Sweet Orange Salmon with Swiss Chard and Sunchoke Orecchiette

“Writers end up writing about their obsessions.” This line might be a little tired, but it’s still a lot true.

I write about the things that I can’t put down and can’t help but carry around.

Some of these things are serious and a little sad [see: heartbreak]…but 75% of the time I write to indulge the part of my brain that can’t stop thinking about how to turn breakfast into dessert [see: carrot cake steel-cut oats].

But today, we’re not going to talk about a love gone lost or a sweet tooth gone haywire. Today involves a confession of a different kind: my text-happy fingers CANNOT STOP using emojis.

It’s really getting out of hand. 95% of my brain knows this, but yesterday I still couldn’t help but fire off a quick text about dinner that read:

Image of a sunny yellow chicken + Image of a ½ sweet potato ?

Then came the rapid reply, which made me grin:

Image of an ice cream cone > Image of a ½ sweet potato !

Since I wholeheartedly agree that ice cream [particularly this one] “is greater than” sweet potato, I sent back two thumbs up. Then a pretty plum eggplant just begging to be picked caught my eye…and so I typed:

How about image of an eggplant on the grill too ?

A smiley sporting a pair oversized sunglasses popped up and filled my screen. Naturally, I selected one of its siblings [the one who wears the cantaloupe smile] to deliver in response.

But last night – last night I was stumped. There is no little picture for salmon [the fish icon is too vague], and there are no images for sunchokes or Swiss chard [yet].  

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I have to admit that for half a heartbeat I actually considered re-thinking our dinner plan. Like I said, someone needs to do us ALL a favor and disable this keyboard from my iPhone. Luckily, a [shrinking] percentage of my brain can still be counted on to extinguish these kinds of outrageous thoughts.

This dinner is too good to pass up. I still don’t know whether to award more thumbs up to the Caribbean spice-rubbed salmon or to the sunchoke and Swiss chard orecchiette we had on the side. Make them both. They will speak for themselves.

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A few quick notes:

  1. The spice rub comes together really quickly, particularly if you don’t have to start by hunting around for a microplane to zest an orange. Don’t be tempted to omit the orange and just plow forward with the paprika and brown sugar [although anything with brown sugar can’t be bad]. It’s the orangey flavor that makes this salmon so good.
  2. As far as the paprika and the brown sugar are concerned, you have a little wiggle room. I used three kinds of paprika [sweet, smoky, and hot] and both light and brown sugar. This was mostly because our pantry situation is ALSO getting a little out of control and we needed to use things up. Don’t go out and buy anything special – you already bought the salmon, the sunchokes, and the Swiss chard.
  3. No filter on Instagram is going to succeed in removing the “burnt” look from your spice mixture turned glaze. Just think about it for what it really is: a still-bubbling layer of caramelized brown sugar. If this still doesn’t appeal to you, smell it. You’ll be hooked.

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RECIPE [Serves 3 or 4]:

Ingredients:

For the Caribbean-Spice Rubbed Salmon:

1 lb wild-caught or sustainably farmed salmon, skin on

Zest of 1 medium-to-large orange

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

Pinch cayenne pepper

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

For the Sunchoke and Swiss Chard Side:

1½ cups sunchokes, sliced into coins and steamed

1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems removed

3 cups of orecchiette, cooked and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup walnuts, toasted and crumbled

Coconut oil for cooking

Olive oil for drizzling

Lemon zest for garnishing

Method:

For the Caribbean-Spice Rubbed Salmon:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare spice mixture by combining orange zest, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil.

Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on top of foil and divide the spice mixture into thirds.

Cover the top of each fillet generously.

Bake for 10 minutes on the middle rack, or until desired doneness [I like mine medium-rare].

Serve warm.

For the Sunchoke and Swiss Chard Side:

Melt a small amount of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.

Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant [do not burn!]

Add sliced and steamed sunchokes to the pan and cook until browned.

Add de-stemmed Swiss chard and cook until wilted [this will be brief].

Remove from heat, and add cooked and drained orecchiette.

Add toasted and crumbled walnuts and lemon zest if desired.

Drizzle a small amount of high quality olive oil on top; toss to coat.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.

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