Recipe Courtesy: Chef Michel Nischan, Sustainably Delicious (Rodale 2010)

Salmon loves to be served alongside foods that are more fully flavored than itself. Its soft butteriness calls out for a wilted green with character and strength, along with grains that stand up to both. This is where ancient grains are so wonderful. They are tasty and healthful, being a high-fiber carbohydrate whose glucose takes a while to convert to sugar. I think it’s important to design meals so that you have a high-quality protein, a high-quality vegetable, and some interesting carbohydrates.

When you can find wild-caught salmon, buy it. Alaska’s wild fisheries are well managed, so it’s not irresponsible to cook what they send to market. Also, it comes from very cold waters, and for this reason, wild Alaskan salmon freezes well.

Serves 4


13/4 cups Cooked Black Barley (page 10)

13/4 cups Cooked Farro (page 10)

1/2 cup cooked Dried Heirloom Beans (page 8)

1/2 cup Savory Vegetable Stock (page 20) or high-quality commercial stock

1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet with skin on

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic cloves

4 cups packed spinach or other wilting green, well rinsed with some water still clinging to the leaves

3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Combine the grains and beans with the stock in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until most of the stock evaporates. Stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside, covered, to keep warm.

Season the skin side of the salmon with salt and pepper. Drizzle with almost half of the grapeseed oil.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the fillets, skin side down, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and nicely browned. Season the flesh side of the fillets with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little more of the oil. Turn the fillets over.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan along with the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the garlic starts to brown. Remove the fillets from the pan and set aside on a warmed serving platter.

Add the spinach to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fully wilted. Season the spinach with salt and pepper.

Add the basil to the grains and stir well to mix. Mound the grains on the center of each of 4 warmed plates and divide the spinach among the plates, putting it next to the grains. Lay the salmon fillets over the grains and greens so that both can be seen beneath the salmon. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and serve.

You can serve this family-style by mounding the grains in the center of a platter and placing the spinach around the grains. Top with the salmon fillets and drizzle with olive oil.