When I want to treat myself, I sear a beautiful piece of fish and add complementary elements to make a complete, nourishing meal. In spring, that means garlic mustard, a free food just waiting to be foraged. Look around, it’s probably growing in abundance right near you. The plant is wreaking havoc in all kinds of communities, so much so that conservation groups have taken to sending out brigades in various locales to uproot it, giving native flora a fighting chance. Just before garlic mustard goes into bloom, it sends up a stem with a tight flower bud. It’s this juicy stem, snapped off, that gets a quick kiss in a hot pan for this recipe. Its juicy bitterness is the perfect foil to meaty salmon and buttery olives. If you make this for loved ones who like bitter greens, they’ll no doubt sing high praise too. It tastes like broccoli rabe and, similar to spinach, it cooks down quite a bit. Soft pearl couscous completes the whole thing nicely, though you could just as easily use rice or pasta. —Melina Hammer
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds
finely chopped parsley
lemon, halved crosswise
tender stems garlic mustard
torn castelvetrano olives
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
- Pat-dry the salmon on both sides and portion into 4 fillets. Place on a paper towel–lined tray or plate, flesh-side up and generously season with salt. Allow the fillets to come to room temperature as you prepare the other elements.
- Cook couscous according to package instructions. When it’s done, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fluff the couscous. Stir in the parsley and season with salt to taste.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, drizzle with oil, followed by the lemon halves cut-side down. After 2 minutes, reduce the heat to medium. After another minute, drag the lemons through any remaining oil and check on their doneness. Rotate them for even browning, adding more oil as needed. After 5 to 6 minutes, the lemons should be caramelized and soft. Transfer to a plate.
- Drizzle the pan with more oil. Swirl the pan to coat, then add the salmon, flesh-side down. After 2 minutes, add the butter. As it foams, drag the butter around the filets so that each piece gets a little contact. Cook for 1 more minute, then use a spatula to flip the fillets. Tilt the pan to collect the hot fat with a large spoon and baste each fillet. Cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, basting frequently, for medium to medium-rare. Turn off the heat.
- Arrange couscous on a serving platter with the salmon on top. Add garlic mustard stems to the still-hot pan. Drag them around the pan to soak up the remaining butter-oil mixture. After the greens begin to wilt, toss once or twice and add the olives. When the garlic mustard stems are soft and the greens are wilted but still bright green, use tongs to nestle this mixture around the salmon. Squeeze the seared lemons on top and add a few grinds of pepper.