Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Four-Spice Salmon with Refreshing Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

I would say that this dish came about pretty randomly.  As far as I am concerned, the two components were never meant to go together.  Sometimes our meals are planned from beginning to end - I know that I want to serve a main course and I come up with a side dish to compliment it (or vice versa).  This meal was two completely separate dishes that I threw together into one meal just because it was all we had in the fridge.  And the ingredients weren't so crazy that we couldn't combine them.  So we did.  And it worked out ok.  The flavors didn't exactly compliment each other, but they weren't completely at war with each other either.

Alex thought that the salmon was ok, but a little dry.  Spice rub seared onto the surface of fish always reminds me of blackening seasoning on catfish and redfish.  The spices dry out and get a little charred.  I thought that the flavors of the spice rub that went on top of the salmon were pretty nice.  Alex wanted more of the spice rub (or at least more powerful flavors from the spice rub).  I liked the flavors the way they were - subtle, but highly aromatic.  This wasn't my favorite salmon recipe, but I thought it was an interesting variation on our typical Salt and Pepper Salmon.  The watermelon salad was probably my favorite part of the meal.  I love watermelon salads and we have made several versions over the years.  But I have never combined watermelon with heirloom tomatoes.  I really liked the sweetness of the watermelon, the acidity of the tomatoes, the fresh mint flavor and the punch of saltiness from the feta.  The dish was just so summery and fresh and the flavors really work amazingly well together.  It was delicious.  Word to the wise - be careful when reducing the balsamic glaze, otherwise you end up with a really thick sticky mess that is less of a glaze and more of a molasses-like taffy substance.  Even with the balsamic candy/taffy instead of a glaze, I thought the salad was fabulous.  As a side note, in case you are confused by the pictures we used yellow watermelon and a red heirloom tomato.  Pretty, no?

Recipes after the jump!

Four-Spice Salmon
By Mark Bittman

2 8-ounce, salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
pinch ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoons peanut oil
Season fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine coriander, cloves, cumin and nutmeg. Season the tops of each fillet with the spice mixture.

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil when it shimmers, add the salmon to the pan, skin-side down. To get super crispy skin, cook the salmon, about 4-5 minutes.

Flip the salmon and cook until flesh side is nicely seared and the spice rub forms a nice crust, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from pan and serve.

Refreshing Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

For salad
1 small seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 heirloom tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tbsp mint, minced
1 tbsp evoo
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
For glaze
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Allow the mixture to reduce by half, remove from heat and cool.  (Don't over-reduce or you will end up with a hard, sticky mess once the mixture cools.  Alex called it "jolly ranchers.")

Place watermelon, tomatoes, mint, and oil in a bowl and gently toss together. Season with salt. Portion the salad onto plates and top each with a crumbling of feta and a drizzle of glaze. Serve.

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