maybe some classical music and perhaps the NY Times scattered about. If there is going to be any entertaining it needs to be low maintenance.
Fish for breakfast, according to my dear friend Anthony, is SUCH a NY thing to do. Seriously, raw fish during the tender lights of day? and not anything mild or boring, but smoked or cured, such as this gravlax that I laced with garlic chives and meyer lemon zest.
Now, Let me say that I’ve been chided by a Swiss fellow for not recanting the true history of raclette in one of my recent posts (truth be told, I never recanted ANY history) and I don’t propose to the be the master of the “must know” about gravlax- BUT I can tell you this…
It’s one of the easiest things to make and delightfully enjoyable- especially for those  watching waistlines.
I purchased a beautiful piece of wild salmon that I hand picked from the fish monger. Once home I gave it a good rinse and patted it dry. Then I took a generous amount of flaked salt, minced some garlic chives and grated the zest from a meyer lemon and then, after combining all three, covered the flesh of the fish very generously. I put the flesh side down onto a large plate with a little well in it, wrapped it tight in plastic then placed another opposing plate on top.
Into the fridge it went and I took a bottle of wine and my ever constant bottle of bubbly, and lay them on top to keep plate pressed to fish. Then just left it.
A few days later I removed my little bundle, drained the liquid that had been pulled out of the fish and it was ready to slice and serve.
The zest and garlic chive gives the Salmon a lovely mellow flavor. It’s nice enough to eat just so on some crackers or chewy bread. Typically I serve my gravlax with some honey mustard- just take 3:1 parts of mustard and honey and stir together. You can adjust this formula to your taste. More mustard more heat.
And that, my dears, is it. A beautiful and delicious dish that requires a whole lot of nothing to do. The most difficult thing to do is slice it all.  Sharpen your knife with the thinnest blade as best you can and channel your inner Zabar Salmon Slicer and have at it.
The thin folds of the salmon make little bright jewels on the plate. Keep this cold until ready to serve and store any left over as soon as possible after serving.
Enjoy my doves!