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Salmon with Mint-Scented Eggplant Tapenade

Each of this issue's recipes features olive oil, and "speaks" with a Spanish accent.  If you don't care for olive oil, use our mild, versatile organic macadamia nut oil, which is even a bit higher in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats than olive oil.

Sautéed Wild Salmon with Mint-Scented Eggplant Tapenade

This exquisite recipe, which features sunny Mediterranean flavors, comes to us from Chef Melissa Perello of The Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco.  Chef Perello's skills prompted the editors at Food & Wine to name her one of the 10 Best New Chefs in 2004. (Note: Instead of pan cooking the fillets, you could grill them.)

Serves 6

1 large eggplant, diced into 1/4" cubes

1/2 med. yellow onion; peeled and minced (about 3/4 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

20 large mint leaves, finely chopped

6 (6 oz each) Vital Choice skinless/boneless salmon fillets

5 6 Tbsp Vital Choice Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

coarse sea salt

black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.

  • Season diced eggplant with 1 1/2 Tbsp. coarse salt and place in a large colander. Place a large weight over the top of the colander so that it presses the eggplant down, extracting the juices (for instance a mixing bowl with a slightly smaller diameter than your colander, then place some sort of weight in the bowl like a large bag of flour or a couple cans of soup). Place the colander in your sink and let it drain for 20 minutes. Remove the eggplant and spread over a couple layers of paper towel to dry slightly

  • While your eggplant is draining, heat a medium-sized pan with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).  Add the minced onion and garlic and cook on low heat until translucent, about 4-6 minutes.

  • Heat a separate large sauté pan with another 2 Tbsp olive oil. When the pan is very hot and just begins to smoke add the eggplant. Briefly sauté until golden brown.

  • Add the sautéed eggplant to the onion garlic mixture, cover with a lid and place pan in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, season salmon filets with salt and pepper.  Preheat a large sauté pan with enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan. When the pan begins to smoke add your salmon filets.  Place them in the hot pan, gently.  You may only want to sear a few at a time depending on the size of your pan.  There should be at least one inch of space between each piece. Let the salmon cook on one side until golden, about 3-5 minutes, then turn the heat on your pan down to low, until you get a nice even, golden crust.  Flip and remove the filet from the pan.  Reserve the fish on a plate, and repeat this procedure with the remaining filets.

  • Remove the eggplant pan from the oven.  Add the chopped mint and adjust the seasoning to taste; let this mixture cool to room temperature.

  • Finish your salmon in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until just done (flakes under a fork).  Serve together with tapenade and an additional drizzle of EVOO.

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