Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Pan-Seared Salmon with Ponzu Spinach
I have several friends who don't cook. I don't blame them. Why cook when you can use that time to work out and when there's so much good takeout?
But sometimes my friends want to whip up something in the kitchen. And that's when they ask me what would be good to make that's simple and not too time-consuming.
I put together this salmon and spinach dish for them, because it uses few ingredients (salmon, spinach, ponzu sauce, and garlic), involves one non-stick saute pan, and cooks under 10 minutes. And it's healthy. I include some tips below on where to get fish and how to know when it's cooked.
I think this dish would pass muster with my friends.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Ponzu Spinach
4 Salmon fillets (1 per person, so you can cook less fillets if you want)
1 bag of spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Ponzu sauce (if you can't find ponzu sauce, click here to find out how to make your own)
Do all the prep before you start cooking:
- If the fillets are frozen, defrost them by putting them in the fridge the night before or the morning of when you're going to cook them for dinner (also see note below). Pat the fillets dry on both sides. Brush the top with oil and season with salt and pepper (don't put away the brush/spoon and oil as you'll brush the other side when you're cooking).
- Take the spinach out the bag. Go through the spinach and remove any big stems and any pieces that are not fresh. Rinse in a colander or salad spinner.
- Mince the garlic. You can also just take the cloves and push down on them with the side of the knife to smush them and release their flavor if you don't want to mince anything. You can also skip this step if you don't want to deal with the garlic.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until it's hot. You know it's hot if you hold your hand over the skillet and you can only hold it there for 2-3 seconds, or you can wet your hand and flick water into the pan. If water sizzles and evaporates when it hits the pan, it's hot.
When the skillet is hot, add the salmon fillets, oiled side down, making sure the fillets are not touching each other and there is some air circulation in between them. Depending on how thick they are, you'll cook them a few minutes on one side (see note below), until the bottom edges get opaque. While the bottom side is cooking, brush the top side with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Flip over and let that side cook for a few minutes until center of fish is just opaque (see note below). Put on a plate.
Add 1 tbs. of oil into the skillet and swirl around. Add garlic, stir around once, and add spinach right away. If you can't fit all the spinach at once, add as much as you can, stir around until it wilts and then add the rest. Add a few glugs(about 1/4 cup) of ponzu sauce and it will help the spinach wilt and cook. When all the spinach is wilted, turn off the heat.
Put some of the spinach on a plate and place the salmon on top of it. Serve as is or with rice and with more ponzu sauce.
A note on frozen salmon. Fresh salmon is fabulous from the fishmonger, but if you're looking for convenience, you can buy frozen salmon fillets to have them in the house. If you're a Costco or Sam's Club shopper, they have frozen, skinless salmon fillets in the frozen section, and that's where I bought the salmon pictured here. They're individually wrapped, so you can take as many as you need out of the bag and pop them in your fridge the night before or the morning of the day you plan to cook them. Or you can defrost them before dinner in a bowl of water.
A note on cooking salmon: Cooking fish can be a little scary, because you might worry about overcooking. No worries. The only way to learn how to cook fish is to do it.
If you have a fillet that's about 1 1/2 inch thick, you'd cook it about 6 minutes on one side, flip it and cook for 4 minutes on the other side. If you have a fillet that's thinner, cook it less. For the one in the picture, which was quite thin, I cooked it on 3 minutes one side and 2 minutes on the other. You should take the fish off the heat when it's almost opaque but still a little translucent in the center. To check the color inside, stick a knife in the center and gently pull apart the flesh. The fish will continue cooking in its own heat when you take it off the stove and become fully opaque.
If you overcook the fish and it becomes flaky and a little dry, no big deal. You can still eat it and then next time around, you'll know how to adjust the cooking time.
If you want to see a good video that shows what fish looks like when it's cooked, click here.