In bumbling around for something to do with the cauliflower leftover in my fridge, I came across a fish recipe that really caught my eye. This solved two problems for me as I hadn’t a clue what I intended to do with the beautiful wild salmon filets waiting for me as well. So by total chance, today’s dish: a Pan-Seared Filet of Salmon atop a Fennel Cauliflower Puree, served with a Sweet Mediterranean Relish (say that three times fast).
This dish worked really well. The salmon was not the sad-colored, farm-rasied stuff, and the taste really reflected that. The cauliflower puree was a tasty side dish (also a great way for me to use up some fennel fronds I had leftover)–creamy, slightly sweet and anisey, and just full of that comforting caulifloweriness. The only change I would make next time: prepare more relish!
As simple as the relish seemed (I regarded it as practically a garnish), it stole the show and took the entire dish somewhere great. For how little effort is required, you can’t go wrong having more of it–toasted pine nuts, briefly sautéed capers, Port-soaked golden raisins, good quality olive oil–just lots of good things that make your mouth happy. I chose to decorate the plate with a bit of reduced balsamic and some lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil that my mother-in-law bought back from a trip to Italy. All together, this was an elegant meal that came together quickly and beautifully.
- ~1 lb salmon
- 1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- Ruby or tawny Port
- 1 Tbsp capers (cooked briefly)
- 2 Tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil
- lemon zest
- Cauliflower puree
- bit of olive oil
- 1 shallot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- small handful of fennel fronds
- chicken stock (enough to cover the cauliflower, for me, roughly ~12 oz)
- ~1/2 cup heavy cream
- small amount of lemon juice
- knob of butter
- high quality extra virgin olive oil
- high quality balsamic vinegar
Begin with the relish simply because some of it needs time to sit. Spread the raisins out in roughly a single layer in a saucepan and add just enough port to almost, but not quite cover the raisins. Warm this up briefly and remove from heat, leaving it to sit and plump up the raisins for 20-30 minutes.
In a separate dry pan, toast the pinenuts briefly (2-5 minutes, just don’t let them burn). Put this in a small bowl. Then, in the same hot dry pan, briefly (1-2 minutes) cook the capers, rolling them around to prevent sticking/burning, and then add these into the bowl as well. Add the raisins to the bowl once they’re done, as well as the lemon zest, olive oil, and season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Toss this well and set it aside while you do everything else–the relish is done and now it just needs a little time for the flavors to mingle with each other a bit.
So now, on to the cauliflower puree. Get some water boiling and blanch the cauliflower florets until tender, figure somewhere around 5 minutes. Then, reserve some of the blanched florets for garnish (whether its two pieces or half of them) and shock those in some cold water briefly to stop them from cooking any further.
Now, in a pan with a bit of olive oil, sauté some minced shallot for about 5 minutes and then add the minced garlic for a minute. Pour in the stock and throw in the fennel fronds (don’t worry about chopping them up). Heat this up to a moderate simmer and let it go for about 5 minutes, after which, you should strain off the stock and transfer all of the solids to a blender/food processor.
Also in the food processor, add in the cream and puree until smooth. Now to put a little extra sheen on this puree, squeeze in a bit of lemon juice, mix it in well, and then, drop in a knob of cold butter. Whisk the mixture until you can no longer see the butter (as it slowly melts down and becomes emulsified in the puree–this is why we needed the lemon juice!).
Set this aside now, as the puree is done.
And now, finally, the salmon. With some needle-nose pliers, get out all 10,000 of those annoying pin bones. I chose to prepare my salmon with the skin on, so if you do the same, just ensure that the fish is free of scales. If the skin isn’t your cup of tea (try it at least once, ok?), now is a good time to remove it. Portion the fish appropriately and season the filets with salt and pepper.
In a hot pan with a very good sized knob of butter melted down, cook the salmon, starting skin-side down so you can crisp it up nicely. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side.
Also, take this opportunity to sauté and lightly brown any of your garnish cauliflower pieces. Since I didn’t use very many, I did it in the same pan as the salmon, but off to the side as I had enough cleaning to do to not merit dirtying yet another pan. 😉
While this was cooking, I also reduced a bit of balsamic syrup in a pan over medium heat until it was sweet and syruppy.
Finally, all of the elements are done, so on to plating. Spread a circular mound of cauliflower puree on the plate and place the salmon over it (crispy skin-side up if you left the skin on). Spread a line of the relish across everything, and finally, decorate the plate with olive oil and balsamic syrup in some way that works for you.