Today is one of those magical days where the sky is blue and the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming and you can just feel it in your bones that spring has arrived. I want to throw open my windows and sing like a Disney princess, you guys. The whole city comes alive on these days; we emerge from our dwellings to soak up the sun, still with a hint of trepidation. Can this be real? Can we really put winter in the rear view? Oh my, I do hope so.
When it comes to cooking on a day like this, gone are the cozy stews and the steaming bowls of pasta. I want something fresh and vibrant, something that tastes of the new season that is before us. Fish is ideal for this type of weather — it’s light but filling and it pairs well with the vegetables that are currently in season. Cooked simply and paired with a crunchy, bright salad, this is the perfect menu to welcome spring (I hope…fingers and toes crossed).
Slow-roasted Salmon with Meyer Lemon Relish
1 center cut salmon fillet, approximately 1-1¼ pounds
freshly ground black pepper
Meyer Lemon Relish:
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (you can use lemon juice as a substitute)
1 large meyer lemon
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
1 granny smith apple
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
It’s best to deal with the salmon first since it will take the longest to cook. Once you have it in the oven, you can focus on the relish and the salad. First, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and place a baking dish half filled with water on the bottom oven rack. This will help to slightly steam the fish as it cooks, which will result in a firm but tender finished product.
Take out your salmon fillet and place it skin side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the salmon with some olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. When the oven is warm, place the sheet on the center rack and cook for approximately 45 minutes. Depending on the size and the thickness of the filet, it might take a little longer to cook completely, potentially up to 1 hour. Your fish is done when it’s firm to the touch and juices are starting to run. Once fully cooked, take your salmon out of the oven and set it out of the way to rest.
While your fish is cooking, turn your focus to the relish first, then the salad. For the relish, first take your minced shallot and place in a small bowl with the vinegar (or the lemon juice) and a pinch of salt. This will allow the shallot to macerate, which is a fancy way of saying ‘soften and absorb flavors’. As the shallot breaks down in the vinegar, it will absorb some of the vinegar flavor, which will help your relish not be overpoweringly onion-y. That would be no bueno.
While your shallots are a-maceratin’, grab your lemon and cut it into 8 wedges. Remove any seeds and cut out any of the white spongy core. Cut each wedge in half again, then turn and cut thin slices across the wedge (the result will be a bunch of tiny triangles with rind on one side). Add these to the shallots, followed by the olive oil and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Next, let’s make the dressing for the salad. So many condiments! I heart the condiments. Whisk the cider vinegar and honey together until well mixed, then drizzle in the olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Season with salt and pepper (this could literally be my life motto, I say it so often) and set aside.
Take your apple and cut it in half, then cut out the core. Then take each half, cut into thin slices, then cut each slice into strips. The end result will be a bunch of matchstick-like pieces. Stick these in a small bowl and toss with a bit of the dressing. This will marinate them slightly and prevent them from turning brown.
Rinse the brussels sprouts thoroughly, trim the ends and remove any weird looking leaves (by weird I mean brown and wilty). OK. This is where the salad gets potentially dangerous. Using either a mandoline or a sharp knife, you’re going to thinly slice the sprouts. If you’re not careful, there’s also a strong chance that you’ll slice your fingers off. So look alive, young chef. This is not the time for distractions. When you’ve cut all the sprouts, throw away the ends and any bigger pieces, and place the rest of the shredded sprouts in a serving bowl. Add the apples and the rest of the dressing and toss. Set aside and let rest for 15 minutes or so, just enough time to soften the sprouts and develop some crazy good flavor.
When you’re ready to eat, cut the salmon into pieces and serve the relish on the side. Add a healthy handful of pecorino to the salad and toss to incorporate.
The simple flavor of the salmon plus the brightness of the relish plus the crunchy, vinegary, salty/cheesy flavor of the salad will delight your palate in the most spring-like way. Your first step towards warmer temperatures and fresh flowers and a feeling that all is new again. That sounds mighty nice.