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Recipe: Salmon with polenta and warm tomato vinaigrette

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    Start salmon in a hot pan, then move it to the oven to keep the fillets intact.

As Mother Nature nudges spring along, it’s time to dream of the fresh, light meals that go hand in hand with this time of year.

How about a bright, rich pink piece of salmon perched atop a bed of polenta, piled with a mound of roasted cherry tomatoes, collapsed into their own sweetness? Well, all right then, we’re on the same page.

When I want my fillets of fish to look perfect, I start them in a hot pan, then transfer them to the oven, rather than flipping them in the pan. They stay intact and beautiful.

If you decide to use salmon with the skin on, starting them skin down in a hot pan also ensures that delicious crispness.

You could add any number of things to the topping here: chopped olives, different herbs, capers. A small bunch of daffodils on the table wouldn’t hurt, either.

  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 -1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal or polenta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 pint multicolored cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 4 (6 to 8-ounce) salmon fillets, with skin if desired
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a heavy Dutch oven or large (4-quart) saucepan, bring broth and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat, sprinkle in polenta, whisking all the while, and keep adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Continue to simmer and whisk semifrequently until mixture is thickened and creamy, about 20 minutes.

While polenta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add shallot and saute 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and oregano and saute another 4 minutes, until tomatoes collapse slightly. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl, stir in vinegar and tent with foil to keep warm.

Return pan to medium-high heat and heat remaining tablespoon of oil. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon skin side down (if applicable) in hot pan and sear 4 minutes. Transfer pan to the oven and roast fish about 5 minutes, until cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, when the polenta has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and whisk in Parmesan and butter. Taste, and add pepper and salt if needed.

Divide polenta among 4 plates. Use a metal spatula to transfer salmon fillets to top of the polenta, and spoon tomato vinaigrette over it. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 684 calories, 33 g total fat, 10 g saturated fat, 128 mg cholesterol, 263 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 46 g protein

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