Orange Salmon with Black Lentils and Zucchini
As the New Year approaches, we express our wishes for many good things to happen in 2023. One of the wishes I’m sure is on the list of millions of people around the planet is to become wealthy, or at least improve their household’s cashflow.
Well, in Italy we have one infallible method to obtain this desired result: eating lots (and I mean lots) of lentils on New Year’s night (and through the whole New Year’s Day). Lentils are symbolizing small coins, and the tradition says that the more lentils you eat the richer you will become. So, people start the year – and I mean literally at midnight – by eating lenticchie and cotechino, lentils with a kind of boiled pork meatloaf that is very flavorful, but also on the fatty side.
As habits are changing, I suggest substituting the cotechino with this elegant and more healthy salmon recipe, that you can offer on January 1st as your financial well-wishing dish (and why not, also health wise speaking, given the perfect balance of this preparation) for the year to come.
Black lentils, also called Beluga for their stunning similarity to caviar, are a variety of this very large legume family. They are cultivated in Southern Italy, Apulia and Sicily, since centuries. Very nutritious in terms of carbs and proteins, rich in fiber, lentils are generally inexpensive, have a distinguished taste and texture, are versatile, easy and moreover fast to cook, contrary to other legumes. Lentils don’t need soaking and are ready in 20 minutes.
The benefits of eating fish at least a couple of times a week have become public knowledge. The choice between wild caught and farmed fish is still very debated. Generally speaking, and for everyday consumption, I opt for high quality, sustainably farmed fish. The salmon I used for this recipe is Faroe Islands Salmon, that offers great taste and quality under a strict legislation to ensure fish welfare, veterinary control and zero use of antibiotics, paired with respect for the environment.
For 2 Servings
Approximately ½ to ¾ of a cup dry black lentil
1½ to 2 cups of water
2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh bay leaf
2 portions of salmon, 6 oz each approx.
2-3 green onions, rinsed and sliced thin
Fresh dill sprigs
1 large orange
½ cup dry white wine
2 Italian variety Zucchini
salt and pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Turn on the oven at 375 F.
2. Cut 2 slice of the orange and keep apart. Grate one teaspoon of orange zest and set aside. Squeeze the juice of the remaining orange.
3. Put the salmon to marinate in the orange juice upside down, with the sliced green onion, a pinch of salt and pepper, cut dill
4. Clean and rinse black lentils, put in a pot with approximately double their volume of cold water, a pinch of salt, garlic, laurel leaf. Cover. Count 18 minutes from the moment the water starts to boil. Lentils need to have a bite and keep their shape, do not overcook. They will keep softening after you turn off the flame if you leave them in the same pot, so keep that in mind if you think that they are still a bit too al dente.
5. With the help of a mandolin, slice the rinsed zucchini. Season with EV Olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment paper covered baking sheet in one layer. Cook for 20 minutes, until zucchini look dry and thin. Set aside.
6. Heat a non-stick pan, drizzle some EVOO on the bottom. Drain the orange juice and pour it in the pot, with the onions and dill. Let it bubble for a minute or two, until it starts caramelizing.
7. Put the salmon in the pan, upside down. Let it there until the juices are clearly caramelizing and the salmon becomes almost burnt. Resist the urge of touching it. At the most, gently slide it to a hotter spot on the pan after a couple of minutes. Flip it over, lower the flame, cover for a couple of minutes until cooked inside.
8. Remove the salmon, deglaze the sauce with white wine, let it evaporate. Off the flame. Put the salmon back, cover and keep warm.
9. Cut the orange slices in two halfmoons, let them brown quickly in a small pan with a few drops of EVOO.
ASSEMBLE THE PLATES
10. drain the lentils (if needed – and keep the extra liquid in case you have leftovers) and put a large generous spoon of them in the center of the plate.
11. Put a handful of zucchini slices on the plate.
12. With the help of a spatula, move the salmon on top of the lentils.
13. Pour the salmon sauce on top.
14. Use the orange slices to decorate and give some extra color to the plate.
A Few Notes:
- You can prepare this dish in advance. Just make sure the salmon is undercooked – basically remove it after a few seconds of flipping it. Transfer to an ovenproof greased dish, pour the sauce over the salmon, and refrigerate it. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before finishing the cooking. Cook 12 minutes in a preheated 350F oven.
- You can swap zucchini for any other vegetables.
- You can use any other kind of lentils, but the black ones offer a visually better option; also, be careful as other varieties become mushy during the cooking process and are not ideal for this preparation. French green lentils “lentils du Puy” are the best substitution.
- Leftover lentils? Not a problem! Use them in a soup (with the reserved cooking liquid), or in a salad.
- I use a sponge to wash the zucchini. Often, they have some leftover sand style debris sticking to the surface, very unpleasant to eat.
- Lentils: even if the package says that they are clean, double check once more: sometime I find little stones, that may disintegrate in hot water but maybe not.
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.