We eat salmon fairly often, as it is healthy, sustainable, and easy to prepare in a variety of ways. One of my favorite ways to eat it is paired with lentils – there’s something about the way the richness of the fish works with the earthiness of the lentils that is really pleasing. This is a simple but elegant meal that is great to have in your repertoire for nights when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on getting dinner on the table – start to finish it usually takes me a little over half an hour.
For the lentils, I start by sauteeing a chopped shallot with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Once the shallot is softened, add a cup of lentils (I use the tiny green puy lentils, but you can use whatever variety you like – with the possible exception of red lentils, which won’t hold their shape), plus two cups of water and a sprig of fresh thyme. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still have a little bite to them. Once they are cooked, stir through about a tablespoon each of sherry vinegar and olive oil.
The salmon is even easier to prepare, and takes just minutes to cook while the lentils are simmering away. Coat the inside of a cast iron skillet with a thin layer of olive oil and heat it until it is almost smoking, then reduce the heat to medium. Season the salmon filets with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and place them into the hot pan skin side down. Cook the filets for about five or six minutes on the first side, then flip them and allow them to finish cooking on the other side for another 3 minutes. (The most important thing to remember with the salmon is once it goes into the pan, don’t move it around before you flip it – you want the skin to get really crispy so the fish won’t fall apart when you flip it, and allowing it to cook undisturbed will make that happen.)
Using a slotted spoon, place the lentils in a shallow bowl and lay a salmon filet on top. Toss a simple salad, pour a glass of Cotes du Rhone, and enjoy.