06 July 2009

Salmon + Feta/Caper/Tomato salad

I was already thinking about dinner and it was still hours away... Actually, I'd been thinking about this meal since I embarked on a recipe-organizing project a few weeks ago and stumbled across an old favorite.

(As an aside, take my mother's sage advice about 'organizing' recipes. Actually, for this, and numerous other, reasons - mothers have the best advice! Back to the recipes: If you ever decide it's time to re-categorize or re-file your stash of recipes, think again. My mother did this a few years ago, and swears she should have stuck to her old filing method because she's never been able to locate old standby recipes under the new system. I feel a similar pain whenever I take my favorite recipes out of the heap of paper that sits in my kitchen and try to file them in notebooks...otherwise known as the great black hole.)

The recipe, which came from my friend Allison way back in 2003, oozes with simplicity and big, boisterous flavors -- a perfect combo, in my book. It starts with a simple yet well seasoned slab of fish. Choose your favorite. We made salmon last night, but halibut would also go nicely. Season it up with dabs of butter and a heavy-hand of lemon pepper (my go-to ingredient of choice. I use it on everything!). Lay it on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 425 until cooked to your preference. Approx 8-10 mins. for every 1" of thickness of your fish.

The side "salad" is the part I'm really excited about. It was even better because it was made for me last night - Nate cooked!!! It starts with a tangy hunk of feta (not the crumbled kind), sliced into individual serving sizes (think the size of a large pink eraser - another of my faves!). Bread and saute that up and lay the melted gooey goodness atop the already-assembled mix of blanched green beans, thyme-seasoned sliced tomatoes, and baby greens. Drizzle with a lemon/pepper/olive oil/caper dressing and you're good to go.

Enjoy - perhaps with a glass of Pinot Noir (I recommend Castle Rock -- we had it at our wedding!) or Rose (This summer, I fell absolutely in love with this Sleight of Hand vintage; get your hands on a bottle if you still can)!

Full recipe:
Pan-Grilled Tomato and Feta Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing - serves 6
For the dressing:
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tsp capers, rinsed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Combine oil/juice in a jar and shake vigorously (or whisk it in a small bowl, as I'm prone to do). Stir in capers and parsley and set aside.

For the "salad":
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
1 4-oz hunk of Feta (not crumbled); you could also use Fontina here
3 large slicing tomatoes, cut into 3/4" thick slices
1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1 bunch arugula or 1 bag mixed greens
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
2 tsp olive oil

-First, clean and blanch your beans. (Boil a pot of water, perhaps with some salt added; drop in the green beans to cook until just tender but still a verdant green -- probably about 5 minutes. They should still have a bit of crispness to them when you taste a sample. Drain and rinse with cold water, or plunge in an ice bath, to stop the cooking.) Set aside.
-Cut up the feta into 4 slices; drain on paper towels.
-Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. Sprinkle tomato slices with thyme, salt, and pepper; place in skillet and cook until lightly browned on each side (about a minute per side).
-Arrange your greens on a plate. Place tomato slices on each plate along with green beans. Get creative with your design.
-Now comes the trickiest part -- coat the feta in bread crumbs, add oil to the skillet, and brown the cheese on both sides. It should be approx 2 mins per side. I say this is the tricky part because in my experience the cheese has never truly stayed intact as a slab... it usually turns into a gooey/crispy pile of browned cheese. I never worry about this because it tastes delicious - but be prepared. Perfection is probably not possible here. :)
-Add the cheese to your salad plates, perhaps alongside or atop the vegetables depending on your feeling for 'wilted greens.' Drizzle with dressing and serve.

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