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May, 2011

Salad of Poached Salmon, Asparagus Tips, Bibb Lettuce and Matchstick Gala Apples in a Mango Ginger Vinaigrette

By Heidi Allison

This upscale salad is elegant enough to serve as a gourmet entrée, but works equally well as a trendy Southern California side
.

The delicate flavor of the poached salmon is enhanced by the sweet, exotic taste of the Mango Ginger Dressing—a perfect balance of fruit and spice that’s eye candy on a white plate. A healthy, easy recipe that you can get to the table in less than 30 minutes, this versatile one-bowl meal works for busy weekdays or lazy weekends.

In this dish, the salmon is poached in a Meyer lemon water bath, which infuses the fish with a delicate orange-lemon flavor that perfectly complements the Mango-Ginger Vinaigrette. This traditional French culinary technique not only removes any lingering “fishy” taste, but also gently cooks the fish’s protein creating a silky, smooth-as-butter texture. If done correctly, this dish is reminiscent of the melt-in-your mouth fish dishes prepared in a sous-vide (but without incurring the $1200.00 cost of this expensive equipment!) The secret of this culinary technique is not to allow the water to go beyond the temperature of a slight simmer (about 160 degrees F), which keeps the flesh tender. Another trick is to keep the skin on during the poaching process, which prevents the fish from falling apart in the cooking liquid.

But it’s the salad dressing that steals center stage. The Mango-Ginger Vinaigrette cleverly keeps the calories low by changing up the ratio of oil to fruit used in conventional salad dressings--it increases the portion of fruit, and slashes the amount of oil-- by half! This step creates a salad dressing with an exquisite, brilliant orange-yellow color and creamy texture that’s thick as Greek Yogurt. This multi-tasking dressing also doubles as a heart-healthy stand-in for Hollandaise for a cutting-edge rendition of Eggs Benedict or steamed asparagus; as a bread-spread in a grilled chicken Panini sandwich; or a simple sauce over roasted chicken.

But this dressing brings more to the table than just great taste--mango is an excellent source of carotenes, vitamin C and copper; a very good source of B vitamins and a good source of vitamin E. This nutritional powerhouse contains lupeol, a compound which is effective in reducing the risk of kidney stones and digestive enzymes that aid in breaking down proteins and boosts digestion. Mangos are also beneficial for those suffering from anemia because of their high iron content. Moreover, this fruit contains hefty doses of phenols, such as quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, gallic acid, and methygallat, which have cancer-preventing capacities. How you assemble the salad is also important in the finished dish—julienne the apples right before serving to prevent them turning an unappealing brown color. It’s crucial to choose the right apple for this recipe—Galas’ not only have a sweet flavor profile that complements the Mango Ginger vinaigrette, but their red, wafer-thin, tender skins leave no unpleasant sensation in your mouth and make the rest of the salad’s colors “ pop”.(Stay away from the tougher-skinned varieties, such as Red Delicious.)

Salad of Poached Salmon, Asparagus Tips, Bibb Lettuce and Matchstick Gala Apples in a Mango Ginger Vinaigrette

Salad of Poached Salmon, Asparagus Tips, Bibb Lettuce and Matchstick Gala Apples in a Mango Ginger Vinaigrette
Serves: 2 as an entrée; 4 as a side

Fish
:
16 oz. fresh, center-cut salmon, skin left on
8 cups water
1 Meyer lemon, cut in half

Salad:
1 package organic Bibb lettuce, washed and rinsed
½ package baby arugula blend: spinach, arugula, baby lettuces, washed and rinsed
1 gala apple
1 lb. green asparagus, tough ends removed
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seed, either white or black

Mango Ginger Vinaigrette
1 cup mango pieces and juice (about 1 ½ large mangos)
¼ cup almond oil (can substitute with neutral canola or sunflower oil)
1 Tbsp. Honey & White Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 ½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
Pinch of dried ginger
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 ½ tsp. flake kosher salt

Preparation:
Place 8 cups of water into a 9-1/2 inch skillet. Squeeze juice of Meyer lemon into water; then add squeezed lemon halves into the water and heat on medium-high heat until a few small bubbles appear in the lemon–water bath. Add the fish, skin side down, into the water; then immediately reduce the heat to medium- low(about 160 degrees). Cover and poach for about 10-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. You can remove the fish and use the point of a sharp knife to check if it’s done—should be just opaque. Remove fish to a plate and let residual heat continue finish cooking the fish. After 10 minutes, cover the fish with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature—about 12 minutes. Flip the fish so the skin is facing up and gently pull back the skin back from the flesh and toss. Cut the asparagus into ½-inch pieces. Heat a pot of water till simmering and place asparagus tips into simmering water till color turns bright green, and tips are crisp-tender--about2 minutes. Remove and place into an ice-water bath to cool and stop the cooking process. When cool, remove with tongs and place into a bowl. Cover and set aside.

While fish is cooling, place both salads in a spinner bowl and rinse, then spin dry and place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Place salad in a large bowl. Using the ¼-inch julienne blade in a Japanese Berliner or mandolin, place the apple over the salad and grate the skin and flesh over the lettuces to create a ¼-inch match stick cut.. Add blanched asparagus tips, matchstick gala apples. Cut fish across the grain into1/2-inch pieces and place over top of greens. Drizzle ¼ cup of dressing over salad, and gently toss with tongs. Place salad on chilled plates, and drizzle an additional 2-3 tablespoon of dressing over salad. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you’re short on time, make the dressing the night before, and use grab-and-go poached salmon from the Deli section of your market. While the texture of the salmon won’t be as silky, your freshly-prepared Mango Ginger Vinaigrette will mask that prepared food sin.