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A Fancy Salmon Salad, and 2 Other Weeknight Dinners From My New Favorite Cookbook

Julia Turshen is a home cook goddess.
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Julia Turshen is a home cook through and through. The recipes in her new cookbook  Simply Julia, are written the way a busy friend with years of expertise in the kitchen would text you—they keep in mind clean up and ingredient sourcing, and are healthy, by her (and my) definition of loosely keeping in mind excessive sugar, and favoring "plants and grains." It's the type of book that, at four o'clock on a Tuesday, you can open to a random recipe for inspiration, and have dinner served by six.

Every recipe Jonah and I have tried (we've cooked nearly every recipe from my favorite section, "11 Weeknight Go-Tos"), has at least one genius tip or method that makes me a better and more creative cook: The simple chive dumplings that dot her take on chicken and biscuits, hand pies for breakfast, the jalapeño concoction in her stuffed chicken, creative ways to use CSA produce... The list goes on, but one of my favorite recipes I've made now a few times is Julia's "Fancy Weeknight Salmon Salad," which is exactly as the title describes, with a thick, umami-packed dressing and everything I could ever want in a filling dinner salad. Below, I've shared the recipe for her salad, along with two other favorites from her cookbook:

Photo by Melina Hammer

Photo by Melina Hammer

Serves 4

You will need:

1 1⁄2 pounds [680 g] salmon, in one large piece, skin and bones discarded (doesn’t matter how thick the piece is)
1 pound [453 g] assorted mushrooms, tough stems discarded, roughly chopped
Cooking spray (my preference is olive oil spray, but use whatever you have)
Kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large or 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about a large handful sliced shallots, or red onion)
1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or just more red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
5 ounces [141 g] fresh baby arugula
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
1⁄4 cup [35 g] roasted, salted almonds, roughly chopped

How to make it: 

Preheat your oven to 425 °F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the salmon in the middle of the pan and surround it with the mushrooms. Coat the fish and mushrooms generously with cooking spray and sprinkle everything with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Roast until the fish flakes easily and is opaque in the center (test by poking it with a paring knife), and the mushrooms are tender and browned in spots, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl with the shallots, sugar, and red wine vinegar.

Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar and let the mixture sit while the fish roasts.

Place the olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and tahini in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Season the dressing to taste with salt. Add the arugula to the bowl and toss well to combine. Transfer the arugula to a large serving platter.

Break the fish into large pieces and place them on top of the arugula. Top the fish with the roasted mushrooms and top those with the shallots and their pickling liquid. Top with the avocado and almonds. Serve immediately.

Photo by Melina Hammer

Photo by Melina Hammer

Serves 4

You will need:

For the sauce

1 large handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (a little stem is fine)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup [120 ml] vegan mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise if you’re not vegan)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the stew

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bell peppers (red, yellow, and/or orange), stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 teaspoons dried oregano kosher salt
2 medium zucchini [about ¾ pound (340 g)], ends trimmed, cut into bite-sized pieces
Two 15-ounce [425 g] cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup [60 ml] water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

To serve

Cooked couscous, pasta, rice, quinoa, or any other grain

How to make it:

First, make the sauce. Place the parsley, lemon juice, vegan mayonnaise, and salt in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Reserve the mixture.

Next, make the stew. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Once it’s warm, add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomato paste, oregano, and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.


Stir in the zucchini, chickpeas, water, and another large pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high and when that little bit of water begins to boil, turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook, uncovering it every so often to stir, until the zucchini is very soft and the mixture is stewy, about 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the vinegar, and season the mixture to taste with salt.

Serve the stew warm over the couscous (or whatever you’re serving it with). Top each serving with a large spoonful of the sauce.

Photo by Melina Hammer

Photo by Melina Hammer

Serves 4

You will need:

One 2-ounce [56 g] bag potato chips (preferably sour cream and onion–flavored)
Two 6-ounce [170 g] cans wild pink salmon packed in water, well-drained
1 cup [235 g] whole milk ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon old Bay seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each kosher salt, sweet paprika, and garlic powder)
Lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 10-ounce [283 g] package frozen peas
½ cup [120 ml] half-and-half
½ teaspoon kosher salt


How to make it: 

Let some air out of the potato chip bag and then crush the bag with a rolling pin or wine bottle to make fine crumbs. Transfer the potato chip crumbs to a large bowl and add the salmon, ricotta, and Old Bay. Finely grate the zest from the lemon and add it to the bowl (reserve the zested lemon). Stir the mixture well to combine, really breaking up the salmon as you mix.

Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and use your hands to form each into a patty. It’s helpful to divide the mixture in half and then in half again and so on to make sure the patties are the same size.

Place the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once it melts and begins to bubble, place the fish cakes in the skillet and cook without disturbing them until their bottoms are nicely browned (what a sentence!), 2 to 3 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully flip each one over and cook until nicely browned on the second side, another 2 to 3 minutes. You might need to cook the fish cakes in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan (you don’t want to crowd the pan, and definitely give yourself space to flip them—think of the spacing like pancakes). Transfer the fish cakes to a plate and cover them with foil to keep them warm.

Turn the heat to high and place the peas, half-and-half, and salt in the same skillet. Cook, stirring, just until the peas are bright green and tender and the half-and-half has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes. Transfer the saucy peas to a serving platter and place the fish cakes on top. Cut the zested lemon into wedges and serve the wedges with the fish cakes for squeezing over. Serve immediately.

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P.S., Follow along on @shopcupcakesandcashmere today, as I make the recipe in Stories!

All recipes the book SIMPLY JULIA by Julia Turshen. Copyright © 2021 by Julia Turshen. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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