Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Salad Bar #2: Salmon and Spinach Salad

This recipe is so simple that my cat can make it. Or make off with the fish anyway. You wouldn't believe the amount of yowling I get from these two whenever I bring a slice of fish in the house. Moving on... You won't need much for this dish and if you have a microwave it's even easier.

What you need:
  • a large bowl for the salad
  • a small bowl or cup for the dressing
  • a fork
  • microwave or frying pan
if microwave:
  • a bowl with a cover or some wax paper (you can get this from the grocery store)
  • a fork
if frying pan:
  • a pair of tongs
  • salmon (about 4 oz per person)
  • spinach (bagged is fine, if you can get baby spinach even better)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons or less olive oil
  • 1 small shallot
  • salt & pepper

Step 1: Something's fishy...

But when you go into a fish shop or seafood section of the grocery store, it better not be. I head to the fish shop around the corner from my place. I NEVER buy fish from a super market unless there is a counter where I can see and smell the fish. Getting "fresh" fish wrapped in plastic can be a tragedy because you can't smell it before you get it home. Fish should not have a strong smell. It should smell fresh and slightly, slightly fishy. If you walk into a fish store and your nose goes "Holy Carp!" get outta there. The place should be clean and free of funk. Whole Foods, the Market at Grand Central, and the Chelsea Market Place are expensive but reputable. Go there and smell the area. Look I know it sounds weird, but you'll learn what fresh fish is supposed to smell like. Then if you're REALLY adventurous (and live alone) leave a slice of fish in your fridge for about a week or more, open a window and then unwrap it. DO NOT EAT THIS! The smell alone will knock you back three feet. This is BAD fish. You don't want this and you don't want shellfish that smells like a beach gone rotten.

Step 2: Choose your weapon...I mean, slice.

If it's just you for dinner, 4oz (ounces) of fish is the RDA serving size. If you have a friend or two, you want to get about 4oz per person. Now that you know a good fish shop from grim death, ask the guy/girl behind the counter for a salmon fillet of 4oz.

You might see something called salmon steak. This is good with a baked potato and a side of broccoli but not mixed in as a salad. For this recipe you want salmon fillet. After you make this recipe, if you feel like 4oz is not enough, increase it to 5oz. But remember, you don't want to overload yourself with fish. It's a salad after all, not all you can eat night at Ralph's Pier.

Step 3: To nuke or to fry, that is the question

This is where you "choose your own adventure" so to speak. If you decide to use the stove top, you'll need a frying pan and a spatula or a good pair of tongs. If you have a spatter guard (big round screen with a handle) even better. If not, grab the tin foil.

Frying: Put the pan on medium heat. Give it a minute to warm up or your fish will stick to it like Paris Hilton to a bottle of gin. You don't need oil for this because salmon is a very oily fish, but they're good oils. Omega-3's mostly and other stuff I'll explain later. Hold your hand just over the pan. If it feels hot (not warm -- hot), put the fish skin side down to start. You might want to cover it with your tin foil. Salmon tends to splatter a lot. After about three or so minutes, you should see the edged start to pink up. At this point, take your spatula and flip the fish over. The faster you do this the better, but don't fling it across the room. If you scoop and flip slow you risk it falling apart in the pan. If it comes apart don't sweat it. You'll be breaking it up anyway.

Microwave: This uses similar principals. Get a microwave safe bowl. You can use a plate but a Tupperware or a bowl with a paper cover or non metallic, microwave safe lid is much better. Remember - splatter fish. You can use a glass Pyrex bowl with a plate covering it. About 3 minutes on high, check it and then add more time if needed. You really need to cook the fish all the way through. It's not a sashimi salad.

Step 4: Strong to the finish

About the spinach. Get the bagged spinach - it's just easier. But if you're an eco-freak (and we could use more of your kind) and buy your greens from teh farmer's market, then make sure you clean the green thoroughly! Soak the spinach in cold water, drain, rinse, soak again. Do this a few times until you don't see any sand in the sink, colander or bowl that it's being cleaned in. Break off any tough stems. Baby spinach is very tender, so you don't need to break the stems.

A word about spinach. Remember how mom always said, "Eat your spinach, it's good for you." Yeah, she wasn't being very forthcoming, especially to the men. If you eat too much spinach you can get kidney stones. How much is too much? As long as you stick to once every two weeks, you'll be fine. Even once a week is ok. Spinach is technically good for you since it is high in calcium, vitamin k and other important nutrients.

Remember that balance is key here. A range of food will keep you healthy. If kidney stones are still a worry or you've had them in the past, grab some unfiltered, unsweetened cranberry juice and cut an ounce of that with 7oz of water and get to guzzling. Vitamin C, which cranberries are loaded with, breaks up any stones or potential stones in your system.

Step 5: Dressing your salad, because it's cold on the counter

Get a small bowl or cup for the dressing. Mince up a small shallot. If you can't find shallots, half a small onion will do. You don't want to overload it with onion though. Squeeze out the lemon juice into the bowl. Make sure your get the seeds out. The last thing you need is to lose a filling. Put in a pinch of salt & pepper and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix it up with a fork. Taste it. If you think it needs a little more of any of the ingredients, add the extra slowly and keep tasting. When you get it to the way you like it, set it aside.

Step 6: Putting it all together

Grab a sizable bowl and add the spinach and some of the dressing. Toss it with the tongs. Get the fish from the pan or the microwave and mash it up. If you can get the skin out, do so. Take the salmon mash and toss it into the salad with the tongs. Add a touch more of the dressing while you're tossing. Taste it. If it's dressed to your liking, bon appetite!

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