- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Poached salmon is a summertime favorite of mine. Whether I am serving it chilled or warm, the technique remains the same: Allow 10 minutes to the inch of thickness for cooking. If you plan to serve the salmon cold, let it cool in its stock for a few hours. This method keeps the fish moist and extremely flavorful.

I often am asked what kind of salmon I like best. My answer is that it depends on what looks and smells the freshest.

Farm-raised salmon is available year-round, but many fish lovers reject this type because of its mild flavor. There also is controversy over whether farm-raised fish have higher levels of toxins than wild varieties.

I ask my fish dealers what they know about the farm where the fish is raised and if they checked on the toxin levels. If I am satisfied with their answer, I will purchase it.

If you prefer wild salmon, you are in luck during the summer because both Atlantic and Alaskan varieties are abundant this time of year. When selecting your salmon, check for a slightly sweet odor and firm flesh.

Salmon fillets present another challenge. Look for the pin bones (tiny bones), which often are buried vertically in the thickest part of the flesh.

To remove them, press the meat with your fingers and remove any bones that appear. Tweezers come in handy for this job.

This week’s recipe is great for a last-minute dinner. Quick, colorful and bursting with flavor, silky poached salmon is crowned with a colorful tangle of Mediterranean flavors. The tomato, fennel and olive vermouth sauce is an assertive complement to the salmon.

I like to serve this with steamed baby potatoes and fresh baby green beans.

To drink, why not try a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or California viognier? I also have enjoyed poached salmon Provencale with a crisp dry rose from France or California.

Help is on the way: Keep a bottle of dry vermouth in the coolest section of your pantry. Because it is a fortified wine, it will last for months and can be used like dry white wine in cooking.

Poached salmon nicoise


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

½ pound brown (cremini) mushrooms, quartered

1 pound medium red and/or yellow tomatoes, coarsely chopped


2 pounds salmon fillet, or 4 ½-pound pieces, skin and pin bones removed

2 cups dry vermouth


½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

Seasoning salt

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and saute for about 5 to 7 minutes or until softened and lightly golden. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until softened, about another 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and increase heat to high. Cover and cook until the tomatoes begin to fall apart and thicken, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

To poach the salmon, put the salmon in a deep skillet just big enough to hold it. Add the dry vermouth, then enough water to cover the salmon.

Place on medium heat until it begins to simmer. Poach for 10 minutes per inch at the thickest point, usually about 7 to 10 minutes, depending how thick the fish is.

Just before serving, add the olives, seasoning salt to taste and 1/4 cup of the poaching liquid to the sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and reduce the mixture for a minute until slightly thickened.

Transfer the fish pieces to a platter or individual serving plates. Blot any excess liquid and spoon the sauce over each piece. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.


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