Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Salmon with Lentils

I've been asked for quick weeknight recipes and while this one involves a little chopping, I think it falls into that category.

 Salmon has to be the week night cook’s best friend.  It’s fast, it can undergo many disguises and it’s good for you. It’s important, however, to buy wild-caught salmon and avoid farm-raised fish.  Farm-raised salmon, like all farm-raised fish, negativey impact the environment in numerous ways – pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms--all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding waters.  Now I realize there's a price difference and last time I looked at Fairway it was a sizeable one.  But use your conscience as well as your calculator.
Alaskan wild salmon is probably among the best managed species in the world with both the fish population and the fisheries themselves monitored constantly.  The abundance of fish is proof of how well Alaska’s management has succeeded. 
Getting off the soap box, today’s salmon dish is a riff on one Ina Garten published in 2004’s “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook.  Our basic changes the recipe involved adding considerably more vegetables to the lentils that are its most important ingredient.  We make a warm lentil salad with more carrots and celery, onions and leeks than Ina’s original. We also do the whole dinner on top of the stove: Ina called for a spell in a hot oven but we couldn’t control the internal temperature of the fish that way so we choose to sauté the fish. We also found that Ina’s cooking time for the lentils was very ambitious so we cook them longer than she did.  Whatever our changes, we think you’ll see what kind of a winner Ina discovered. It’s easy, delicious and perfect on a weeknight.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Salmon and Lentils

1cup French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
1⁄4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for salmon
1 large chopped yellow onion
4 leeks, chopped, white and light green parts only
Sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tsp. kosher salt
3⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
4 stocks of celery, chopped into ¼ inch dice
6 carrots, chopped in ¼ inch dice
1 1⁄2 cups Chicken Stock or broth
3 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. good red wine vinegar
4 (6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, skin removed

1    1. Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

2.     Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan, add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. 
3.  Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and continue cooking until  the lentils are tender 
Add the vinegar and season, to taste.
4     For the salmon, heat a dry oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes.
5     Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops very liberally with salt and pepper.
6     When the pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Turn the fillets and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare.

7     Spoon a mound of lentils on each plate and place a salmon fillet on top. Serve hot.  Serves 4.

Even when there are just the two of us, I make the whole lentil recipe. It’s a delightful side dish served with pork, for example. 


  1. I love this recipe but it did seem to take me longer than I thought it would. I had my in- laws for dinner and I thought they would love the lentils but they seemed very suspicious of them.

    Andrew's sister

  2. Then your oven isn't right i do this recipe as Ina does and my salmon is cooked to perfect, and you could have mention she made this dish for me at my store!!

  3. It saves energy to use the stove top and I must say that you have a lot less control in an oven than you do stovetop but if you are cooking a quantity of this dish, the oven may be your best friend. Mine wasn't.