Sunday, May 1, 2011
Quick Pasta and Crisp Salmon dish for a weeknight
The past few months, I've been studying the basics of cooking from books and cooking shows, such as how to chop an onion, when to use olive oil instead of butter, how to perfectly poach an egg...etc. There is still so much to learn. I've tried many of these basic cooking techniques, at least once, but agility and speed will surely come with regular practice. With the basic cooking techniques and knowledge, I find it somewhat easier and more pleasant to cook any simple dish that can impress a crowd, but especially yourself.
The key to this quick and deliciously healthy pasta dish is the sauce. To obtain a hearty and flavourful sauce, I used the finely chopped onions, which turned out so beauteefullll......One will understand my excitement once one has achieved chopping a simple yellow onion, a Chef's way. With that same chopping technique, I diced an asian eggplant to add to the sauce used for the pasta. Why an Asian eggplant, because they are slender and smaller. It's small size is enough to use when cooking a simple dish like this one. In addition, Asian eggplants tend to cook faster than other well known varieties of eggplants.
I mentioned that this dish is healthy because it is low in sodium and the eggplant, which not only adds incredibly sweet caramelized flavour, is also effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol, as shown in Studies of the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil. It helps to block the formation of free radicals and is also a source of folic acid and potassium.
As an 'accompagnement' to this great pasta dish, a crispy lightly seared salmon is considered to be healthy due to the fish's high protein, high omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D. For this dish, the salmon, lightly seasoned, is seared without any excess fat, yet it remains juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The salmon is optional. It can be substituted by any other of your favorite fish, or simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of swiss cheese.
Preparation : 10 minutes, Cooking time : 20 minutes
Recipe "au pif" :
2 filets of fresh salmon (cleaned and pat dry, skin removed - you can ask your fishmonger to remove the skin).
12 oz fresh pasta of your choice (I chose fettuccini), cooked Al Dente
24 oz can of crushed tomatoes (preferably with low sodium content, or no sodium)
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Asian egglant, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp buttered margarine, or butter
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped to garnish
Clean the salmon filets with tap water and pat dry. Sprinkle with grated ginger. Let it sit for about 3-5 minutes. The ginger removes any fishy smell from frozen fish. If you have access to fresh fish, you can omit this step.
After 3-5 minutes, remove the ginger from the salmon with a paper towel. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Mix with hands until filets are well marinated. Let it sit for a few minutes.
Meantime, heat a large deep frying pan on medium-high heat. Add in the buttered margarine or butter.
When the margarine or butter has melted, stir in the chopped onions until they've softened. Stir in immediately the chopped eggplants, stir for about 2 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and stir again. Season with salt and pepper. Stir for another 2 minutes until onion, eggplant and garlic have softened and are well incorporated.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and lower the heat to medium. Add in the sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir, then simmer at medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
Heat a large skillet to grill or sear the fish. When the skillet is very hot, slowly place in the filets on the hot surface. You should hear a nice high sizzle. Filets will grill or brown for about 2 minutes. The filets will not stick if the pan is very hot and the filets are left alone to brown in its olive oil marinade. Switch over to brown the other side for another 2-3 minutes, or until the filets have just turned pink. You don't want to overcook salmon. As your filets are browning on the skillet, you can slowly observe the colour transformation from bright orange to a pale pink. Once it has reached the pale pink, the salmon is perfectly cooked, juice on the inside and crispy on the outside. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a pasta bowl, or even using your large deep frying pan, mix in directly the pasta in the tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep on mixing with tongs until sauce is well incorporated with the pasta. Stir carefully the chopped coriander.
Dispose the perfectly cooked salmon on the pasta and sprinkle more chopped coriander to garnish.
Serve piping hot.
Serves 2 people. (use 4 filets for 4 people, 6 for 6 people and so on).
Bon appétit, share and enjoy!