More often than not, a trip to the market provides me with inspiration for a new dish. Last week, for example, while walking down the aisles of the produce section in a local market, I spotted some plump Belgian endive. They were so attractive that I put several in my cart along with a bouquet of fresh dill. Moving on to the fish counter, I found beautiful boned salmon steaks. I added the seafood to my cache.
At home, I decided to pair the salmon with the endive. I sliced and sauteed the Belgian endive until golden brown and slightly caramelized, then transferred the vegetable to a baking dish. I placed the salmon, marinated briefly in lemon juice and olive oil, on top and dotted the fish with pats of butter. The salmon was roasted on the bed of endive until its flesh was flaky and opaque. Some chopped fresh dill made an attractive garnish.
My husband, who is not a fan of salmon, frowned and shrugged when he sat down to this salmon and endive combination, but within minutes he was eating the entree with abandon and raving about the flavors. When two friends came for lunch later in the week, I repeated the dish, this time trying it with salmon fillets, which worked even better. Both my friends asked for the recipe and said they would love to use it when entertaining.
This simple, yet delicious creation would make a fine centerpiece for a spring dinner party. Buttered red potatoes or mashed Yukon golds, sprinkled with some additional dill, are a good choice for a side dish. A compote of warm strawberries and rhubarb served with vanilla ice cream would make a fine conclusion.
Although this recipe serves four, you can increase the ingredients by half to offer it to six or double them for a group of eight. The endive can be cooked several hours ahead and arranged in a baking dish so that at serving time all you will need to do is add the salmon and bake the dish for about 15 minutes.
Roasted Salmon on a Bed of Belgian Endive
4 large heads Belgian endive (2 pounds total)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a little more if needed
generous 1 teaspoon sugar
salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 salmon fillets (with skin), each 6 to 7 ounces
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (color portion of rind)
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
Cut off and discard 1/2 inch from base (nonpointed end) of each endive. Halve endives lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into 1/2 -inch-wide julienne strips.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large, heavy skillet (with lid) over medium heat. When hot, add endive strips and cook, stirring often, until endive starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and stir and cook 1 minute more. Cover, lower heat and cook until endive is tender and golden brown, about 5 minutes more.
Make certain endive does not burn. If necessary, add a little extra butter to pan. When done, remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Endive can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Arrange in oven-to-table baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Thirty minutes before you are ready to cook salmon, prepare marinade. Place lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and olive oil in shallow nonreactive dish and whisk to combine. Place salmon, flesh side down, in pan and marinate at cool room temperature 30 minutes. (If endive has been prepared ahead, remove from refrigerator and discard plastic wrap.)
Remove salmon from marinade and arrange, flesh side up, on top of endive in baking dish. Salt and pepper salmon generously and top each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon remaining butter.
Bake on center rack at 400 degrees until salmon is opaque and flaky when pierced with knife, about 15 minutes. (Cooking time may vary, depending on thickness of fish.) When done, remove from oven. If desired, remove salmon from dish and, with sharp knife, cut away and discard skin. Return salmon to baking dish. Sprinkle lemon zest and dill over salmon. Serve immediately.