Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pan Seared Salmon with Charred Corn and Tomato Salad

Though I spent the majority of June confined within the walls of Grady Hospital, I've done my best to celebrate the start of summer through my cooking. To me, summer is all about simple meals that highlight fresh and seasonal fruits, vegetables and proteins. A few weeks ago, I cooked a congratulatory dinner for my friend Brandon, who recently matched into a Laryngology fellowship on the west coast. Congrats, Brandon!

The meal was inspired by a seductive display of brightly colored heirloom tomatoes that I found at Whole Foods. Though available year-round, off season tomatoes tend to be rather unappetizing. But come the warmer weather, these fruit become big, round, and juicy. Tomatoes are also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, making them one of my favorite summer ingredients.

The display of heirlooms reminded me of an episode of Barefoot Contessa where Eli Zabar made Ina a spectacular salad from just 3 ingredients - heirloom tomatoes, tarragon, and red wine vinegar. How bad can that be? I channeled my inner Ina (which I do more frequently than I should admit) and carefully picked out a half dozen perfectly ripened (slightly firm, but not hard) tomatoes of varying sizes and colors, which were ready to serve that evening.

In the spirit of simplicity, I decided to serve this salad with a basic pan seared salmon started on a very hot grill pan and then finished in the oven. It was perfection. To complete the meal I made another summer staple, fresh corn. I lament over the bad rap corn gets because of it's highly processed cousin, high fructose corn syrup. Fresh corn is an excellent source of plant based carbohydrates that, along with other complex carbs, are an essential part of a heart healthy diet. I made Ottolenghi's charred corn salad with fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, and jalapeños. It's flawless and so versatile.

Before we get to the recipe, a quick pat on the back (for myself). Though easily confused for Dr. Mike, I reserve my scrubz selfies for special occasions such as surviving my last call day of intern year! It's remarkable how much I've learned and grown as a doctor and person in just one year, but the amount I still don't know is humbling. I'm eager to share the ups and downs, new responsibilities, and call room gossip (err, kidding) that comes along with second year. I'm also excited about my future blog posts and look forward to seeing how my work experiences reflect in my cooking and writing.

Tips/Tricks to Make the Perfect Pan Seared Salmon with Charred Corn and Tomato Salad:
  • High quality ingredients are essential for simple recipes. 
    • Look, smell and taste* (within reason) ingredients as you shop. Buy what's in season. 
      • *To be clear, I'm a doctor, not a lawyer. Take samples at your own risk. I personally think trying a couple of grapes before buying the bunch or tasting a few olives from the olive bar before choosing is acceptable as long as you're sanitary. Others, may feel differently.    
  • These recipes don't require precise measurements. Taste frequently and trust your palate.
  • Tomatoes and salt are a magical pairing, so season liberally*. 
    • *If you have conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or congestive heart failure, salt restriction (generally less than 1.5 g per day) is especially important 
    • Of note, recent American Heart Association guidelines recommend salt restriction even in healthy patients. 
  • Try the dish as written or make just one component (salmon, charred corn, tomato salad) 
  • Get your pan hot before adding fish. 

Heirloom Tomato Salad:
Heirloom Tomato Salad Ingredients:
  • 6 heirloom tomatoes, varying color and size, cut into slices (for larger tomatoes) and wedges (medium and small tomatoes) 
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Bunch of fresh tarragon 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe:
Take the sliced and and wedged tomatoes and arrange nicely in a large shallow bowl or serving platter. Season generously with kosher salt. Liberally drizzle red wine vinegar over all the tomatoes. Using kitchen scissors, clip tarragon leaves off of their stem over the salad. Season with several grinds of black pepper. Pop a tomato into your mouth and make adjustments to personal taste. Allow salad to sit for 10 minutes for flavors to mingle. Serve at room temperature. 

Charred Corn Salad:
Charred Corn Ingredients:
  • 4 ears of corn (fresh and in season), shucked
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced or diced small (size of corn kernel)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced or diced small 
  • 3 tablespoons torn mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons torn parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons torn cilantro leaves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Charred Corn Recipe:
Heat a grill pan, electric grill, or outdoor grill (preferred method) to high. Coat corn with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place corn over heat, turning until all sides browned and crisped, about 12 minutes on an outdoor grill, but may take significantly longer depending on heat source. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

While corn is cooking, combine the onion and lime juice in a small bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup, jalapeño, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

With a sharp knife, cut a small tip off each ear of corn to create a flat edge. Using the flat edge, prop corn upright in a large bowl. Run knife down each side of the corn to cut off the kernels. Mix the corn kernels with the onion and jalapeño mixture. Add the fresh herbs. Season to taste and serve.

Pan Seared Salmon:
Seared Salmon Ingredients
  • 4 salmon filets with skin on, 7 oz each (one filet per person) 
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Seared Salmon Recipe
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set aside a parchment lined baking sheet.

Heat a ridged grill pan or electric grill to highest setting. Coat salmon liberally with oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Once pan is very hot, place each filet flesh side down on grill (pink side down, skin facing up). Allow fish to sear (with minimal disturbance) for about 3 minutes, until an outer crust is formed. Carefully transfer each filet off the grill and onto the lined baking sheet, skin side down. Cook in oven for 4 to 5 minutes (for rare to medium rare) and up to 6 minutes*. Plate with charred corn and tomato salad and serve immediately.

*Regarding cook times: Remember, salmon will continue cooking a bit even when out of the oven. So even if salmon appears slightly under for your desired doneness, think twice before throwing the fish back int he oven for another 1 or 2 minutes.



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