Pan-Seared Salmon with Sweet-and-Sour Chutney

After binging on cookie dough all day yesterday, I wanted something healthy for dinner. We had Alaskan salmon fillets from my mom in the freezer and some rainbow chard that was almost ready for the compost bin. I looked through our trusty America’s Test Kitchen New Best Recipe cookbook and found two amazing (and easy!) recipes which made for a fantastic Saturday night dinner.

Pan-Seared Salmon

4 center-cut salmon fillets, 1 1/4 inches thick
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp canola or veggie oil

1) Heat a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper to taste.

2) Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat bottom. When the oil shimmers (but does not smoke), add the fillets skin-side down and cook, without moving, for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium-high; continue to cook until the skin side is well browned and the bottom half of the fillets turn opaque, about 4.5 minutes. Turn the fillets and cook, without moving them, until they are no longer translucent on the exterior and are firm, but not hard, when gently squeezed. 2-3 mins for medium rare. Remove from the pan and place on a platter for one minute.

Sweet-and-Sour Chutney

1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 TB sugar
2 TB water
1 TB minced parsley leaves

Mix fennel seeds, cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, and salt together in a small bowl. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook until soft for 3-4 minutes. Add the spice mixture and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar, sugar, and water; cook until the mixture is reduced by 1/3 and reaches a syrupy consistency, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Remove from heat and serve with pan-seared salmon.

Sauteed Tender Greens with Pine Nuts and Currants

3 TB olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped coarse
2 TB currants or raisins
2 lb damp tender greens, washed and chopped coarse

Heat oil, garlic and pine nuts in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until they sizzle and turn golden. Add currants and greens, cover, and cook until greens wilt completely – 2-3 mins. Uncover and season with salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid evaporates, 2-3 minutes.


One Dish Wonder – Tandoori Salmon with Kale and Squash

I woke up craving garam masala this morning and found this excellent salmon recipe by Elizabeth Yarnell courtesy of Leite’s. My only change to the recipe was to substitute coconut milk for yogurt which made it a bit richer (and more yummy I’m sure). You literally assemble the entire dish in one pot – rice (next time I’ll use 3/4 cup for two people), kale (I’d double this next time), salmon (oh how I miss Seattle salmon prices), sauce, and squash – and pop it in the oven for a half hour. It was done in 30 minutes though I made a note to check it next time after 27, depending on the thickness of the salmon. Yum!

Roasted Halibut & Asparagus with Melted Leeks

Yesterday we received artichokes, asparagus, leeks, and blood oranges in our CSA box. Perhaps spring is finally on its way! (It certainly doesn’t feel like it in San Francisco though. I left mild weather and daffodils in Seattle for downpours and hail in San Francisco. Go figure.)

After finding a recipe for roasted halibut and asparagus with melted leeks, I decided to splurge on some first of the season halibut from the new Mollie Stones in the Castro. I’m glad I did because the dish was healthy, delicious, and easy to prepare on a weeknight. I served it with a mixed green salad with blood oranges and goat cheese. I also cooked up some whole grain wild rice which I totally forgot to serve. Looks like it’ll be my lunch today instead. Oops.

Serves 2
1 pound medium-thick asparagus
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb halibut (skin on), about 1 1/2 inches thick
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), washed and thinly sliced
1 cup low-salt fish stock, chicken or veggie broth (I used veggie)
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet, and then put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Meanwhile, heat 1 TB olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the leek. Cook until browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 minutes, until some of the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon and set aside (you may want to warm this a bit before serving.)

Coat a small Pyrex pan with olive oil and put in the fish skin-side down. Season with salt and pepper, and fold under any thin parts. Place in the oven along with the asparagus and roast until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Top the fish with the leeks and sauce and serve alongside the asparagus.

Restaurant hopping around Seattle & Halibut cheeks

We spent the day (a sunny, 70 degree one I might add!) eating our hearts out with our friend Mark. We met late this morning to run in Discovery Park and then stopped at the Fishermen’s Terminal to see what was fresh to cook for dinner. The fishmonger recommended we try the fresh halibut cheek which we then purchased. (Apparently, halibut cheeks are sweet-flavored and considered a delicacy. We had to buy them!) While we were waiting to pay for our fish, Mark went around the corner to buy some “chips” (without the fish) as an appetizer before we moved along to eat spicy delicious cuban sandwiches at Paseo in Ballard.  Since we were in the area, we then stopped at Cafe Besalu for dessert which for me consisted of a buttery lemon cookie covered with tart lemon curd. YUM!

For dinner, we oiled, salted, peppered, and then broiled some asparagus “Sarah-style” to make what she has termed “asparagus french fries”. Then we made mashed potatoes with leeks and the halibut cheeks. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the cheeks were richer and more buttery than halibut fillets. Using Ice Cube’s words, “Today was a good day!”


Mashed potatoes with Leeks

2-3 yukon potatoes
1/3-1/4 cup milk
2 TB butter
Salt and pepper
2 leeks, coarsely chopped (white and light green parts only)

Peel and slice the potatoes into 3/4 inch squares. Drop into a large pot of boiling water and boil until tender. Drain and put back into the pot. While you are boiling the potatoes, saute the leek in the butter on low until slightly brown (about 5-7 mins). Add the leeks to the potatoes (after they are drained) and the milk. Mash as desired. Add salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Halibut cheeks

Halibut cheeks (we had 1 lb but I’d recommend 3/4 lb for 2 people)
2 TB butter
Salt and pepper
2 TB flour

Salt and pepper both sides of the fish and lightly dredge in flour. Heat the butter in a nonstick pan until completely melted. Add the cheeks and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until done. Top the fish on the potatoes and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, or both.

Tuna with flageolet beans and radicchio

I’m still on a bean kick (just ordered 4 lbs worth from the nice folks over at Zursun) so I was excited when I found the following recipe in A Twist of the Wrist by Nancy Silverton: Seared Rare Tuna with Mashed Flageolet Beans and Radicchio. I couldn’t find any flageolet beans at Whole Foods so I used great northern beans instead. Wow. What a fantastic, simple, yet delicious recipe. The wilted radicchio and olive oil together with the presentation really step it up a notch so that you feel as though you are eating a meal prepared in a fancy restaurant. I’ll definitely be making this one again!


1/4 cup plus 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, grated or minced (about 2 tsp), I used more
1 15 oz can flageolet beans, rinsed and drained (or cook up 1.5 cups dried beans)
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves (makes a huge difference to use fresh)
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar (don’t use your everyday version here as it will make the beans taste too acidic)


4 6 oz sushi-grade tuna steaks (1-1.5 inches thick)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil (or other neutral-flavored oil), plus extra for searing radicchio if necessary (definitely wasn’t for us)
8 large whole radicchio leaves
High-quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (very important to use a good one as it adds a lot of flavor to the final dish)
Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Lemon, for squeezing over fish (I forgot about this step and still enjoyed the dish)

To make the beans, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat and cook for about 1.5 minutes, until the garlic is soft and fragrant, stirring consistently so the garlic doesn’t brown. Turn up the heat to high, add the beans, rosemary, salt, and 1/4 cup water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for 2 minutes until they are tender enough to smash with a fork. Transfer the beans and their cooking liquid to a large mortar or bowl (I mashed them in the original pot). Add the remaining 2 TB of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, and mash with a pestle or masher until the beans are mashed but still slightly chunky. Add a few drops of warm water if necessary to obtain a creamy, spoonable consistency.

Rinse the tuna steaks under cool water, pat them dry with paper towels, and season both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the canola oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the oil is almost smoking (you will begin to smell the oil at that point). Place the tuna steaks in the pan and sear for 1 minute for rare or 1.5 minutes for medium-rare on each side. Transfer to a plate to rest.

If the skillet is dry (ours wasn’t), add enough canola oil to coat it and heat it over high heat. Put 4 radicchio leaves in the skillet in a single layer and cook them for about 45 seconds on each side, until they are seared and slightly wilted (this took about 20 seconds for me). Remove the leaves from the skillet and place two leaves on each of the two plates. Cook remaining leaves in the same way, adding oil if necessary.

Spoon the mashed beans onto the radicchio, dividing them evenly and smashing them down slightly to create a bed for the tuna. Drizzle each serving of beans with the high-quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper. Place the steaks first-seared side up on top of the beans, drizzle them with the juices from the plate they were resting on, and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them. Voila!