Ditch burgers and do a healthy salmon on Labor Day

08/28/2012 5:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:12 AM

Labor Day generally gets people thinking about grilling up the last of summer’s burgers and steaks. Allow me to suggest setting aside tradition in favor of a leaner alternative, namely, a full-bodied fillet of salmon. And topping it off is not a slice or two of cheese, but a robust, chunky, vegetable-packed vinaigrette.

You won’t be sorry. And you won’t miss the burgers and steak.

Salmon’s richness always cries out for a little acid, even if it’s nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. This recipe’s gazpacho vinaigrette ups the ante. Gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup with many variations, but the basic recipe is a refreshing tomato-based vegetable soup. Here I’ve added extra-virgin olive oil and sherry wine vinegar, thereby repurposing the soup into a chunky vinaigrette dressing.

It was delicious. And unlike a traditional vinaigrette, it didn’t need much oil.

Vinaigrette is a balancing act of oil and acid, usually with a 3-to-1 ratio of oil to vinegar. As a salad addict, I’m always searching for ways to lighten a dressing. One of the best tricks is to swap in a strongly flavored ingredient for at least some of the oil. In the past I have used chicken and vegetable broths quite successfully, as well as buttermilk and tomato juice. Here, I let those beautiful late summer tomatoes do the job.

As for the salmon, even if you don’t plan to eat the skin (it’s delicious!), you should grill it with the skin on. It crisps beautifully on the hot grates and acts as a buffer between the grill and the flesh. As long as the skin’s on, the fish won’t stick to the grill and the meat remains succulent. I cook the salmon for the majority of the time on the skin side and then give it a just few minutes on the flesh side to pick up grill marks and flavor.

How do you know when the salmon is done? You stick a paring knife through it. If you feel heavy resistance at the center, it needs more time. If you feel just a little resistance, it is still slightly undercooked. I take it off the grill when I feel just a little resistance and let it sit for a few minutes. The residual heat will finish cooking it.

Your labor complete, you can plate up your fillet, pour yourself a cold beer or a dry white wine, and soak up just a little more summer before it disappears again for a year.

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