I’m writing this blog after a succession of recipe “fails” that has me wondering if I should be writing recipes at all. They weren’t epic fails, but when you botch a birthday cake, Christmas cookies and sugar cookies within a few weeks, it’s enough to shake your confidence. Then I think about why I started Love and Duck Fat in the first place. One of the reasons was to challenge myself to learn something new. When you challenge yourself, there are usually failures involved, or it wouldn’t be a challenge.
Baking (and dessert making in general) is hard for me. Why? It requires precision. I spent years as an artist learning to embrace happy accidents, paint drips, imprecise lines and sloppy paint. This is very hard to do when you are trained from childhood to color within the lines. I learned to love imprecision because it was more beautiful, wild and freeing. Even to the viewer’s eyes. That is what I wanted to aspire to in art, and I can’t say I ever got there, but I was close.
Baking is just the opposite. It requires exact measurements, precise cooking times and a perfectly steady hand if you want your decorating to look anything close to edible. So I challenge myself with chocolate pumpkin cakes, but I am the first to admit baking is not my forte.
I am embracing my fails as learning experiences and moving on, albeit in a direction I’m more comfortable: seafood.
I was able to get my hands on a gorgeous fillet of wild Sockeye salmon, and paired it with a creamy dill sauce, black Beluga lentils and sautéed leeks. I love the color of the salmon against the dramatic black of the lentils, similar to another recipe where I paired salmon with black rice. The Beluga lentils are a little more expensive and hard to find (buy them on Amazon). They are round in appearance and glisten like caviar, thus the name. You can substitute French green or brown lentils, and the taste will be just as good.
Bring the lentils, vegetable broth, and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic clove and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender-firm. Drain and return to the pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm and covered.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the leeks. I like to cut them in half crosswise, and then quarter them lengthwise, into strips. Wash them well in cold water to make sure all the sand is removed. Dry well before cooking.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or more, turning every few minutes. You want them to brown slightly and become very soft. Sprinkle with salt and taste.
Pat salmon dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil or butter on medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. When hot, place the salmon in the skillet, skin-side-down. Place a sprig of dill on each piece. Cook the salmon for 4 minutes, then turn. Cook another 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of each piece, and how you prefer to serve. Remove to a plate.
Pour the white wine into the hot pan. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook for another 2-5 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and creamy. Add the chopped dill and lemon juice. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains an affiliate link to a product I purchased and used myself. I recommend this product. If you decide to buy any of these items, I may be able to buy a cheap cup of coffee someday from the commission I receive.
This delicious dish with wild salmon and dill sauce paired with black Forbidden Rice and simple green salad is full of healthy, antioxidant-rich ingredients. It’s low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids. The taste is luxurious. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Salmon is one of my favorite fish, but I have been steering away from Atlantic farm raised salmon for a while now due to the environmental impact of the farms and health concerns from chemical additives. When I can find fresh, wild salmon, I jump to purchase it. If you don’t eat a lot of wild salmon, the first think you’ll notice it the color. It’s usually much darker. To get that familiar pink color in farmed fish, they actually have to add carotene to the feed. Wild salmon is also more flavorful; unlike the near tasteless farmed variety. It can get confusing choosing which type of seafood is safe and good for the environment, which is why I love the site, seafood.edf.org, for great information on what types of seafood are safe to eat.
One of my favorite parts of salmon is the skin. I could eat it just by itself. It’s chewy, oily, crispy deliciousness. And when I start to think about all of that oil, I remind myself that it’s GOOD fat. Yes, this is the part of the fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and may just lower your risks of chronic disease. So, embrace this fatty treat and revel in its goodness. If you are one of those people who peel your fish skin off in disgust, give it another try. It may just be that it wasn’t cooked properly. The skin should be seasoned well, and really crispy. There’s a technique to this, and it’s pretty easy to get results like the best restaurants.
I paired the fish with black rice, also known as Forbidden rice. This heirloom rice was once grown just for Chinese nobility and can now be found in 4 pound bags on Amazon. I love the dramatic color, and prefer the complex, nutty flavor and chewy texture of black rice to brown. It has virtually the same antioxidant-rich bran as brown rice, but with the added health benefits of anthocyanins, pigments that produce the dark color. According to a report presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, “Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants,” said Zhimin Xu, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, La.
With this dish, I also included a mixture of organic baby greens from the market. I love SUPERGREENS! from Organicgirl. It has a colorful and healthy mix of red chard, Swiss chard and arugula. Tossed in a simple vinaigrette; it’s an easy and healthy side.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
To prepare the salmon, season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fillets to the pan, skin side down. Cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the filets from the pan and transfer them to a baking sheet, skin side up. Place the fish in the oven and cook about 5-6 minutes more, until medium rare in the center and flaky on the outside.
To make the sauce, combine yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil and dill. Season with salt and pepper
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 36 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
To prepare the rice, rinse under cold water. Saute shallots in olive oil until tender, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Add shallot mixture, rice, stock, salt and pepper to a rice cooker. This is the time to stick your finger in the pot and taste the seasoning of the stock to make sure it tastes good. Now close the lid and allow to cook roughly 35 minutes. When the rice is cooked, add the lemon juice and stir.
This recipe makes enough vinaigrette for a few salads. Use just a splash for the amount of vegetable in this dish and save the rest for later.
Whisk together ingredients in a large bowl. Toss salad greens in the vinaigrette and serve.
Most of the people I know have never seen a smelt, much less know what one is. I live in Miami, FL., and smelts are found in the Northern oceans. I may have come across one in a Greek restaurant, but never in a fish market. For some reason, small fish like sprats, smelts and sardines are popular all over the world, except the States.
If you see them on the menu or in the market, don’t pass up the lowly smelt. You can eat the whole fish – bones and all. They are crunchy goodness…sweet and light and not as fishy as a sardine. Larger smelt can be butterflied and fried.
I’m lucky to live near an amazing gourmet Russian market. It’s like an amusement park for foodies. It has whole walls of truffles; freezers full of caviar and foie gras. I’m not even exaggerating. They even raise their own sturgeon somewhere upstate.
Deep in their frozen fish section, I found some six-packs of little smelts. I bought two, because I love the idea of having a backup six-pack of frozen little fishes in the freezer. I cooked them up a few days later, with a side of fennel apple slaw and buttered dill potatoes.
They were easy to clean and easy to cook. A quick dredge in seasoned flour, and a few minutes in hot peanut oil resulted in a delicious meal. If you want a thicker crust, dip your smelts in an egg/milk mixture after the first dredge in flour; then coat them in another layer of flour before frying.
Yield: 2 servings
Heat your oil in a heavy pan. I used one about the width to hold two fish side by side. You want about 1½ inches of oil in the pan.
Clean sprats by cutting a small slit up the belly from the tail to the head. If you find some clumps of orange stuff in there, that’s the roe. Remove it from the cavity and you can eat it. I battered and fried mine along with the fish.
Now run your finger inside the cavity towards the head to remove the guts. Just yank them out quickly and you’re done. Remove the heads if you prefer them that way. Rinse the fish.
Season your flour with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in the flour. I test my oil to see if it’s hot enough by dropping in a dash of flour. If it sizzles right away, it’s ready.
Now add your smelts to the pan and fry about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Season with a sprinkle of salt and serve right away.