Sweet Pepper Salmon, by L

I love salmon. It’s my preferred fish (I could happily be a pescetarian), and I often have it simply cooked in the oven with some olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. Lately though, I decided to be a little more adventurous and take advantage of some cheerful- and tasty-looking sweet peppers I saw on offer. Also having a yen for something sweet and spicy (a flavor favorite of mine), this seemed the perfect time for a culinary experiment.

Although I have great pride in that my lunch partner at work loves this despite disliking salmon, the best thing about this recipe is its seasoning flexibility, in my opinion. A lot of the ingredients for the sauce can be altered or omitted – or preferred flavors added – without sacrificing the root concept of the dish. Served with some light sides, it also makes a healthier dinner/lunch option. Be sure and look at the “Let’s think about what you’re eating” section at the end of the post!

Sweet pepper salmon

You know you want it.

You will need:

  • Regular 10-inch skillet or equivalent.
  • Can opener. BBOCK and chopping board.
  • TWS, measuring spoons, serving spoon, spatula.
  • Baking pan / cake pan big enough to lay out your salmon fillets. (I found my 9×13 happily accommodated five decent-sized fillets.)
  • Enough foil to line said pan.

Servings depend on how many salmon fillets you have – one bag of frozen fillets typically has four to six fillets – assuming a serving of one fillet per person. Takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes of prep (thawing fish, prepping veg and making sauce), half an hour of cooking time.

Ingredients (with [my notes]):

  • Salmon fillets, skin-on. [I usually grab a four-six-quantity bag of the individually-wrapped ones from the frozen fish section; just be mindful that the quantity can vary. My skillet can hold – and the following ingredient amounts can make – enough to completely cover this amount.]
  • 1 tsp olive oil for your skillet to get the shallots started
  • Four shallots (diced), two heaped tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 green bellpepper [not used this time because I forgot], half a bag of mixed sweet peppers, all chopped or diced depending on your texture preference
  • If you have leftover tomatoes hanging around [this time, I did have a handful of tiny snacking tomatoes], now’s a good time to use them – no more than a cup, though.
  • Half a can (4oz) of tomato sauce, or two heaped tbsp of tomato paste, again depending on your texture preference [sauce for a more viscous, err, sauce, paste for a more salsa-like garnish]
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomato pesto [optional – I find it helps add a little richness]
  • 1 tsp of lime [or lemon] juice, 1/2 tsp of Pickapeppa [or Worcestershire] sauce, 4 tbsp barbeque sauce, 2 tbsp honey mustard [or 1 tbsp regular yellow]
  • To taste: lemon pepper, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
Ingredients for the sauce

Look at all this sh*t!

Great accompaniments: I find couscous to be the best compliment since it’s light, but have also had it with orzo or rice. I’d be wary of heavier pastas or potatoes. The sauce also tastes great with steamed vegetables, particularly those with a crunch like broccoli or asparagus. If you’re in a hurry, a bag of frozen stirfry veg works great, too!

Method:

  1. Following package instructions, start your salmon’s thawing process (if necessary). I find mine are ready in time for when I need them.
  2. Peel and chop your shallots. For texture interest, I diced three of them and sliced one into rings. Olive oil into your skillet, throw in the shallots and brown them a little (med-high heat), add garlic. Turn heat down to low.
  3. Start chopping your peppers. Remember to try and get the seeds and membrane / stem out for taste’s sake. Since your heat’s on low, you can add what you chop gradually if you’d like even more texture interest (I like some cooked down for flavor, some a little firmer for crunch). If you want a more even consistency, I recommend chopping your peppers ahead of time since the small ones can be a bit fiddly, and add them to the pan all at once. Either way, I know I have enough when I can’t see the bottom of my skillet anymore.
  4. If you’re adding tomatoes, add them now.
  5. Adjust heat to medium. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  6. Add pesto, stir.
  7. Add lime juice and other sauce ingredients. Stir. Taste, adjust as necessary.
  8. Add tomato sauce / paste, stir. Taste, adjust as necessary.
  9. Add brown sugar, stir. Taste, adjust as necessary.
  10. Add dry spices, stir. Taste, adjust as necessary. Your goal here is to achieve a kind of barbeque-like sweet-and-spiciness.
  11. While your sauce is simmering (and thereby thickening to a kind of salsa-like consistency), line your baking pan with foil. This will help with cleanup and the salmon skin won’t easily stick. Lay out your fillets evenly on the pan.
  12. Turn your burner off (I always forget). Spoon your sauce/salsa over the salmon fillets to completely cover them. Shove ’em in the oven for about twenty minutes – they’ll be done when the meat flakes with a pry of a fork.
  13. While your salmon’s cooking, prepare your sides and/or clean up a bit!
May not look like much right now, but just you wait!

May not look like much right now, but just you wait!

Cautions/adventures:

For the love of God, taste as you go. Particularly when it comes to the addition of the brown sugar. This batch I photographed actually turned out a little sweeter than I intended, because I am notorious at ‘going by eye’ rather than measuring and also, brown sugar tends to clump and come out in sudden and irregular ways when you’re just tipping it out willy-nilly.

Also, don’t overcook your salmon. You don’t want it dry – this basically means all its nutrients and associated benefits have been leeched out of it! If you’re worried about the temperament of your oven, or prone to forgetting things inside it, add an additional layer of foil to cover the entire pan, or even wrap each fillet and the sauce/salsa in its own ‘pouch’.

“Let’s think about what you’re eating.”

Keta skin-on salmon fillets, from frozen

Keta skin-on salmon fillets, from frozen

Salmon is very often touted as a wonderful protein for us to eat. It is a meatier fish, and while it is also classed as an oily fish, I do not believe it is overpoweringly oily like anchovies/sardines. You’ll notice in this recipe I’ve used skin-on fillets because, like vegetables, I believe a goodly amount of the nutrients to be in the skin. For those of you worried about scales – honestly, you can’t tell.

You’ll have heard about the wonderful omega-3 fatty acid content of salmon. The gist of omega-3s’ (yes, there is more than one kind) benefits are the reduction of bodily inflammation (and associated conditions such as asthma and arthritis), combating depression and other cognitive difficulties, and reducing the levels of some risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (specifically, triglycerides – what I affectionately call ‘trigies’). There’s also preliminary evidence for it helping prevent macular degeneration (read: helps your eyes’ health). In other words, it’s great for your heart, your joints, your brain, and your mood, to boot! Win win!

However, salmon is also a good source for your vitamins D and B12, the latter of which is a great muscle-building protein. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, and the nerves throughout our body function at their best. Generally, salmon is a great lean protein – in other words, a good source of protein without the bad fats.

There are similar benefits to the PepperPea Shrimp recipe, when it comes to the spice and the vegetables:

First, the cayenne/red pepper flakes. As well as a strong popular spice (at 30-50K Scovilles), cayenne has certain health benefits / casual medicinal uses if used in moderation. Many cultures have used this to, ironically, treat digestive ailments (though if you have a stomach ulcer, probably best to stay away), as well as topically for bleeding and frostbite, and cold-related ailments and heart issues.

What do all of these have in common? Blood. The capsaicin in the spice stimulates the heart and thus bloodflow – not only does this ‘warm you up’, but it helps the body do what it needs to do to combat the ailment by getting what it needs to the problem zone. In the stomach, for example, it encourages the digestive process through the absorption and distribution of nutrients. Topically, the capsaicin acts to reduce pain in a similar fashion to a heat patch.

The peppers have a lot of vitamin C (particularly red, which have twice as much as green and I will be using next time) along with some more capsaicin (albeit in smaller amounts). Garlic is of course useful for its antibacterial/antiviral properties, particularly for help with colds, and though it’s under debate, for heart health, too, such as lowering blood pressure (though this may seem at odds with the heart-stimulating cayenne).

Next, let’s think about how colorful this dish is, particularly with the addition of tomatoes.

Red vegetables or fruit contain lycopenes or anthocyanins – the former is good for reducing the risk of some cancers, the latter for antioxidant and cell damage-control. Here, the tomatoes are providing the lycopenes (and, FYI, cooked-tomato lycopene absorbs better than that from eating a raw tomato).

Green vegetables have lutein, which is provided here by your peas and green bellpepper. You’re looking out for the lutein because it can then react with zeaxanthin (found in corn, red bellpepper, egg yolks…) and help keep your eyes healthy (no pun intended).

Orange and yellow vegetables is where you’ll get your carotenoids (you’ve likely heard of beta-carotene being convertable to vitamin A, as in carrots). You need these for your mucous membranes and your eyes. Yay! There’s also the suggestion of them helping with your immune system, too.

A great summer food, guys. Let me know how yours turns out! Any variations?

Salmon fillet with sweet pepper salsa, steamed veg and couscous

Salmon fillet with sweet pepper salsa, steamed veg and couscous

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