As Mother Nature nudges spring along, it’s time to dream of the fresh, light meals that go hand in hand with this time of year.
How about a bright, rich pink piece of salmon perched atop a bed of polenta, piled with a mound of roasted cherry tomatoes, collapsed into their own sweetness? Well, all right then, we’re on the same page.
When I want my filets of fish to look perfect, I like to start them in a hot pan and then transfer them to the oven to finish cooking, rather than flipping them in the pan. That way, they stay intact and beautiful. If you decide to use salmon with the skin on, starting them skin down in a hot pan also ensures that delicious crispiness.
You could add any number of things to the topping here: chopped olives, different herbs, capers.
A small bunch of daffodils on the table wouldn’t hurt either.
SALMON WITH POLENTA AND WARM TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup cornmeal or polenta
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, chopped
1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
4 (6 to 8-ounce) salmon filets, with skin if desired
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 450 F. In a heavy Dutch oven or large (4-quart) saucepan, bring the broth and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat, sprinkle in the polenta, whisking all the while, and keep adjusting the heat so the mixture stays at a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer and whisk semi-frequently until the mixture has thickened and become creamy, about 20 minutes.
While the polenta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and oregano and saute for another 4 minutes or so, until the tomatoes have collapsed slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl, stir in the vinegar, and tent with foil to keep warm.
Return the pan to medium high heat and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place the salmon skin side down (if applicable) in the hot pan and sear for 4 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the fish for about 5 minutes, until cooked to your liking.
Meanwhile, when the polenta has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan and the butter. Taste, and add pepper and additional salt if needed. Divide the polenta among 4 plates. Use a metal spatula to transfer the salmon filets on top of the polenta, and spoon some of the tomato vinaigrette over it. Serve hot.