You know when salmon is really anticlimactic? It's almost like because it's a known fact it's sort of a healthier option, often times, I find the applications I encounter out in the wild kind of bland, or dry, or like someone swiped some maple syrup on it and called it a day. A little fact about me: not super into fish candy!
There's a lot of bad blood surrounding seafood and dairy. I get it, it's a fine balance. I'm not going to slap some Kraft singles on a piece of sashimi-grade ahi (kind of made myself want to vom with that sentence, left it anyway), so let's all just slow our rolls, and keep an open mind, because this salmon is SO. GOOD. The feta is balanced with cherry tomatoes, lemon, and tons of fresh herbs. The tomatoes soak up some of that butter situation, and the lemon brings so much brightness. The feta isn't the star, it's like the personal assistant to all the other high maintenance celebs in the parchment paper, making sure everyone shiiiiiiiines *Oprah voice*.
The vegetable-packed couscous is the perfect accompaniment to the salmon, with lots of roasted eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and the easiest vinaigrette. These two are sheet pan wonders, come together in a flash, and leave you feeling nourished and satisfied. The tzatziki isn't mandatory, but just like, do the right thing, and make it. Chalk it up to condiment karma. I don't know.
As all compound butters do, this one starts with room temperature unsalted butter. Don't be like me, and think you can muscle through non-room temperature butter. It's not worth it, and you'll be annoyed. Smash and mince two garlic cloves. I like sprinkling mine with a little coarse sea salt and grinding them into a paste with the side of my knife. Add to your butter. Next, add the zest of one lemon, juice of 1/2 a lemon, your freshly chopped parsley, and dried oregano. Mash together with a fork (or in a food processor, if you wish), and then add your feta. Mix thoroughly to combine, and taste for seasoning. The feta has a good amount of salt, so I actually ended up adding the *tiniest* pinch, and some pepper. Spoon your butter out onto plastic wrap, and refrigerate until hard and slice-able.
I was first introduced to tzatziki by my sweet aunt Steffi who hails from Germany. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, and I believe we were having it with lamb on Christmas Eve. I was totally smitten, and it might be my favorite condiment sitch ever. I will never top hers (and totally need to get her recipe), but this one is a pretty good placeholder. If you're going to make this, only one caveat: make as early as you can and want to, because the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it gets.
With a box grater, shred about a cup and a quarter of a large English cucumber. Wrap your shredded cucumber in 2-3 paper towels, and squeeze out all excess liquid. Next, smash and grind into a paste 2-3 garlic cloves (2 if they're really large), and add to your shredded cucumber. Next, add 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt. I used Greek, but I actually normally just go with plain, regular yogurt. However, I had just done an Amazon Prime order, and selected the wrong one, so...you get me. Next, add your lemon zest and juice, chopped dill. Taste for seasoning, and add your salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and put that puppy in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I usually do mine at least a couple hours ahead).
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a pan toast your couscous, and add your boiling water and a tablespoon of olive oil, and salt. Cook per instructions, or about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Add to a large bowl and set aside. Cut 1/2 an eggplant, and two zucchini into large chunks, and spread evenly on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes (tossing everything after about 10 minutes), and remove from the oven. Add your cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Set aside while you assemble your salmon.
Season your salmon with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkle of dried oregano. Slice half a lemon, and halve 8-10 cherry tomatoes. Slice your feta butter, and place atop your salmon. Place your cherry tomatoes, and lemon slices around the salmon, and top with fresh chopped parsley. Give everything *the slightest* drizzle of olive oil (mainly around the tomatoes), close your parchment wrap into a little package, and place in your 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until your salmon is just cooked through.
Add your roasted veg back to the oven, and let's make that vinaigrette. I added about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar to a mason jar with the juice of half a lemon, 1 small shallot, chopped, 1/2 a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and about 6 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and shake until fully emulsified. If it's still too vinegar-y, add a splash more olive oil. Add all your veggies to your cous cous, drizzle in your vinaigrette, and add a small handful of crumbled feta, and tons of chopped fresh parsley.
The feta butter lends the perfect, salty, bright, lemony background for tender salmon, and sweet cherry tomatoes. Just an additional PSA, this salmon is also really delicious on a Caesar.
The nutty, whole wheat couscous soaks up the vinaigrette, and makes for a really great vehicle for all of the caramelized veggies, and really cuts through the richness of the salmon. Additionally, it makes for a lovely little next-day lunch.
Wishing you the best weekend, friends! What's on your to-do list? It's gloomy and cold here in Austin, but we've got house projects, and neighborhood walks on the brain. Also, I hear there's this thing called football going on? There's something Cleopatra comin' atcha on Monday to eat while other people...do sports? Cheers!
Salmon and Cherry Tomatoes in Feta Butter
1 Salmon filet (roughly 1-1 1/4 lbs.)
6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 Cup crumbled feta
Zest of 1/2 lemon (or 1/2 tsp.)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Garlic cloves, smashed, pureed
2 tbs. Fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. Dried oregano
10 Cherry tomatoes
1/2 lemon, sliced
Roasted Vegetable and Cous Cous Salad
1/2 Eggplant, cubed
2 Zucchini, cubed
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 Package Israeli couscous (preferably whole wheat)
For the Vinaigrette
3 tbs. Red wine vinegar
6 tbs. Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups shredded English cucumber
1 1/2 cups plain full fat yogurt
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed, pureed
4 large sprigs dill, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste