Salmon Supper: Always Have a Plan B
Fresh salmon usually calls for barbecuing a fillet… usually. However, there is no way our gas grill will stay lit when the wind gusts reach 30 knots, and The Capt. isn’t too enthusiastic about manning the grill in a windy downpour either. Fishing in unsettled weather is an entirely different thing, however.
This week’s changeable weather meant switching from our favorite outdoor grilled salmon to two galley recipes instead. One night Cast Iron Skillet Salmon utilized the thinner tail end of a king (Chinook) salmon fillet. We consumed every last shred at dinner – sigh! no tasty leftovers for salmon salad or salmon spread with this recipe.
The thicker head-end of the same salmon fillet seemed perfect the next day for an oven roasting experiment. I have baked salmon before; sometimes with a lemony, garlic butter, scampi-style sauce… or a peppy and creamy green chili sauce… or wrapped in parchment en papillote… etc. It must have been the crazy, changeable weather that encouraged me to go a little wild and pair the remaining portion of that gorgeous salmon fillet with a savory, spicy Italian puttanesca sauce. Red sauce with salmon?! I know, I know, it sounds a little over the edge but OMG, this combination worked! The salmon held its own against the robust sauce, delivering flavor beyond expectations.
Salmon plus sauce makes a delicious entrée, but add some spaghetti to the plate and it’s heavenly and filling.
Note: I tossed the cooked pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of garlic powder, keeping it warm in a covered pan while the salmon finished. To serve I added a swirl of spaghetti to each warmed plate, topped the pasta with salmon and spooned a bit of sauce over each portion. Next time I’ll save some pasta cooking water to thin the sauce a bit before this last step – or just make more sauce.
Salmon with Puttanesca Sauce
For the Sauce:
1 can (14-to-16 ounces) diced tomatoes with their juices
½ cup black olives, pitted and chopped or sliced
3 Tablespoons capers, drained
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs (thyme, oregano, basil…)
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
4 salmon fillets ( or a 1 ½ -to- 2 pounds chunk), skinned and boned
freshly ground black pepper (or substitute lemon pepper)
cooked spaghetti or other long pasta (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add all of the sauce ingredients to a saucepan; bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir occasionally.
Sprinkle the salmon with pepper; place in baking dish just large enough to hold the fillets with some space in between each piece. Ladle the sauce around the salmon and place on the middle rack in the preheated oven. Bake until just cooked through, 10-15 minutes for thinner pieces and 12-20 minute for thicker chunks. Remember, fish will continue cooking for several minutes after you remove it from the oven.
Serve immediately on warmed plates, or even better top a swirl of hot, cooked pasta with a fillet and a dollop of sauce.
*Next time I’ll try adding ¼ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts) and a handful or two of baby spinach leaves or kale to the sauce… just because.
*Halibut is another good choice for this preparation.