Sunday, April 22, 2007

Salmon with Spring Vegetables

Here's an excuse to use just about every Spring vegetable you can think of. Leeks, fennel, asparagus, artichoke, carrots--quite a crew.

The vegetables constitute a kind of hash upon which the salmon can be proudly displayed and served.

As for the salmon, I chose a wild-caught coho salmon from the certified-sustainable Alaskan fishery.

The coho salmon is not quite as thick and meaty as the Atlantic salmon. But these day I'm following the advice of the Seafood Watch program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium which has Atlantic salmon on its "avoid" list. Most Atlantic salmon are now farm raised. There are concerns about PCBs and other toxins in farm-raised salmon. Environmentalists worry that salmon farms pollute the surrounding oceans. And raising salmon actually consumes more fish than it produces.

(As if that weren't enough, farm-raised salmon typically have color added to make them pink.)

To make this dish for four persons, cut into medium dice or 1/2-inch pieces the following:

2 medium carrots
1 small turnip
1/2 cup peas or edamame
4 asparagus spears
4 cooked artichoke bottoms (I used canned)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook, separately, the carrots, turnip, peas (or edamame) and asparagus. As the vegetables reach doneness (just cooked through, no more), scoop them out of the water with a spider-type ladle or slotted spoon and immerse in a bowl of cold water. Then strain the vegetables and pat dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile, slice a small leek thinly and dice one small fennel bulb. Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with extra-virgin olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the fennel and leek, season with salt to draw out the moisture and cook slowly with the skillet covered. (A lid on the skillet will speed the cooking. You don't want to brown the vegetables). When the vegetables are tender, set aside to cool. Now toss the cooked fennel and leek with the other cooked vegetables, the artichoke bottoms and some chopped fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salmon, use four 6-ounce filets, skin removed. Rub the filets with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, perhaps some ground fennel seed or your favorite spice mix. Heat a heavy skillet over a moderately high heat and coat the bottom with extra-virgin olive oil. Brown the salmon filets on both sides, in batches if necessary. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet until the salmon are cooked through (probably no more than seven or eight minutes total cooking time).

Serve the salmon warm atop the vegetables. Garnish with lemon slices and fennel fronds.

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