While fish is a popular option for many during Lent, a lot of people are still intimidated by it, whether it’s cooking fish or finding a variety of fish they like.
For a hearty fish and one that stands up to many cooking methods, go for salmon. It’s one of my favorites because a nice, thick center-cut fillet, cut into portions, provides a great dinner option for guests.
Having broiled, baked and grilled salmon many ways, I am always on the hunt for a new way to make it sizzle.
Today’s dish is a win-win: Both the flavor and presentation is impressive.
What I like is that the salmon is slow-baked so there is less chance of overcooking it. It’s paired with chickpeas and mustard greens and drizzled with a simple, yet awesome, homemade vinaigrette. If you’ve never made your own vinaigrette, it’s well worth the few minutes it takes to whisk up.
There are a lot of flavors in this dish, and they come together nicely. The chickpeas are seasoned with cumin, the greens with honey and garlic. If you don’t like the slightly bitter flavor of the mustard greens, use rainbow chard, including the stems, as it has a milder flavor. But any hearty green will do.
The grand finale is a sprinkling of pan-fried capers. Once you pat the capers well, they are added to the skillet, where they’ll sizzle and pop open. Bold and salty with a hint of herb flavor, capers are good match for salmon (and other fish). A small amount goes a long way. If you’re not familiar with them, they are sold in small jars in a brine of salt and vinegar (look for them near the olives). Before using, always drain capers (reserving the brine) and rinse them.
February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association encourages people to eat more fish, especially fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. The recommendation is two servings of baked or grilled fish each week.
My best advice for fish shopping is to find a reliable source and get to know your fishmonger. Also, ask questions. Your fishmonger should know all about the fish they sell and be able to tell you where the fish is from, what it tastes like and the best way to cook it. Once you know all about the fish, you’ll be able to whip up impressive fish dishes such as today’s recipe at a moment’s notice.
SLOW-COOKED SALMON, CHICKPEAS AND MUSTARD GREENS
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish, divided
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, peeled, thinly sliced
1 bunch small mustard greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped or rainbow chard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup water
4 salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each, skin removed)
1/2 small shallot, peeled, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, patted dry
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Brush a large baking dish with a bit of oil.
In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cumin and 1 tablespoon oil. Mash about half of chickpeas in the bowl with a fork; season all with salt and pepper. Transfer chickpea mixture to prepared dish.
In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mustard greens or rainbow chard and cook, tossing, until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Add honey and water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until greens are completely wilted, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to baking dish, placing the greens on top of the chickpea mixture.
Generously season each salmon fillet with salt and pepper; arrange on top of the greens and chickpea mixture and drizzle with oil. Bake until salmon is opaque in the center, 25-30 minutes depending on its thickness.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk shallot, lemon juice, mustard and honey; season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook capers until opened and crisp, about 30 seconds; drain on paper towels.
Drizzle salmon with vinaigrette and top with capers.
Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2014 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis includes 5-ounce portion of salmon and 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette.
481 calories (47 percent from fat), 25 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrates, 38 g protein, 532 mg sodium, 77 mg cholesterol, 9 g fiber.