Tags

, , , , ,

Salmon pasta salad 068

I was inspired to make this salad by a visit to HomeGoods. In the section that holds olive oils, seasonings and other foodstuffs, bags of thick pasta rings in various vivid colors brought to mind refreshing calamari salads I’ve had in seaside restaurants but never thought to prepare myself.

Salmon pasta salad 027

So, I snapped up a bag of the pretty pasta, and the next morning headed out to a local outdoor farmer’s market for more inspiration. I found gorgeous fennel with elegant feathery fronds and bouquets of organic oregano that released assertive perfume when the leaves were lightly crushed. But I was most excited about the vendor who, when not engaged in his primary occupation of performing therapeutic massages, which I only heard about by snooping in on his conversation with another customer, grew and sold peppery micro greens. I added them to my other ingredients.

The elements that make calamari salads such a hit with me include a bold statement from citrus and plenty of fresh herbs. Dried herbs are not welcome here.

Salmon pasta salad 030

I spread my purchases out on the counter and came up with a game plan. I’d make a dish that played on the flavors and textures of a calamari salad. Cooked al dente, the pasta rings would take the role of the calamari, without the risk of any chewiness that borders on tough. The pasta itself, with its black, orange, red and yellow tints, was a knockout but, let’s face it, it doesn’t bring much in the way of flavor on its own. So, I put together a bracing vinaigrette that included hot French mustard, shallots, capers, lemon juice and zest and sherry wine vinegar, which always offers up a jolt in any dressing.

For texture and additional flavor, I added my fragrant finds from the farmer’s market, but also included briny kalamata olives – one of my favorite ingredients when I want to elevate the flavor factor of a dish. I tossed in marinated artichoke hearts and little red and orange bell pepper rings. Next time, I might swap out the artichoke hearts for hearts of palm, just because. Handfuls of the spicy, peppery micro greens tangled throughout the salad gave it an added nutritional kick.

As the crowning touch, I topped the salad with a beautifully poached salmon that wasn’t submerged in water, which can suck out all of the salmon’s delicate flavors. I’ll show you an easy and much better method of poaching. I didn’t make it up but took a page from America’s Test Kitchen several years ago, and did a little editing.

While it looks as if there are a lot of ingredients in this dish, note that the dressing and salmon can easily be made ahead of time. And you can play pretty fast and loose with a few of the ingredients, swapping out some of the greens and herbs. Consider tarragon instead of oregano or radishes rather than micro greens.

Note that when you’re using the micro greens, add them no more than about an hour before serving so that they don’t wilt too much.

The next time you’re looking for a dish that’s as pretty as it is tempting, I hope you consider this pasta salad with its bright lemony notes set off by slightly salty olives and capers, finished with succulent pieces of salmon poached with shallots, fresh herbs and a splash of white wine.

Poached Salmon Pasta Salad

Poaching the salmon:

1 pound salmon fillet

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

1 large shallot, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

Handful of fresh herbs of your choice. I happened to have some dill and chives in the fridge.

Salmon pasta salad 002

Place the shallot slices on the bottom of a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Top with herbs.

Salmon pasta salad 003

Place the fish, skin side down, onto the shallots and herbs, using them as a resting place so that the fish isn’t sitting directly on the pan.

Salmon pasta salad 009

Pour in the wine and water so that the bottom of the pan is covered.

Salmon pasta salad 011

Isn’t that a gorgeous measuring cup? HomeGoods, thank you very much. About $5.99. It was the only one, or I would have snapped up several to give as gifts.

Salmon pasta salad 013

If your pan is too large, add a little more liquid but don’t let it cover the fish. In fact, it shouldn’t really be touching the fish.

Cover, and cook on high until the liquid comes to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 6 minutes or until an instant read thermometer at the thickest part of the fish reaches 125 degrees.

Salmon pasta salad 014

Remove fish from the pan and place it on a cloth or paper towel, skin side down. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the fish and set aside.

Salmon pasta salad 018

The skin easily peels away when you’re ready to use the salmon.

Lemon-sherry Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, minced

1 heaping teaspoon French mustard

1/4 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon and zest of 1/2 of the lemon. Save the other half of the zest to drizzle on top of the finished salad.

Salt & pepper to taste

Pinch of sugar

Salmon pasta salad 022

Whisk well to mix ingredients, then drizzle in while continuing to whisk:

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Salmon pasta salad 025

Store in the fridge until needed. You’ll probably end up with a little extra. It’s terrific on any salad.

 

Pasta Salad:

1 pound colored pasta or wide pasta rings, cooked according to package directions, but DON’T overcook the pasta. You want it al dente and even a bit chewy.

Add about 1/4 cup white vinegar to the salted water in which you’re cooking colored pasta to keep it from fading. If you add oil to your pasta water, then go ahead and add your usual amount.

When the pasta is cooked, immediately drain it and put it into ice water to stop the cooking.

Salmon pasta salad 052

When cool, carefully drain the pasta. Large pasta rings can tear easily, so be gentle when draining and mixing.

Salmon pasta salad 058

Pour the pasta into a large bowl and add the following:

3 small red, yellow and orange bell peppers, cut into rings

Salmon pasta salad 047

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives, drained

Salmon pasta salad 049

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained (you can sub hearts of palm sliced into rounds, if you like)

Salmon pasta salad 051

About two cups of micro greens of your choice, or sprouts

Salmon pasta salad 046

1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

Salmon pasta salad 057

1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel

Salmon pasta salad 050

If you haven’t used fennel before, simply remove the outer stalks, chop off the feathery fronds and slice thinly for salads.

Salmon pasta salad 038

Salmon pasta salad 039

I find that fennel is pretty delicate in flavor but it adds an unexpected little twist much in the way mint does to some dishes.

The pretty white vegetable will start to darken once exposed to air, so toss the slices in a little lemon juice.

Salmon pasta salad 042

One of my favorite gadgets is this hand-held Kyocera mandolin with a razor sharp, double ceramic blade.

Mix it up

Salmon pasta salad 060

Pour about 2/3 of the prepared dressing over the salad and very gently mix to combine the ingredients.

Salmon pasta salad 063

Check seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Pull generous pieces of the poached salmon and add them to the salad. Top with the remaining lemon zest. Let salad sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Salmon pasta salad 065

 

(Printer friendly version)

Poached Salmon Pasta Salad

Poaching the salmon:

1 pound salmon fillet

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

1 large shallot, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

Handful of fresh herbs of your choice. I happened to have some dill and chives in the fridge.

Place the shallot slices on the bottom of a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Top with herbs. Place the fish, skin side down, onto the shallots and herbs, using them as a resting place so that the fish isn’t sitting directly on the pan.

Pour in the wine and water so that the bottom of the pan is covered. If your pan is too large, add a little more liquid but don’t let it cover the fish. In fact, it shouldn’t really be touching the fish.

Cover, and cook on high until the liquid comes to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 6 minutes or until an instant read thermometer at the thickest part of the fish reaches 125 degrees.

Remove fish from the pan and place it on a cloth or paper towel, skin side down. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the fish and set aside.

Lemon-sherry Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, minced

1 heaping teaspoon French mustard

1/4 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon and zest of 1/2 of the lemon. Save the other half of the zest to drizzle on top of the finished salad.

Salt & pepper to taste

Pinch of sugar

Whisk well to mix ingredients, then drizzle in while continuing to whisk:

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Store in the fridge until needed.

 

Pasta Salad:

1 pound colored pasta or wide pasta rings, cooked according to package directions, but DON’T overcook the pasta. You want it al dente and even a bit chewy.

Add about 1/4 cup white vinegar to the salted water in which you’re cooking colored pasta to keep it from fading. If you add oil to your pasta water, then go ahead and add your usual amount.

When the pasta is cooked, immediately drain it and put it into ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, carefully drain the pasta. Large pasta rings can tear easily, so be gentle when draining and mixing.

Pour the pasta in a large bowl and add the following:

3 small red, yellow and orange bell peppers cut into rings

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives, drained

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained (you can sub hearts of palm sliced into rounds, if you like)

About two cups of micro greens of your choice, or sprouts

1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel

Pour about 2/3 of the prepared dressing over the salad and very gently mix to combine the ingredients. Check seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Pull generous pieces of the poached salmon and add them to the salad. Top with the remaining lemon zest. Let salad sit for about 20 minutes before serving.