When was a little girl, my dad would go salmon fishing on a regular basis. He truly loved to fish. While there were many times he came home empty handed, there were plenty occasions where I got to go outside and watch as he scaled and cleaned the fish he had caught. Our downstairs freezer was full to the brim with the bounty of his favorite pastime.
Because we had salmon for dinner at least two or three times a month, it was in no way a treat for me. My mom would usually prepare it the same way—with butter and brown sugar, and the predictable regularity of this entrée left me assuming that salmon was nothing special. I didn’t help that I always seemed to get a bone stuck in my throat!
When I met my husband, I found out that salmon was one of his most favorite foods. When I became interested in cooking I learned that Pacific Northwest salmon held an almost reverent spot in many chef’s hearts. I’ve come to realize that this ubiquitous fish from my past is truly an ingredient that has amazing potential to lift any dish to great heights.
I often cook with salmon these days and I like to try new things. I found this salad adapted from Sunset magazine to be surprisingly hearty and summery at the same time. While it’s definitely impressive and tasty enough to serve to guests, it’s relatively easy to put together. What really makes this dish stand out is the Pistachio Salsa Verde, which provides a nice counterpoint to the flavor of the fish!
Salmon and Grains Salad with Pistachio Salsa Verde
1 cup wild rice or wild rice blend
½ cup black quinoa or regular quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 cup grapeseed or canola oil, for frying
1½ pounds sockeye salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick, thawed if frozen, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 quart loosely packed small, tender watercress sprigs
¾ cup radish, sliced paper-thin
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
¾ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large
½ cup loosely packed fresh small, tender cilantro sprigs
¼ cup small, tender fresh dill sprigs
Pistachio Salsa Verde (see recipe below)
Prepare grains: Cook wild rice and quinoa separately according to package instructions, adding ½ teaspoon salt to each. Drain grains of any liquid, then pour out each onto separate rimmed baking sheets and let cool.
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Using a slotted spoon, add one-quarter of quinoa; cook until crisp (spoon out a few grains and taste them to test), about 2 minutes. Transfer quinoa to paper towels to drain and repeat to cook remaining quinoa.
Make salad: Preheat broiler with rack about 3-inches from heat. Set salmon on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub all over with oil, salt, and pepper. Broil until medium-rare (cut to test), turning once, 3 to 5 minutes total.
Set aside 5 to 10 minutes (salmon will continue to cook a little).
On a large platter, layer wild rice, half of quinoa, the watercress, radishes, onion, parsley, basil, cilantro, and dill. Gently toss greens and vegetables to loosely mix.
Break salmon into 4-inch pieces, discarding any skin, and add to platter. Sprinkle with remaining quinoa, taking care not to cover salmon. Spoon about ⅔ cup Pistachio Salsa Verde (see recipe below) over salad and serve the rest on the side.
Pistachio Salsa Verde
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
¼ cup chives, chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup pistachios, rough chopped
Into a mortar, put fennel seeds, coriander, cumin, and rosemary; grind with pestle. Add mixture to the bowl of a food processor and add chives, parsley, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and chile flakes. Pulse until well blended. Add pistachios and pulse until nuts are chopped. Add oil in a steady stream until incorporated
Make ahead: Keeps, chilled airtight, up to 3 days.