Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Test Kitchen: Salmon Baked in Salsa Verde Recipe

Last month's Test Kitchen came from one of my older cookbooks, the "New Food Fast" cookbook (Whitecap Books, 1999) by Donna Hay, who's known for quick and easy dishes.

Hay's recipes are really a reflection of today's modern chef trying to cook with a busy schedule. You can imagine that these cookbooks are probably really popular, but the challenge is always to have tasty dishes from these super simple recipes. So the poll results saw 37% of you wanting to try the Salmon in Salsa Verde recipe, with Peppered Beef and Cucumber Salad (sounds so summery) coming close at 32% followed behind by Angel Hair Nicoise (25%) and Little Chocolate Brownies (4%). What have you guys got against chocolate!? ;-)

This salmon recipe is perfect for summer too because sometimes when it gets hot, I don't really want to be hovering over a stove top or eating anything too heavy. So you can always count on fish for a light dinner. So how did it go in my kitchen? Check it out below.

I began by making the salsa verde. The ingredients include: 1/3 cup chopped dill, 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, 1/3 cup mint, 2 garlic cloves, t tablespoon dijon mustard, 6 anchovy fillets, 3 tablespoons salted capers (rinsed), 1/3 cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoon of lemon juice. Of course, I cut the recipe in half.

The recipe says to put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. (Start with everything except the oil and lemon juice, and then add those two ingredients at the end.) But I don't own a food processor, and while I typically use my hand blender as a substitute, the ingredients were so few that it really wouldn't work. So I busted out my hand-powered spice pulsing gadget from Jamie Oliver and had to shake everything together to basically pound them into a sauce.
Using it didn't turn out too bad. The main thing is making sure I chopped all the ingredients really fine since the shaker really just bruises everything together.

Oh, and you should remember to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. And the cookbook suggests to serve the salmon on a bed of steamed greens. The cookbook photo had some Shanghai greens, but I couldn't find any at my local grocer so I got these bok choy.

The recipe calls for 4 pieces of salmon (6 oz. each), but I just made one. This is wild salmon I got from Whole Foods. Man, they're pricey. I placed it on a roasting pan.

Then I just lathered the piece of salmon with the salsa verde. Then placed it in the oven and cooked for 10 minutes like the recipe said. (It actually says 6 to 10 minutes.) And below is how the dish turned out.

So how did it turn out? Well, I have to explain that the salmon's center was raw, and while generally it's OK to have some rear salmon, especially when the fish is fresh, it was too rear for me. The 10 minute for this cut of salmon wasn't a good recommendation. And usually when I cook salmon, I sear it first on the stove top and then cook it. So I actually end up cooking salmon a bit longer than 10 minutes total (probably closer to 12-13 minutes).

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. Doh, the first tip is to cook the fish longer. Because you're not searing like what you might typically do, it really needs more than 10 minutes unless you really like sashimi. I ended up having to microwave my final salmon just so I could eat it.
  2. For some reason I feel like it needed pepper. But you definitely don't need salt with all the anchovy and capers in the salsa verde.
Ease of cooking: Salmon is always easy to cook, and a recipe from a cookbook called New Food Fast has got to be easy and simple. So definitely lived up to its name, although it was a bit tough without a food processor.

Taste: Despite the undercook salmon, I thought the fish tasted all right with the salsa verde. I did feel like the was a lot of salty flavors from the capers and anchovies (even though I love anchovies) so the fresh flavors of the herbs got lost by the heaviness of the capers and anchovies. I think I would use less anchovies or capers in order to let the mint and dill flavor come out more.

Overall Grade: B because it's an average dish but with all the ingredients that I like. It is simple but I think I'll experiment more with the salsa verde.

Don't forget to vote in this month's Test Kitchen poll on the upper right column. I face my fear and will try a recipe from the overwhelming Zuni Cafe Cookbook. This James Beard Award-winning cookbook seems complicated and time-consuming, but I figured since last month I went easy, next month I should challenge myself.


Kim said...

I can't believe you don't own a food processor!

Hungry Dog said...

I'm intrigued by this recipe. Salmon is very versatile yet for some reason I always do the same thing with it. I'm definitely going to try the salsa verde!

Single Guy Ben said...

Kim, it's just the downside of living in a studio apartment! Just no storage space for a food processor. Can anyone recommend a baby one that works well?

agent713 said...

Nothing against chocolate, I just like voting for you to make something I probably wouldn't attempt myself. Or something really different. Chocolate's always good but it's a bit boring :)

Mrs. L said...

I wish you could have made ALL the dishes! And now I want one of those hand-powered spice pulsing gadgets!