Pan Roasted Salmon, Red Quinoa Pilaf with Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach, & Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 40 min Serves: 2
Cooking fish can be a bit intimidating. A beautiful fish filet can go from perfectly cooked to overdone in a snap, and leave you with something dry and unpalatable. However, once you get the timing down you will be producing flavorful dishes with tender, flaky flesh and a perfect crisp crust. Salmon, due to its higher fat content and darker flesh, is more forgiving than white fish to cook. You can actually take temperature on a piece of salmon and cook it much like a steak from medium-rare to well done. For this recipe I will be cooking the salmon to medium, but if you like your fish a little more well done, just add a couple more minutes in the oven. To save yourself some time and effort, ask your fish provider to remove the skin for you. They should be more than happy to accommodate your request and it saves you a step in your preparation.
Quinoa often carries a reputation as a bland health food, but this pilaf is hearty with lots of bold flavor. The sweet potatoes and onions balance nicely off the slight bitterness of the spinach. Quinoa, like most grains, cooks at a proportion of 1:2 grain to liquid. Always rinse your quinoa in cold water before cooking to remove excess starch and add in your onion, spinach and sweet potatoes at the very end of cooking.
When preparing the brown butter vinaigrette, be careful not to scorch the milk solids in the butter. Cook the butter over medium heat. At first the butter will foam up before the milk solids separate and settle to the bottom of the pan. At this point, watch the color of the solids closely as they shift from a light golden hue to a darker brown color. Brown butter smells heavenly and carries a complex nutty flavor that adds a depth and intricacy to anything it’s added to.
- 8 oz salmon fillets; skin off
- 1 large sweet potato; peeled and cut into 1” cubes
- 2 ½ cups raw spinach; separated. 2 cups whole, ½ cup chiffonade
- ½ cup fresh basil; chiffonade (fine ribbon cut)
- ¼ cup smoked almonds; chopped
- 4 cloves garlic; minced
- ½ large yellow onion
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil; separated
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 6 oz unsalted butter
- 6 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped shallot
- 1 tbsp brown mustard
- salt & pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Season both sides of your salmon liberally with salt and pepper and set aside. Add your cubed sweet potatoes to a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the the sweet potatoes to evenly coat and spread out on a lined baking tray. Place the sweet potatoes in the oven for 20 minutes and then set aside, they should be fork tender at this point.
Meanwhile, place quinoa and vegetable stock into a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. The grains should appear soft and translucent, and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a medium sauté pan and add garlic. Allow the garlic to slightly color and become fragrant before adding your onions. Cook onions until they become tender and translucent, about 5 minutes, then add 2 cups spinach. Toss the spinach in the pan and cook lightly, seasoning with salt and pepper. Allow the spinach to begin to wilt before removing everything from the pan and incorporating into the quinoa. Cover and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until browned but not burned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve. In a blender, combine the vinegar, olive oil, shallot and mustard. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the reserved butter and blend until thickened. Season to taste and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
Place a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the remaining tbsp of oil. Allow the pan to become very hot, with light wisps of smoke coming off before placing the salmon gently into the pan. Immediately put the pan in the oven and cook for 8 minutes, allowing for extra time for more well done fish. When you are ready to serve, dress the chiffonade basil, spinach, and chopped almonds with the vinaigrette and serve the small salad atop the salmon.