Smoked salmon powers up easy pasta dish

  • By J.M. Hirsch / Associated Press
  • Tuesday, May 2, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

Just three simple rules.

That’s my recipe for appealing, weeknight-friendly fare – adhere to three simple rules. And they all relate to ingredients.

A recipe should call for no more than about a dozen ingredients. Assembling those ingredients should take no more than about 30 minutes. And at least one of those ingredients should be a “power ingredient.”

By power ingredient, I mean a knock-me-off-my-feet-and-slap-me-around sort of food. These are foods that with no additional work by you impart bold, assertive flavors that pull the dish together.

I’m talking about simple, versatile ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, bacon, curry, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, blue cheese, prosciutto, smoked paprika, fresh basil.

And smoked salmon.

That’s the power ingredient I drew my inspiration from recently when I took to assembling a quick, one-dish pasta dinner that could provide everything needed for a complete meal – grains, veggies, protein and healthy fats.

Smoked salmon, which is sold thinly sliced in the refrigerated section near grocers’ seafood departments, has a briny, savory flavor that goes well with more subdued ingredients, such as pasta, bread and mild cheeses (including, of course, cream cheese).

This dish comes together in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. And I don’t even bother draining the pasta.

Instead, I use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the skillet with the other ingredients. This method ensures I get plenty of cooking water along with the pasta, and spares me from having to clean a colander.

The result is a 10-ingredient, 20-minute healthy meal with potent flavors.

Farfalle with smoked salmon and peas

2tablespoons olive oil

1medium red onion

3cloves garlic, minced

1/4teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

12ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1cup frozen peas

14-ounce package smoked salmon, cut into thin strips

1/4cup chopped fresh dill

Zest of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

While the water heats, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic and red pepper (if using) in a large skillet set over a medium-high heat. Saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and just translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, or just firm at the center, about 8 minutes, or as the packaging directs.

While the pasta cooks, add the peas to the onions and cook until peas are heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Once the pasta has cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer it and a bit of the water clinging to it to the skillet. If you would rather drain the pasta, first reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and add it to the skillet along with the pasta.

Add the salmon, dill and lemon zest to the skillet and toss well to combine. The heat of the pasta will mostly cook the salmon, but it need not be cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

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