I love to travel particularly when said travel provides ample opportunities to wander the neighborhoods of an unfamiliar city and poke my nose into odd corners in search of hidden gems. The past four days in Chicago offered many chances for me and my Vans to cover some significant ground (hello, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Lakeview, Old Town, etc.), but also included deep dish pizza, ice cream, and stuffed pretzels. Oh dear. Even after striding along miles of sidewalk I’m still feeling a little uh, ‘fluffy’ shall we say and in need of a solid dose of salad.
When I’m thinking about dinner, even when I know its going to be greens based, I’m still trying to check a few boxes so that we still have a meal that satisfying and tasty - protein, a variety of textures and balanced flavors. This recipe does all of that and manages to be really simple too, which is always a good thing, but particularly when you’re airport-weary.
It starts with my favorite way to cook salmon: brushed with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan-fried. I first tried this method last winter when I made Ina Garten’s Salmon with Lentils (please forgive the beginner photography from that early post) and the results were so good that it has become my fail-safe technique when I want perfectly cooked fish with great crispy edges.
Salmon is relatively rich, so when I’m trying to keep the dish light, I like to pair it with an acidic flavor and thanks to the ever-reliable Flavor Bible my craving for pink grapefruit was deemed a solid choice and I decided to carry it through to the vinaigrette too.
Arugula is my favorite salad green as evidenced by it’s many appearances here – but in this case I didn’t want too much bitter sharpness competing with the citrus, so I switched to baby spinach. Now for the crunch factor. Even with a bed of greens as a major component I still like to add a handful of toasted nuts to salads – I’ve made this recipe before with slivered almonds, but wanted to mix-it up a little and try pistachios this time. Edgy, I know.
Perhaps this is obvious, but shelling pistachios is not terribly fun unless you A. have a lot of time on your hands B. some sort of fancy contraption that does it for you or C. really strong fingers. If the answer you’ve selected is D. none of the above, I’d strongly recommend buying them pre-shelled or just going with a different nut altogether.
Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad (serves 4)
4 (8 oz.) salmon filets, skin off
3 grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
4 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tablespoons pistachios, shelled and lightly toasted
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a small, dry sauté pan toast the pistachios for a 3-5 minutes over low heat until lightly golden. Remove the pistachios from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Coarsely chop, if desired.
With a paring knife, peel the grapefruit removing the zest and pith. Holding the peeled grapefruit over a small bowl to collect any juice, remove the sections by sliding the edge of the knife between the connecting membrane. Set the removed segments aside. Once you have removed all the sections squeeze the grapefruit membrane into the bowl to extract any left over juice.
Next, heat a medium, dry oven-proof sauté pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Brush both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops generously with kosher salt and black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each per piece of salmon). When the sauté pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. They should come away from the pan easily; if they stick give it a few seconds longer. Turn the fillets to the unseasoned side and immediately place the entire sauté pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare.
Meanwhile, to make the vinaigrette, measure out 1/2 cup of the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Whisk it together with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss with washed and dried mixed greens.
Arrange the dressed greens on a platter and top with the reserved grapefruit segments, toasted pistachios and salmon filets.
Small Kitchen Friendly:
Yes, absolutely. I used a small sauté pan, a large sauté pan (although you could get away with just the large one if you didn’t mind your pistachios looking a little lonely when they toast), a medium cutting board, and two small bowls. I also used a short serrated knife, a small paring knife, measuring cups and measuring spoons, along with a wire whisk and a metal spatula. Don’t forget the potholders – that salmon pan will be HOT.
We both really like this salad - the crispiness of the salmon, the mellow greenness of the spinach with the brightness of the grapefruit and the earthiness of the pistachios - compliments and balance each other nicely. (PS: 90% of those adjectives are made-up.) And, since a solid part of the prep can be done ahead - the salmon needs less than 10 minutes of cook time - this meal comes together pretty quickly. I’d make this for a small dinner party, or on occasions like today when something healthy and clean is in order.