When restaurant chefs create a dish that actually simplifies meal planning, it’s well worth imitating. The trend that I’ve been duplicating with delicious results combines meat or another center-of-the-plate food and salad into a beautiful entree.
It’s refreshing and easy. Rather than deciding whether an elegant lunch should have a main dish and separate salad, the two are served together. Charles Weber, a very talented Chicago chef, gave me a recipe for what I consider the most delicious example of the salad meal. It’s my summer ritual to celebrate my flourishing basil patch.
Weber’s directions, which I simplified, call for covering a salmon fillet with basil leaves, then sauteing the fish. It becomes permeated with a delicate anise flavor. The base of baby greens, generously mixed withmore basil and dressed with a simple oil, sherry vinegar and shallot combination, is a great match for the salmon.
Now that salad days are here, I recommend the following Basil Salmon with Baby Greens.
Basil Salmon with Baby Greens
1 (10-ounce) salmon fillet
8 to 10 basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, freshly ground white pepper
3 cups baby field greens or other mixed greens (see note)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Remove all bones from salmon. Arrange basil leaves on flesh side of fish.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet until very hot. Add salmon, basil-side down, and cook over medium-high heat 6 minutes. Gently turn fish over and cook second side (skin-side down) until cooked through, 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
On serving plate, combine field greens, basil and shallots. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar in cup. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over greens. Cut salmon into 2 serving portions. Arrange over greens.
Yield: 2 servings.
Note: Baby field greens, a mixture of mild and bitter greens, is available in many supermarkets. It may be called mache or European salad mix.
MEMO: Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.