Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roasted Salmon, Scallion, and Barley Bowl with Miso Sauce

Scallions appear in so many recipes as garnish, but it's rare to find a recipe that makes them a major player. This means that when I end up buying a bunch to use sparingly in a recipe like Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa, the remnants either end up garnishing anything remotely appropriate or just going to waste. It's much more interesting to make them a principal player in an composed dish, and I fortunately didn't have to look too far for inspiration.

Like virtually every vegetable I've encountered, roasting brings out the best in scallions, cultivating a smoky sweetness that tempers their typically sharp edge. That same cooking technique creates a beautiful crust on the salmon, meaning you only need a few minutes to get both ingredients ready for the oven, and a couple quick check-ins during the cooking process. I chose barley for my grain base in this dish, but rice or even quinoa could work, though I particularly love the combination of chewy barley, tender fish, and soft and crispy scallion bits. Miso, though expensive and typically only available in fairly large containers, is a great umami-packed shortcut ingredient that introduces a ton of flavor to any dish with just a scant amount. The saltiness is balanced by the acidic vinegar, rich and toasty sesame oil, and sweet honey, happily uniting the barley, scallions, and salmon.

Healthy, delicious, and ridiculously quick and easy, this recipe is enough to make me buy scallions for more than a finishing touch.

Roasted Salmon, Scallion, and Barley Bowl with Miso Sauce
inspired by Saveur
serves 2

2 bunches scallions (about 1 pound), trimmed
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pearled barley
Two (4- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 tbsp. white or barley miso
2½ tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp. honey
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Sriracha or other hot sauce, for serving  (optional)

1. Prepare barley according to package directions. Set aside and keep warm.

2. Heat oven to 450°. Toss scallions with enough olive oil to coat, salt, and pepper and spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake, stirring once, until golden and wilted, about 15­ minutes, adding salmon partway through (see next step).  

3. Brush the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the salmon fillets about 5 minutes into the scallion roasting time, depending on the size of the salmon fillets, making sure to allow at least 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness. Roast until salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

4. Transfer barley to a serving dish and top with scallions and salmon, flaking if desired. Whisk miso, vinegar, sesame oil, honey, and red pepper flakes, if using, in a bowl until smooth and drizzle over the top. Serve promptly, garnishing with hot sauce, if desired.

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