Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Easy: Lemon-Dill Roasted Salmon

A young friend who also blogs called me from the supermarket the other day to ask how to fix salmon. He had a cooking date that evening (he led me to believe) and wanted to prepare salmon to go with lemon-infused rice he was making as a variant of my most recently posted recipe (the pilaf). The obvious, to me, seemed the simple yet elegant Mediterranean-style roasted lemon-dill salmon I have been teaching at Evening at Emory and which we also serve at Donderos’ Kitchen, my family’s delicatessen in Athens.

I learned this way of fixing salmon from a Greek Cypriot friend whose mother prepared her fish (though not salmon in those days) this way. Pani, as he was called, was one of the founders of Decatur’s Café Istanbul, along with another friend of mine, a Turkish guy named Kazim. They were at the time both married to women I worked with. The idea of a Greek and a Turk starting a joint venture seemed, well, unlikely. They did part company after a while, but it was over very different views on how to run a restaurant rather than politics or religion. But the establishment they founded has gone on to considerable popularity, though under subsequent – and primarily Turkish – ownership.

Salmon is not traditional in the Mediterranean, but is increasingly popular there as local fish have become more expensive and difficult to find. Lemon and dill are both used extensively in eastern Mediterranean cooking, including with fish as a natural partner. But lemon and dill are also used with fish in Scandinavia, where salmon is common.

A crisp Sauvignon Blanc (especially one from New Zealand) or a not-too-heavy chardonnay go well with this. Oh yes, and a lemon rice pilaf will be in the spirit of the eastern Mediterranean. (See my pilaf recipe, on the previous blog posting -- January 5th -- and do only the rice part, eliminating the added fried onions fruits and nuts, and simply add to the rice cooking water 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 4 whole cloves, and a bay leaf, broken in half. Do not, unlike my friend, open the rice cooking pan during the steaming or the 10 minute resting period.) The salmon recipe serves six generously.

Lemon-Dill Salmon Paniotis

2 pounds salmon filet in one piece*, as fresh as possible, and preferably without skin
1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper,
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill (a weak substitute is 1-1/2 tablespoons dry dill weed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lemons
Extra lemon and sprigs of dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 525 degrees (very hot), and temporarily turn off the smoke alarm!

Rinse the salmon and dry it with a paper towel. Liberally sprinkle sea salt and pepper on both sides and dust both sides generously with dill. Cut the lemons in half crosswise. Slice a very thin slice off each of the halves and reserve the slices.

On a large shallow-edged glass or metal pan, such as a cookie sheet with sides, spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over an area of the size of the fish, then squeeze two of the lemon halves over this area. Place the seasoned fish on the prepared pan. Drench the surface of the fish with the juice squeezed from the remaining lemon halves. Lay the slices of lemon up the middle of the fish, placed so that when the fish is cut into six pieces, each will have a lemon slice. Drizzle the whole surface with the remaining olive oil and lightly dust a few bits of dill on top of the lemon slices. Let the fish season for 10 to 20 minutes.

When oven is very hot, place the pan on the shelf highest in the oven. Roast the salmon for 11-12 minutes or just until the surface and edges of the fish are beginning to turn crispy and when a knife inserted into the thickest part of the fish and twisted slightly shows a pale opaque pink color. Do not overcook.

Serve hot, accompanied by lemon wedges and sprigs of dill. Alternately, this can be cooked ahead and served cold as a buffet dish.

The fish can be cut into six serving-sized pieces before seasoning and roasting rather than treated as an entire piece.


Blogger lidanzuiai said...

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10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never liked Salmon before until I cooked it your way!

11:29 AM  
Blogger Tim Dondero said...

Bets: Glad you like it. Over 60 years of good eating lost, but the next 60 you'll eat salmon. T

8:15 AM  

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