Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Salmon tostadas

Recently, I professed my love for chicken.  We eat it for dinner at least three nights a week, sometimes more.  Grilled, stir-fried, baked, breaded, sauced, shredded, poached, and any other way you can cook it.  It's one of the best culinary canvases, bar none.  I love it... but something else has a true hold on my heart (and stomach).


Pitter patter goes my heart.  I can't tell you when my salmon journey began, but dates are irrelevant.  All you need to know is that salmon is my hands-down favorite meat/poultry/fish/protein.  If I were forced to pick only three foods I could eat for the rest of my life, salmon would be one of them.  In fact, it's the only one that hasn't changed over the years.

(If you're curious, the other two fluctuate frequently, but right now I'd probably say strawberries and mozzarella cheese.  Avocado and kale are close runners-up.)

Like chicken, you'll always find salmon on our weekly menu.  However, unlike chicken, we don't have it three or four nights a week (I wish).  So, I totally look forward to "the salmon dinner" each week and fantasize about what I'm going to do with it.

Yes, I fantasize about salmon.  No, it's not weird.  To be fair, I also fantasize about Kate Spade bags, seats behind the Penguins' bench, visiting Paris, and potato chip and peanut butter ice cream sundaes.  I'm well-rounded, after all.

But salmon just does it for me!  It's hearty and healthy and not finicky like some fish.  It stands up to nearly every cooking method, even frying and grilling.  From there, the flavor possibilities are endless.

I like to begin with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper before experimenting with spices and toppings.  Popular treatments include teriyaki sauce, homemade dill aioli, chili powder and brown sugar, and the classic drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.  Salmon is the perfect vehicle for every all of these!

As this particular salmon night approached, I started dreaming up a new way to savor my salmon.  A quick look in the fridge and pantry provided all of the inspiration I needed: trusty staples like canned black beans, corn tortillas, salsa, and a bag of chopped onions.  Throw in a ripe avocado whose addition would make almost any dish instantly better.

What seemed like an ordinary plan for dinner turned out to be an extraordinary new combination of flavors.  I'd never considered pairing salmon with traditional Mexican ingredients but was an instant believer once I tasted the black bean puree.  Sweet mother of all things good and delicious in the universe!

If you're wondering why the recipe below says "serves 2-3" it's because it really served two of us... because I couldn't stop myself from eating spoonful after spoonful of the black bean and salsa puree -- one of the perks of being the cook.  I'd say it'd make even cardboard taste good, but really, there's clearly nothing stopping me (or you!) from enjoying it by the spoonful, no cardboard necessary :) This stuff is basically spreadable culinary gold!

But the addition of a crispy tortilla, spiced tender flaked salmon, creamy avocado, and fresh salsa turned out to be absolutely necessary.  All the things!

We gobbled this up in no time.  Well, some time.  Enough time to determine that this was my all-time favorite salmon dish.  Ever.

Sigh, salmon.  Love you like a love song.  Swoon!

One year ago: Easiest fruit dip
Two years ago: Individual blackberry crumbles
Three years ago: World's best chocolate frosting

Salmon Tostadas
(an original recipe!)
-serves 2-3 (or 1 tortilla for her and 2 for him)

8 ounces boneless, skinless salmon
Ground black pepper
Ground cumin
Onion powder
Garlic powder
1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons chopped onion (I used white, but any kind will do)
3 Tablespoons salsa, plus more for serving
2 or 3 8-inch corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Season both sides of salmon with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and onion powders.  Place on foil-lined baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes.

While salmon is cooking, pour beans, chopped onion, and salsa into bowl of small food processor.  (If you don't have a food chopper/processor, simply mince onions and mix with well-mashed beans and salsa in a small bowl.)  Blend until smooth.

Remove salmon from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Pop tortillas in oven for a few minutes to warm but not toast.  With a fork, flake salmon.  To assemble, place warm tortilla on plate.  Spread with 1/3 of bean mixture.  Top with half of flaked salmon, half of cubed avocado, and finish with salsa.  Enjoy immediately and do the salmon swoon!

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