Tasty crusted salmon is close at hand

It seems like mere moments after I get the last dish dried and put away, it’s time to make dinner again. Is it me or are the days actually getting shorter, whizzing by in a blur and then coming to a screeching halt at 6 p.m. when every person in my household starts wandering into the kitchen, casually asking what’s for dinner, usually while opening up a cupboard to peruse available snacks?

The solution is to have a small repertoire of dishes that require hardly any prep and that use ingredients you have on hand.

And, then of course, keep these ingredients on hand! Stock your pantry with frozen wild salmon filets and Dijon mustard and you will never be more than a few sheet-pan minutes away from a tasty crusted salmon. While the ingredients might change up a bit depending on your mood and your pantry, the basic strategy is the same: Stir a few flavorful ingredients into some Dijon mustard, spread on salmon, and bake at 400 F until done, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish, and whether it is thawed or frozen.

Today’s recipe for Mustard and Dill Crusted Salmon is but one example of this recipe blueprint. Once you’ve mastered it (which won’t take long), you can venture out on your own on a given Tuesday night and create your family’s own version.

I’ll share a few best practices based on many years of mustard-crusting salmon. Add a little something sweet, like a touch of honey, pure maple syrup or agave.

Also, include one or two aromatic ingredients, like minced shallot, garlic, spices or dried herbs. If you don’t mind a little extra fat, a tiny bit of olive oil or even mayonnaise will keep the dish juicy and tender, for just a few extra calories a person. But, don’t fret if you want to skip the oil and keep things super lean.

Finally, you can add a little texture if you want by topping with breadcrumbs or crushed nuts, but this is totally optional.

MUSTARD AND DILL-CRUSTED SALMON

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 fillets of salmon, about 5 ounces each

Mustard Crust:

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped)

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the soy sauce and lemon juice in a shallow bowl, and dip both sides of each salmon fillet in the mixture and let the marinade soak into the salmon for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the mustard crust and set aside. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Gently pat any excess liquid off the salmon fillets. (They do not need to be completely dry; just not dripping.)

Divide the mustard mixture among the fillets, and use your hands to coat the fish entirely in the mustard mixture.

Place the fish on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake just until fish is cooked through (about 135 F internal temperature).

This will take between 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. If the fish is frozen, add about 5 minutes. In general, the salmon will be ready a few minutes earlier than you think. Serve with vegetables and brown rice for a quick weeknight meal.

Chef’s Note: This recipe can be prepared with frozen fish fillets. Let sit on countertop for 15 minutes to thaw the outside just enough for the soy sauce and lemon mixture to soak in a little. Proceed with recipe, adding cook-time as needed.

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Nutrition information per serving: 247 calories; 97 calories from fat; 11 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 79 mg cholesterol; 635 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 29 g protein.

(Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”)

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