The Sometimes Vegetarian

August 8, 2011

Are you a Meatless Mondays enthusiast but not ready to take the plunge for the rest of the week? Maximize your meat-free meals with personal chef (and Whole Foods Market Cooking recipe tester) Natalie Barbarese's new column, The Sometimes Vegetarian, where she'll share a mouthwatering, vegetarian recipe every other Monday.

This week: a doubly wild summer salad with salmon and wild rice.

wild salmon wild rice
Photo by Natalie Barbarese

- Natalie

All summer long I've been offering yummy samples to customers at the Whole Foods Market in Montclair, NJ. This past week, the Whole Foods team asked me to feature their wild Alaskan salmon, so my first challenge was to figure out how to transform the gorgeous pink fillets into 200 two-bite, utensil-free samples.

I turned immediately to my favorite (though often underrated) section -- the bulk bin aisle. Shopping in this area is a great way to buy a little (or a lot) of something you want to try for the first time. I filled my plastic bag with an interesting wild rice blend and chose some fresh veggies from the Produce department to add color and texture.

Wild rice is actually the seed of a grass that grows in large bodies of water and not a rice at all. The blend I purchased included some brown rice and other grains that worked to balance the strong, almost musky flavor. To prepare the rice, rinse the grains, then cook them as you would regular rice, but with a higher water to rice ratio (about 3½:1). Wild rice can go from al dente (yay) to mushy (nay) in just a few minutes, so be sure to start tasting for doneness around the 25 minute mark.

I seasoned the salmon simply with some olive oil, salt and pepper, then covered it in foil to keep it moist during baking. When the salmon was just barely opaque, I removed it from the oven, let it cool, and then started flaking the fish into bite-sized chunks. Be on the lookout for pin bones, which float precariously in the middle of the fillet, but can turn up anywhere. 

The combination of nutty wild rice, bits of fleshy salmon, mild scallions, sweet corn, and a squeeze of lemon come together into a light yet filling summer salad. While I was explaining the dish to customers who stopped by ("It's wild!" exclaimed an employee who overheard the title) some of them asked where they could find the salmon salad in the Prepared Foods section. They were surprised to know that my supply of the salad was the only one, but relieved when I provided the recipe and ventured off to gather ingredients.

You could certainly serve a deconstructed “square meal” version of this recipe: a baked fillet of salmon alongside a wild rice pilaf and corn on the cob, but the flavors complement each other so well, why not let them mingle together?

Wild Salmon & Wild Rice Salad with Corn and Scallions

Serves 4-6

1/2 pound wild salmon filet
1 ear of corn, husked
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 sprigs of thyme
1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
2 cups packed baby arugula
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place salmon and corn on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle both with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and cover salmon with another sheet of foil. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until salmon is just cooked through and corn kernels are blistered. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Flake salmon by hand or with a fork -- be sure to remove any pin bones that remain in the fish. Cut kernels from the corn using a sharp knife. Add salmon and corn to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth and thyme sprigs to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add wild rice, cover the pan and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook rice for 25-30 minutes or until al dente. Drain rice and add to salmon and corn. Add scallions, arugula and lemon juice and stir gently to combine, keeping the salmon pieces whole. Season to taste with more olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Looking for more of Natalie's recipes? Check out her last post: Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus.

Natalie is the chef/owner of Broccoli Rose, a personal chef business serving healthy meals to locations within 60 miles of Montclair, New Jersey.

natalie barbarese

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