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Pepper Crusted Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Vinaigrette

April 19, 2007

Pepper Crusted Salmon and Chickpeas

I still have a lot to learn about how to properly cook fish. The thing is, I like fish to be pretty well done, which I know is not the way it’s supposed to be eaten. I just feel squeamish about the mushy texture of some raw fish. Tuna fillets? It’s ok if they’re a bit pink in the middle. Salmon and other flaky fish? No mush, thanks.

These salmon fillets were even harder to cook properly, because they were very thin on one side and very thick on the other, which is actually pretty normal, but hey. What do I know about fish? I was so afraid of burning it (and I did end up with a very smoky kitchen) that, sadly, the inside of the salmon was a little too pink for my taste. However, that could have been just perfect for someone else.

Despite my undercooked fish issues, this was a really unique and tasty dinner that left me feeling all healthy and nourished. And, yes, it was easy, though it did result in more dishes than I usually care to clean, including the difficult food processor. The chickpea side was also excellent the next day, sans fish, just tossed with some spinach and tomatoes. (Tomatoes which, by the way, seem to be coming back in season, at least if you get them imported from somewhere warmer than here.)

Pepper Crusted Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Vinaigrette

This recipe was taken from Tyler Florence’s Tyler’s Ultimate cookbook, a cookbook which Mr. X wasted no time in poking fun at, but which in my opinion is full of some pretty good ideas. And there are some ladies I know of who have a bit of a thing for Mr. Florence, though I’m not sure that I get it. Maybe it’s just because I first saw him in those damned Applebee’s commercials, which put me off pretty immediately. Anyway, this salmon recipe did much to place him in higher esteem in my mind. If that means anything to anyone.

  • 1 lb. salmon fillet
  • 2 T. ground coriander
  • 1 T. ground black pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, with liquid
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • more salt and pepper
  • some spinach, and maybe fresh herbs like dill and mint, if you have them

Mix together the coriander and ground pepper, and spread it in an even layer on a plate. Dredge both sides of the salmon in the pepper mixture, so it’s nice and well coated, and then sprinkle a bit with salt and pepper.

Dump the can of chickpeas, with their liquid, into a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and a bit of salt and pepper, and mix it all up together. Put about half of the chickpea mixture into a food processor or blender, and blend it until it’s nice and creamy, then add it back with the rest of the chickpeas and stir it all together. I didn’t quite blend enough of the chickpeas, and then didn’t blend them long enough to get a creamy dressing, but it was still tasty.

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, and add the salmon, skin side down. Why skin side down first? I don’t know. Cook it for about four minutes, then flip and cook for about four minutes more, until it’s cooked mostly through. Don’t worry too much if it looks like it’s burning–the pepper layer will keep the salmon ok and it’s actually tastier if it’s browned and crusty.

Close up salmon

At this point, if you’re me, you’ll really, really wish you had an exhaust hood over your stove. It’s amazing how many times I wish for this. Before moving to Boston, I never once saw a stove without an exhaust hood. I thought they were, like, part of the stove or something. And damn it, they should be! It’s disgusting! Everything gets oily and smoky without them, and in the winter it’s way too cold to keep opening windows and airing out the smoke. Come on, people. Exhaust hoods.

Anyway, once the salmon is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan and let it rest for a minute or two on a cutting board. Dish some of the chickpea mixture into a bowl, and add a little spinach and maybe some chopped herbs. If you used a whole pound fillet, you’ll have enough for multiple people. I actually used only a 6 ounce fillet, which was enough for me, and I used the rest of the chickpeas the next day on my salad, and it was great.

Eventually, I’m sure I’ll figure out how to cook fish properly. I might even learn to apreciate it properly. But even improperly cooked, this was a very tasty dinner, which is saying something. And yet another dinner cooked in under 20 minutes. I’m not sure why Rachel Ray thinks it’s so impressive to cook dinner in 30 minutes. I could best her anyday of the week.

Except if I’m making mac and cheese. My mac and cheese takes me almost an hour and half. But it’s so worth it.

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