Friday, February 13, 2009

"I'm not excited about vegetables, guys. There is no need to eat vegetables if there is meat and fish around."

I have to agree with Fabio on this one (you're gonna have to forgive the Fabio quotes.....I'm currently obsessed.....there will be more).  I've said it before.  I'm not a huge vegetable fan.  They're usually just a garnish to make the plate look better.

I do, however, love meat and fish.  And carbs.  Carbs are the new crack.

So, today, I bring you Salmon on Crack.  No, that's not really the name.  Frank Stitt would not approve of the change to his masterpiece (or is this one yours, Dean??).

The official name is Salmon with Orzo Salad and its another delicious recipe from "Bottega Favorita:  A Southern Chef's Love Affair With Italian Food".

The orzo salad is so delicious and would be perfect on it's own.  It's got this really great fresh taste that I love.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe.  I hate olives, so I omitted them and when I got my basil out of the refrigerator, it looked disgusting (I hate grocery store herbs, but what can you do?  It's still a few weeks before I can plant my own.)  Anyhoo, I used cilantro.  It's my favorite anyway.  I also used frozen corn.  Shoot me.

And I didn't pan sear the salmon.  I seasoned it with salt, pepper, a little olive oil and a sprinkle of pimenton and oven roasted it.  

This was really delicious and a nice healthy option.

Here's the recipe:

Salmon with Orzo Salad
from Bottega Favorita:  A Southern Chef's Love Affair With Italian Food

This is an ideal recipe:  relatively few ingredients, bold flavors quick and easy to prepare, and very healthy.  You can substitute other fresh fish  --  grouper, tuna, or striped bass  --  but the richness of seared salmon withh its buttery texture makes it my favority choice here.  When corn is out of season, consider sweet peas in spring or roasted butternut squash in the cooler months.  The orzo is served at room temperature, so it can be made ahead  -  a great choice for a buffet platter.


1 1/2 cups orzo
about 1 tablespoon olive oil
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets, any pinbones removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup corn kernels (from about 3 ears of corn)
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 shallot or 1/4 red onion, minced
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata or Nicoise olives, coarsely chopped (I omitted these nasty things)
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn into little pieces or cut into chiffonade, plus 4 small sprigs for garnish (I used cilantro)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons L'Estornell Spanish garnacha vinegar or other good-quality red wine vinegar  (I couldn't believe it, but I had the L'Estornell vinegar in the pantry.  Must have got it during my Zingerman's love affair phase.  Who knew?)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Grated lemon zest for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook until al dente, 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.  Toss with a splash of olive oil.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat, then add just enough olive oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan.  Season the salmon with sea salt and pepper, place in the hot skillet, and cook until the fish is lightly golden on the first side and the edges are beginning to turn opaque, about 4 minutes.  Turn the salmon and transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking, about 4 minutes for medium-rare or about 6 minutes for medium.  Transfer the fillets to a rack and keep warm.

Stir the corn, tomatoes, shallot or onion, olives, torn basil, and salt and pepper to taste into the orzo.  Add the vinegar, drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, and toss to coat.  Taste for seasonings and adjust to your liking. 

Place a large spoonful of the orzo  on each serving plate and top with a salmon fillet.  Garnish each plate with a little lemon zest, if desired, and a sprig of basil.


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