Thursday, May 7, 2009

Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Herb Matzo Crust and Quinoa with Mixed Herbs

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yes, that is quite the long post title, but as this dinner most certainly deserves a post, I felt I would be remiss in not including it all. In fact, the quinoa is good enough to post about on its very own!

For some strange reason, I skipped right over the article in my April issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that included this heavenly combination. I came across the salmon when browsing Noble Pig, one of many millions of food blogs that make my humble little snippets of writing seem hugely insignificant. Granted, I have become prone to writing about anything that strikes my fancy, not just food and books, but I can still admit to feeling slightly demoralized when I witness such fabulous, beautiful blogs as this, or this.

Before I get too morose or develop an even greater case of blog-envy, I shall write about this most heavenly dinner, which I made almost a MONTH ago, and am only writing about now. It was quite simple, the most tedious step consisted of my lugging the food processor off the shelf so that I could whirl the matzo into crumbs. Roasting anything, actually is very simple, and a quick, surefire, low-maintenance way to create loads of flavor. Once I had ground the matzo, I made quick work of chopping the herbs and finishing the crumb topping, which I generously spread over a set of delicately sliced pink fillets. As you know, I adore anything with a crust, so my mouth was practically already watering in anticipation as I slid the salmon into the stove.

The end result was wonderful-perfectly roasted salmon wrapped in a buttery, herb-flecked cloak of crumbs, a hint of lemon and spicy mustard adding to the most appealing flavor...hmmm. I deftly (for me, I'm usually quite uncoordinated) lifted the fillets, depositing them on my beautiful Fiestaware plates next to a large pile of fluffy quinoa, and we "tucked in", as Jamie Oliver would say.

While I love a good grain pretty much any way, any time, I was surprisingly shocked by how thoroughly I enjoyed the quinoa. I could barely restrain myself from shoveling it into my mouth. I think a big part of it was making ample use of the herbs that I had at home. There have been times when I've opted to skip the fresh herb called for in a recipe, simply because I just didn't have the time, money, or energy to buy three bunches of flat-leaf parsley or 2 cups worth of basil. There's no getting around it, they make an immense difference, adding so much depth to a dish, that it's nothing short of a culinary tragedy to leave them out. Worth the money, those herbs! I should also mention that right on the top of my list of favorite ingredients, which contains such splendid things as Gruyere cheese, asparagus, and the aforementioned fresh basil, is pine nuts. I LOVE THEM. I suppose you could say I was prejudiced in favor of this dish before I even tasted a forkful.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Herb Matzo Crust, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, April 2009

Eight 1-inch-thick center-cut salmon fillets (6 ounces each), skinned (I halved the recipe for my husband and I)
Salt and pepper
2 sheets matzo, finely ground
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Grated peel of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 425. On a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, place the salmon skinned side down; season with salt and pepper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the matzo, parsley, thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice, and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil and butter.
3. Cover the top of each salmon fillet completely with the matzo mixture, pressing to adhere. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through but still translucent in the center, about 10 minutes.

Quinoa with Herbs and Mixed Olives (I will include the actual recipe here, though as olives are at the top of my "foods that I don't love list", I opted to eliminate them-the quinoa was still delicious!)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups quinoa, well rinsed
1/2 cup pitted and thinly sliced black and green olives
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

1. In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until oftened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
2. Stir in 2 1/4 cups water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the olives, pine nuts, basil, cilantro and parsley and toss with a fork to combine; season with salt.

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