Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Moroccan Salmon, Fennel-Preserved Lemon Salad, & Sweet Potato Oven Fries (Μαροκινός Σολομός, Σαλάτα με Μάραθο και Λεμόνια, & Γλυκοπατάτα στο Φούρνο)

I have an irrational aversion to the texture of boiled or braised sweet potatoes. Until I discovered oven roasting, sweet potatoes were emphatically not part of my diet.

Even so, I'd been hankering for Moroccan sweet potato tagine. A cookbook with the recipe had been sitting open on the couch for over a week. A bag of sweet potatoes from my Full Circle Farm CSA box languished on the counter. I needed to try the tagine.

At least that’s how it seemed. Every time I went to make it, however, I thought about mushy sweet potatoes, and stopped in my tracks. Like I said, my reaction is irrational. Intellectually, I want to try it; emotionally, I can’t get beyond no, no, no.

I finally gave up on the tagine, at least for now. Someday I’ll power through my aversion, and discover what I’ve been missing all these years. In the meantime, I constructed a menu around the tagine’s flavors and ingredients, and stuck with oven-roasting the sweet potatoes.

The tagine’s dominant spices – cumin, coriander, papika, and hot pepper – I used as a rub for salmon fillets. I made oven-fries with the sweet potatoes, and salad from fennel, red peppers, and preserved lemons, three more of the tagine’s ingredients. (For how to make preserved lemons, here is an easy recipe.)

The result was truly wonderful. It put us both in a good mood for the rest of the evening.

I wish all my meals tasted this good. Of course, it’s possible the tagine would’ve been even better. I’m still trying to think my way into it.

Moroccan-Spiced Salmon (Μαροκινός Σολομός)
Serves 4

1 pound salmon fillets
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground cumin seed
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground coriander seed
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Wash the salmon and dry it well. Using needle-nosed pliers, remove as many pin-bones from the fillet as possible. Skin the fish, if necessary, and cut it into 4 even pieces.

Mix the cumin, coriander, paprika, pepper flakes, and salt. Rub the spices over both sides of the salmon fillets.

Heat the olive oil in a pan until it is hot, but not smoking. Turn the heat to medium high, and add the salmon. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the pan side of the salmon is lightly browned. Turn over and cook for 1 - 3 minutes, or until the salmon is done to your taste. The exact cooking time depends on the fillets’ thickness; keep in mind that salmon tastes better slightly underdone than it does when it's overdone.

Serve immediately on a bed of Fennel and Preserved Lemon Salad.

Fennel and Preserved Lemon Salad (Σαλάτα με Μάραθο και Λεμόνια στην Άρμη)
Serves 4

When I served this, both of us wanted more salad than I’d made and thought the salmon should be served on a bed of it. I’ve adjusted the salad recipe accordingly. Adding the capers depends on how much you like them; one of us preferred capers, the other liked it better without. Taste the salad without the capers, then try it with capers and add them if you think they’re an improvement.

2 cups diced fennel, 1/4” dice
1 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/4” dice
2/3 cup finely sliced green onions
3 Tbsp. minced preserved lemon peel
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Preserved Lemon Aioli (see recipe below)
1/2 cup capers (optional)

Mix all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve.

Preserved Lemon Aioli
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Preserved lemons are quite salty, the flesh more so than the peel. Preserved Lemon Aioli gets all the salt it needs from the lemons. I like making this with the peel from half of a preserved lemon, but the flesh from only a quarter of a preserved lemon. To prevent the aioli from being too salty, it’s best to start with a smaller amount of preserved lemon flesh and add more to taste. If you substitute lemon juice and peel for the preserved lemon, be sure to salt the aioli. I prefer making this in a blender because it grinds the ingredients more evenly, but I use the feed tube from my Cuisinart to add olive oil. Put the feed tube into the hole in the blender’s top, pour olive oil into the feed tube, and the hole in the bottom of the feed tube will effortlessly add oil at exactly the right rate for a perfect emulsion.

1/2 preserved lemon or the zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large cloves chopped garlic
1 egg
1 cup olive oil

Rinse the preserved lemon under running water. Remove the flesh and reserve. Roughly chop the preserved lemon peel and put it in a blender with 1/4 of the reserved lemon flesh. Purée and taste to determine the degree of saltiness before adding the egg and oil. If it needs salt, add more of the lemon flesh. Mix in the egg and purée; scrape down the sides of the blender. Add the oil drop by drop while the blender is running. (The aioli will break and separate if you add the oil too fast, see NOTE below.) When all the oil is incorporated, taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

NOTE: If the aioli breaks, pour it out of the blender. Add an egg and purée, scraping down the sides of the blender. Add the broken aioli drop by drop while the blender is running.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries (Γλυκοπατάτα στο Φούρνο)
Serves 4

6 garnet yams (sweet potatoes)
6 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Peel the garnet yams and cut them in 1/4” slices. Cut the slices into 1/4” sticks. Divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets, toss the contents of each sheet with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and plenty of salt. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time. Remove the pans from the oven. (Recipe can be made ahead to this point.)

Turn the oven heat up to 450°F; when the oven reaches temperature, return the pans to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes start browning. Remove from the oven and prop up one end of the baking sheet so the oil quickly runs off the potatoes to the lower end of the baking sheet (you may need to align the potatoes so they don't block the oil from running off). Serve immediately.

More Preserved Lemon Recipes
Preserved Lemons, Candied Lemon Peels, and Sparkling Mint-Lemonade (I show you how to make preserved lemons, how to candy the extra lemon peels, and how to use leftover syrup for sparkling lemonade.)
Moroccan Beef Stew (Mike makes a slow cooked beef tagine with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, preserved lemons, and lots of spices.)
Olives, Chicken with Preserved Lemon (Lydia makes a quick-cooking tagine with boneless chicken thighs, olives, and preserved lemons.)

This is my entry for Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.


mimi said...

what a beautiful looking meal! i'm not a big fan of salmon, but i'm always looking for different ways to cook it. your seasoning combo really sounds delish!

Peter M said...

It's great to see all the Morrocan dishes around.

I like this preserved lemon Aioli...that'll get guests guessing!

Anonymous said...

Tagine or not Laurie this as always looks great. The Morrocan flavours are so good and the sweet potatoes even better. I believe oven roasting is better for them.

Suganya said...

Baked fries are the best way to consume sweet potato. They taste far better than potato fries, IMO.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

What a terrific meal!

Maria Verivaki said...

that salad looks so colourful...

bee said...

gosh, laurie. you always make me drool.

Riana Lagarde said...

sounds scrumptious! i make sweet potatoes a lot like this for the baby and me to snack on. tagine is one of my favorites too but i use turnips instead, maybe those are in your CSA too (they are in mine!) we also got two fennel bulbs which i'll making into your salad soon.

all the best

ps just wrote an article about Rodos; my interview of your hot spots in Athens wont be published for a long time since they have island fever right now!

Chris said...

This meal is home run! I really only sweet potatoes roasted as well. The carmelization is the kicker for me. And, the Lemon Salad? mmmm :)

Ivy said...

I always look for new recipes for salmon and this one looks great as well as your salad. Laurie you must know are the sweet potatoes the same ones we call glykopatates?

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks, Mimi! It might be that this is salmon even a salmon-hater might love.

Peter M, always my goal - to keep everyone guessing!

Peter G, I do really like Moroccan flavors. They're slightly exotic, but very complete, flavors.

Suganya, glad to hear I'm not the only one that likes sweet potatoes this way!

Forkful, thanks!

Maria, I love playing with colorful foods.

Riana, why yes, I do happen to have some turnips. :-) Hard not to have island fever at this time of year.

Chris, exactly - sweet potatoes very much need caramelization.

Ivy, thanks. And yes, sweet potatoes are glykopatates.

test it comm said...

That salmon sounds really tasty! I have not met a sweet potato dish that I have not liked yet. :)

Joanne said...

Oh Laurie - this dish contains all of my favourites...salmon, sweet potatoes, moroccan flavours...yum!

Gretchen Noelle said...

try the tagine...try the tagine...

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That looks fantastic! You know where I stand on Moroccan flavors (and many thanks for the linkage! :-) ), and I think that every element of this meal is just beautifully done. *drooling*

Anonymous said...

Looks gorgeous, Laurie. I love how the spices create that beautiful crust on the salmon. And your sweet potato fries look perfect . . . mine tend to turn out a bit mushy. I'll have to follow your recipe next time.

Katie Zeller said...

This is so bizarre - I adore sweet potatoes but have never, ever had them anyway other than roasted/baked.
Perhaps I, also, need to expand my tastes!
Great recipes!~

Unknown said...

What a wonderful dinner! I do love the flavor of paprika on salmon. Just reading about your preserved lemons annd candied lemon peels is making my mouth water! Oh, can I cheat and find perserved lemons at a grocery store near me?

Laurie Constantino said...

Kevin, I wish I could say the same thing!

Bijoux, I don't know what it is about Moroccan flavors, but they just really appeal to me.

Gretchen, you sound like my brain...

Mike, now you know how I feel when I look at your Moroccan food.

Swirlingnotions, directly when they come out of the oven are a little soft, but they crisp up as they cool a little.

Katiez, if I can do it, so can you!

Lannae, they usually sell preserved lemons at middle eastern and some specialty stores. You can also buy them online. So yes, cheating is definitely allowed! As for candied lemon peel, I don't know where you can buy them, but they are very easy to make.

Anonymous said...

What a marvelous way to recompose a dish! The harmonies of flavor must have kept your mouths singing -- no wonder you were in a good mood all evening!

I'm w/gretchen on this -- try the tagine, but roast the diced potatoes and add them at the end. More happiness for your palates . . .

Shayne said...

this whole meal looks so, so good. Thank you for sharing.

CaliforniaKat said...

Hi Laurie, I mainly wanted to come over and say 'hello,' especially after seeing those nice words on Cheryl's blog. I had no idea you even read my site!

Also, these yam fries really got my mouth watering, although I've never been able to find yams in GR, so I guess I'll have to dream. :)

You've got great recipes here. I particularly like your site and Peter's (Kalofagas).

Laurie Constantino said...

Manju, I'll try your idea on the tagine, as I do really want to try it. And, hey, happiness for my palate is exactly what I'm after.

Shayne, you're so welcome!

Kat, thanks for the greeting! I love your blog - you put a huge amount of work into it and it is both interesting and informative. As for the yam fries, I've seen sweet potatoes in Athens before, so you may run into them and will get to do more than dream! Thanks for the kind words - I also like Peter's site very much. Plus, he's a really nice guy.

CaliforniaKat said...

Right, I've seen sweet potatoes, but they're not yams. These are white not orange inside and taste starchy more than sweet.

We've looked in the "special" expensive stores as well.