Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Salmon and Lentils

My diet mainly consists of fish, shrimp and chicken so I am always looking for ways to keep it new and exciting.

Salmon is one of my favorites and is so versatile–grilled, broiled, poached, as salmon cakes, on my salad, in dips... I typically refrain from searing foods because of the intense amount of smoke that it creates in the kitchen. But I decided to sear the salmon this time around and finish it in the oven. Boy was that an adventure!

Salmon is high in protein and a 4 oz serving of wild salmon provides a full day’s requirement of vitamin D. Salmon is also a good source of B12, niacin, and selenium, is an excellent source B6 and magnesium and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Benefits of omega 3 fats include controlling blood pressure, reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body, preventing and curing arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, and preventing cancer, particularly prostate and breast cancer.

The process of searing converts the natural sugars of the meat and any dry seasonings into a crispy outer layer, while preserving the juiciness of the meat’s interior. To sear a piece of meat you have to make sure the pan is extremely hot, between 300-500 degrees. The idea is for the dry meat and the hot pan to meet briefly until the surface of the meat is a solid dark brown, though not charred or blackened. For best results, bring the meat to room temperature, before searing, to allow the meat to relax. It is recommended that you do not use marinades with searing.

So I have my salmon and my extremely hot pan and I am tickled at the prospect of my dinner of salmon, lentils, a baked sweet potato and braised kale. I toss my salmon into the saucepan and the very instant that salmon hits the pan it looks like I have a 2-alarm fire at my house. I’m trying to resist the urge to pull the pan from the heat because there is smoke billowing all through the kitchen. But you should not take it off of the heat for at least 2 minutes so the bottom can get brown and crispy. After letting the salmon sear for the appropriate time, I placed the oven-safe sauté pan in the oven for another 5-7 minutes until the salmon was medium.

I am running through the kitchen fanning the smoke with the dish towel, trying to keep the alarm from going off. I am opening windows and doors. I am running the exhaust fan. I am  trying to keep the rest of my dinner from burning, as I am focused on the smoke. If I had a video camera, I surely would have won $10k on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

But all that being said, that was the best salmon I ever ate…well, at my house anyway. So I would say that this is probably one of those treats only to be enjoyed on a rare occasion. Trust me, your poor kitchen, family, and the neighbors will thank you.

Salmon with Lentils

1⁄2 pound lentils
1⁄4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 c chopped yellow onions
2 c chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
3⁄4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 1⁄2 c chopped celery
1 1⁄2 c chicken stock

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place the lentils in the sauté pan, along with the celery and chicken stock. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

4-6 oz Salmon fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a dry sauté pan over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the top with salt and pepper. Place the salmon fillets, skin-side down, in the pan and cook over heat without moving them for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very brown.

Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked to medium. Serve.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

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