Monday, February 13, 2012

Ottolenghi’s Salmon Steaks with Spicy Tomato Sauce

         Last summer, our great friend Michael came over to our house with a cookbook given to him by one of his favorite customers at the Bridgehampton Florist, which he co-owns with his husband, Jim. (Yes, that Bridgehampton Florist...viewers of the Barefoot Contessa take note).  “Plenty”(Ebury Press 2010) is the work of London’s Yotam Ottolenghi with a great assist from his Chef/Business Partner, Sami Tamimi.  The book bowled us over.  It is a marvelous collection of recipes entirely vegetarian and incredibly beautifully photographed.  Page after page enticed us to consider quinoa, pomegranates, and Bulgar.  But when it came time to fire up the stove and bring Ottolenghi’s into our kitchen, we landed on an Ottolenghi recipe from January’s Bon Appetit.  I’d apologize to vegetarians everywhere except that Yotam’s recipe for Salmon Steaks in a spicy tomato sauce needs absolutely no apology.  It’s deliciously satisfying, healthy as all get out and comes together in under 30 minutes.

Sami, left and Yotan, right, in one
of their 4 London Ottolenghi's
         Yotam Ottolenghi’s story is fascinating. He was born to a German mother and an Italian father in Israel.  He served in the Israeli Army, studied at Tel Aviv University and then headed to London’s Le Cordon Bleu.  He never turned back and in 2002 he opened the first Ottolenghi ‘deli’ with two partners.  If ever there was proof needed of the power of food to bring people together, the partnership between Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini is it.  Both are the same age and both are from Jerusalem.  But Sami is from the Arab East Jerusalem, and Yotam, is an Israeli Jew.  In Israel, their paths might never have crossed.  In London, their unique partnership has proved spectacularly successful.  There are now four Ottolenghi’s throughout London.  Yotam also finds time to write a weekly food column in The Guardian.  And even if “Plenty” is new to us, today’s recipe for Salmon Steaks is based on one in yet another: The food of Jerusalem will be the focus of Sami and Yotam’s next book. 
This seductive photo of the
dish in Bon Appetit had us from hello.
         According to Bon Appetit, a traditional Jewish dish from North Africa inspired the recipe for Salmon Steaks in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Called “Chreime”, its roots may be in Morocco but it makes frequent appearances at Rosh Hashanah and Passover in Israeli celebrations. I wouldn’t wait for a holiday to serve this. It makes a perfect ‘meatless’ meal absolutely loaded with flavor.  What’s wonderful too is that I bet you have everything you need to make it in your spice collection. I did have to make a major change from the version published in Bon Appetit.  The first go-round, I followed their recipe to a Tee.  I should have followed my instincts.  There was no way I was going to have any kind of a tomato sauce from 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and ½ cup of water.  What was I thinking?  Just the illustration alone should have told me something was amiss.  The adjustment I made was to forget the tomato paste and water altogether and substitute an entire 15 oz. can of Organic Tomato Sauce.  Now I had something worthy of Yotam and Sami.  And you will too.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Ottolenghi’s Salmon Steaks with Spicy Tomato Sauce 

     1 tablespoon caraway seeds
     8 tablespoons (or more) sunflower oil, divided
     3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
     4 8-ounce 1 1/4"-thick, 6"-long salmon steaks (preferably wild)
     Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
     6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
     1 serrano chile (with seeds), chopped
     2 teaspoons paprika
     1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
     1/4 teaspoon (generous) cayenne pepper
     1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1 15 oz. can Organic Tomato Sauce
     2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
     2 teaspoons sugar
     2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  •     Toast caraway seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly darker in color and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool. Finely grind in a spice mill; set aside.
  •      Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in an 8x8x2" baking dish or a shallow wide bowl. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in flour and turn to coat; shake off excess.Working in 2 batches, cook salmon until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a plate; wipe out skillet and set aside.
  •      Purée garlic, chile, paprika, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, caraway, and         2 Tbsp. oil in a food processor, adding more oil by teaspoonfuls to garlic paste if needed.
  •      Heat remaining 4 Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium heat. Add          garlic paste. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds (do not burn). Carefully (mixture will splatter) add tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a simmer; continue simmering for 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
  •      Return fish to skillet and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover pan; reduce        heat to medium-low and simmer until fish is just cooked through, 7–11 minutes. Remove pan from heat, uncover, and let cool slightly.
  •      Divide the salmon and sauce among plates. Sprinkle cilantro over.Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges alongside.


  1. This was delicious. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  2. Helen, I am so thrilled that you liked it. I thought it was superb too! All best, Monte

  3. just finished reading this article and I can't wait to try this recipe. i absolutely love salmon.

    1. So glad you are going to try it. It really is excellent and beautiful to look at. Come back often Beverly!