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Ask a Foodie: What to Do With Salmon?

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Salmon can be prepared in many wonderful ways.

Q. What’s your favorite way to cook salmon?

— Janet U.

A. Salmon can be enjoyed in many different ways, from smoked to cooked on a cedar plank. I generally search out wild-caught salmon when I go to cook it, because the flavor is stronger and brighter than the farm-raised. If that’s too fishy for you, then seek out the farm-raised.

I once tried a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s that had you wrap salmon in slices of prosciutto, before popping them in the oven. Then you topped the fish with lentils before serving. I’ve done several variations on that since, because I’m one of those who rarely makes a recipe twice. It’s the thrill of finding or tasting something new that usually interests me.

That said, here’s the next salmon recipe I’ll be trying. It’s from Rick Bayless’ “Everyday Mexican” (W.W. Norton & Co., $29.95), and it sounds perfect for a summer picnic. The salsa can be used in a variety of dishes or by itself.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatillos and Salmon

Tomatillo Salsa:
4 medium (about 8 ounces) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
Hot green chiles, to taste, stemmed and roughly chopped (Bayless likes 2 serranos or 1 jalapeño)
About 1/2 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

12 ounces pasta
2 cups coarsely shredded salmon or cooked chicken (see note)
1 generous cup grated queso añejo or Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Wedges of lime, for garnish

To make the salsa: Set a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (if you don’t have a non-stick skillet, lay in a piece of foil). Lay in the tomatillos, cut side down, and garlic. When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. (The tomatillos should be completely soft.)

Scrape the tomatillos and garlic into a blender or food processor. Let cool 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chiles, cilantro and 1/4 cup water. Blend to a coarse purée. Thin with a little additional water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spreadable consistency.

Scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Stir into the salsa. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Keep warm if using with pasta.

For the pasta dish: Put on a pot of water to boil, then make the salsa, without letting the ingredients cool. Boil pasta (fusilli or shells are good choices) in salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot, and add the salsa, the reserved cooking liquid and 2 cups coarsely shredded salmon or chicken. Sprinkle on a generous cup grated Mexican queso añejo or Parmesan, toss and serve with chopped cilantro, extra cheese and a few edges of lime for each hungry eater to add to his or her liking. Wonderful at room temperature for a picnic.

Note: Bayless likes to use pepper-coated hot-smoked salmon or rotisserie chicken that’s easy to flake.

Makes 2-3 main-course servings or 4-6 side dish servings.

Source: “Mexican Everyday” by Rick Bayless

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