Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Salmon with Walnuts & Cranberries on a Bed of Spinach

Salmon with Walnuts & Cranberries on a Bed of Spinach

Serves: 4
Salmon with Walnuts & Cranberries on a Bed of Spinach

This recipe is wonderful. You will be amazed by the ease of preparation and cooking – and then thrilled by the taste. It works well for a quick mid-week meal or a special entrée for an elegant dinner party. Dried cranberries and walnuts are a pair of obvious New England ingredients for an easy variation on seared salmon, and both go well with spinach. Red cranberries, orange salmon, green spinach, and a golden sauce make a seafood entrée that looks festive, tastes great, and is easy and quick to prepare.

I especially love fresh wild king salmon, although you could use any of your favorite sustainable salmon varieties. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program has a wonderful website (and iPhone app) on sustainable fish in your area.

The health benefits of eating fish in general are widely appreciated. In addition to the omega-3 beneficial fatty acids, salmon is also high in protein. A 4 oz. portion provides a full day’s supply of Vitamin D, as well as B12, niacin and selenium. Omega-3s are found in every kind of fish but are especially high in fish such as salmon that store a lot of the oils in their muscles. These fatty acids in fish are derived from plants (algae, leaves, grass). In wild salmon, the amount and type of omega-3s are based on the algae and plankton found in their diet. In farmed salmon, the omega-3 levels are dependent on what type of feed is provided.
Beautiful salmon
Fishmongers store fish at 38 degree F, colder than most home refrigerators. Once purchased, rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry, and wrap in a clean plastic wrap; put the fish in a clean plastic bag and store on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator with a resealable plastic freezer bag or two of crushed ice on top. Very fresh fish will last 3-5 days if handled correctly. To find the pin bones, which are not attached to the skeleton, run your fingers over the surface of the fillets. Use needle-nose pliers or fish tweezers to remove bones, pulling with the grain of the flesh to keep it from tearing.

Previous posts had featured three different poached salmon recipes, as well as suggestion for substitute fish.  Please see:
  • 8 Tb unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ C dry white wine
  • 2 Tb dried cranberries
  • ½ C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 Tb grated fresh horseradish or 2 Tb bottled horseradish, drained
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 6 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
  • 1 lb. flat-leaf spinach, trimmed of thick stems, washed & dried
  • 2 Tb chopped toasted walnuts (or almonds)

Soak the dried cranberries in the freshly squeezed orange juice for at least 15 min. Heat 1Tb butter with the shallots in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the shallots are tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce to 2 Tb. Pour the orange juice from the cranberries into the saucepan (set the cranberries aside). Reduce the orange juice to just ¼ cup. Off the heat, whisk in remaining 7 Tb butter, a tablespoon at a time. Add the horseradish and lemon juice, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in a warm spot, away from direct heat – or the sauce will break.

Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Use two pans if they will not fit in one. You do not want to crowd the salmon. Sprinkle the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, almost smoking, add the salmon fillets, skin side up, and sear until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Do not try to move the fillets until they’ve gotten a good sear, or they’ll stick to the pan. Flip and cook on the other side. A 2-inch thick fillet will take 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium.
First saute skin up

Then skin down....
While the salmon is cooking, heat the remaining 1 Tb olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until the spinach has just wilted, a minute or so. Add the walnuts and cranberries and cook for another 30 seconds to heat everything through.
Seasoned spinach
Place a quarter of the spinach and cranberries in the center of each of the four warm plates. Set the salmon skin side down over the spinach. Spoon the sauce around the plates. Serve immediately.
The final product

The dish is easily doubled, especially if you grill the salmon instead of sautéing it. Any leftovers translate into an instant lunch. The spinach is delicious cold, and the salmon can be sliced thin and drizzled with fresh lemon juice or given a completely different spin with a flavored mayonnaise. Any way you make it, you will love this dish!  Give it try soon.

I would pair the following wines: a wonderful buttery California Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, German Riesling and if you prefer a red, try an Oregon Pinot Noir.

Bon Appetit!


  1. Wow, does this ever look like a winner! Will try it soon. Thank you, Larue.

  2. It is a winner...hands down wonderful. Thank you!