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Crispy Salmon with Spiced Lentils

Crispy Salmon with Spiced Lentils
For a thousand years, tiny, lens-shaped lentils have been popular in many European countries and a staple throughout the Middle East and India. They are a natural partner to fresh salmon. Small lentils from Le Puy, France, are particularly prized, although ordinary brown lentils also work well here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups French green lentils
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (fresh or canned)
  • 1 1/2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 skinless salmon fillets, each 5 to 6 oz. and
  • 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

Pick over the lentils and discard any misshapen lentils and stones. Rinse well and place in a large saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Stick the cloves into the yellow onion and add to the saucepan along with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and discard the onion and bay leaves. Set the lentils aside.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the red onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, clam juice, cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika and cayenne and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, cilantro and lentils and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are hot, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat a stovetop grill pan over high heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Brush the salmon with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and place on the pan. Cook until golden and crisp underneath, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn over the salmon, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until golden underneath and opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes more. Alternatively, prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill. Brush the salmon with oil as directed and grill until golden and opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

To serve, spoon the warm lentils onto a warmed serving platter. Place the salmon fillets in the center and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).