Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ratatouille-Steamed Salmon with Jasmine Rice and Spinach

I'm a firm fan of the frozen salmon that comes in the individual or duo cryo pack.  It's delicious, less expensive than fresh, and sometimes fresher than the fish in the seafood case.  I've been buying packages all summer long at a price of about $4 and change per approximately 6 oz. serving.

While we adore salmon, we're also crazy about tuna, but we're priced out these days.   I sometimes make a company dinner in the summer where I grill both inch-thick pork chops and tuna filets and serve them with a piquant tapenade or spicy marinara--your choice.  When I made this for friends late in June, it was definitely pork chops only as the tuna was running $18-$22 per serving.  This sent me scurrying for fish alternatives and to the discovery of some lovely and more-affordable salmon.  The other day when I talked to the fishmonger at our St. Paul Whole Foods about the situation, he told me to try some of the other varieties of frozen fish they sell; it changes depending on what's available.  That day there were several pieces of swordfish in the case at a similar value.

Fast forward to....our farmer's market is the best in the country.  (Well I think so!)  Only items grown or produced (such as goat cheese) within 50 miles of St. Paul are eligible for sale.  In the spring, we're privileged to see the great displays of bright flowers right next to the peas and smoked trout.

Last Saturday, among the tables laden with heavy tomatoes, beets, brussels sprouts, beans, and tiny potatoes, I found these Thai eggplants.  1 - 11/2 " in diameter, they're quickly cooked and the skin, unlike large and older purple eggplant, is tender and easy to eat.  While I could have made a Thai curry with them, I decided to go the Provencal route and make a ratatouille-type pan sauce where I could steam my salmon. Fast, healthy, luscious, and kind of wondrous!  (I love fish cooked on vegetables.) This version is enough for two meals or to share. Here's how:

ratatouille-steamed salmon with jasmine rice and spinach
2 servings

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  •  4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2t fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (1 for spinach and 2 for the saute pan)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Thai eggplant, trimmed and cut in half (or any eggplant peeled and diced)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped (I used yellow and red tomatoes.)
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (reserve 2T for garnish)
  •  2 salmon filets, seasoned well with salt and pepper
  • 2T red onion, minced 
Divide the rice at the center of each dinner place and place the spinach around the edges with the tomatoes.  Drizzle the spinach with lemon juice, season rice and spinach with salt and pepper, and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over all. Set aside.

In large saut√© pan, heat the other two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat with the crushed red pepper.  Add onions, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini.  Season generously with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and let cook, stirring, about 10 minutes until beginning to soften.  Stir in garlic, parsley, and basil.  Lay the seasoned salmon on top of the ratatouille mixture and cover tightly.  Let the salmon steam 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness of filet.  Test for doneness.  I want firm fish with a moist pink center--just a little rare.*  You may like it cooked more or less.  If it's done to your liking, let sit a minute and then spoon the vegetables over the rice. Using a fish or other spatula (to avoid breaking the filet), remove the salmon and gently lay it on top of the ratatouille and rice.  Garnish with red onion and reserved chopped fresh basil.  Serve hot.

*The correct internal temperature of cooked fish is 145 degrees F.  As I like my salmon somewhat rarer than that so that it's moist and tender, I cook to below that temperature.  Honestly, I don't take temperatures with fish, but simply use my fingers and eyes.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

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