Posts Tagged ‘vinaigrette’

Seared Salmon with Beurre Blanc, Asparagus, and Couscous Salad

July 18, 2008

Salmon with Beurre Blanc, Asparagus, and Couscous Salad (taken with my cell phone, because I was hungry and didn't want to run upstairs for the digital camera)

H.K. and I were in the mood for salmon last night, which we usually have once a week, but we couldn’t agree on how to have it. H.K. wanted the Bobby Flay Glaze (as we refer to it), which is really delicious, but kind of heavy and sweet. I really have to be in the mood for it and I wasn’t, so I nixed that idea. I wanted a citrus reduction that I had made once before, but H.K. wasn’t a big fan, so he nixed that idea. We decided to just go to the grocery store and wing it, which I don’t usually do. I almost always have a list that I stick to (like a good little shopper), but last night I stood in the produce section until the grocery gods answered my prayer for a dinner idea.

We decided to have seared salmon with a beurre blanc, roasted asparagus with garlic, and a couscous salad. H.K. made the beurre blanc and I made the rest. I seared the salmon in a nonstick pan with a little olive oil. I tossed the asparagus with minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted it at 400° for about 8-10 minutes. The couscous salad I just kind of threw together without any particular recipe in mind.

Couscous is ridiculously simple to make, and I like to eat it in the summertime because it tastes good at room temperature. (I like asparagus in the summer for the same reason.) You bring some water to a boil (you can use broth too, if you’re into that), add an equal amount of couscous, give it a stir, then take it off the heat and leave it covered for five minutes. Presto! You’re done. To the couscous I added chopped grape tomatoes, avocado, green onions, and parsley, then tossed it all with a lemon vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette is one of those things that I think everyone should learn to make. It tastes significantly better than bottled dressing. Actually, that’s an understatement—there’s really no comparison between freshly made vinaigrette and vinaigrette in a bottle. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home, and that’s where I learned the basic recipe for vinaigrette. (I think the last time I bought a bottle of salad dressing people were worrying about the Y2K crisis.) You can find Bittman’s basic vinaigrette recipe at his New York Times blog.

For the couscous salad last night, I used lemon juice and a little rice vinegar as the acid. (Using lemon juice alone doesn’t taste acidy enough to me.) To that I added a minced shallot, a dollop of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Then I whisked in the olive oil. A ratio of 3:1 (olive oil:acid) is too oily for my taste, so I usually use about a 2:1 ratio.

Once you get the hang of the ratios (which of course you can adjust to your taste), you can bang out all kinds of different vinaigrettes that will taste far better and be much cheaper than bottled dressing. For Cobb salad, I use a combination of lemon juice and red wine vinegar and I add minced garlic and a few dashes of Worcestershire. For Asian salads, I use rice vinegar (to which I sometimes I add lime juice), soy sauce, a little sesame oil (it goes a long way), and some Sriracha. Depending on what’s in the salad I sometimes throw in a little mirin or honey for sweetness or, if I want a nutty dressing, some peanut butter or tahini.

As you can see, I feel very strongly about vinaigrette. I’d like to make it my mission in life to convince every home cook to learn this basic recipe and abandon bottled dressings forever. It tastes infinitely better, it’s cheaper, and you make just what you need for that meal, so you don’t end up with eight different bottles of dressing in the fridge for all of the different kinds of salads you eat.

Cross-posted at Raging Red.