Tropical flavors, crisp wine, sunny afternoon

May 17, 2012

Upon receiving my bounty of salmon last week, I knew just what I wanted to make with it. Earlier in the week I had picked up a copy of Saveur magazine on a whim. It promised delightful Corsican foods and bread recipes that I could make. Buried deep inside the issue, though, was a gem of an article on Senegal feasts, with recipes ranging from fritters and stews to magnificent salads. Upon seeing these salads I headed right back out to the store, picking up the ingredients and making them that evening.

The first was an avocado mango salad, and I had fresh avocados from my tree that had just perfectly ripened. The creaminess of the avocado, the sweetness from the mango, and the heat from the jalapeno in this recipe make it hard to quit eating. My husband and I probably ate 3 to 4 servings, and easily could have finished off the entire bowl, had we not been torn between this salad, and the black-eyed pea salad.

Black-eyed peas. The recipe really couldn’t have been simpler. Rinse a few cans of peas, chop a few veggies, and combine it all with a spicy, tangy dressing. The resulting salad had hints of the habanero’s heat, coolness from the cucumbers, and a richness from the black-eyed peas texture and the olive oil in the dressing. That evening I had a hard time deciding which would be my last bite – the avocado or the pea salad.

The best part about both of these, getting back to the salmon meal, was that both salads kept very well. I was concerned the avocado would turn an unappealing brown, but there was enough citrus to keep it bright green until a couple of days later when we enjoyed it with the salmon. I had stored it in a reusable ziploc container, with a bit of plastic wrap pushed down against the surface of the salad. As you can see from the picture, still beautiful green! As for the salmon, I coated it with a generous amount of olive oil on the flesh side, and rubbed it with a generous amount of the African Adobo rub I always keep on hand. I let the salmon sit for about 30 minutes before cooking in a skillet over medium-high heat for around 4 minutes, then finished the fish filets off in the oven under the broiler.

With a meal like this, one has to have a perfect wine. We had recently received our spring shipment from Hop Kiln’s wine club, and I was so excited about their 2010 HKG Pinot Grigio I had it already chilled and waiting for the perfect accompaniment. Its acidity stood up to the sour notes in the salads as well as the heat, and its citrus and tropical notes married well with all of the assertive flavors we had in this meal – a multitude of peppers, avocado, coconut, mango, orange, and lime.

Note: The salads are vegan; the salmon obviously isn’t. I can see the salads pairing well with rice and a soy-marinated tofu on a warm summer day.

Avocado Mango Salad
From Saveur

Serves 4–6

½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup peanut or canola oil
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into ¼″ cubes
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1″ chunks
1 small navel orange, peeled and cut into segments
2 tsp. unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Whisk together a bit more than half the parsley, as well as the oil, both citrus juices, jalapeño, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add mangoes and avocados, and toss gently to combine; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate to meld flavors, about 1 hour.

To serve, transfer avocado salad to a serving bowl; halve orange segments crosswise, and lay over salad. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and coconut if using. Serve chilled.

Black-eyed Pea Salad
Slightly adapted from Saveur
Serves 8

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 cup olive oil
3 14-ounce cans black-eyed peas
3 scallions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
1 habanero, seeded and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, whish together the lime juice and parsley. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil to make a smooth dressing.

Add all of the other ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to meld the flavors, or refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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