Strange bedfellows, I thought. Sort of like dreadlocks and a business suit. But somehow it works, doesn't it?
By themselves, I love both of those ingredients and have cooked with them numerous times. But the combination to me was off-putting. I'm not sure really why, it's just that the thought of salmon and lentils together on one plate didn't appeal to me. Well, that's an understatement. It sounded downright boring, pedestrian, monochromatic and flavorless. There. Have I maligned them enough?
So, until enlightenment took place--and that enlightenment was in the form of a lovely little glass of Cinsault rose (you can see my review below)--I was content to believe that ignorance was bliss and I was happy to allow salmon and lentils to exist together in the theoretical sense. I like the idea of salmon and lentils in happy harmony: all those omega 3's, iron, vitamins and minerals pulling together to give me one whopping nutritious meal, with a dose of fiber to boot. Which is why the CRON diet makes a lot of sense. But following the CRON diet is an anathema to a foodie like me. Pass the butter and the cream, please. Eating the CRON way is like wanting to blow $1000 on a pair of Christian Louboutins and knowing that you can only afford the Skechers.
|Photo from Fashion by He|
Don't get me wrong--I'm all for nutrition. But I want my nutrition to taste great and look beautiful on my plate. And I'm usually not worried about calories--at least for a meal like a weekend dinner. This is where CRONies and I part company, because I'm obviously a high-maintenance eater with a penchant for fine food and no personal regard for calorie restriction. I want sexy food, and since I've witnessed and participated in the consumption of CRON meals, I can safely assure you that a plate of CRON food is not sexy. It's prudent. And when do sexy and prudent intersect? Why, practically never.
When confronted with a choice between sensible, comfortable, affordable shoes and an awesome pair of red-soled 5" stilettos, I'll probably choose the stilettos. There. I've said it. It's like going to a 12-step meeting for the first time to admit that I have a shoe problem. Mind you, I didn't say I was actually going to try to walk in those shoes.
So, recently on a particular late April Saturday evening, I decided that I would make a searching and fearless moral inventory and finally confront my preconceived notions about salmon and lentils. The weather was perfect for the dish, and I had a lovely French rose to bolster my intentions. I also had a beautiful piece of sockeye salmon and a pound of French green lentils, which I love for their color, size and peppery flavor. And I had the Barefoot Contessa as my guide, so I thought things might turn out rather nicely. Almost the minute everything was in the pan with the lentils, simmering, the perfume of that gorgeous amalgamation made me weak in the knees. Anticipating what those lentils would taste like almost vexed me, since I wanted to eat them before they were fully cooked. Now you know what kind of problem I really have.
I was not disappointed. The texture of the lentils, firm and tiny, steeped in leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, celery and carrots was a lovely counterpoint to the simply seasoned, crisped, pan-roasted salmon fillet. The flavors were both familiar and impressively intense. Together they were magical. And I can't wait to make this dinner again--especially to serve as a casual dinner for friends, along with vegetable or salad and a simple dessert.
The Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Salmon with Green Lentils
The only modifications I made were due to necessity. I had no chicken broth on hand, but I had low-sodium beef broth, which made a fine substitute. I also had wild sockeye salmon with the skin on, but it crisped beautifully and kept the salmon moist, which is important, since wild salmon tends to be drier than farm-raised salmon.
What to sip while preparing this meal and with the meal...It's officially rose weather and I found this bottle at Central Market for about $10. Les Jamelles Cinsault Rose 2010 (France) is dry, tart and full of fresh cherries and raspberries. There's a bit of orange blossom on the nose, which makes it a delightful wine to sip by itself, but it's also a great accompaniment to the roasted salmon and lentils. Prepared in the traditional saignee method, which "bleeds" more tannins and color from the grapeskins into the wine, this wine is a great value and artfully made.
May your tastebuds dance in whatever shoes you choose!