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July, 2009

Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Roasted Pistachio Oil Pear Vinegar and Tarragon

By Heidi Allison

An exquisite dish with inspired flavor pairings, this recipe only has 7 ingredients, but tastes elegant.

The rich salmon is glazed with fruity, pear- flavored vinegar-- robust flavors which play nicely against the intensely-flavored green roasted pistachio oil. Minced tarragon, used as a light garnish, lends a subtle, anise-flavored grace note to the finished dish. Fish is Nature’s ultimate healthy fast food: not only can you get most fish dishes on the table in less than 15 minutes; it’s also a better protein choice for the prostate, heart and brain. Researchers just published a study that finds that fish oils reduce inflammation, even in people that carry the “inflammation gene”. This group is at greater risk for prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart disease, and should consider rotating this dish into their weekly meal plans.

A study by Dr. Witte found omega-3 fatty acids in dark-colored fish appear to fight advanced prostrate cancer. This is the first study linking fish oils to acting on the “inflammation gene” (COX-2) to promote health. These protective oils appear to work on a genetic level in the body to fight advanced prostrate cancer, and even diminish the risk of developing it! Researchers found that the group eating the largest amount of long-chain fatty acids (fish oil) have a whopping 63 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer, while the groups eating the least amount of fish oil have a five-fold increased risk. The study concluded that the COX-2 increased risk of disease was essentially reversed by eating at least a half a gram per day of fish oil, no less than once per week according to researchers. From a chef’s point of view, King Salmon from Alaska’s Copper River is considered to be the best, has the richest flavor, and contains the highest level of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll get the best results if the fish is quickly seared in a very hot, cast-iron skillet; then finished cooking off in the oven. This two-step technique creates a fish with a crispy outside and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth inside texture. And, it’s a great fish to hone your culinary skills with – its higher-fat content makes this delicate protein more forgiving compared to other fish.

Pan-Seared Wild Salmon with Roasted Pistachio Oil, Pear Vinegar & Tarragon
Pan-Seared Wild Salmon with Roasted Pistachio Oil, Pear Vinegar & Tarragon
Serves: 2

12 oz. wild-caught King Salmon, center cut; ½ -inch thick
2 Tbsp. almond oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. pear vinegar (or make your own, using recipe below)
4 Tbsp. roasted pistachio oil
1 tsp. minced tarragon

Pear Vinegar:
Makes: ½ cup
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup water
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼- inch cubes
1 tsp. agave nectar

Instructions:
In a 2-quart pot, add vinegar, water, pear and agave nectar. Heat on medium-low, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thick and reduced to roughly ½ original volume -- about 20 minutes. Pour into medium bowl, strain liquid through a sieve; and then cool to room temperature.

Fish
Preheat the oven to 375 ° F. Take the fish out of the refrigerator and rub with oil; then season with salt and pepper. Let sit until it comes to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat for 5 minutes (should be smoking; open up all the windows in the kitchen to let out the smoke.) Place the fish in the skillet and do not move for 3-4 minutes. Lift up a corner with a fish spatula to check for color--if a nice brown crust has formed, then turn over and continue to heat for an additional 2 minutes. Place fish in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on serving plate. Let fish rest for another 2-3 minutes to “finish cooking”. Drizzle each piece of fish with 1 tablespoon pear vinegar, then top with 1 tablespoon of roasted pistachio oil and pour around perimeter of fish; then garnish with ¼ tsp. minced tarragon. Plate and serve immediately.

Notes from the Author:
Almond oil has a very high flash point that creates a crispy crust on the fish without overpowering its delicate flavor. Since fish cooks quickly, do not take phone calls or multi-task while preparing it – it goes south very fast if overcooked.