This dish is a weeknight favorite in my home as it’s super quick and easy to make, tastes delicious (hot or cold, the next day), and is packed with healthy fats (including those hard-to-come-by-unless-you-try-hard omega-3 fatty acids), antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The mustard-maple crust is designed to entice folks who say they don’t like the taste of fatty fish. Admittedly, fish oil can taste a little pungent, especially when the fish isn’t super-fresh, as is sometimes the case in landlocked Colorado, where I live. Of course, getting the freshest fish possible is important for all sorts of reasons, not just taste. Shop around for the supermarket that has the best fish and ask them when they get fish deliveries — most only receive fresh fish two or three times a week (and Mondays are usually not great fish days since there’s no fishing on Sundays). But in addition to freshness, adding strong flavors like mustard, garlic, tomatoes, basil and dill, and even non-Mediterranean aromatics like ginger, lemongrass, cilantro or gochujang, can be a delicious way to enhance the taste and nutritional benefits of salmon.
Meanwhile, this dish is a great example of one of my favorite nutrition concepts: nutrient synergy, whereby various ingredients eaten in combination potentiate each other’s health benefits more than if you were to eat these foods on their own — a nutritional version of 1 + 1 = 3 (or even 4 or 5).
Thus, in one study, the addition of garlic and tomatoes slowed the oxidation of omega-3 fats in anchovies (another delicious oily fish, esp. if you have the good fortune of finding a store that sells it fresh or only lightly pickled, rather than salted and canned, as most of us know anchovies). In another, adding vegetables to powdered fish oil had similarly protective effects. And yet another study found that combining tomato products with olive oil increased the antioxidant activity of the lycopene in tomatoes. (Interestingly, no such effect was seen with the sunflower oil.)
This is why my recipes usually combine a wide range of ingredients; I figure that by taking this type of scattergun approach my dishes will not only provide a large number of different nutrients, but nutrients that complement and enhance each other. So while it may be tempting to eat grilled chicken breast seasoned with salt & pepper with a serving of steamed broccoli or green beans (a.k.a. 80s-style diet food), just imagine how much more nourishing (not to mention delicious) it would be to marinate that chicken breast in lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs for a few hours before grilling it, and serving it with a mixture of roasted vegetables tossed in garlicky olive oil. By all means, this could include broccoli, but you could add other veggies, such as sweet potato, bell pepper, green beans, etc.
Maple-Mustard Salmon on Tomato & Basil Compote
- ⅓ cup fresh basil reserve 8 small leaves for garnish
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced or minced
- ½ tbsp Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
- 16 oz grape tomatoes halved (if small) or quartered (if larger)
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1½ pounds salmon fillet as fresh as possible, preferably wild-caught. Cut into four pieces.
- 2 tbsp mustard wholegrain
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull out roughly 12 by 8 inch microwave- and oven-proof dish that can fit in your microwave oven. (Even if you don't use a microwave, keep reading.)
- Coarsely chop the basil and place it in the dish. Add olive oil, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Cover with an upturned plate and cook on HIGH in the microwave for 2 minutes. If you don't use a microwave, cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
- While the tomatoes are cooking, pat the salmon dry with paper towel and lightly salt and pepper it.
- In a small bowl, combine mustard, maple syrup, about ¼ tsp of sthe salt and half of the pepper and stir combine.
- Once the tomatoes have cooked into a soft, juicy compote, nestle the raw salmon fillets into the tomatoes. Spoon the mustard-maple mixture over the tops of the fish fillets, covering them completely.
- Slide the dish into the hot oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, to your desired degree of doneness. It helps to use a cooking thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the fish; see note below.
- Once the fish is done, remove from the oven and let cool for 3-4 minutes. Garnish with the reserved basil leaves and serve immediately, accompanied with a lightly dressed green salad or any other kind of green vegetable (for instance, green beans or asparagus with garlic and almonds).
- Leftovers keep well for 2-3 days in the fridge. This dish tastes great reheated, but I also like to use the cold fish to make salmon salad by mashing it with a little lemon juice, yogurt & mayonnaise, adding other flavorings like chopped celery, green onion, horseradish or wasabi, dill, etc. This tastes wonderful in a lunch wrap or as "salmon melt."