Diane Morgan knows salmon. “Salmon: Everything You Need to Know + 45 Recipes” is her second book on the subject, and when you’re through with it, you too will be an expert on everything from its life cycle to how to choose it to how to cook it.
When it comes to superfoods, salmon often tops the list: rich in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D and selenium, salmon is one of the top choices if you’re trying to add fish to your diet. But I’ll admit I’m a bit of a skeptic when it came to testing so many recipes for salmon in this book — after all, salmon has such a distinctive flavor. Wouldn’t it feel like eating the same thing over and over again, no matter how it was prepared?
My doubts were unfounded. Not only are the recipes in this beautiful book each unique, they also each offer keys to preparing salmon so that its many attributes are highlighted, particularly its rich flavor and unctuous texture.
Recipes range from simple to complex. On the easier end of the scale is the crispy pan-seared salmon with summertime succotash, which is a quick and easy dish for a weeknight. Here is where Morgan’s expertise truly shines: not only do the vegetables become perfectly cooked in under five minute (I was pleasantly surprised), but the technique for cooking the salmon is one I’ll carry over to other dishes. With the salmon skin dredged in flour, the salmon fillets are pan-seared to perfection: crisp and caramelized on the outside, and tender and just-barely cooked through on the inside. The salmon was moist, tender, and flavorful, and it paired perfectly with the succotash, for which Morgan offers several different variations depending on what vegetables are in season.
The salmon Caesar salad was included in the book as a recipe for using up leftovers: a fairly classic Caesar topped with a piece of leftover grilled salmon. Full disclosure: I cooked up the salmon the same day, as I didn’t have any leftovers, but even with the preparation of the salmon, this recipe is easily made in under 30 minutes. The dressing had a bit too much pungent olive oil taste for me — in the future, I’ll cut it with a bit of grapeseed oil — but the traditional Caesar dressing, complete with a raw egg and anchovy, was easy to make and very flavorful.
One pleasant surprise in this book was the potted salmon recipe. Recipes for pâtés and terrines often seem like too much effort to attempt at home, but this recipe was easy to prepare and so deliciously worth the effort. The salmon fillets are slow-poached with shallots and butter and then processed with smoked salmon and lemon juice, both of which cut the richness of the butter and the fish. This is my new favorite appetizer for dinner parties, served simply with fresh bread, or as canapés topped with a few salmon roe eggs for something a bit more special.
The runaway winner in my household was the salmon bibimbap, a Korean-inspired dish of vegetables, salmon, and a fried egg served on a bed of rice. Often, bibimbap recipes seem a bit persnickety, as each vegetable needs to be prepared separately. While Morgan’s recipe also uses this technique, there are just enough vegetables — bean sprouts, spinach, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms — to have optimal variety without dirtying 15 pans. Morgan also offers the ideal order in which to prepare the vegetables to minimize dirty dishes. The flavor that comes about when each vegetable is prepared and seasoned to perfection is sure to get this dish onto my weekly dinner rotation.
The takeaway from this book: don’t be afraid of what seems like a unitasker in the kitchen. This book will help you introduce healthy salmon into your diet in a myriad of delicious ways. The proof: I ate salmon four nights in a row, and I hardly noticed.
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Salmon image via Shutterstock