Simple Art of Cooking: Baked Salmon and Lentil Soup for Spring

Though corned beef and cabbage may appear on many a menu this coming weekend to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, in Ireland they will no doubt feast on salmon or Irish stew. Corn beef and cabbage is an American idea, and as much as I love the dish, salmon is in accord with spring and spring can’t arrive soon enough.

Baked salmon fillets with ginger and soy and lentil stew can dovetail into the holiday mode and fit into a break from this harsh winter. Lentils, a high protein, round food that are regarded as “the cycle of life,” can be totally cooked ahead, refrigerated and reheated with a quick, last-minute seasoning before serving. The lentil stew makes a delicious base for the flavorful roasted salmon fillets.
To give this duo a festive air complete the menu with light and lemony lemon squares.

BAKED SALMON FILET WITH GINGER AND SOY
The secret to this salmon recipe is in the roasting. Just a few minutes in a hot oven creates a moist fillet with a delectable crusty exterior.
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds center-cut salmon fillet, skin removed
1 to 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Cut filet into 4 to 6, 1 1/2-inch widths

2. Peel a 1 to 1/ 2-inch knob of ginger and grate it into a small bowl. Add chopped shallots, salt, pepper, brown sugar, olive oil and soy sauce and stir to mix. Place fillets on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spoon the mixture equally over each fillet. Marinate for up to 20 minutes at room temperature.

3. Roast salmon in preheated oven about 8 minutes. Fish will be slightly pink to rare in the center. If you prefer to cook your salmon to medium doneness roast 2 to 3 minutes longer.

LENTIL VEGETABLE STEW

This savory and satisfying lentil stew is sweetened with a bit of carrot.
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 carrots cut into small dice
2 celery stacks thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch hot pepper flakes
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 to 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil for serving

1. Put the lentils in a 5- to 6-quart saucepan; cover with 6 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Stir in the shallots, garlic, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the red pepper flakes. Adjust heat to medium low and simmer the stew gently until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.

2. When the lentils are cooked and water evaporates, add the tomatoes and parsley and stir to mix. The stew can be prepared ahead to this point. If preparing ahead, cool and refrigerate in a suitable container. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature and reheat, stirring occasionally, until the stew is properly hot, taste for salt and pepper; season with vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil to top each serving.

LEMON CUSTARD SQUARES
It almost looks as if a pile of whipped cream tops this lemony custard. But in fact the egg whites, which are beaten into the base mixture, separate while the custard bakes.
Serves 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Rind and juice of 2 large lemons
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Beat in the flour.

2. Grate the rind from both lemons then juice them. Add rind and juice to the mixture; stir in egg yolks, one at a time

3. In a separate, clean cold bowl with cold beaters, whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until firm, but not dry peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes, gently fold about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the custard. Carefully fold in remaining whites until well incorporated. Transfer to a non-reactive buttered baking pan such as Pyrex or porcelain and bake in 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 24 hours. Cut into squares for serving.

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