Sometimes inspiration for amazing meals can come from investigating the ingredients of your pantry. So it happened one night when I had two lovely salmon fillets available for cooking. Cranberries, walnuts, and oranges are what I found, which I knew appeared together in many classic holiday dishes. The sweet and nutty flavors are combined here and make the perfect accompaniment to some pan-seared salmon.
Pan-searing salmon may be trickier than it sounds at first. I definitely did not get it right on the first try. Instead of nicely seared fillets, flakes of the salmon stuck to the pan when I tried to flip it. Not that I am an expert on it now, but I believe part of the trick to getting it right is to use the right kind of pan, a generous amount of oil, and to keep the salmon moving in the pan. Pick up the skillet and shake it back and forth a few times to move the fillets around the pan so they don’t stick. To finish cooking the salmon, we place it into a preheated oven so that it turns out tender and flaky.
The relish is quick to throw together on the stove. The cranberries are soaked first in order to soften them, and then are placed into a pan. Walnuts, orange juice, and honey follow. Stir everything together and taste a small spoonful while it’s cooking. If you would like more sweetness, add more honey. If you prefer more brightness and zest, add a bit more orange juice (fresh-squeezed is always best). Taste as you go to get the topping to your liking.
And to have a little fun with our food, the very first step in this recipe involves making candied orange peel. Thin orange peels are dipped in maple syrup and then quickly baked to caramelize. Watch closely when they are in the oven because they can burn easily. The result is an intense bittersweet bit of flavor to add to the dish, but it is completely optional. If you do go for the candied orange peel, make sure to do two things. The first is to put it on parchment paper, because no one wants to scrub baked syrup off a pan. The second is to flip the orange peels right after taking them out of the oven so they do not harden and stick to the parchment.
When everything is brought together, this makes a tasty, light meal that is perfect for summer. Salmon pairs very well with the sweet cranberry and walnut relish. This simple recipe lets the ingredients shine.
- 4 6-oz. salmon fillets
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 orange
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 tbsp honey
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
- Place the cranberries in a small bowl with water and soak for 10 minutes to soften.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel off strips of orange peel and dip into the maple syrup. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 3-5 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from the oven and flip over to prevent sticking.
- Drain the cranberries and rinse. Place into a pot on the stove with the honey, walnuts, and juice squeezed from the orange. Add a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Meanwhile, turn the oven heat down to 350 degrees F. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon to the pan with the skin-side down and sear for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over and then transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for 5-9 minutes more or until salmon reaches desired doneness. Remove from the oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes. To serve, top the salmon fillets with the cranberry walnut relish and a candied orange peel. Garnish with parsley to serve.
- Servings: 4
- Difficulty: Medium
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