By Chef Neil Magbnua
When I was first told I would be contributing an article about healthy cooking, I was a bit taken aback. Being from the Midwest, specifically Michigan, my idea of healthy eating is a smaller piece of meatloaf, only one scoop of mashed potatoes, a salad with lite ranch and half of whatever dessert is offered (the other half will be eaten at a later time, likely 30 minutes later).
The dish I am sharing with you is one we did recently for a TroonFIT special. The challenge was to come up with a tasty lunch dish that was also under 500 calories. Quite a task for a chef who believes in the old saying, “Fat is Flavor.”
Rice, portioned as needed
5-ounce salmon filet (thick cut, skin on preferred)
1 ounce red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon minced garlic
3 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb of choice
4 cherry tomatoes cut in half
3 cucumber slices cut into strips
A few slivers of red onion to taste
Cook the rice as needed. For us here at Arroyo Grille, that means 1 2/3 cups of water and 1 cup of Basmati rice simmered for 10 minutes. Then take off the heat to rest while still covered for 15 minutes. Fluff the rice immediately after to stop the cooking and cover to keep warm.
Whisk red wine vinegar, minced garlic, olive oil and herb. Add tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. For maximum flavor, allow this to marinate for 1 hour. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Dry the outside surface of the filet thoroughly with a paper towel. Brush a teaspoon of olive oil on the flesh side, season with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on a very hot grill. The grill is hot enough if you can’t hold your hand over it for more than 2 seconds. Salmon is rich with healthy oils; as those oils are released, some smoking may occur. After 1 minute, check to see if the fish releases from the grill. If it doesn’t, don’t force it. It will release when there is a sufficient crust formed on the surface of the fish. Once the salmon is off the grill, place it in a dry, hot pan, skin side down, and cook to your liking in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. When the fish is done, simply slide a spatula between the skin and the fish. The skin helps to insulate the fish while it cooks, adds flavor and makes the fish easy to remove from the pan.
For best results, prepare in the following order; salad, rice, and then fish. To assemble the plate, place 3 ounces of rice in the center, top with the salmon, drain the salad of extra liquid, and place on top of the fish.
Good luck and good eating.
Neil Magbnua is chef at Arroyo Grille at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.
This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.