The Chef’s Take: Ivy Stark’s Salmon a la Plancha
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.”
- Season salmon fillet with salt and pepper, and dip in pastor marinade to thoroughly coat.
- 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.
- 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.
- Top with the salmon, skin-side up, and serve.
1/2 cup cider vinegar (red wine or white wine vinegar works well also)
- 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.
- Remove chiles from liquid and place in a blender with remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
2 pounds plum tomatoes, stemmed, seeded, sliced and dried overnight in the oven
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.