Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Scented Salsa Veracruzana

11.18.10 § 7 Comments

I’ve never really talked about how I got into food. At least not on the blog. So, here goes. The summer after my freshman year at Duke, I came home to New Mexico without much thought of how I’d spend my days. This was before I was aware that I was supposed to be slaving away at unpaid internship. (I’m making up for that now evidently. Just kidding. Kind of).

Anyway, I was at home, and I was bored. (This is pretty obvious if you know where I’m from.) My mom had recently moved her massage therapy business into our house, but she still worked all day most every day, which contributed to my boredom. (I like having someone to play with.)

I’m not sure why, but I picked up a cookbook. I had cooked dinner once or twice in my life before but hadn’t done much beyond that. Before I knew it, I was cooking my way through Sarah Foster’s cookbooks, putting dinner on the table for my mom and me each night. When everything went as planned, it was ready just about the time she finished work.

However, as any self-taught cook can confess, things often do not go as planned in the early days. For instance, I had the unfortunate bad habit of failing to read a recipe from beginning to end before starting to cook. I’m sure many of you have done this. You pick a recipe up, prep your ingredients, and begin. It isn’t until you’ve been cooking for 45 minutes when you get to the line that makes you stop in your tracks. It’s usually something along the lines of, “let rest/refrigerate for one hour” (or if it’s a really bad day, “overnight”).

That’s when the panic sets in. It’s already 8 pm and you still have about 20 minutes of cooking left to do before you’re supposed to let it rest FOR AN HOUR?! I won’t do an impersonation of myself at those moments, because I try to keep this blog fairly PG. (How do you guys feel about that by the way? Sometimes I want to take it up a notch to PG-13 or R. Any objections?)

Anyway, the first time I made this salmon, that is what happened. We didn’t eat until about 10 o’clock that night, which probably wasn’t the smartest, because this is a spicy dish. However, that being said, I highly suggest that you plan ahead, start early, and make the salmon. Why? It’s amazing.

Even though that first night was a bit traumatizing, this recipe has become one of my all-time favorites. The great thing is you can make it a day ahead if you want, and it tastes even better after the flavors come together. It can be eaten hot or at room temp, so it’s really great for dinner parties when you have to prep other stuff or don’t want to get caught in the kitchen while everyone else is getting drunk in the next room. (Or is that just how my dinner parties go?) Lastly, the salsa that goes with it is great on other things as well. (I will demonstrate in my next post.)

Back to the point: this salmon is great. Really scrumptious. Scrum-diddly-umptious, if you will. I can’t remember what that’s from, but I do think it’s an accurate description.

P.s. – I still sometimes fail to really read a recipe, and it still gets the better of me. I had a disastrous experience with some lemon bars the other day. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and THEN pour on the filling? “Shit. Oh well.” They were still pretty tasty.

Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Scented Salsa Veracruzana
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Note: I’ve adapted this dish to accommodate the fact that I really like the salsa and like having extra. As written, this dish serves two with leftover salsa. It could probably work with three salmon fillets of the same size or four, slightly smaller, fillets. Also, the salmon is originally intended to be served whole, but when putting away leftovers, I pull the salmon apart with the fork and mix it in with the salsa, so the flavor soaks in more. That’s what you see in the pictures. It isn’t the prettiest way to serve it, but if you don’t have an hour to let the dish rest, it might be prudent to go ahead and pull the fish apart so the flavor is more concentrated.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the salmon
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 1/2 tbs chopped fresh thyme or lemon thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup roughly sliced pitted green olives, preferably manzanillo
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup store-bought or homemade pickled jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
3/4 cup water
Salt, to taste
2 salmon fillets or steaks, each 7 to 8 oz. and about 1 inch thick

In a large saucepan or small Dutch oven 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 about 3/4 of the olives, capers and chilies. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until some of the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the water, return to a simmer and cook until most of the water is evaporated and it is the texture of a salsa – this can take 15-25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, cook the salmon. Oil both sides and season with salt. You can cook it with skin on or off, whichever you prefer. You can use a George Foreman grill, a grill pan, or a real grill. It can also be poached. The trick is to cook the salmon until it flakes when you touch it with a fork, regardless of your cooking method. Grilling will impart a smoky flavor, but the salsa is flavorful enough that if you don’t have a grill, the dish will still be excellent.

Once the salmon is cooked, spoon 3/4 of the sauce/salsa into a serving bowl or deep platter and nestle the salmon in it. Put the rest of the sauce on top of the salmon. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour to bring together the flavors of the salmon and the sauce.

Just before serving, sprinkle the salmon with the remaining olives, capers and chilies and garnish with the thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.


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§ 7 Responses to Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Scented Salsa Veracruzana

  • Shady says:

    I wish I could eat this right this instant (esp. since I’m having bland leftovers for lunch). Also, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to a more, ahem, expressive blog (cooking snafu-related obscenities ftw!)

  • renie says:

    mmmmm, this sounds (and looks!) so delicious! i think i’ll make this this weekend! okay, Tyla, I’m reading you; are you reading me??? if so, tell me what you think (yes, this is a blatant request for feedback from someone I admire). if not, read me! love you! renie

    • tyla says:

      I looked for stuff immediately after you told me, but haven’t searched since! I just now saw the links on your facebook wall and will start reading IMMEDIATELY! Can’t wait.

  • Sofia says:

    i like your cooking/ food story – your discovery seems so natural and organic, which is very refreshing 🙂

    i also really like the ingredients in this recipe except for the olive and caper part. i’m really trying to LIKE olives, though, so maybe i should give them another chance. i’ll call it project olive. will let you know how it turns out, if it happens 🙂

  • Gin says:

    That was a good summer. Miss you, and Mom too!

    PS: This summer I went to Veracruz and had some white fish with salsa veracruzana. I bet yours is pretty dang good.

  • whathappensafter5 says:

    Oh my goodness, this sounds delicious!! I’m dying to try it!

  • Yum! My mom makes huachinango a la veracruzana all the time (red snapper)–she learned how to make it when she was living on her own and bored/hungry. I like how yours has thyme and lemon!

    Also: shit happens. You can totally take it up a notch.

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