When the Sum is Greater than its Parts: Salmon & Cilantro Polenta

Salmon & Cilantro Polenta with Red Peppers

I have to apologize for only having a few pictures of this simple salmon and polenta dish. You see, I began taking photos as I was making it, but the further it went the more doubts I had that it would be blog-worthy. The idea was to use the keta salmon, which I bought for dinner last night but never got around to making, for a quick and easy lunch for one. I found some instant polenta in the cabinet, some leftover diced red peppers from earlier in the week, a lime, and a bit of minced cilantro. I had hoped that these flavorful and colorful ingredients would add up to a delicious lunch.

Throughout culinary school and restaurant jobs, the biggest rule was always to taste you food as you went along, which I did today. I kept tweaking the polenta, trying to make it into something edible as I could already tell it would fall significantly short of greatness. The keta salmon was something new; the guy at the fish counter at Whole Foods explained that it was wild-caught from Alaska and very mild in flavor but rich in fat and texture. The color was a light pink/gray, much different from the wild salmon I usually buy.

Red peppers and salmon

I wanted a light seasoning that would allow me to taste the actual flavor of the fish rather than disguise it, so I chose a simple lime-butter with a pinch of salt and garlic powder. I would try to add stronger flavors to the savory polenta – cilantro, salt, lime juice, butter and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Both would be topped with sauteed red pepper for sweetness.

Surprisingly, my first bite was delicious. While none of the elements stood out on their own, combined they were a wonderful mix of flavors and textures that absolutely delighted my palate.

Salmon with Lime-Butter Sauce

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup seeded and diced red bell pepper

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 lime

6-8 ounce keta salmon fillet (or substitute with a mild, wild-caught salmon)

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the red pepper and a pinch of salt. Saute until slightly tender, about five minutes.

Combine the melted butter, salt, garlic powder and juice from half a lime in a small bowl. Pour half over the top of the salmon. Move the bell peppers to the side of the saute pan and add the salmon to the pan. Cook until lightly browned on top, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip the salmon over so the skin-side is facing down and top with remaining lime-butter. Place the pan to the hot oven and bake until the salmon is just cooked through (be careful not to cook too long or it will become dry) and the peppers become soft, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with the polenta.

Cilantro Polenta

1 cup water

1/4 cup dry instant polenta

1 teaspoon minced cilantro

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Juice of half a lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese

Bring the water to boil in a small pot. Stir in the polenta and reduce the heat to low. Stir constantly until the polenta is smooth, then add the remaining ingredients. Serve with the salmon and red peppers.

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  • Heidi Hoerman posted: 31 Mar at 4:27 pm

    That sounds WONDERFUL! I bet it would work with ‘most any fish.


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