I’ve paired salmon and fennel several times in this book and there is a reason for it: They make a gorgeous marriage of taste, texture, and color. Here the fennel is thinly sliced, partnered with peppery arugula, and tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. A quickly pan-seared salmon fillet sits on top of a mound of this slawlike salad. A quick garnish with fennel fronds and you have a main-course salad worthy of company, yet simple and easy enough for a family meal.
domestic sparkling wine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups fennel bulb thinly sliced(fronds reserved)
2 bunches (about 1/2 pound total) arugula stemmed
4 (about 5 ounces each) salmon fillets skin on and scaled, pin bones removed, skin dried by wiping with a knife (see pages 30-33)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
To make the vinaigrette: In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, sugar, salt, and lots of pepper. (Several good grinds of pepper make the vinaigrette taste robust, a perfect complement to the fennel.) Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
Chop the fennel fronds and measure out 1/3 cup. In a large bowl, combine the fennel, 1/4 cup of the fennel fronds (saving the rest for garnish), and the arugula. Toss lightly to mix and set aside.
Season the salmon on all sides with a little salt and pepper. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn the salmon and cook until the fillets are almost opaque throughout, but still very moist, or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125º to 130ºF, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate and set aside while you toss the salad.
Shake the dressing vigorously again and then toss the salad with it. Arrange the salad on 4 dinner plates. Place a salmon fillet in the center, on top of the salad, garnish with the remaining fennel fronds, and serve immediately.