What's the Story, Morning Glory? And Salmon Fresca


Had dinner with friends at an Italian restaurant last week.  I had a salmon dish that almost exploded my brain over the bright layers of flavors.   Drizzled on and around the bottom was a basil pesto vinaigrette, topped with lightly sauteed baby spinach and covered with a diced sweet potatoes and tomato mixture.  On top of all that were grilled red peppers, feta cheese, salmon, more potato/tomato mixture, grilled asparagus and finally topped with a balsamic reduction drizzle.  A true delight in every bite.  It was just too good not to share.  So as soon as I could, I managed to to recreate this dish at home just to share. You're welcome.
Don't be scared off by my explicit description above.  The recipe itself is not that complex, only the flavors.  But there are many worth-every-delicious steps. Save this entrée for when you have time to potchke (fuss over).
First I looked around the intertubes just in case someone already came up with a reasonable fascimile. Virtually all the recipes “out there”, including a few labeled as authentically supplied by Italian Restaurant itself, used ingredients not in the version I enjoyed. Maybe Italian Restaurant improved  the recipe, or else my local place is a maverick. In any event, except for a couple of deliberate omissions (and a little more sauce than intended), this is really close to The Real Thing.

Close-up to prove the salmon is in there.
Grilled asparagus and red pepper are in the original, but daHubby doesn’t care for them (and by “doesn’t care” I mean “hate hate HATE!”). Since it was just us for dinner, it was easier to skip them. But if you are a clone-stickler, by all means fire up the grill. Toss the salmon on the barbie alongside the veggies while you are at it for a more clone-like experience.  Especially if the weather is warmer by you than by me (my ancient gas grill doesn't do well under 40F).

Because I inherited my mother’s ability of not finding something if moved 6 inches from where it’s supposed to be, there are several bottles of balsamic vinegar in my pantry. So it made sense in my mind  to just boil down some to make the balsamic glaze. If you are more normal, save some time and possibly a burned pot. by buying pre-made.  This recipe requires several simultaneous steps in order to get dinner on the table at a sane hour, so it’s way too easy blink and a lovely balsamic reduction instantaneously becomes a charred lumpy mess.

Speaking of charred lumpy messes, if you reduce the balsamic just a tad too thick (and by “thick” I mean “solidify”) but not yet smoking, simply pour a slug more vinegar into the mess and gently reheat it, stirring constantly just until the blob dissolves.  Immediately remove from heat; it will continue to thicken to a more correct viscosity as it cools.

Food52 was right!
Oh, and in case you are wondering about the title: did you know that sweet potatoes aren't really potatoes?  They're in the morning glory family. Surprise!  Also, according to food52, sweet potatoes can be the familiar orange, purple, pink, yellow or even white.


Grilled Salmon Fresca
My attempt of cloning an entrée from Brio
Servings: 4

1/4 cup basil pesto (store-bought is fine)
2 Tbl. dry white wine
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbl. olive oil, divided
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and finely diced (about 2 cups)
1 cup balsamic vinegar (or 1/4 cup store-bought balsamic glaze)
1 Tbl. honey
4 salmon fillets
1 (6 oz.) bag baby spinach
12 fresh asparagus spears, grilled (optional)
1 red pepper, grilled then cut into 1/2" diced (optional)
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup crumbled low fat feta cheese
A few basil leaves, julienned (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a shallow-rimmed medium baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Tastes like regular ol' orange-colored sweet potatoes!
Place diced sweet potato and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a 2-qt saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Place saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well; set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, whisk together pesto, wine, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Set aside.

Place salmon fillets in a single layer skin-side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Run a spatula across the bottom.
If glaze fills in after about a second, it's done!
If making the balsamic glaze, stir together the balsamic vinegar and honey in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer about 10 minutes or until mixture reduces and thickens, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove from heat and set aside.


Rinse spinach leaves; drain but allow some moisture to cling to the leaves. Combine with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt in a microwave-safe bowl; nuke at 100% power for 2 minutes or until wilted slightly.


Divide spinach among dinner plates. Drizzle pesto vinaigrette on and around spinach. Lightly toss sweet potatoes and tomatoes together, and spoon over spinach, reserving a few tablespoons of the mixture. Divide peppers (if using on top). Position salmon, skin-side down, over veggies. Spoon remaining potato/tomato mixture on top. Arrange 3 asparagus spears on top, if using. Sprinkle with the feta and remaining potato/tomatoes. Drizzle balsamic glaze over everything and garnish with the basil. Serve immediately.

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