The salmon: Shop for salmon with the same rules as any fish: Look for firm and unbroken flesh, clear eyes and a briny, fresh scent. Wild salmon is always better. Although it costs more, the flavor is worth it. As with any meat, movement equals flavor. Wild salmon, which is given a chance to swim, is more flavorful than farmed salmon, which is kept in pens.
The side: Kale is notoriously a tougher green, but it offers a lot of flavor that regular greens just don’t have. I like using it on salads because it gives the dressing a nice platform to shine. Caesar dressing is perfect for kale because it’s a rich, full-bodied dressing that can match the hardier green. Mix it with cheese, toasted breadcrumbs and a hint of lemon juice and it is a perfect blend of complementary flavors.
The skill: Blackening is a technique in which food, traditionally fish, is dipped in butter and sprinkled with herbs and spices. All chefs have their own spin on the recipe, but they usually include thyme, oregano, chili pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. After this step, the food is cooked in a heavy cast-iron pan to get a nice brown-black crust. This is an old technique most often associated with Cajun cooking, which a lot of people have adapted to fit their own style.
I experimented with a lot of different spices for this recipe. My spice mix included what I consider to be the core spices, with additional ones that complement them. I also use olive oil instead of butter, as I find that olive oil works very nicely with salmon and the health benefits are distinct. I grill the fish rather than fry it in a cast-iron pan to give it an added depth of flavor.
The serving: I’m a huge fan of grilled fish and salads when the weather is warm, as you can eat this right off the grill with friends. Serve with some chilled white wine and you’ve got yourself a great late spring or summer meal!
Grilled Blackened Salmon
- 6 salmon fillets (7 ounces, skin on, pin bones removed)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup blackened seasoning (recipe below)
- Preheat the grill or grill pan to medium high.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the blackened seasoning and the olive oil until completely incorporated.
- Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet tray or plate. Season with salt and pepper.
- Brush the salmon liberally with the blackened seasoning.
- Place the salmon on the grill skin side down. Cook for about 5 minutes (lower the heat if the grill flares up).
- Using a spatula, flip the salmon and cook for another 4 minutes.
- Remove the salmon and allow to rest before serving.
- 3 tablespoons Spanish paprika
- 3 tablespoons onion powder
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- In an airtight container, mix all the ingredients together until completely mixed.
Kale Caesar with House-Made Dressing and Crispy Chickpeas
- 3 bunches kale, ribs removed and sliced thin
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup toasted panko breadcrumbs
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup Caesar dressing (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup crispy chickpeas (recipe below)
- In a large mixing bowl, add the kale.
- Dress with the Caesar dressing, using your hands to gently massage the dressing into the kale.
- Add the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.
- Add the chickpeas and adjust seasoning. Gently mix and plate.
Caesar Salad Dressing
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.
- Add the mayonnaise, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper, and whisk until well combined.
- Taste and adjust to your liking. Set aside.
- 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Preheat to 350 F.
- Put the chickpeas on a clean kitchen towel or several paper towels and dry thoroughly.
- In a medium bowl, toss the chickpeas with olive oil to coat.
- Sprinkle with the salt and toss again.
- Transfer in an even layer to the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake, shaking the pan halfway through the baking time, until the chickpeas are crunchy, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
- Let cool at least 1 hour; the chickpeas will become crunchier as they cool.
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