Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food: Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter

"Oh, can you feel the love tonight?" Are you ready? Yes, I'm talking about February 14 - and it's rapidly approaching! Do you know what you're going to make to surprise that special someone? (I know, planning isn't all that romantic. But a wonderful dinner certainly qualifies as being such.)

If you happen to live in the North, then chances are Valentine's Day generally occurs on a cold, blustery, winter day (sigh). One where romance doesn't consist of enjoying a beautiful sunset on a beach but rather cozying up by a roaring fireplace (that is, if you're lucky to have one in the comfort of your own home) and avoiding going outdoors and shoveling snow at all costs. It also (hopefully) means treating your sweetie to a lovingly prepared, warm, homecooked meal that mixes comforting flavors and smells with a beautiful presentation. Accompanied, of course, by a delicious, delictable glass of wine. Maybe this one, perhaps (yes, yes - you CAN do red wine with fish).

The recipe below (which originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Gourmet) is what I suggest you make this year to woo your Valentine. I love the complimentary combination of flavors and the simplicity of its preparation. And the fact you can make the herb butter and caramelized onions the day prior, if you'd like, and cheat on the lentils by buying the pre-steamed variety in the refrigerated section at Trader Joe's, makes it a no-brainer for those in a time crunch. I think this is my favorite way to enjoy salmon lately. It's a perfectly paired combination of warm nutty lentils, sweet caramelized onions, crisp-crusted, meaty fish, and citrusy, tarragon-infused, dijon-mustard butter. Wow - that was rather long-winded statement for such a simple dish. Are you swooning yet? Or at least salivating? I must say, this recipe is also very French - oh là là - which, by default, makes it very romantic, oui?

I apologize that the photo I've posted doesn't do the recipe justice at all. Unfortunately all I had with me was my iPhone - so the colors look rather drab and dark, not like a wonderful Valentine's gift at all. But when you pair deep brown lentils with juicy pink salmon and bright green herbs, it IS a sight to be seen. So basic yet oh so lovely and wonderfully flavorful.

For dessert, you can never go wrong with this cake. Or you could make it easy and just pick up some special cupcakes or cookies from your local bakery. Either way, you're sure to impress the one you love. Bon appétit!

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter

Adapted from Gourmet


  • 5 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 T chopped chives
  • 1 T chopped tarragon
  • 2 t dijon mustard (this one is rather wonderful)
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1 package pre-steamed lentils (found in Trader Joe's refrigerated section)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 4 (6-oz) pieces of skinless salmon fillet
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil


  • Make the mustard-herb butter (can be prepared 1 day in advance): Stir together the first 5 ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate and soften slightly prior to serving.

  • Prepare the lentils: In a heavy skillet on medium-low heat, sauté onions in the 1 T of olive oil until translucent and slightly carmelized (~10 minutes). Drizzle with 1T of lemon juice, stir in lentils, and keep warm on low heat.

  • Cook the salmon: Pat salmon dry and sprinkle with 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t fresh ground pepper. Heat 1 T unsalted butter and 1 T olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Then sauté salmon, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 6-to-8 minutes total.

  • Plate: Serve the salmon over the lentils, topped with mustard-herb butter (and a sprinkle of left-over tarragon, if desired).

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