The Chef’s Take: Ivy Stark’s Salmon a la Plancha

At Dos Caminos, Mexican food can be just as healthy as it is vibrant.

When dining out at Dos Caminos, the upbeat Mexican restaurant with outposts in New York, Atlantic City and Fort Lauderdale, chances are the table is graced with warm tortilla chips, chorizo fundido and asada tacos. The feast, however, need not be a gluttonous one. Consider executive chef and marathon runner Ivy Stark’s Salmon a la Plancha, one of the restaurant’s dishes that was featured as a lighter option in honor of National Nutrition Month in March but is now a permanent menu staple. The salmon is accompanied by lemon-herb quinoa and oven-roasted tomato-black olive salsa spiked with pickled jalapenos.

One of Stark’s favorite dishes is the classic charbroiled, marinated pork taco known as al pastor, so she used that very same marinade — rife with chiles, cumin and cinnamon — to amp up a seared salmon filet. “I wanted to do something on the lighter side but retain authentic Mexican flavors,” Stark explains. “Salmon is a rich fish that can stand up to the marinade.”

Protein- and omega 3-laden salmon, a go-to fish among health-conscious eaters, sometimes elicits yawns for its predictability. Stark, however, thinks it gets a bad rep “because it’s often prepared in boring ways. I would get tired of anything eaten the same way all the time.“ Her golden-brown rendition is one example of a more creative preparation. “To replace the tortillas I pair it with a grain salad and a healthy roasted tomato salsa,” she points out. “It's a nutrient-dense and satisfying dish.”

Salmon a la Plancha by Executive Chef Ivy Stark
Serves 1
1 (6-ounce) salmon fillet, skin-on
1 ounce pastor marinade
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces roasted tomato black olive salsa
2 ounces lemon herb quinoa
  1. Season salmon fillet with salt and pepper, and dip in pastor marinade to thoroughly coat.
  2. In 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until hot but not smoking. Add the fillet, skin-side up, and sear until undersides are well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn fillet over and sear until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  3. Meanwhile, place a pool of the black olive salsa in the center of the dinner plate and arrange the quinoa in the center of the salsa.
  4. Top with the salmon, skin-side up, and serve.
Pastor Marinade
3 ancho chiles
3 guajillo chiles
1 medium onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves

1/2 cup cider vinegar (red wine or white wine vinegar works well also)

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon thyme chopped
1 teaspoon oregano. preferably Mexican
2 cups water
  1. Remove stems and seeds from chiles, place them in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then let cool completely in the hot water.
  2. Remove chiles from liquid and place in a blender with remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
Black Olive Veracruzana
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

2 pounds plum tomatoes, stemmed, seeded, sliced and dried overnight in the oven

1 pound ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup roughly sliced pitted green olives
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
6 pickled jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon juice from the pickled jalapenos
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 cup tomato juice
Salt, to taste
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it is just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, 1 minute more. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes, chopped thyme, lemon zest and half of the olives, capers and chiles. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until some of the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the jalapeno juice, rice vinegar and tomato juice. Return to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Lemon-Herb Red Quinoa
4 cups red quinoa
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup very finely diced asparagus
1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups pine nuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme
  1. Place quinoa in large strainer. Rinse under cold running water until water is clear. Transfer quinoa to large saucepan; add the water and salt. Bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer quinoa to large bowl, add asparagus and let sit covered for 5 minutes; fluff with fork. Stir in cumin, oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.
  3.  Warm quinoa and add pine nuts, red onion, basil and thyme to taste.

Per serving: Calories 520; Fat 34 g (Saturated 5 g); Sodium 560 mg; Carbohydrate 18 g; Fiber 4 g; Protein 35 g

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.

Next Up

Fearless Military Chefs Take Their Skills to the Chopped Kitchen

An all-new tournament with a $75,000 grand prize premieres Tuesday, April 25 at 8|7c.

The Chefs' Take: Parsnips

Three chefs share how they use parsnips in their restaurant fare.

The Chef’s Take: Chestnuts

This trio of dishes from chefs around the country elevate the savory, rich chestnut.

The Chef’s Take: Inday

At Inday, New York City's new fast-casual Indian restaurant, vegetables like spinach paired with red quinoa and orange lentils are the main focus.

The Chef’s Take: Mushrooms a la Plancha from Joel Hough at il Buco

il Buco's roasted mushrooms are reminiscent of the Spanish dish, Ceptas a la Plancha.

The Chef's Take: Andrew D'Ambrosi's Kale Panzanella

After being soaked in red wine vinegar for 24 hours, the kale in this Italian panzanella is anything but tough and chewy.

The Chef's Take: Ford Fry's Farro Salad

A salad of farro, crab and roasted beets gets treated to a gorgeous green goddess dressing.

The Chef's Take: Winter Greens Salad, Caroline Fidanza

With her out-of-the-box approach to salads and sandwiches, all of which put seasonal vegetables to delicious use, Caroline Fidanza has earned a cult following in New York City.

The Chef's Take: Brad Farmerie's Cauliflower Cous Cous

At Public, chef Brad Farmerie is making cous cous out of cauliflower! Check out his brilliant vegan recipe.

The Chef's Take: George Mendes' Portuguese Chicken Soup

Make this healthy chicken soup with orzo from My Portugal, the new cookbook from Aldea's Chef George Mendes