It’s been a week of heavy eating for us. We’ve spent some time on a Midwestern tour, starting in Indianapolis for a wedding, passing through Chicago where I essentially said goodbye to my childhood home (and unfortunately said hello to some long forgotten, horrible creative and journal writing from my early teen years… shudder) and finishing in Cleveland, where we’ve drunk like the 25 year-olds we were when we lived here but with the ease of a 30-something’s budget. Seeing family and old friends has involved plenty of celebratory feasting– everything from deep dish Chicago pizza to a soft shell crab salad to a delicious, locally sourced steak tartare with duck fat fried frites.
I’ve loved every meal we had on this trip, but I admit I’ve been a bit lacking in the fresh vegetable/light food department. So as I blog about this dish, I can’t help but remember this dish fondly as it is looking particularly good to me right now, what with my body’s craving something light and refreshing.
This meal looks fancy but is fast and super easy to prepare. I just cooked a small portion of little ditalini shaped pasta (short cut little tubes, like the kind you find in pasta e fagioli or in minestrone) in some boxed chicken stock and a ton of carrots and shiitake mushrooms. While the pasta simmered to al dente, I pan roasted a fillet of salmon in some olive oil and butter. In large shallow bowls, I spooned a single ladleful of the broth and vegetables, nestled the salmon on top and served this with a dollop of prepared pesto, a handful of bright green, peppery watercress and some sliced radishes for texture. This was incredibly delicious– the nutty pesto melted on the warm salmon which tasted buttery from roasting in olive oil and butter. The broth also thinned out the pesto, making the whole thing taste like a delicious, super-light sauce. The carrots added sweetness while the mushrooms kept everything earthbound. We ate this in the middle of winter, but it’s so light, it almost feels to me like spring in a bowl.
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dried ditalini pasta or other small pasta shape, maybe even orzo
- 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- salt and pepper
- 1 bunch of watercress, trimmed and washed
- 2-4 tablespoons basil pesto
- 2 large radishes, thinly sliced into rounds
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the pasta, shallot, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook according to pasta package directions for al dente, in my case, about 9 minutes.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Dry off the salmon fillet with paper towels then season both sides with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side or until fish is opaque and tender.
Using a ladle, spoon stock, pasta, and vegetable mixture into the bottom of large, shallow bowls, no more than about 1/3 cup. Carefully nestle a piece of the salmon into the broth then place a spoonful of pesto on top of the salmon. Top with a handful of watercress and scatter some slices of radish before serving.