Monday, June 2, 2014

grilled salmon with orzo, feta, and red wine vinaigrette

Monday, June 2, 2014

Let it be known that I am not enamored of cookbooks emblazoned with portraits of their respective authors.  In fact, I have an automatic prejudice against them, the one exception being Jamie Oliver.  There is something endearing and charming about his face, and he's usually laughing or puttering in a garden or something on the covers of his cookbooks, so it's somehow not as offensive as a cheesy pose.  For me, the cover of a cookbook should showcase the FOOD.  Isn't that what it's all about?  I have certainly never purchased a cookbook because the broad, smiling gaze of a cook convinced me of the quality therein.

All of this being said, I've given a pass to Curtis Stone.  I heard about his cookbook on my favorite family food blog, Dinner: A Love Story, and the simple, yet delicious recipe that inspired Jenny's post  (Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, in case you're wondering) caught my attention.  I'm in a stage of life right now where simple is better, where it's infinitely easier if I can stuff healthy items from all the food groups into one bowl, and where I will reject a recipe out of hand if there are more than 8 or 10 steps.  The subtitle of Curtis Stone's first cookbook, What's for Dinner? is Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, and when I read its blurb on Amazon I decided it was perfect for me, despite the fact that Curtis's Hollywood face cheerfully, glamorously graced its cover.  

Yikes! I'm pretty sure Curtis is rocking a spray tan here, along with his turquoise shirt.

I've made quite a few recipes from the book, and I've been wholly satisfied with all of them, but as this particular dish was made most recently, I thought it was a good place to start.  Of course, it's hard to turn a good piece of salmon into anything that's not utterly delicious, but I particularly loved this treatment, which is a lightly grilled piece of fish atop an orzo salad dressed with a summery vinaigrette.  Feta and toasted pine nuts give the perfect amount of creaminess and texture to the salad, which would make a wonderful lunch on its own.  Considering that my little guy would prefer to dine on salmon each and every meal, it was an excellent dinner choice.

Grilled Salmon with Orzo, Feta, and Red Wine Vinaigrette, adapted from What's for Dinner? by Curtis Stone

1 1/2 cups orzo
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 3 cups not packed)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (Side note: this did take a bit of extra time, but was definitely worth it)
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish (I skipped the chives because I didn't want to buy them for just one dish)

Four 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Olive oil, for coating the fish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high cooking over direct heat.
2. Meanwhile, make the orzo salad.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the orzo and cook, stirring often, for about 8 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain the orzo in a sieve and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar, shallots, and garlic together.  Gradually whisk in the olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   (I used a small Mason jar for the dressing instead of a bowl-I used a small whisk for the ingredients and then shook it up as well to emulsify).
4. In a large bowl, toss the warm orzo, spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil with the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside at room temperature.
5. To cook the salmon: Coat the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Oil the cooking grate.  Place the salmon the grill with the top right corner of each fillet facing the 2'o-clock position and cook for 4 minutes without removing the salmon (This will help give the salmon a good sear of nice grill marks and help it release from the grate).  Using a thin metal spatula, starting at the corner of each fillet nearest you, flip the fillets over.  Grill for about 2 minutes, or until the fish is opaque with a slightly rosy center when flaked in the thicket part with the tip of a small knife.  Remove from the grill.  (These are very precise instructions, but the angle did make lovely grill marks)
6. Mound the salad in the center of a large serving platter or our dinner plates.  Sprinkle with the feta cheese.  Top with the salmon, sprinkle with the chives, and serve.

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