The Crispy, Coconutty Salmon Dish That Turned Me Into a Salmon Person

It's kind of a big deal.

March 22, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

We've partnered with FreshDirect to share delicious, family-friendly meals—from breakfast all the way to dessert—that highlight fresh, quality ingredients.

Growing up, there were very few foods that I refused to eat. They were: mushrooms, guacamole, and—the very worst of them all—salmon. I don't know what it was exactly about the fatty, bright-pink fish, but seeing it on a plate instantly transformed me into a picky eater.

While my distaste for mushrooms and guacamole quietly vanished over the years (I'm sorry I ever turned you away, I was a different person then), my aversion to salmon persisted—until I met this roasted salmon with crispy kale and coconut rice.

But first, a little backstory: It was a few days post-New Years Eve and I had just come home from a five-day eating and drinking marathon with my parents in New Orleans—so many beignets, a few muffulettas, and endless cocktails. By the time I hobbled up the five flights of stairs to my apartment, the smell of gumbo and fried oysters was seeping out of my pores. I still felt stuffed, even though my last meal had been much earlier that morning. My body craved something fresh and comforting that wasn't fried or doused in butter (even though I love both of those things). Which led me to salmon.

Everyone knows about the near-mythical properties of salmon—its potassium, its protein, its omega-3 fatty acids. If there was anything that would help me reset, it would be salmon, right? Luckily, I stumbled upon a popular 2014 recipe from Food52 community member, Ashley Couse in my search.

Despite its inherent salmon-ness, the dish promised many delicious things: fluffy white rice steamed with coconut milk, cubed sweet potatoes roasted in a drizzle of coconut oil and paprika, and oven-baked kale and coconut flakes coated in a spicy-savory dressing of sesame oil, tamari, and Sriracha. Factor in that the whole dish would only take me an hour and I was sold.

I prepped the vegetables and let the salmon come up to room temperature for about 15 or 30 minutes before I got started on the rice. Aside from that, I let the oven do the majority of the work. In a little under an hour, the whole dish was ready. Aromatic and lightly sweetened from the coconut, yet punchy thanks to the Sriracha, it tasted as beautiful as it looked—especially the salmon, which was soft and buttery on the inside, crisp and flaky on the outside. Maybe my tastebuds had changed, or maybe it was just this recipe, but the whole thing was perfect.

If you told me that I'd be eating salmon regularly even a few months ago, I probably would've laughed. But this recipe has somehow made it into my near-weekly dinner rotation. I've even tried mixing it up with variations here and there: swapping in brown rice, mixing in other leafy greens like Swiss chard or even broccoli, replacing sweet potato with butternut squash, or trying out different spices, like chili powder or harissa.

After all the experimenting, I've realized there's really no wrong way to make it, but—and I can't believe I'm saying this—you always need the salmon.

In partnership with FreshDirect, we're celebrating the season's best produce by whipping up recipes where the ingredients take center stage, like in this roasted salmon with crispy kale and coconut rice. This wholesome, weeknight-friendly recipe comes together with ease when you've got everything stocked from FreshDirect, where you can find quality cuts of salmon, pantry staples like coconut milk and paprika, fresh produce like kale and sweet potatoes, and so much more.

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

1 Comment

Lizzie G. March 22, 2019
Looks great!