Salmon with Thai Curry Lentils

I am a total carbohydrate addict. When I think about what’s the simplest thing to which I could reduce my entire dietary intake and just sustain myself on that forever and ever, it’d probably be bread and butter. Which is why when it comes to side dishes, I can often be hard pressed to think of serving anything else other than some starch, whether it be potatoes or some kind of pasta.

But the foodie side of me feels guilty for not pushing my boundaries and so every now and then I get inspired to experiment with something totally new to me. In this case, I kept seeing restaurants and cooking shows that paired a soft pile of warm, stewed lentils to go along side a tasty piece of fish. The goal was to help lentils achieve that state where they retain their firm structure on the outside but become creamy in the center, thereby deceiving my carb craving mind into thinking these were mashed potatoes but being more exotic in flavor and packed with more nutritional value.

I lightly sautéed a bunch of colorful vegetables (carrots, celery, zucchini, and crimini mushrooms) until their colors brightened but they were still slightly undercooked. These were then simmered in a mix of chicken stock and coconut milk. When the lentils were tender, I mixed in yellow curry and a pinch of coriander before folding in some chopped fresh cilantro and mint for a hit of bright flavors. These lentils did not disappoint in spicy flavors or in texture. Each spoonful was like eating sunshine.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery, diced
  • 4 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh cilantro and mint, chopped
  • 1 lb fillet salmon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and shiny, about 6-7 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms and saute until colors deepen but vegetables are still crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the lentils and pour in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Bring this to a boil then reduce heat to medium low so that it gently simmers. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Mix in the curry powder and ground coriander then adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

While the lentils simmer, pat the salmon fillet dry with paper towels then season both sides with about 1/2 teaspoon of course salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. In a medium skillet, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat until the fats in the pan shimmer. Add the salmon, skin side down and cook, undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the fillet over, flesh side down and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Flip fillet again and baste the fish with the fats, for another minute or two then flip one last time, basting with the fats and cooking until fish flesh is opaque and flakey or until it reaches your desired degree of cooking.

Stir into the lentils about half of the chopped herbs reserving the rest for garnish. Plate the lentils and nestle a piece of the salmon on top, sprinkling each plate with remaining herbs.

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