Chef Michel Nischan's Recipe for Fish in a Flash

It’s time for you too to reap the health benefits of fish, the budget benefits of cooking at home – not to mention the applause from those around your table.

One of the best-kept kitchen secrets is the versatility of seafood— it can be grilled, broiled, steamed, poached, baked, cooked in a pan or seared. Because it can be easily prepared and still impress, it’s no wonder fish is a tasty solution for both a casual weeknight meal and an elegant dinner party.

If intimidation has kept you from cooking fish, you’re missing out. It’s time for you to reap the health benefits of fish and the budget benefits of cooking at home – not to mention the applause from those around your table.

Let’s get into the kitchen! Chef Michel Nischan opens in a new tab – a world-renowned chef, author, leader in the sustainable food movement and owner and founder of Dressing Room, in Westport, Connecticut, has partnered with Whole Foods Market to support the company’s move to no longer sell red-rated seafood by Earth Day 2012 opens in a new tab.

A tireless advocate for sustainable seafood, Chef Nischan shares how easy it to create delicious and sustainable seafood. With his Seared Wild Salmon with Wilted Greens and Ancient Grains, you can have an extraordinary dinner on the table without needing extra hands in the kitchen.

Seared Wild Salmon with Wilted Greens and Ancient Grains Ingredients

1 3/4 cups cooked black barley

1 3/4 cups cooked farro

1/2 cup cooked dried heirloom beans

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet with skin on

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic cloves

4 cups packed spinach or other wilting green, well rinsed with some water still clinging to the leaves

3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Combine the grains and beans with the stock in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until most of the stock evaporates.  Stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside, covered, to keep warm.

Season the skin side of the salmon with salt and pepper. Drizzle with almost half of the grapeseed oil.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the fillets, skin side down, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and nicely browned. Season the flesh side of the fillets with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little more of the oil. Turn the fillets over.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan along with the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the garlic starts to brown. Remove the fillets from the pan and set aside on a warmed serving platter.

Add the spinach to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fully wilted. Season the spinach with salt and pepper.

Add the basil to the grains and stir well to mix. Mound the grains on the center of each of 4 warmed plates and divide the spinach among the plates, putting it next to the grains. Lay the salmon fillets over the grains and greens so that both can be seen beneath the salmon.  Drizzle each service with olive oil and serve.

Note: Serve this family style by mounding the grains in the center of a platter and placing the spinach around the grains. Top with the salmon fillets and drizzle with olive oil.

Serves 4.

Now you’re cooking! Still hungry? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you try other fish recipes.

  • Seafood steaks or fillets thicker than 1/2 inch should be turned over halfway through cooking time. Fish less than 1/2-inch thick does not need to be turned.

  • When grilling or pan frying, place fillets skin side down (the skin will remove easily after cooking).

  • If fillets are rolled or stuffed, measure temperature at the thickest point to determine doneness.

  • Add five minutes to the overall cooking time for fish that is covered in a sauce or wrapped in foil.

  • Double your cooking time if starting with unthawed, frozen fish.

Here are seven more of our favorite methods to cook seafood and some scrumptious recipes that’ll keep your belly full.

Broiled: Season fish and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil a few inches from heat, just until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Try Broiled Fish with Citrus and Herbs opens in a new tab with sole, tilapia or arctic char.

Steamed: Add enough water to come just below the bottom of the steaming rack. Boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover pot, place fish on rack. Cover and steam.

Try Lemongrass Steamed Barramundi. opens in a new tab

Poaching: Simmer fillets or steaks in stock using a pan with a lid to retain heat. Turning is not necessary.

Baste occasionally by spooning stock over the fish.

Try Poached Halibut with Ginger and Cilantro opens in a new tab.

Baking: Preheat oven to 450°F. Bake uncovered, basting if desired.

Try Baked Southwestern Tilapia opens in a new tab.

Grilling: Place steaks or fillets on an oiled grill over medium-hot coals. If covered, cook without turning. If uncovered, turn halfway through cooking.

Try Grilled Chili-Garlic Swordfish and Bok Choy opens in a new tab.

Pan Sautéing: Heat a small amount of marinade or oil in a heavy skillet and add the fish. Turn thick fillets or steaks halfway through cooking.

Try Salmon with Sautéed Swiss Chard opens in a new tab.

In a Parchment-Paper Packet: The recipe is simple (fish + vegetables + seasoning) and clean up is quick. Preheat oven to 400°F. Make one packet per fillet. Top each fillet with veggies (e.g. cherry tomatoes, greens, zucchini) and season. Drizzle with olive oil. Fold sides of parchment over fish and veggies, covering completely. Bake for around 20 minutes until fish is opaque.

Try it with cod, halibut, tilapia, sole or salmon. Try this Salmon with Lemon and Basil opens in a new tab recipe, and then experiment with different herbs, veggies and marinades.

Have you recently tried a new method of cooking fish with stellar results? We’d love to hear about it.

Note: The images of Chef Nischan’s salmon recipe are used with permission from Andre Baranowski opens in a new tab.

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