Monday, March 22, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Salmon with Dill-Tahini Sauce and Roasted Vegetables

    Some of you who have been following my blog might be thinking, "Wait a minute! I thought this was a vegan blog!".  Please allow me to clarify any misconceptions.  While my husband and I challenged ourselves to eat vegan for a month in January, I am not a true vegan.   I consider myself more of a flexitarian.  I think eating a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to live and I strive to eat 90% vegan, but old habits die hard and I haven't been able to give up 100% of animal products.  Cheese, without a doubt, is the hardest to give up, although I have cut back on that indulgence drastically since our vegan challenge. Because my husband loves meat, I prepare him a meat (usually chicken or turkey) dinner approximately once per week.  Sometimes I eat a small portion of the meat, maybe two ounces, other times I don't.  I also occasionally eat fish, as you can tell from the title of this post.
    Whenever I don't feel much like cooking, I turn to my oven.  Roasting foods is an easy way to create a delicious dinner with minimal prep.  Roasting vegetables produces a deep, concentrated flavor that is difficult to beat.  Roasted vegetables are perfect during the chilly fall or freezing winter months, but also work on a rainy, spring day like today.  Roasted vegetables can go with just about anything.  I often toss them with whole wheat linguine with just a little olive oil and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon.  They are a great side dish that can round out any meal, as well.  It's a great way to use up the hodgepodge of leftover veggies in your fridge at the end of the week.
   I prefer to keep small portions of fish in my diet because I feel that is the best source of the all-important omega-3 fatty acids.  While you can get omega-3's from plant sources, such as flaxseeds, the omega 3's in plants come in the form of ALA, which our bodies cannot efficiently convert to the types the experts agree are most beneficial:  EPA and DHA, both of which are found in fatty fish such as salmon.
   There is a legitimate concern, however, about mercury content and contaminants found in fish sources today.  In order to ensure I am eating the purest fish possible, I avoid farm-raised salmon and only purchase wild Alaskan salmon.  While no fish is going to be 100% pure, wild Alaskan salmon is the closest you will find, with much higher levels of omega 3's than farmed.  Farmed salmon are injected with chemicals, artificial coloring, and antibiotics.  No thanks!
     Price, however, can become a serious issue. My beloved local grocery store, Dorothy Lane Market, prices their wild Alaskan salmon at a cool 32 bucks a pound.  Wowzers.  Needless to say, we didn't have any salmon at our house for quite a while.  Then I discovered these frozen wild salmon fillets at Wal-Mart. Now, obviously fish that has never been frozen has superior taste to fish that has been frozen, but at $4.00 a pound, I am willing to sacrifice a little taste.
    Tonight's dinner was truly a result of using up the last of the groceries before my weekly trip to the store to restock.  I had the salmon in the freezer, a bunch of random vegetables to use up, and picked the sauce based on what I had on hand.  The Dill-Tahini sauce I used is a slight variation from a recipe in Veganomicon. It paired well with the salmon even though it clearly was not created to be a sauce for salmon.  I made the sauce at lunch time so that dinner preparation would go even faster.

Dill-Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup room temperature tahini*
1/2 cup room temperature water
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 generous cup dried dill weed

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend it until smooth.  Serve at room temperature.

*If you aren't familiar with tahini, it's sesame seed paste, and very delicious!  You can find it in either the Asian or health food section of your supermarket.  It's great on sandwiches, in soups, or as a base for dips and sauces.

I didn't use a recipe for the salmon or vegetables, but I will give you a rough idea of the process (very easy!).

Basic Roasted Vegetables

approximately 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into thick slices
8 oz. white mushrooms, halved
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place prepared veggies in large baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried spices of your choice.  (Today I used rosemary and thyme)  Roast in the oven, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes, until vegetables are browned and vegetables are tender.  (Check the potatoes as those take the longest to cook)  You can roast just about any vegetable, so be creative with your choices and combinations.

Roasted Salmon
4- 4 oz. salmon fillets
juice from 1/2 lemon
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (mine was already preheated and had veggies cooking).  Lightly oil a baking dish and place your fillets in the dish.  Lightly brush a small amount of olive oil on each fillet.  Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Squeeze the lemon so the juice is evenly distributed among the fillets.  Place in oven and cook approximately 15 minutes, until salmon easily flakes with a fork.

This was enough to feed me, my husband, and my 18-month-old daughter.  Tim ate 3 of the fillets and Meghan and I shared the fourth.  We all polished off the vegetables.  I tend to think we have larger appetites than the average family, so if you have a bigger family this may be plenty for you.



  1. I look forward to trying this recipe when we get back in town. All of us enjoy salmon and I typically cook it with dill, this will be an excellent variation.

  2. The original recipe called for 1 cup of fresh dill, so if you have fresh give that a try. I just didn't have any on hand. Also, when you refrigerate the sauce it turns to dipping consistency which is great for dipping veggies!