Grilled Salmon and Gorgonzola Pesto Polenta

Wild caught salmon is one of my favorites for roasting, searing and grilling.  And I like it in its purest form, lightly seasoned and sauced.  I normally purchase more than I need as I love to have leftover salmon; eaten cold the next day, mixed into salads, topped on my bagel with a smear of cream cheese, in a Panini with brie or scrambled in eggs.

I’ve never had luck grilling salmon or any fish straight on the grill.  I’m no grill master; after all I’m a chica and grills are for guys.  Okay, I know there are some awesome girls at the grill, I just happen to not be one of them.  However, I do enjoy grilled foods, from appetizers to desserts and so, I head outdoors and grill.

I use a grill basket for grilling fish, the basket is flipped and the fish stays in tack.  Pretty simple.  If you don’t have a grill basket, cooking en papillote is another method as the guys, Greg and John, have done here and here.  Of course, salmon grilled wrapped in foil vs grilled directly over the flames will differ in appearance and taste….both good, just different.

I served the grilled salmon over gorgonzola and pesto polenta.  I prefer polenta over mashed potatoes any time!  Polenta does take time and attention to continuously stir but it’s so worth the smooth, creamy texture and rustic appeal.  Instant polenta (cornmeal) is available though I purchase finely ground cornmeal in bulk for slow cooking.  I find using a double boiler cuts down on the constant stirring.  A copper pot is the way to go for true polenta cooking!  Mixing in different types of cheese and spices vary the flavor.  Leftover polenta poured into a small baking sheet firms up and can be cut into shapes and grilled or baked, but that’s for another post 🙂

Grilled Salmon and Gorgonzola Pesto Polenta

4 wild caught salmon fillets, skin removed or skin will easily fall off after grilling

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from one lemon

2-3 tablespoons prepared pesto thinned with lemon juice

Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to sit at room temperature while heating grill.   Make sure grates are cleaned and rubbed with olive oil to not stick or use a grill/fish basket for easy handling and flipping.  Place salmon skin side up and grill for about 2 minutes or until salmon begins to turn opaque.  Flip salmon over and continue to grill another 2 minutes.  Do not over cook; it should remain moist and soft in the center, slightly pink with light grill marks.  Remove to plate, and top on polenta.  Squeeze on fresh lemon juice and/or drizzle on pesto by thinning the pesto with some lemon juice.

Gorgonzola and Pesto Polenta

3 cups boiling water or a combination of chicken broth and water (add additional as needed)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup polenta

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

2-3 tablespoons prepared pesto

Simmer water in the bottom pan of a double boiler.  Add 3 cups boiling water to the top pan.  If not using the double boiler, use a large saucepan bring the 3 cups of liquid to a boil.  Add the salt and slowly whisk in the polenta, pouring the polenta like “rain” to prevent any clumping.   Reduce to low and continue to cook and, switching to a wooden spoon, stir occasionally on a double boiler, more frequently in a saucepan for about 45 minutes.  The polenta should be soft and creamy, pulling away from the bottom.  If the polenta appears to cook too fast or less creamy, add in small amounts of hot water or broth.  When done, stir in the gorgonzola cheese and pesto.  Plate immediately and serve.

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

Going away for a long weekend also means getting away from my kitchen.  I spent this past weekend biking, walking, shopping and dining!  Dining at interesting new places, finding the favorite spot the locals go to, feeling pampered with fabulous food presented to me and no dishes to wash!

I prefer to order small plates of foods; a few appetizers, salad and of course a dessert!  And not necessarily at the same place.  I order an appetizer at one restaurant; move to another for their specialty appetizer and end with a dessert or gelato somewhere else!  So in one short weekend, I could basically hit a lot of restaurants!!   The way I see it, I never get stuffed, and I’m excited and inspired by every dish I taste.  Atmosphere is a big draw for me although a hole in the wall known for good food will bring me in too.

My dad would make us laugh as he would avoid restaurants with white tablecloths.  In his view, white tablecloths meant the overly priced restaurant, the overstated menu, over the top wait staff and high priced wine lists!  When I now see a white tablecloth, I am always reminded of him.  I guess his view has influenced my choice in places to dine as I seek out well prepared, authentic food.  Not trendy nor bland, but food with ‘personality’ and a place that allows me to leisurely enjoy good food, wine and conversation.

For lunch one day we stopped at a place I had seen before but never dined at.  Located off the main strip, down the “basement” stairs to a Pub like atmosphere.  We ordered a Salmon Panini.  They prepare it with smoked lox, but we both agreed making this with grilled or roasted salmon was the way to go.  And so of course, upon returning home, I’m ready to head back in my kitchen and re-create the favorites we ate.  Leftover roasted or grilled salmon would make this an easy dish for using up the leftovers; however, starting from scratch I made a simple roasted salmon filet and whisked together a light dressing.  One pound of salmon would make four generous Paninis.

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

For the salmon:

1 pound wild caught salmon, skin removed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Olive oil

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons mayo

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice from one lemon

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To assemble the sandwich:

Grilled or Roasted Salmon

Brie

Thinly sliced red onion

Mixed lettuce greens

Thinly sliced tomato

Whole wheat bread or ciabatta

Olive oil

For the salmon:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Place salmon on a lightly oiled roasting pan.  Generously sprinkle the salmon with the lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast until just opaque in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

For the dressing:  Whisk together the mayo, Dijon, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper and set aside.

To assemble the sandwidh: spread dressing on the bread, layer on mixed greens, salmon, thinly sliced onions, tomato and brie. Lightly brush outside of bread with olive  oil and place on grill pan or Panini press.  Grill until lightly browned and cheese has begun to melt.  Slice in half and serve immediately.

Turning a lazy weekend lunch special

I seek out salmon whenever I can.  First for all the “essential” benefits “essential” to my health and second (or equally important) it’s one of my favorites.  Of course, I now only seek out wild caught salmon and that can be a bit pricey especially as I am wanting it weekly.

I have satisfied my desires and my wallet by finding these great wild caught salmon pouches by Chicken of the Sea.  They are perfect for mixing in salads, burgers and crab cakes.  Obviously, using a freshly cooked salmon fillet is more ideal but these certainly do just fine for a quick meal providing good taste and those “essentials”.   The recipe is straight off the back of the pouch and tweaked to my liking!  I will usually double up the recipe, but below is for one pouch.

Simple Salmon Cakes

1 6 oz pouch skinless, boneless  wild caught Pink Salmon
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 medium egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (or more if mixture is not firm enough)
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly to combine well.  Form mixture into 4 balls and flatten slightly.  Heat a  skillet or flat grill pan and spray with Pam or lightly butter.  Cook about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Only turn one time to avoid crumbling the cake. 

Serve with a citrus salsa, a roasted red pepper sauce or as above with a mix of sour cream and wasabi sauce.

Fresh Herb Roasted Salmon

Salmon is a favorite of mine.  I enjoy it roasted, grilled, seared, poached.  There are so many ways to prepare this fish.  It’s even so versatile, you can serve it for breakfast, in a frittata or scrambled with eggs and cream cheese.  For lunch, grilled on top of a salad, or poached and served cold with a mustard sauce for a cocktail party. 

This dish was quickly prepared for a weeknight dinner, requested by my daughter on her last evening home.  I made a lemon herb cream sauce but it’s not totally necessary. 

Fresh Herb Roasted Salmon

2 6 oz wild caught salmon fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs – I used fresh parsley, oregano, basil, and tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Place salmon on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Spread Dijon mustard on each fillet.  Mix the fresh herbs with the lemon juice and gently press on top of each fillet.  Drizzle on additional olive oil. 

Roast for approximately 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon.  Plate and serve with sauce or serve with a lemon wedge.

 Lemon Herb Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, tarragon and oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt butter, stir in flour.  Add milk, stirring constantly until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken.  Cook 2 minutes longer and then add herbs, salt and cheese, stirring until combined well.  Remove from the heat and add in lemon juice.