After all the standard holiday fare, I’m always ready for something vastly different. This Indian-inspired spice-rubbed salmon with curried red lentils is certainly that, but it also fits with my desire to get back to a healthier diet.
If possible, choose wild salmon over farmed. Overall, it has higher nutritional value with less environmental impact. Fresh wild salmon is plentiful in the late summer to early fall; however, The Fresh Market and Whole Foods often carry previously frozen wild salmon in their fish counters during the rest of the year.
The combination of spices for the salmon packs a real flavor punch. Hungarian paprika tends to be more pungent and intense than regular sweet paprika.
The salmon is paired here with a lively red lentil dish. Red lentils, also referred to as pink lentils or masoor dal, cook faster than brown or green lentils. Besides faster cooking, I love red lentils because they cook to a softer, almost sauce-like consistency that pairs well with simply prepared items like this salmon.
While you can certainly make your own curry powder blend for the lentils, I use a good-quality blend from Penzeys or from one of the area’s many great international markets and Indian grocery stores.
Serve with plain yogurt on the side for a cooling touch, along with lime wedges and a steamed green vegetable.
Seared Spice-Rubbed Salmon with Curried Red Lentils
2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small carrot, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
½ small red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder (hot or mild)
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or as needed)
¾ cup red lentils (picked over for any debris)
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or to taste), plus more for garnish
Lime wedges (optional)
Plain yogurt (optional)
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3-4 minutes or until it begins to soften.
Add carrot and red bell pepper. Continue to cook 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.
Add garlic, ginger and curry powder, stir several times and cook briefly or until fragrant (no longer than 30 seconds or these can burn). Add tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
Add lentils, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 20 minutes or until lentils are very tender, adding more vegetable broth if needed.
Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in cilantro and serve with salmon.
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 (6-ounce) wild salmon fillets, skinned
1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil
Prepare salmon while the lentils cook. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, black pepper and salt on a plate. Coat salmon fillets well on all sides.
Heat oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the salmon and cook 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven and bake 10 minutes or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees and salmon easily flakes with a fork.
Serve over lentils with lime wedges, plain yogurt and garnished with cilantro sprigs.