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One-Sided Salmon

September 24, 1997|FAYE LEVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Levy is the author of "30 Low-Fat Vegetarian Meals in 30 Minutes" (Warner Books, 1997)

The first time I saw unilateral salmon on a menu in France, I thought it was a political joke. Before long, however, I found saumon a l'unilateral in several restaurants in Paris. It just means that the fish is cooked on only one side, without being turned over.

This entree came into fashion in France about a decade ago and works well for thin pieces of salmon. The fish is sauteed on the skin side so the skin comes out crisp; it is kept somewhat rare, so it's very moist inside.

I adapted this method for broiling salmon fillets. It works well for thin fillets that don't need to be turned over to cook evenly. I find that about 8 minutes per inch of thickness works well for broiling this cut (instead of the usual guideline of 10 minutes per inch for cooking most fish), so the salmon is moist but not too rare in the center.

I used to drizzle salmon with a little oil before broiling it, but I have discovered that the oil isn't necessary. Salmon is a rich fish and, indeed, a little oil comes out of it during broiling.

Broiled salmon fillet is delicious accompanied by a basic chopped tomato-cucumber salad or one of mixed baby greens, and perhaps some good crusty bread. You can also use some luscious summer tomatoes to make a sauce for the fish. That's how it's loved in Europe.

Superstar Swiss chef Freddy Girardet likes salmon surrounded with thyme-scented tomato sauce and crowned with a dab of pistou (French pesto made of basil, garlic and olive oil, no cheese or nuts). Jean Bardet, a Michelin-starred chef in France's Loire Valley, also prepares unilateral salmon with tomato sauce but finishes the sauce with veal roasting juices and butter and gussies up his fish with poached marrow. For meals prepared in home kitchens, these steps are best omitted.

Paul and Jean Minchelli of Le Duc restaurant in Paris, known for its exquisitely pure and simple cuisine, serve salmon fillet atop a tomato sauce flavored with fresh mint. Theirs is the inspiration for this quick and easy salmon and sauce.


Ask for the tail end of the salmon fillet; it tends to be to be truly boneless, while the head end often has some bones. The refreshing sauce is good on any broiled or grilled fish, as well as with eggplant and zucchini. This dish can be served hot or cold.


Vegetable cooking spray or 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf


Freshly ground pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped mint


1 1/4 pounds salmon fillet, about 1 inch thick

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika


Freshly ground pepper


Spray large skillet with cooking spray or heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan. Add garlic and saute 10 seconds. Add tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered over medium heat until juice begins to come out of tomatoes, about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes are soft and sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Discard thyme sprig and bay leaf. Stir in mint. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Place fish, skin side down, on broiler pan lined with foil. Sprinkle with coriander and paprika and rub in lightly. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper to taste.

Broil fish 4 inches from heat source about 8 minutes. Test for doneness by making small cut with sharp knife near thickest part of fillet; flesh should flake and be lighter pink all the way through. Serve with Mint-Tomato Sauce.

4 servings. Each serving:

214 calories; 215 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 1.18 grams fiber.



To peel and seed tomatoes, cut cores from tomatoes, turn tomatoes over and slit skin in X-shaped cut. Drop tomatoes in pan of boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl of cold water. After a few seconds, remove tomatoes from water and pull off skins with aid of paring knife. Cut each tomato in half. Hold tomato half, cut side down, over bowl and squeeze to remove most of the seeds.

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