Saumon vapeur au chou

Steamed salmon on a nest of cabbage

The key to this recipe is not to overcook it. The cabbage should stay almost crisply bright green, and the fish should retain a rosy center. The result will be a richly luscious dish.

You will need a steamer. My preference is for the metal kind that opens up like a flower, but other steamers work perfectly well also, for example the bamboo baskets used in Chinese cuisine.

2 thick fillets of salmon
1 head of cabbage, preferably curly cabbage
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. finest sea salt
1/2 lemon
optional: fresh herbs for garnish

With a big sharp knife, cut the cabbage in two. Put one half aside for another use. Cut the other half in two, and put one of those pieces aside.

Place the remaining quarter on a cutting board and cut out the core, going in on the diagonal. With one side of the wedge flat to the board, make two lengthwise cuts, and then cut across the wedge to make thin strips.

Place 1/2 inch (2 cm) water in a large pot with a cover. Place your steamer in the pot. Add the cabbage and turn on the heat. When steam begins to rise, cover and cook 5 minutes – the cabbage should be just wilted, retaining its vibrant green color.

Remove the cabbage from the steamer to a separate pot. Put this pot over very low heat without adding any butter or oil – the cabbage will stay warm while you cook the fish.

Place the salmon in the steamer, cover and cook 5 minutes. The fish should be almost but not quite cooked through. If you prefer your fish thoroughly done, cook a couple minutes longer.

To serve, make a nest of cabbage on each plate. Place the salmon on top. Pour 1 tbsp. olive oil over each plate in a thin stream. Sprinkle with sea salt and grind on some black pepper.

Cut off the ends of the 1/2 lemon, and cut it in half again. Place a wedge on each plate, along with freshly snipped herbs if you are using them. Serve at once, acccompanied by a dry white wine or bubbly water. Serves 2.

This dish works equally well with other vegetables.

To serve the salmon on a bed of zucchini, slice one large or two medium zucchini into lengthwise strips using a carrot peeler. Steam as described for the cabbage.

To serve the salmon on a bed of spinach, wash 1 lb. (500 g.) spinach leaves and spin dry in a salad spinner. Place the leaves in a large pan. Cook over medium heat until the spinach has wilted and the water has evaporated. Proceed with the fish as described above.

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