It seems like every time I happen to catch the Dr. Oz show he tells me to add salmon to my diet. I think about that recommendation every time I pass the seafood section at the grocery store. I also think about this pasta in particular.
This is as close as I can get to a dish that I would order from the Italian restaurant across the street from the office I used to work at. I'd indulge in this and then follow it up with a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Those days of eating by myself at a restaurant seem so long ago. Asking for a table for just one was intimidating for this non-type-A girl, but I quickly got over it and grew to love the chance to sit back and zone out amid the hum of people chatting around me.
Anyway, here's an approximation of that dish, which is very similar to the chicken and penne skillet meal we have at our house all the time.
This is one of those dishes that each time I make it I prepare it a little differently. There's not an exact science to preparing this and there's a lot of wiggle room. If you have a favorite method for cooking salmon or asparagus, do so and just add those ingredients to the pasta at the end.
Approximately 1 pound fresh salmon
1 pound pasta (I use penne, but that's just because the kids seem to think that shape tastes best.)
1 to 2 cups fresh asparagus
1 medium onion (I've used sweet and red onions; both work well.)
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, italian style (with basil and garlic)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
7 or 8 fresh basil leaves (or 1 tbsp dried basil)
6 tablespoons butter
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Yield: 5 servings
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Begin by pre-heating the oven to 400° in preparation for the asparagus. Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add a healthy dose of salt and a couple of dashes of olive oil to the pasta water.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and fish for cooking. I like to prepare them ahead of time, since the process seems to go fast once the cooking begins.
Chop the onion into small pieces and set aside. Chop or press about three cloves of garlic and set aside in a small bowl.
Prepare the asparagus by rinsing and then removing the tough, fibrous lower portion of the stalks. Don't know how far up to cut the bottoms of the asparagus? All you have to do is bend the asparagus toward the bottom; it will snap apart in the perfect spot, right where the woody portion of the base begins. (I always end up snapping off a few stray ends that didn't get cut far enough up.)
Set aside the asparagus spears on a metal cookie sheet. Chop about 7 or 8 leaves of fresh basil and set aside in a small bowl.
For the salmon, prepare it by removing the skin and rinsing off any scales that may have stuck around. Set aside.
To cook the asparagus, melt two tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Drizzle the butter over the asparagus, add salt, a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese, and lightly toss the spears to coat them. Spread the spears out into a single layer on the metal sheet. Place the asparagus in the pre-heated oven for 10 - 12 minutes (cook for up to 20 minutes if you have thick stalks and like your asparagus softer).
When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to package directions. When finished, drain, add 2 tablespoons of butter, salt generously, and stir to coat the pasta. Set aside.
When the asparagus is finished, remove the asparagus to a cutting board to cool, then chop the spears into bite-sized pieces.
While the pasta and asparagus are cooking, heat two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally until the onions are almost translucent.
Add the minced or chopped garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add the 1/2 cup chicken stock.
Place the salmon into the onion/chicken stock mixture and let the meat cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
When the salmon is nearly done and is beginning to separate, add the diced tomatoes and the heavy cream. Stir gently. Continue to cook until the salmon is cooked through. Remove from the heat.
Add the chopped basil to the salmon mixture, as well as a healthy dose of salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the noodles and the asparagus in the skillet, as well as Parmesan cheese to taste. I like a lot of cheese and end up using about half of a cup. Gently stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Don't forget the bowl of chocolate ice cream at the end of the meal, it just wouldn't be right without it. :)
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