Monday, August 8, 2011

Salmon with Spice and Everything Nice

Spicy Salmon with Tomato Avocado Salsa and Pepperjack Polenta
The one food I always want to eat? Chips and salsa. After a run, I crave chips and salsa. Morning, afternoon, late night. It doesn't matter. If I don't eat anything else all day, I will eat chips and salsa. I have tried dozens of varieties and appreciate many for their subtle differences. One of my favorite salsas to make is a tomato avocado salsa- not quite salsa and not quite guacamole, this flavorful condiment is fantastic with tortilla chips, but I wanted to use it as part of a legitimate dinner recipe. Due to my passion for salmon, I figured a meet-up between these two ingredients was long overdue. I was right, the salmon's spicy dry rub with the freshness of the salsa and creamy polenta made for great all-around meal. It's an easy dinner for four, or easily cut in half for a dinner for two!

- 4 7 oz. salmon fillets
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 tsp. cardamom powder
- 1 tsp. dried minced garlic
- olive oil
- 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 3 tsp. ground cumin, divided
- 1 small handful of chopped fresh cilantro
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 tsp. hot sauce such as Tobasco
-1 c. polenta
- 1 qt. whole milk
- 1 c. grated pepperjack cheese

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Spray a shallow glass with non-stick cooking spray. Brush each salmon fillet on both sides with a little olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, set aside. In a small bowl mix together 2 tsp. cumin, cardamom, chili powder, and dried minced garlic until the spices are well combined. Sprinkle both sides of each fillet with an even coating of spice rub, then using your fingers press into the fish slightly. Bake the salmon in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through evenly, but still flaky and tender. 

While the salmon is baking prepare the polenta. In a medium heavy, bottomed sauce pan, heat milk over medium and bring to a simmer. Add polenta slowly and whisk into milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer together until the polenta softens and absorbs the milk, stir frequently to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan, 10-15 minutes. When polenta has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in grated pepperjack cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and cover to keep warm while finishing salmon and salsa.

In a large bowl combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro. Toss together with vinegar, 2 tsp. of cumin, lime juice, and hot sauce until well combined. Gently toss in the diced avocado and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more hot sauce and cumin if desired. 

Serve by divining up even portions of polenta among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Top salmon with the salsa. Serve with additional tortilla chips if desired.

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