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Dinner with the folks
Mar 20th, 2006

Visual presentation has never been my strongest suit when it comes to food. There are food bloggers out there with gorgeous dinnerware and a good sense of color who produce lovely photos of their dishes. These are the cooks who don't serve food, they plate it. They might even own little squeeze bottles to pipe the sauces just so on the plate. Now I'm not mocking these cooks, in fact part of me aspires to be one of them someday, it's just that I really can't compete with my cracked ten-year old Pfaltzgraf and fabulous collection of plastic Ikea cups. So visual flair isn't something I usually bother too much about.

But I've got to say that the dinner I served on Saturday night was as lovely as it was tasty. There's a set of recipes in The Healthy Hedonist for two different sauces, one yellow, one green, both made with coconut milk. As an aside the author suggests serving both of them with grilled salmon for an especially pretty look. And then I was reading fellow Seattle area blogger Molly at Orangette and she had posted a recipe for a perfect for spring Asparagus Flan. Once I saw that I knew it was just the thing to go with the salmon and sauces. Not only would there be a profusion of colors: salmon pink, pale green, and creamy yellow, but it was all low-carb! Perfect as I was cooking dinner for my parents who are living la vida lo-carb these days.

The flan came out just as promised, silky and savory. The only thing I did differently from the original recipe was to blend the asparagus and then run it through a food mill rather than using the food processor/sieve combo. But it's basically the same idea, although I ended up not really having any stringy bits to throw away, so I think the food mill might give you a higher yield of asparagus puree.

Although it was lovely in Seattle this weekend, I wasn't ready to pull out the barbecue, so I roasted the salmon on a grill pan at high heat on the bottom rung of my oven after rubbing it with a chile pepper spice rub. Both the sauces from The Healthy Hedonist came out great, although the green sauce was definitely the winner. Featuring spinach, basil, and cumin along with the coconut milk it is almost disgustingly healthy and tasty. You could pour it on so many things, and we proved that at dinner Saturday night. The green sauce went on the salmon, it went on the flan, it went on the salad. I half expected someone to pour some on the cat and see how that tasted.

You could probably up the heat level in these sauces quite a bit, as I was adding the chipotle powder to the salmon I kind of wussed out on the sauces themselves. And in fact, in the interests of full disclosure, I forgot to add the chiles to the yellow sauce at all. I found them sitting there on the counter while we were clearing up, living proof that a hot pepper tolerance painstakingly built up by four months in Thailand will not survive twelve years in Seattle.


Roast Salmon with Two Sauces
Serves 4

nice big salmon fillet with skin on
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
olive oil

Sauce #1 (Spinach Coconut Milk Sauce)
1/2 lb spinach
3/4 tbsp each whole cumin & coriander seeds
3/4 cup basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/8 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 of a serrano chile, seeded (or to taste)
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp lemongrass

Sauce #2 (Yellow Pepper Coconut Milk Sauce)
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 1/2 yellow bell pepper
half can of coconut milk (approx 7 ounces)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 serrano chile, seeded and minced


Make both sauces before cooking the salmon.

Sauce #1: Wash and dry spinach. Cook until wilted over medium heat and then remove to a strainer and/or squeeze out the excess water. Dry-toast the cumin and coriander and then grind in a spice grinder/mortar & pestle/blender/whatever. Throw all ingredients into the blender and blend until you have a smooth sauce. To further smoothify the sauce send it through a food mill or seive (lined with cheesecloth if necessary). Store until just before serving.

Sauce #2: Saute shallots in tablespoon or so of canola oil until translucent. Add the yellow peppers and saute until soft, about ten minutes or so. Using your (hastily cleaned) blender, blend the shallots and peppers with the coconut milk and lime juice. Send the resulting sauce through the food mill or seive to make it silky. Reserve the sauce and chiles separately until just before serving.

Salmon: Preheat the oven to 500F or get your grill going. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the fish. Mix the spices together and rub all over the (non-skin side) fish. Cook on an oiled pan on the lowest rung of your oven until the salmon is just opaque. Or grill it, you're on your own there.

While the salmon is cooking heat each sauce just until warm and stir the chiles into Sauce #2 (the Yellow Pepper one).

Serve the salmon with both beautiful green and yellow sauces.

-adapted from The Healthy Hedonist, Myra Kornfeld
Print Recipe

Comments

Yes, sauce #1 was really a winner. You didn't mention that the boys feasted on angel hair pasta with cheese - no salmon, no flan. Ian also ate hardboiled eggs - sans yolk. So, in the spirit of Saint Patrick's Day (and because I can't stand to see food going to waste), I mixed the green sauce with the yolk from his egg. It looked disgusting, but tasted really good. Maybe I'll make green deviled eggs for Saint Patty's next year!

OK. Here's a question. In a fit of irrational exuberance, I bought a seven pound whole salmon several months ago. It is taking up way too much space in the freezer. As you mentioned elsewhere in your blog, the old salmon-baked-with-onion-and-lemon thing has worn thin. I've tried rubbing whole salmon with spices before baking, but the flavor of the spices doesn't penetrate the skin. Yes, I can serve sauces with the bloody thing, but I'd kind of like to give the actual salmon a little boost. Any ideas?

-posted by Mom on Mar 20th, 2006
Hmmm... I don't really know, other than filleting it and using a spice rub on the fillets I can't think of how you would liven up a seven pound fish cooked whole. I wonder if there is some Thai preparation that might work.

I looked around online a bit. What about opening the salmon up and smearing Thai red chile paste on the inside before cooking? There's a recipe at Epicurious.com called Roast Salmon with Thai Red Curry and Bok Choy that you could probably modify, and there is a recipe at deliaonline.com for Foil-baked Whole Fresh Salmon with Green Herb Mayonnaise that is a slightly different take on your usual cooking method. Would that be enough to freshen it up? Or could you combine the two ideas somehow?

-posted by kymm on Mar 21st, 2006
Both ideas sound good. I'll decide on one and get the thing cooked. But the two of us can't eat it all - want to come down for a weekend and eat salmon?

-posted by Mom on Mar 21st, 2006
I'm not sure even all of us could eat a seven pound salmon!

-posted by Kymm on Mar 22nd, 2006
I am looking forward to trying this dish out tonight. I have a bottle of wine to sip to ease the hunger pains while I cook. I only have 1lb of salmon, but I am hoping any extra sauces might taste good with thinkly sliced beef and rice. I'll let you know how it goes!

-posted by Stephanie on Mar 24th, 2006
Hi Steph! A bottle of wine might just be the missing ingredient in this recipe - in fact we had one too. I don't know why I left it out ;)

I found the extra sauces tasted pretty good on everything, so I'm guessing you won't have much trouble using them up.

-posted by Kymm on Mar 26th, 2006
YUM! My sauces turned out really well! These are the first delicious, good looking sauces I've made that actually have nutritional value as well(don't tell my husband)! The only problem I ran into is that I managed to fill the entire apartment with smoke while cooking the salmon. Luckily the fire department didn't come and Phil, my husband, cleaned the oven the next day!

Forgive me if the following is commonly known. An easy way to make pretty sauce patterns on a plate is to put two globs of different colored sauce next to each other and take a fork, knife, or toothpick on a 'giant slalom course' through their interface.

-posted by Steph on Mar 27th, 2006
That's great Steph, and thanks for the giant slalom tip. Another cookbook in which I've found tasty healthyish sauces is Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook. As I'm not really a huge fan of classic pan sauces and butter based sauces, I'm always looking for alternatives too. I tend to like Indian and Asian inspired sauces, but then there's all of Latin America to explore too - moles and mojos and salsas of all kinds!

-posted by Kymm on Mar 27th, 2006
© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com