After a week of tight deadlines, doctors appointments, bills, and last minute travel preparations, I needed good food to restore me. Even more: good wine, a nice steep pour. You know the kind of week?
This is my go-to dish to return to center state. It’s healthy enough to make me feel virtuous and rich enough to serve as an indulgence. It’s also wine-friendly and pairs well with anything from pinot noir to Cotes du Rhone and Corbières.
I use wild caught coho or sockeye cut from the tail, which has no discernible bones, eliminating extra work. Wild caught salmon offers cleaner, richer flavor than its farmed counterparts, not to mention more nutrients and omega-3s.
Broiling the salmon, skin up, produces a deliciously crispy skin that Paul and I call “salmon bacon” (it's THAT good). Topped with tomato-caper vinaigrette and served over pancetta-braised lentils, the cumin-rubbed salmon shines.
I’ve been making it for years, without variation, and am amazed every time how good it is and how it centers me after a long, stressful week.
Crispy Cumin Salmon and Braised Lentils with Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette
Crispy cumin salmon
3/4 pound wild caught salmon, cut from the tail
2 tablespoons dried cumin
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil such as canola or grapeseed
2 wedges of lemon or fresh lemon juice (to serve)
Score the salmon skin with a sharp knife, making diagonal cuts about an inch apart. Mix the cumin and a generous amount of salt and pepper with the oil to form a paste. Place the salmon on a broiler pan and slather the paste on both sides so it coats the salmon evenly. Place the salmon, skin up, under a broiler (above the middle mark of your oven but not too close to the flame) with the thickest part of the salmon under the flame. Broil for 6 – 7 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crisp.
1/2 cup Puy lentils
2-1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small celery stalk, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices pancetta or 1 slice of bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and sauté about 3 – 4 minutes. Add lentils and chicken stock. Season generously with salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 – 35 minutes until the lentils are soft. Taste to adjust seasoning again before serving.
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons walnut oil (I prefer Spectrum brand; it has a simple, clean flavor)
4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Spoon the lentils onto two plates. Slice the salmon into two pieces and place over the lentils. Top with tomato-caper vinaigrette. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top or serve with a wedge of lemon on the side. Top the dish with a sprig or two of fresh thyme.