Salmon is a deliciously fatty and oily fish that touches on all savory components, which makes it so satisfying to eat. The high amino acids and omega 3’s found in this freshwater fish make it a great source of protein for those monitoring their dietary choices, especially when it comes to heart health. Because of this, I am always on a quest to find more ways to serve salmon so that it benefits as many of my clients as possible.
One way I love to serve salmon? Slow Roasted Salmon with Spinach & Lentils Masala in Coconut Milk. Normally, I’d prepare the lentils by borrowing tomato-forward Moroccan influences and by also using a heavy hand with dried herbs. However, this time I opted for a more warming direction: garam masala. Indian spice mixes like garam masala are my go-to if I want to attempt to cook anything close to a curry. The spices found in a store-bought garam masala spice blend usually consists of ground cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorn, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg. This mixture is nearly perfect for coconut milk. The coconut milk adds a creaminess that is much lighter than heavy cream and butter. In keeping with the light and dainty theme, spinach and an aromatic chiffonade of basil gets tossed in. These greens add a whipped appearance similar to cheese as they stir beautifully into the thick white liquid.
The design of this meal is light and with a tiptoe towards the upcoming fall weather. On its own, this dish is vegan. With the salmon, it’s a pescatarian’s dream. Instead of a hard sear, gentle heat is used by slow roasting the salmon in a low oven. The salmon is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme so that the lentils and spinach become the dominating voice of this edible symphony. If you’re not crazy about legumes, you can substitute the lentils for a small dice of butternut squash or sweet potatoes. Try using different combinations of legumes and leafy greens, like chickpeas or farmer’s market bitter greens. Take this idea and run with it. The coconut milk can handle the variety.
Slow roasted salmon with spinach & lentils masala in coconut milk
Ingredients for the Slow Roasted Salmon:
● 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
● 1 lb salmon fillets
● ½ tsp dried thyme
● salt & pepper to taste
Instructions for the Slow Roasted Salmon:
Preheat the oven to 250º degrees F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Drizzle the olive oil and spread all over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the sheet pan with dried thyme.
Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper, to taste. Place onto the parchment paper-lined sheet pan, spaced out. Cover tightly with foil. With the tip of a knife, carefully poke a few slits through the foil. Do not pierce the salmon fillets.
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, raise heat to 350º degrees F. When the oven adjusts to the higher temperature, roast the salmon for an additional 8 – 10 minutes.
Remove foil. Serve with the spinach & lentils masala in coconut milk
Ingredients for the Spinach & Lentils Masala in Coconut Milk:
● 1 tbsp canola oil
● ¼ cup yellow onion, small dice
● 4 garlic cloves, sliced
● 2 tsp garam masala spice mix
● 1 tsp salt
● ¼ tsp ground black pepper
● 1 tsp dried chile caribe (or red chile flakes)
● 2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered (do not discard juices and seeds)
● 5 oz baby spinach
● 1 cup basil leaves, chiffonade on the bias (keep the top baby leaves on the stem for garnish)
● 1 15-oz can of lentils, drained, rinsed
● 1 can coconut milk
● 1 tbsp light brown sugar
● 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for garnish
Instructions for the Spinach & Lentils Masala in Coconut Milk:
In a large nonstick skillet, heat canola oil for 1 – 2 minutes. Add onions and garlic. Sauté on low heat for 8 – 10 minutes.
Add the masala spice mix, salt, ground black pepper, dried chile caribe. Sauté on low heat for 5 – 8 minutes. (The onions and garlic will appear dry, that’s okay. Do not add more oil.)
Add the vine-ripened tomatoes and any remaining juices and seeds. Sauté for 3 minutes on medium heat.
Add baby spinach and basil leaves. Cover and let wilt for 3 – 5 minutes, tossing regularly to assist the wilting.
Add lentils, coconut milk, and light brown sugar. Stir thoroughly. Simmer for 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
Serve with slow roasted salmon and cooked white rice (optional).
Onto a dinner plate, serve 2 large serving-size spoonfuls of the spinach & lentils masala in coconut milk. Allow the liquid to pool around the plate.
Place the slow roasted salmon fillet on top of the spinach & lentils, on a diagonal with the thicker part of the salmon pointing to “11 o’clock” and the thinner part pointing to “3 o’clock.”
Lightly drizzle the entire meal with extra virgin olive oil directly onto the salmon and onto the liquid so that you can see the contrast of oil and liquid surrounding the salmon. Garnish with baby basil leaves onto the sides of the salmon. Enjoy!