spice-rubbed salmon

4    |   
Prep Time:
15 minutes + up to 1 day chilling time optional    |   
Cook Time:
8 to 12 minutes

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My friend Jeanie is devoted to this recipe from Mark Bittman’s book, The Minimalist Cooks at Home. I probably would have overlooked its potential, but she recognized it as the ideal dinner party dish: beyond easy to prepare, fantastic tasting, and doable for 4 or 24. Everybody always asks, “what’s in this that’s so good?” thereby proving that simple is magic.


4 salmon fillets (see note)
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil


Season the fillets all over with salt and pepper. In a spice grinder or mini food chopper, grind the fennel seeds, rosemary, and orange zest until fine (Jeanie uses crumbled dry rosemary and keeps the fennel seeds whole since she doesn’t have a grinder). Pat spice mix on top (nonskin) side of fish. Refrigerate fillets, covered, up to 1 day (to permeate with the flavor of the spices) or cook right away.

To cook, preheat an oven to 450°. Preheat a skillet large enough to hold fillets (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, then pour in the oil and tilt pan to coat. When oil shimmers, add fish, seasoned sides down. Cook until the spices form a nice brown crust, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the fish over and cook for 1 minute more, then place the pan in the oven until fish is done to your liking, about 4 minutes for rare and up to 8 minutes for well-done salmon. Serve right away.

note: you want the salmon fillets to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Your best bet is slices from the center (not tail end) of the fillet, about 6-ounces each. You can do this skin on or skin off (Bittman calls for skin off in the original), but I find skin on holds the flesh together a little better. To serve more people, just increase the ingredients as many times as you need.