Greek Salmon Pasta Salad

I like to cook almost as well as anyone you know, but I also enjoy days when dinner is done and in the fridge, ready to go — especially come summer. (Though I’d admit real summer has yet to arrive in Colorado–no complaints.) Instead of turning on the stove, I can crawl up into my comfy reading chair with its humongous hassock, fall into my latest mystery or sleazy novel, and sip something very, very cold indeed. Typically, and you know this, it’s a pot of soup that has me all comfortably cozy-lazy with the latest Ruth Galloway (Elly Griffiths) or Louise Penny’s most recent Gamache thriller. But recently I’ve discovered a nice stash of protein heavy pasta salad will do the trick just as well. I like to bring a mammoth, heavenly pasta salad to a potluck or cookout (a great one-dish side) or on a road trip, but come hot weather, it’s happy at home right in my kitchen fridge just waiting for me to get hungry. With a little extra meat, cheese, beans, or fish, my salad feels perfect for dinner and leftovers are then easy offerings for lunch. Did I mention they’re whole meal deals? Nothing else is needed. Well, wine.

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FRIDAY FISH: Salmon and Vegetables on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits

This week is the start of my once-a-year FRIDAY FISH series. Since 2015, I’ve each spring been posting six fish or seafood recipes, one for each Friday in Lent, the season of thoughtful observance leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Whether or not you follow any sort of faithful journey, you can still get some new ideas for cooking fish–who doesn’t need those? For grins and giggles — I think some of these meals qualify as fun— and to see what’s happened in other years, click on FRIDAY FISH in the topics cloud or type “Friday Fish” into the search box. To give you a few ideas, I’ve included in this post photos and links for some favorite FRIDAY FISH posts from the last couple of years.

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Upping Your Tuna Salad Game + Easy Recipes using Canned Tuna!

Change up your salad with new additions. Maybe not all of them at once!

Like many of you, I have probably for most of my life made tuna salad pretty much like my mother did. A can of tuna, a few spoons of mayo, one chopped hard cooked egg, a little onion, pickle and celery and — Fanny’s your aunt — hot weather lunch was served with little or no stove time. Over the years, though, as my cooking developed, so did my tuna salad. One year I was shocked to see that a happy little bit of lemon zest had slipped into the mixing bowl by “mistake.” Whoa! Another time a dab of perky horseradish became a sudden, but happy addition. Soon, though not always, cucumbers/fennel/carrots/bell peppers joined the party along with a good healthy spoonful of Dijon-style mustard, cornichons leftover from a wine and cheese event I catered, and —wait for it — a big splash of red wine vinegar. The biggest change was the consistent use of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, along with the occasional herbs, no matter what else I dumped in. Why didn’t I ever season my tuna salad before? (Mom, you didn’t tell me.) Of course I often ate it on toast, but sometimes I went with the old school ladies’ lunch counter lower-carb style: spooned into the middle of a quartered tomato, hopefully ripe. Other weeks, I thinned it out and ate it scooped up with potato chips or Triscuits (HELLO, TUNA DIP!!) — Triscuits being one of my most unknown addictions. (The rye were the best, but they discontinued them–sob, sob. Now I’m even more stuck on the organic thin variety. Try them and see. Nope, I’m not on Nabisco’s payroll.) After a while, my tuna salad was never the same twice in a row. Who knew what would happen next to my trusty, inexpensive summer fun food? And, by the way, how did we come to eat so much tuna fish?? 

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Salmon with Red Pepper Sauce on Salad

If you’re a longtime More Time reader, you’ll have seen more than your share of caprese salads on the blog. While I’m not as addicted as it might appear, I’ll admit I make several during the warm months and…they are definitely photogenic. I mean. Red. Green. White. The colors are made to go together and not just in the garden or at the table. For instance, how many countries boast flags in those colors? Ok, I checked. Here they are (scroll down a while!). You have to admit, though, that this is actually a salmon salad; it just happens to be nestled into asparagus, greens, and yes, ok … caprese around the edges.

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Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus (French Tarragon Class, Part 1)

Bring seasoned water to a boil; add salmon; remove from heat and rest, covered, until done. Yes, that’s all.

While it always sounds like a joke, it definitely isn’t. There really are entire series of cooking classes devoted to BOILING WATER. As in, “He can’t boil water.” Well, kinda-sorta, but yes:

Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures — Boiling Water 101 was a class I taught for 10 years at a local school in Minnesota. This recipe was one I designed to teach a basic skill but also deliver complex flavors and serve as a touchstone for family meals or entertaining. You really need to practice braising/poaching/blanching as often as you can because wet-heat cooking is much more subtle than dry-heat cooking but so much easier. Recipes like this will change your outlook on cooking for sure. Get wet! 

Andrew Zimmern

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FRIDAY FISH: Caprese Salmon Burgers

Looking for Easter recipes? Try: Italian-Style Braised Leg of Lamb or Bake a Ham… or Asparagus for Lunch, Asparagus for Dinner or Carrot Cake Cupcakes or How To Make a Quiche out of Anything or Czech Easter Bread.

Come summer and time to cook outside, I stock our freezer with easily and quickly grilled proteins like chicken thighs and legs, bone-in pork chops, and sirloin steak for kebobs. Then all I have to do is talk my husband into firing up the grill, make a salad, and we’re soon ready eat. And while I’m happiest with all kinds of freshly made burgers if it’s a burger night, it’s also nice to have some pre-made frozen ones for those times when desperation is the mother of invention. A resealable bag of salmon burgers is usually at the top of my warm weather grocery list. I even keep whole-wheat skinny buns frozen, too, as they last a few weeks if well-wrapped and thaw in no time at all. What’s cool is you are SUPPOSED to cook these particular salmon burgers frozen–no thawing needed, no thawing allowed. Yes!

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FRIDAY FISH: Salmon and Fresh Tomato Salsa on Garlicky Cauliflower Mash…and a Little Plating Fun

With as much fish as we’re supposed to eat for health and six weeks of Friday Fish for Lent every year on this blog (this is now our second Covid Lent), salmon comes up pretty often on our menu. Our friend Chris likes to say, “Puh-leeze give me something else to do with salmon!” Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy serving salmon with at least two vegetables — so you’ve seen a few variations on this theme — hoping to eat less carbs or save them for some bread. I also simply want to increase our vegetable intake. Serving a smaller portion of fatty fish or red meat on a bed of vegetables or just to the side is not only a healthier way to eat (more vegetables), it makes the protein appear larger, more attractive, and puts it front and center for its closeup — an old tried and true restaurant ploy. So if it’s not really something new to do with salmon, it might just look and taste better!

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Salmon Puttanesca

Bright, briny, and brilliantly bolstered with happy heat, Pasta Puttanesca is a favorite amongst cooks short on time and big on hunger. Garlicky tomatoes, onions, salty anchovies, olives and capers, along with herbs and a little wine for good measure, all come together quickly in a hot pot and are typically ladled on top of a bowl of steaming pasta topped with grated cheese and fresh parsley or basil. If you’ve made the sauce and had a little leftover in the fridge, you know it’s also good next morning on grilled bread or scrambled eggs or even just cold in your spoon.

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Salmon on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits

Sometimes dinner just looks like a party!

You either love grits or you hate them. They’re one of those kinds of things. If you grew up eating them, as did I, they’re comfort food par excellence — we so need comfort food now — whether buttered and tucked under a big plate of eggs over easy with spicy patty sausage or baked up all cheesy in a casserole dish for the Thanksgiving or any other buffet. They do not, as some folks will insist, taste like paste. (I always liked paste myself.) The trouble has come with the advent of instant grits, which while technically kinda-sorta grits, are nothing compared to the pot of goodness made with stone-ground grits that take longer to cook and definitely need more attention than mashed potatoes. I’d just as soon skip grits if they’re instant, but I’m sure they have their place for folks camping with a bunch of kids demanding a hot breakfast 10 minutes ago.

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Salmon Cheese Spread – PLUS: How To Get More Salmon in Your Life

Fast, simple app or fun dinner. #justaddrosé

I love salmon and maybe you do, too? Perhaps like me, you still occasionally wonder about what else you could do with it despite your unwavering devotion. You could just want better quality fish or how about a better $$ deal? (More later on that.) There are times I move into the fancy-schmancy or innovative lane — mostly because some uber ripe produce is shooting me dark looks from the counter or it could be I’m dreaming of a company meal even when no company’s in sight. Like lately. I miss friends and family coming for dinner. Most of us do, I guess–even those who don’t like to cook!

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