Sunday, January 12, 2014

Poached Salmon Salad with Quinoa

I'm on a make-better-choices diet.  I don't believe in counting calories, nor saying that some foods are off-limits.  I prefer to control portions.  However, when all those controlled portions are cookies and eggnog for what felt like a month, it's time to get back to nutrition basics.

First up was putting more fiber in my diet.  When I have something approaching the recommended 21grams daily, I stop wanting chocolate and fatty foods.  Legumes and quinoa are shortcuts to that goal which also bring significant protein to the party.  I stocked up on a variety of beans and half a pound of red quinoa.  I don't know if it's better for you than the white, but it has more fiber and was a dollar cheaper per pound.

Next was finding other lean proteins.  Legumes are great, but when you use them as your primary protein, you have to accept certain digestion consequences.  I compromised by making this meal's protein half quinoa and half poached salmon.  Yes, that means only 2oz of salmon per salad, but 3-4 ounces is a real serving.  It's not a lot.

Poaching is cooking something just below a simmer.  It adds zero fat and you get a very tender fish.  By adding wine or another flavored liquid plus herbs to the cooking water, you slowly infuse the fish with their essence.  And it doesn't take much longer than pan frying.

Finally up was the volume factor.  The more chewing you do, the more your body thinks you're eating. By putting crunchy and sweet jicama in the salad, I made it more of a project for my mouth.  I shovel food down quickly at work, but there's no need to do it at home.

1/2 lb salmon fillet (check for pin bones)
1/2 C white wine, 2 Tb liquor (I used Tanqueray), or 1 C fish stock
2 twigs thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried)
2 sprigs parsley (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C dried red quinoa
1 small jicama, peeled and cut into Batonnet
about 6 C chopped lettuce or spring mix
Ginger-Sesame dressing

1.  In a 6" skillet or medium saucepan, combine wine, thyme, salt, and parsley.  Add salmon, skin-side down, and add enough water just to cover.  Turn heat on medium and watch it.  You don't want it to boil.  You're looking for water that is very warm, when it starts to look wavy, but no bubbles.  If you start to see bubbles, turn down the heat.  Cook salmon until the center has just turned from raw to cooked, about 5 minutes for a thin cut, 10 for a thicker one.  Check every minute or so.  Drain, remove herbs, and let cool slightly.  Remove skin and flake salmon.

2.  While that's going on, cook the quinoa according to package directions (rinse if necessary).  If not using immediately, toss with about 1/2 tsp of olive oil to keep the grains from sticking together.

3.  To assemble salad, place about 1-1/2 cups of greens on each plate.  Divide quinoa among the plates.  Scatter jicama on each plate.  Top with flakes of poached salmon - your choice of warm or chilled.  Either drizzle with dressing or place on table for everyone to use.

Difficulty rating   :)

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