Sunday Dinner: Salmon w/ Heirloom Tomatoes & Grilled Kale

Monday, April 16, 2012

I've been eating a lot of heavily spiced food as of late, so tonight I wanted to prepare a dish that allows the freshness of the ingredients to shine through on their own. I came across this recipe and was immediately drawn to the bright colors of the heirloom tomatoes. However, my favorite farmer's market has great deals on seafood and since they're only open on the weekends, I try to save Saturday or Sunday dinners for fish. Salmon seemed like a perfect alternative. Remembering the gorgeous organic mini heirloom tomatoes I spotted a couple weeks ago, I knew I was on to something. Luckily, the tomatoes were there again today so I selected a 1 lb carton on sale for $5.50/lb. A little pricier than I tend to spend on one vegetable, but Sunday dinners are my "splurge" for the week instead of eating out.

I also took this as an opportunity to try a new technique for cooking kale, and a different variety of kale at that. As I understood, Purple Kale (or Red Kale, as it was labeled here) is sweeter and more tender than the standard green variety. Usually I braise my kale or add it to soups, but an old NY Times recipe for grilled kale popped up so many times while browsing other food blogs, I had to try it on the grill. When I picked up this lush, deeply colored bunch of purple kale, it was like nothing I've ever seen at my grocery store. It felt softer than regular kale and slightly damp. The scent could almost be described as sweet and floral. I choose a large bunch priced at $4.

Next up, I went to check out the salmon. The seafood guys at my farmer's market are awesome and always have a great selection with prices I can't find anywhere else. Today was no exception, $5.99/lb for wild salmon fillets. I chose two large fillets, which came out to $10 even. Since I am only cooking for two, 1 lb would have been enough however I've learned to take advantage of good deals and just freeze or cook extras to use in other recipes that week.You'll want to estimate at least 1/2 lb salmon per person, which comes out to about one 3-4" wide fillet per serving when they're approximately 1" thick  Also, whenever possible always opt for wild salmon as opposed to farm-raised.

If you're keeping track of the budget, that's a grand total of $20 for the main ingredients to feed 4 people. Not bad! In my case, I only used half the salmon & half the kale, which were then used for meals 2 other nights in my house respectively. The remaining ingredients are staples I always have on hand (side note to do a future post on that.)  If you don't already have fresh herbs, plan to spend an additional $3-4 at the farmer's market or slightly more at the grocery store, because dried herbs just won't do this justice. Here is the recipe with step by step instructions, below.

Salmon w/ Heirloom Tomatoes & Grilled Kale

2 lbs wild salmon fillets
1 bunch purple kale
1 lb mini-heirloom tomatoes
Handful of fresh herbs: basil, mint, dill, parsley
1 c. balsamic vinegar
2 lemons
1/2 small red onion
2 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Equipment Needed: Grill (indoor or outdoor), 1 small pot, 1 large frying pan, 1 small frying pan. An 8" pan will do for the tomatoes, but it's better to have a larger 10" or 12" pan for the salmon. It is worth noting that a cast iron or stainless steel pan will give you a much nicer sear than a nonstick pan.

Wash your kale well, and shake away excess water using a salad spinner if possible. Cut off the ends of the thick stems, and massage the leaves with oil. I opted to use a garlic infused oil here for additional flavor. You want to add a nice sheen to the kale but not so much that it's greasy. Add a pinch of sea salt to each leaf and set aside. Preheat your grill. I used a small, very basic George Foreman grill which worked fine for this purpose.

Rinse your salmon fillets in cold water & pat dry. Salt & pepper both sides well. In a small bowl, juice both of the lemons and add the zest from both lemons. Add equal parts olive oil to make a marinade. Remove the stems from the dill and chop the sprigs. Add the dill to the marinade and whisk briskly.

Place the salmon in a non-reactive (plastic or glass) dish and pour the marinade over it. Set aside and allow the salmon to marinate 10-15 minutes. You don't want to let this sit too long as the acidity of the lemons will begin to cook the fish slightly.

Start the balsamic reduction by pouring about 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small pot on medium heat. Warning, the fumes are a little strong so you will want to turn on your fan. The vinegar will reduce after 5 minutes or so to a syrupy consistency, so just keep your eye on it and when it starts to bubble turn the heat to low and allow it to simmer until finished.

Use this time to prep the remaining ingredients. Chiffonade several basil leaves by stacking them on top of one either and rolling into a tight cigar like shape, then use a sharp knife to slice across, creating thin slivers of basil.

Finely chop the remaining herbs - a small bunch of parsley and equal parts mint will do. I used a ratio of about 2:1 basil to mint/parsley. Mix the herbs and set aside. This is a great blend to use for salads and marinades so I usually chop more than what I need and save the rest in a plastic container to use another day. Next, rinse your tomatoes and slice these in half (if they are slightly bigger you may want to quarter them.)

Finally, chop the red onion half into thin slices and mince the garlic cloves. You'll want to have all ingredients close to your stove top as cooking will move at a fast pace. Don't forget to check on the balsamic reduction, it should be removed from the heat once it reduces to a few tablespoons of liquid.

Pour the marinade off the salmon, reserving a few tablespoons to baste with later. Brush off excess dill. If you haven't already done so, cut your salmon into the portions you plan to serve. I used a sharp knife to slice the salmon and cooking shears to cut through the tough skin, so as not to damage the flesh.

The remaining steps are best done simultaneously so that your dish can be plated and immediately served while warm. 

Start by grilling the kale, especially if you have a small grill and need to grill it in batches. Just place the kale lengthwise across your grill in one layer.  Grill 3-4 minutes until the kale is just beginning to wilt and slightly crispy on the edges.

Use tongs to remove the hot kale and transfer to your serving dish or plates.

Meanwhile, heat both pans & add oil to the pans once hot.  The small pan should be heated to medium, and high heat for the larger pan.You only need a drizzle of oil for the tomatoes & slightly more for the salmon, 2 times around the pan worked for me. 

To the small fry pan, add your onions and allow them to start browning, 2-3 minutes.  Add the minced garlic.

Add the heirloom tomatoes to the pan and allow these to warm for a couple minutes until juices just begin to release. 

Gently stir in your chopped herb mix to the tomatoes, followed by a couple spoonfuls of the balsamic reduction. Turn off the heat.

When the larger fry pan is hot and oil begins to ripple, gently place the the salmon fillets skin side up into the pan. Once in the pan, don't move them around! I know it's hard not to peak but have a little faith, there's magic happening under there.

For a 1" fillet, wait 3 - 4 minutes before turning over with a spatula. At this point baste the salmon with just a little bit of the leftover lemon dill marinade. Allow to cook for another 3 minutes or so, turn off the heat and serve immediately.  To plate, carefully place a salmon fillet over the grilled kale, and pour a spoonful of the tomatoes & sauce over the salmon.

The salmon was delicious, flaky and a perfect medium rare inside, with crisp skin. The tangy balsamic reduction and sweet tomatoes were a perfect complement to the fish without overpowering it, and the crispness of the kale was a great contrast to the texture of the salmon. Without a doubt, this was a dinner party worthy dish that will blow your guests away!

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  1. I adore salmon so I'm definitely going to try this!

    Love and support this blog idea Ms!

    1. Awesome, let me know how it turns out for you! Thanks for the support sis :)