Monday, February 7, 2011

What's Cookin?: Salmon with French Lentilles du Puy

This recipe is a French recipe by Ina Garten. I'm really stepping outside of my box because in one recipe, I've managed to use 2 ingredients that I've never cooked with before.

First, French green lentils (lentilles du Puy). Have you heard of these before? Frankly, I didn't know they existed! Sure I've had regular lentils. I even know they come in different colors. However, these little guys can be found in specialty stores. I got mine at New Seasons. They're a bit spendy. However, they're worth the occasional splurge! I think they were around $3.99 per pound in the bulk food section.

Lentils are a great food. They are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. They cook fairly quickly. The French green lentils are speckled and are a darker green color. These take a little longer to cook, but are such a treat. Unlike regular lentils, the French version holds it's shape very well when cooked. They're firm but not crunchy and definitely not mushy like other lentils.

The second ingredient that I've never cooked with are leeks. I've seen them and turned my nose at them because they're in the onion family. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an onion hater. Did you see that I'm attempting to grow these suckers from seed this year? I just don't care for the sharp, raw onion, I'm going to bite you back taste. I'll eat them cooked as long as they don't bite. Anyways, I've heard leeks are sweeter and milder. I've had it a few times before and enjoyed it. However, I don't know how to prepare them. Ironic too, because I sowed some leek seeds this weekend. I'm just fully of oxymorons.
Leeks look like larger and thicker green onions. They smell like them too. See below how to prepare them (because sadly, I had to look it up). Hopefully leeks and I will become good friends this growing season!

Getting back to my French lentil recipe. OMG! This is a fantastic dish. I wasn't sure about the tomato paste in this recipe. Tomato paste? Really? And I'll have to admit that adding the red wine vinegar at the end made me hesitate. It just sounded a bit weird. But trust me, both ingredients makes the dish! I will definitely be making this again! I was going to post this for Meatless Monday (the lentil recipe), however, it uses chicken broth. If you wanted to make it vegetarian you could easily use vegetable stock. Next time I'll chop the carrots into smaller pieces so they cook quickly too.

Salmon with French Lentilles du Puy
adapted from: Ina Gartner, Barefoot in Paris

1/2 lb. French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
1/4 c. good olive oil, plus extra for cooking salmon
1 small yellow onion (about 2 cups), chopped
2 large leeks (about 2 cups), white and light green parts only, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large stalks celery (about 1 1/2 c.), chopped
3 large carrots (about 1 1/2 c.), chopped
1 1/2 c. good quality chicken stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 (8 oz) center cut wild salmon fillets, skin removed

1) Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak for about 15 minutes, then drain.
2) While lentils are soaking, prepare your vegetables. To prepare leeks, cut off the top 1/2 or so (dark leaves) and trim off the bottom roots. If you have some outside leaves that are hard, trim them off and keep the tender bottoms. You only want to use the white or light green (tender) stems.

Cut the remaining leek stem in 1/2 length wise then chop as you would green onions.
Place your chopped leeks into a bowl of cold water. Leeks are grown in dirt and are sometimes sandy. Swish the leeks around so that the dirt and sand settles on the bottom of the bowl of water.
Scoop up leeks and transfer to a colander. Don't pour the bowl of water into the colander or you'll just pour the dirt/sand onto your leeks again. Drain well. If you need to, dab leeks with paper towels so they are dry before you saute them.
3) Heat the olive oil in a saute pan (with lid). Add the onions and leeks, thyme, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4) Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock & tomato paste. Cover pan and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Stir occasionally.
5) Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper as needed to taste. Remove from heat.
6) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F for the salmon.

7) To cook the salmon, heat a dry oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the top liberally with salt and pepper. When the pan is really hot, place the salmon fillets (top side) face down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very brown. Turn the fillets over and place the pan in the oven for 5-7 minutes then remove from the oven.

8) Spoon a mound of lentils on each plate and place a salmon fillet on top. Serve hot.


meemsnyc said...

Oooh, I love Salmon and leeks. Leeks to me are such a mild onion that I adore them. I'm growing them for the first time also! PS, Ina Garten is the best.

~TastyTravels~ said...

You should definitely try this recipe out then Mimi! I could have had the lentils as a meal, they were so good. But who can say no to a nice piece of salmon?

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

I love salmon so much but it is an expensive fish here in OZ. I eat a lot of salmon when I was living in Japan because it was cheap to buy there especially when salmon was in season. The first time I ever taste leek was my homegrown last year. I always saw them in the market but don't know what to do with them and wonder if it will taste really like onion. But homegrown leek taste very sweet and it is so easy to grow them. Good luck at growing them this year!

Rowena said...

Oddly enough I've tried a lot of lentils but not the french ones yet. Their speckled shell looks so cute!

p3chandan said...

It looks yummy, love the salmon and the veggies too. Im wondering can the red wine vinegar be substituted with apple cider vinegar? Will it change the taste completely?

~TastyTravels~ said...

Malay-kadazan girl-I didn't realize salmon was so expensive there. I may actually like leeks!

Rowena-try these lentils if you get a chance. they hold up their shape well and don't turn mushy.

p3chandan-I'm not sure about the apple cider vinegar. It may give it a different taste but it may taste just as good.

genkitummy said...

That looks like a good healthy recipe! It looks like a gourmet dish. I'll have to try to make it some time.

~TastyTravels~ said...

Thanks genkitummy! It really isn't difficult to make. You should try it!

Just as a side note, I found French lentils in the bulk bin at Whole Foods for $1.99/lb. I scooped some up for next time!!