My Gift to You: Tropical Storm Sandy Seared Char & Hearty Lentils

Hello Readers,

It has been over a week since my last post and all is well. Thankfully, we managed fine during the storm, it has simply taken a few days to get fully operational. I bet you are wondering what to prepare when you’re waiting for a tropical storm to hit a non-tropical climate? One dish came to mind last week – a mix of hearty, healthy and homey – Seared Salmon with Lentils and Balsamic Reduction.

Last Monday (pre-Sandy) we ventured to the local market  to stock up. With limited supplies available, I picked up whatever looked fresh at the fish counter, assuming it would be a few days before we could even consider a luxury like freshly caught fish. The Arctic Char fillets looked juicy and firm, and with no fresh salmon in sight, that would be it. I decided to use the Char in place of salmon fillets for my tried and true hearty fall/winter recipe. This is a multi-step meal, so I’ll prepare the lentils in advance,  and let them rest on the stove top or in the fridge. The fish and balsamic vinegar sauce can be prepared in about 15 minutes when you are ready for dinner. Highly recommend this nutrient-dense, protein-rich meal. Extra lentils make for a great lunch next day. Hubs is a fan, too. Things were a bit hectic, so sorry, no photos for this post.

The preparation is loosely based on Sally Schneider’s recipe from A New Way to Cook, replacing the lentil preparation with Jamie Oliver’s from The Naked Chef cookbook. I have modified the original lentil recipe to be vegetarian. Trust me, best lentil recipe ever.

Seared Char with Lentils and Balsamic Reduction

For the lentils, which can be prepared in advance:

  • 1 cup Puy lentils, or green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 red onion or 2 shallots finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salmon and balsamic reduction:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 6-ounce arctic char fillets, skin on (or salmon!)
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Dash kosher salt
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


For the lentils: Give the lentils a quick wash. Using a thick bottomed, oven safe pan with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the rosemary, onion, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add carrot. Cook for a further 2 minutes then add the lentils and fry for about 1 minute. Add the stock, put the lid on and bring to the boil, then transfer to oven and simmer in the oven for 1 hour at 300F, or until tender stirring occasionally.  By this time a lot of the stock will have been absorbed.

Add 2 tablespoons of your best extra virgin olive oil 1/2 blespoon of red wine vinegar and black pepper and salt to taste. Set aside until ready to serve salmon.

For the balsamic sauce: In a small, non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat slightly and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup and thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside

For the salmon: Place the salmon skin side up on a work surface and make several shallow slashes in the skin using a sharp paring knife (this will help prevent salmon from curling when it hits the hot pan). Sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper and salt.

Heat a large, nonstick pan (cast iron pan works great, too) over moderate heat until very hot. Place salmon in pan, skin side down and to not move for 4-5 minutes (skin should be crisp and brown). Turn fillets over, and cook for another 2-3 minutes depending on how well cooked you like your salmon. Remove fillets from pan and let rest for 1-2 minutes while you prep the rest of the dish.

Return the balsamic sauce to the moderate heat and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and stir until blended.

If using parsley, stir into lentils. Mound lentils onto plate. Place 1 salmon filet on plate, then drizzle balsamic sauce around the lentils. Repeat and enjoy.

Yield: 2 servings, with extra lentils for the next day.

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