salmon with braised lentils

4    |   
Prep Time:
15 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
35 minutes

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tomato paste

I’ve got Ina Garten on the brain. And tomato paste. Yes, Ina Garten and tomato paste. Let me explain.

Next week I’m interviewing Ina onstage in Santa Rosa and I’ve been reading everything I can about her and watching her shows and videos on Food Network. Everything she makes is delicious and makes me hungry. So I went to the fridge to see what I could rustle up for dinner and there it was: an open can of tomato paste (with plastic wrap pressed on the surface to keep it from molding — I should have transferred it to a glass jar, but, hey, I can be lazy). I keep tomato paste on hand because it’s my secret weapon for adding umami to recipes where you wouldn’t expect to find it, and one of those is in salmon with lentils by none other than…Ina Garten.

This epitomizes her philosophy of taking a classic and making it better by tweaking it ever so slightly. In this case, that’s with a touch of tomato paste in the lentils. Her other brilliant trick is pre-soaking the lentils in boiling water. That way they cook quickly without getting mushy. The key is to use the little green French lentils. I like lentilles de Puy, sold in most well-stocked grocery stores (the brand I get comes in a green box). You will be amazed by the combination of the two—both the salmon and the lentils taste heartier by being together. The addition of a spice rub to the fish is my touch; you can leave it out if you want.


1 cup green lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
ground pepper

4 salmon fillets, skin removed if desired
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin


To make the lentils, place them in a metal bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes to plump, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide pan, add onion, celery, carrots, thyme and salt and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in drained lentils, broth and tomato paste. Reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender (if they dry out, add a little more broth or water). Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and let lentils sit in pan, covered, to keep warm while you cook the salmon.

To cook the salmon, preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Rub salmon with oil, then combine the salt, paprika and cumin in a small bowl and sprinkle this mixture evenly over the salmon. Place salmon on the baking sheet and broil about 7 minutes or until flesh is just pink in the middle. Divide lentils among plates and place a piece of salmon on top of each portion.

recipe adapted from Ina Garten