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ffwd: salmon with basil tapenade

I do love salmon. After trout, it’s probably my favorite fish. It usually gets the simplest preparation at my house: grilled in the summer, broiled in the winter. In either case, we coat the fish lightly with a spice mix and nothing more. This week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie, Salmon with Basil Tapenade, adds yet another technique option to the repertoire.

I’m not a very good meal planner. We have a CSA share for the month of July (won at a silent auction). Earlier this week, when I picked up the share, it included a generous amount of fresh basil. I wasn’t thinking ahead to Friday, so I promptly made the entire lot of it into pesto. I didn’t realize that I should have reserved some for this dish. In the end, I just substituted my pesto for the chopped basil, which tasted just fine. For the fish, I cut a one pound fillet of wild coho salmon into three 5-ounce pieces.

The recipe was confusing when it described how to cut pockets in the fish fillets for stuffing with the aromatic tapenade (a blend of tapenade, pesto, and lemon zest and juice). I couldn’t figure out whether it was a one-inch slit that went partially or all the way through the fillet, or whether it was a one-inch slit along the entire edge. Howard and I both read it through multiple times and demonstrated to each other what we thought Dorie meant. In the end, I went with two slits that went from edge-to-edge, on either side of the center bone.

Stuffing the fish with tapenade was incredibly messy, and in my opinion, not worth the trouble. With tapenade sauce topping the cooked fish, I found that gave plenty of flavor and would have been enough.

Very Messy

I liked the cooking method. The fillets are seared in olive oil in a hot skillet on the top side, then the skin side. Then, the skillet of fillets goes into a very hot oven to finish off the cooking. Everything was so hot, I didn’t test as I went, I just used the times in the recipe. The fish was slightly overcooked. Next time, I’ll cut a few minutes off the final roasting step, not that it’s very long to begin with. I had a little trouble flipping the fish. It’s a good thing the sauce is opaque and masked some of the torn flesh. I used a high-sided skillet and suspect that the angle for turning was too sharp to do a perfect job.

I served the salmon with orzo tossed with roasted fennel and some green beans with a dollop of the tapenade sauce (veggies courtesy of CSA mentioned above). It was a delicious meal, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers!

I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links under the Leave Your Link post for this recipe at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

french fridays with dorie: roasted salmon & lentils

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie seemed old hat to me: Roasted Salmon and Lentils.  Salmon is one of my favorite kinds of fish, and lentils is my #1 favorite bean or legume.  I make both frequently, so I knew I would enjoy the menu.

My in-laws were in town, and I thought that my mother-in-law, a loyal follower of my blog, would enjoy sharing a Dorie meal.

The primary surprise for me was that even though this recipe seems like a old friend on paper, I learned something new about cooking both the salmon and the lentils.

When we prepare salmon, we typically grill it in summer, or broil it in winter. For Dorie’s version, a large salmon fillet (wild coho salmon, for me) was roasted in a very hot oven. I was a little skeptical because, I find that a large fillet is seldom done in the recommended 12 minutes when cooking under the broiler. What a revelation that roasting the salmon worked out to perfection. While we’ll still be grilling in the summer, roasting will be the new off-season cooking method chez moi.

As for the lentils, I have been in on the secret of the tiny green Le Puy lentils for years. I think I first discovered them in the bulk section at Whole Foods, but they hae been my lentil of choice for salads and sides for many years. Dorie’s method for cooking the lentils again seemed similar to mine on paper, but the actual execution taught me a few new tricks.

I normally just cut the aromatic vegetables into bite-sized pieces and cook them with the lentils, but by the time the lentils are tender, the vegetables dissolve into oblivion. Cooking large pieces of the vegetables with the lentils and then chopping them up afterwards worked out really well. Also, pureeing some of the lentils to thicken the lentil mixture added a nice creamy texture to the final dish.

I served the salmon over a bed of lentils with roasted broccoli alongside. My in-laws enjoyed the meal as much as we did. Chalk this one up in the “Definitely Repeat” column of the Dorie scoreboard.

If you’d like to see how other bloggers’ roasted salmon and lentils came out, check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie.