With Salmon, Keep It Simple

But have some fun with the sauce
By Katie Workman
Katie Workman
Katie Workman
August 2, 2019 Updated: August 4, 2019

Getting more fish on the table is a shared goal amongst many home cooks—as is getting your kids to eat more fish, which can sometimes feel Sisyphean in nature. But a beautiful, fresh fish dinner is too fantastic to shove to the back burner for another time.

When I am thinking about fish for dinner, more often than not, I chose salmon. Salmon is the most popular fish in this country, and for good reason. It’s moist, versatile, delicious (that’s subjective, granted, but I think a pretty common perception), and very nutritious. 

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help support brain function by improving memory, reduce the risk of heart disease, alleviate joint pain, and boost eye health. It’s also a great source of protein and provides a nice dose of vitamin D. Not bad for a piece of fish.  

When properly sourced, salmon ranks high on the list of sustainable fish, according to sustainable seafood authority SeafoodWatch.org. Make sure yours is wild-caught (another shout-out for Alaskan seafood) or farmed in sustainable ways.

Simple and Saucy

Salmon is very simple to prepare. It lends itself easily to sautéing, poaching, and baking and roasting—really any cooking method works with salmon. Here, I simply roast it with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. The basic preparation makes it hopefully a good “beginner fish” for any skeptics at your table. 

But the sauce … this is where things get interesting. 

I have been making various renditions of herbed mayonnaise all spring and summer long, inspired by a jumping-off recipe in Joshua McFadden’s wonderful book “Six Seasons.” And I’ve been using it in any possible way I can think of—from chicken salads, to the base for various crostini, to a dip for roasted potatoes. 

Here, I’m using it to slather on some lush pieces of salmon. The pink and green look pretty terrific together, don’t they?

The types and quantities of herbs are just guidelines; use the herbs you like best, the herbs that are in your garden, the herbs you have hanging out in the fridge. Skip the cilantro if you have cilantro-haters in your house; it’s a great herb to use, but it’s not for everyone. 

Don’t even think about using a dried herb in here. I’m sorry, but it’s just not the place for them. Save those for your cooked dishes.  

This sauce is so appealing that it might just become a gateway condiment for your kids, for more fish or seafood dinners to come. (It would also be great with anything from chicken to pork to steak.)

The salmon and broccoli rabe share a baking sheet in the oven, so there’s just one pan to clean after dinner (other than the food processor). 

If spicy isn’t your family’s thing, you can leave out the red pepper flakes in the broccoli rabe side. You can also use small stalks of regular broccoli instead of the broccoli rabe. Or try asparagus, which will take about the same time to cook as the broccoli rabe if the stalks are thick, or only the amount of time it takes for the salmon to roast if they’re skinny.

What the Kids Can Do

The kids can toss the broccoli rabe with its seasonings. They can rub the salmon with olive oil, with the reminder that hands get washed well with warm soapy water before and after touching raw fish.  

For the sauce, they can pull the leaves off of the fresh herbs, measure ingredients, and use the food processor with careful supervision. This is a good opportunity to let the kids learn how fresh herbs look, smell, and taste differently from one another. 

They can spread the sauce on the cooked fish, and garnish it with fresh slivered basil, if using.

The types and quantities of herbs are just guidelines; use the herbs you like best, the herbs that are in your garden, the herbs you have hanging out in the fridge. (Shutterstock)

Roasted Salmon With Herbed Mayonnaise and Broccoli Rabe

Serves 4

For the broccoli rabe:

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

For the roasted salmon:

  • 4 (6-ounce) fillets of salmon, skin on
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the herbed mayonnaise:

  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dill fronds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh slivered basil to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Roast the broccoli rabe and the salmon: Place the broccoli rabe on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle over 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat well, then spread out on a baking sheet. Place in the oven, and cook for 5 minutes. 

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and shove the broccoli rabe over to the side of the baking sheet, to make enough room for the 4 salmon filets. Place the salmon filets skin side down on the baking sheet and drizzle about 1 teaspoon of olive oil over each piece, rubbing to coat the top and sides. Season with salt and pepper. Roast everything for 8 to 10 minutes more, until the salmon flakes easily and the internal temperature is at least 145 degrees F in the thickest part.

While the salmon and broccoli rabe are roasting, make the herbed mayonnaise: Place the parsley, basil, cilantro, dill, and oregano in a food processor and pulse to chop.  Add the mayonnaise and pulse several times to blend. Pulse in the lemon juice, salt, and several grinds of pepper. With the motor running, very slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube on top or with a slow and steady hand until the mixture is completely incorporated and—if things went well—somewhat fluffy. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Slide a thin spatula under each piece of fish, separating it from the skin, and place each piece on a plate. Distribute the broccoli rabe amongst the 4 plates next to the fish.  Spoon the herbed mayonnaise over the salmon, or place it on the side as desired. Sprinkle the top of the fish with slivered fresh basil if desired.

Katie Workman is a food writer and recipe developer in New York City. She writes the popular blog TheMom100.com, contributes to many publications, and has written two cookbooks: “The Mom 100 Cookbook” and “Dinner Solved!”

Katie Workman
Katie Workman