Swimming with Fishes: An Easy Pan Sauteed Salmon and a Mediterranean Salad

I don't know why I hadn't made salmon this way before, but it's my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn't too shabby either.

I don’t know why I hadn’t made salmon this way before, but it’s my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn’t too shabby either.

Where does the week go? Our lives are so busy and full these days, no matter what endeavors and challenges are part of your day to day world. Some days we just need to be able to make something quick and delicious for dinner. This fits that bill.

All of the recent fish posts and recommendations to add more of it to your diet (the Mediterranean diet most recently), have caused me to develop a relentless craving for fish. We don’t have the sources for fresh and reasonably priced fish that we should in our city, but we do seem to always have fresh salmon available, and sometimes at an excellent price. This was the case this week and I wanted to try a simple preparation.

Enter Jacques Pépin and Julia Child’s fantastic cookbook, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, perhaps my most beloved and referred to cookbook of all time. Jacques’ singularly simple and quick preparation for salmon caught my eye, and it features just a few ingredients, some that I always have on hand. Of course best of all, it produces a truly spectacular and tasty end result…a crispy skinned fish, lightly seasoned, perfectly cooked and lovingly flavored with a little butter, lemon, onion and capers. I paired this with a Greek salad tossed with my homemade Mediterranean dressing/marinade and some rosemary roasted potatoes. Then I made it again with just the salad for a side because the fish is so rich. Either way, it’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal, for company, or for any night at all.

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Pan Cooked Salmon (or try this with another fish of your choice)
As slightly adapted from Jacques Pépin’s original recipe
Makes 2 servings

2 – 6 oz. fillets of sustainable fresh salmon, skin on and scaled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3/4 cup red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Optional fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish, if desired

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with a small amount of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. (Note: At this point, I would suggest turning on the fan over your stove unless you wish your house to smell of salmon for the next day…not that that’s a terrible thing.) Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat until it is quite hot. Put the salmon into the very hot, dry pan, skin side down. The heat will immediately crisp and shrink the salmon skin, and release it from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium high and cover, allowing the salmon to cook until it is just done and a knife inserted into the top will flake off the meat, but the fish is just barely cooked through inside, about 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove the fish from the pan with a long spatula and place it on the serving plates skin side up.

Wipe the pan out with a paper towel and return it to the stove top with medium low heat. Add the butter and the onions, and cook the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the capers and sauté for about 30 seconds, then swirl the lemon juice in and heat it through for just a few seconds. Pour the sizzling sauce over the top of the salmon fillets, dividing equally. Sprinkle with a little parsley for more color, if desired, and serve immediately with your favorite salad or side.

Betsy’s Easy Mediterranean Salad Dressing/Marinade
Makes a generous 1/2 cup, can be doubled

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a 1 cup mason jar. Screw on lid and shake vigorously. Use this to lightly dress a Greek salad (red onion, kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber and feta) or a green salad, or use for a marinade for pork, fish or chicken.

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47 thoughts on “Swimming with Fishes: An Easy Pan Sauteed Salmon and a Mediterranean Salad

  1. Salmon is always a quick and delicious meal and leaves me wondering the same thing — why don’t I make this more often?! It is truly a favorite and I like the sides you’ve put with it, especially the rosemary potatoes — YUM!

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    • Thank you, Judy! Salmon is so versatile, too. Of course I’ve grilled, poached and baked it, but for some reason I hadn’t sauteed it…duh! This one makes the skin so crispy that I will actually eat the skin…something I usually avoid.

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    • Hi Spree and thank you kindly for your comment. It’s rare that I make something again the next week after I make it the first time, but this was so quick and so good…and salmon was still on sale…that I had to do it!

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  2. its ages since i had salmon, i shall put it on my list for tomorrow (shopping day!! shudder) and I am a huge fan of a greek salad.. this is what we will have tomorrow, i cannot tell you how grateful i am for the suggestion.. c

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    • Hi Cecilia! Like you, I hadn’t had salmon in quite a while before I made this dish. The flavor of the fresh salmon really shines with this preparation, and I never get tired of a greek salad…so fresh tasting. You’re most welcome for the suggestion…enjoy!

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  3. Betsy, I want to come and eat at your house tonight. I just need to hop on a plane for 15 hours first… LOL What a delicious meal and if the people lived so long and healthy with this diet then maybe we should have more simple and beautiful dishes like yours. Take care, BAM

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    • BAM, you’re welcome any time you want to make the flight! I’ll happily share my salmon and salad with you. 🙂 I actually love eating like this and want to try and do it more often than no…especially when the ingredients are fresh in spring and summer.

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  4. This is such a great way to prepare salmon, Betsy. Pan searing gives the fish such a nice flavor in but a few minutes. It has become my “go to” method of cooking salmon, And your sauce not only looks great atop the fillet but, judging by the ingredients, it must be tasty, too. With those potatoes, this was a fantastic meal although deceptive. It looks far ore complicated to prepare than it actually is. Now, that’s my favorite kind of dish to serve! 🙂

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    • Hi John, and I agree, such a lovely way to prepare salmon or any fish. I think it would be terrific with tuna or swordfish, too, if I ever see any again, LOL! 🙂 I appreciate your comments so, as you are the king of the fish cooking here lately, in my opinion. It’s just gotten really warm and spring like here this weekend, so it’s time to fire up our grill!

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  5. This dish looks great! I love salmon, and it seems, salmon seems to be one fish that is readily available in most corners of the world! I’ve lived in a few places and while some of the fish varieties change, salmon never does! I’m trying to eat it more, but as I didn’t grow up eating seafood on a weekly basis, I do find it hard.

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    • Hi Ali and thanks for your comment. Like you, I didn’t grow up eating seafood on a weekly basis, or fish either. We were pretty land locked and it was a rare treat. Fish here tends to be quite expensive, so even if I want to eat it twice a week or more, it’s cost prohibitive. But some salmon now and then is quite nice! 🙂

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  6. Believe it or not, this is actually the third salmon recipe blog post I’ve read this morning! Salmon is definitely top of mind all over the world. I love the Mediterranean flavours you’ve paired with the salmon Betsy, very nice. And I’m glad you mentioned that this would work well with other fish because we’re a bit off salmon right now since the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the same as the FDA in the states) has permitted farmed salmon to be sold even though it is infected with a fish influenza virus. They claim it is safe for human consumption but to be honest, I just don’t feel like risking it. The non-farmed salmon is also infected but they are unsure of the extent.

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    • Ewwww, Eva. That sure turns my head around about looking more closely at salmon. I know when we had some a few weeks ago it came from Canada, but was processed (filleted and portioned) here in the U.S. and it was farm raised. Ah well, so far we’re okay and next time I will look more closely so thanks for the heads up. And yes, I believe this preparation would work well with any meaty fish…it’s so light, like a beurre blanc, so quite versatile.

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    • You’re so right, Kay, it would be perfect for a date in that it’s so quick to come together and quite impressive looking I think. Just make sure you turn on the fan over your stove when you make this, or you’ll smell like a salmon, too! 😉

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    • Thank you, Norma! I have a balsamic that I also make and use for both dressing and marinade…that’s the great thing about savory and savory/sweet dressings, they so often can be dual purposed I think! Happy weekend to you!

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    • Thank you Tanya…and I could almost exist on greek salad and roasted potatoes…almost! 🙂 They were great with the salmon, and are wonderful with pork loin that has been marinated in the dressing and grilled, too.

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  7. Hi Betsy, I love pan fried salmon – it’s so good isn’t it? I noticed you mentioned you’d even eat the skin when it’s so crispy? Blegh, you can keep that. I just can’t bring myself to eat fish skin… seems to… scaly. Anyway though – a great looking meal, and the salad looks lovely too!

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    • Ha, ha! I know what you mean, Charles. I never eat the skin on a fish if I can help it, but cooked this way it was good…though it wouldn’t have been with scales on it for sure! I don’t think it will turn me into someone who always eats it, though. 🙂

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    • Hi Barb, and I’m glad you like this idea for your family. Yes, that’s one of the things I love about greek salad, that “all-in-one” factor, along with the fact that it has some of my favorite ingredients in it. 🙂

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  8. Gosh this looks good! I’ve been getting fishy lately too, something maybe to do with Spring! frozen fish can be very very good if you can get it
    loving the addition of rosemary roasted potatoes too 🙂

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    • Hi Claire, and thanks so much. Sorry to be late in responding…just fished you out of the spam filter…what’s up with that? Anyway, I think you’re right because Spring always makes me think of lighter foods after winter and I always associate fish with lighter foods, even though that may not be the case always! 🙂

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  9. Hi Betsy. This looks terrific and I make make it tonight. One question…do you never flip the fish in the pan, just cook on the skin side? Thanks—Geni

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    • Hi Geni, and thanks for your comment and question. No, you don’t flip the fish until you get ready to serve it, then you put it skin side up on the plate to serve. The heat from the skin side and covering the fish will allow it to cook through perfectly. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear…I’ll fix that. Hope you enjoy this if you make it! 🙂

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  10. Isn’t Jacque divine? And of course Julia is the Queen of all things delicious. This is my kind of meal Betsy. I think I’ll add this to the menu next week. Fabulous!

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  11. I have a friend that says that fish skin is the best part…but I’m not quite there in liking it yet. You know how I love easy weeknight meals, so this one is right up my alley. The only ingredient I’m not sure about for the girls is the capers. Chicago John wonders if I called them peas, whether the girls would know the difference. What do you think?

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    • I have to say that this is the only preparation I’ve ever tasted where I could eat, much less enjoy the skin, Barb. As to the caper question…peas seem like a good idea, although they taste nothing like a pea. Or you could tell them that they are edible flower buds, which they are, and edible flowers might have some appeal. Or you can tell them that they are a form of pickle, which they also are, kind of like what is used in tartar sauce that goes with fish. Does that help at all? 🙂

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  12. Pingback: Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart | bits and breadcrumbs

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