Monday, April 7, 2008


It's funny sometimes what you find when taking inventory of your pantry. Even more interesting is what you may find when taking inventory of your fridge ("I don't remember putting something green and fuzzy into this Tupperware container..."). This weekend I randomly decided that I would be making a nice simple salmon dish for Sunday dinner. I'd spent the entire weekend running errands of various kinds, including a very unpleasant trip to my personal hellhole, The Home Depot. Somewhere between trying to find someone who knew something about lighting (apparently this person doesn't exist), trying to install various gadgets and gizmo's in my bathroom (slightly more successful), and hand laundering my unmentionables, I found a moment of peace to think about my salmon dinner.

Clearly deserving of a no-fuss but still comforting meal, I got to thinking about how I might prepare the fish. Having overdosed on miso glazed, maple glazed, mustard glazed and honey glazed salmon in the last 10 years (seriously chefs, let's work on something new, K?) I decided that I would just let the lovely fish speak for itself, and just marinate it in a mix of mild Asian flavors. Not wanting to create a smoky, smelly situation in my apartment by grilling the salmon, I figured I'd quickly broil it (it only took 6 minutes). This meant that there wouldn't be much of a crispy crust, so whatever I paired the salmon with would need to have a bit of bite to it. That meant salmon and spinach was out, as was salmon and any kind of purée. At this point, I was settling on salmon and green lentils, a classic French combo, when I realized that there wasn't much in the way of originality there, even though I liked the textural contrast.

Stumped and exasperated, I swung open the doors to my pantry in the hopes that the answer would just spill out onto my cutting board. With no such luck and no answers at eye level, I pulled over my stepladder and took to climbing. Somewhere on the top shelf behind a box of popcorn and a bag of bonito flake, I finally found the answer: forbidden black rice. I'd bought a small package at Kalustyan's before moving to Hell's Kitchen and somehow during my unpacking, had lost sight of it. Black rice is an heirloom variety of rice and is incredibly good for you. It's super high in iron (great for anemic's like me) and also has a very high fiber content. The flavor is like a deeper, nuttier version of brown rice, and the texture is a bit more firm.

It was absolutely the perfect foil for the soft and luscious salmon, which was slightly sweet and had a hint of nutty sesame oil, echoing the flavor of the rice. It takes a bit longer to cook than white or brown rice, but really needs very little attention, and the flavor is worth the wait. Here's the final recipe for the dish, which turned out great:

Salmon with Forbidden Black Rice

1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil

Black Rice
1/2 cup black rice, rinsed under cold water until it runs clear
1 2/3 cups of water
1 tsp salt
3 scallions, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1/2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
olive oil

1. Combine all of the salmon ingredients in a shallow bowl and marinate salmon in mixture, skin side up. I marinated for 2 hours, but 10-20 minutes will do if you don't have time.

2. Preheat broiler. Bring water, rice and salt to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered 35-40 minutes or until rice is tender. Set aside, still covered for 10 minutes.

3. Place salmon on a greased baking sheet and broil until cooked, about 6 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook scallions, ginger and garlic until just starting to brown. Add rice and sauté until combined and warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, plate and serve topped with salmon. Enjoy!


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