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Salmon Rubbed With Cumin, Coriander & Fennel Seeds

November 16, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Melina Hammer
Author Notes

Salmon is one of my favorite fish to cook, and this aromatic rub brings supremely flavorful results. While this recipe works with whatever salmon you can get, I buy wild salmon whenever possible. I adore the saturated orange flesh and dazzling, buttery flavor. “Wild Alaskan salmon are harvested from the open ocean, [then] transported for processing to small Alaskan coastal fishing communities,” per the James Beard Foundation. “Since these long-established villages and towns rely on salmon for their livelihood, they are incentivized to support long-term, sustainable fisheries management.” For more info on salmon varieties, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. When buying, choose a fillet that’s glistening and firm. The key to perfect salmon is not overdoing it—this is a fish that excels from medium-rare (120°F) to medium (130°F), when it’s still juicy and tender. Properly cooked salmon should easily flake with a fork, with opaque outer edges and a slightly translucent center.

With just a handful of ingredients, this spice rub covers the flavor spectrum: bright, earthy, and floral. Stored in airtight jars, whole spices are robust with flavor and have a longer shelf life compared to ground. Toasting them is an easy way to bring out their fullest magic. Salmon and fennel make a natural pair, as do cumin and coriander, and sumac adds a wonderfully sour, citrusy quality. I like to toast my spices one at a time so I can control the rate at which they cook—mere seconds can make all the difference (and no one wants burned spices). Cook the smallest seeds first, since they run the risk of burning in a hotter pan. In addition to enjoying this spice-rubbed roasted salmon with a bright salad, you could serve it with roasted potatoes, puffy flatbread, rice or couscous, or even atop a tangle of noodles. —Melina Hammer

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Spice-Rubbed Salmon
  • 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, halved crosswise
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground sumac
  • Radicchio Salad
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small head radicchio, broken into leaves and roughly torn
  • 1/2 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, rind sliced off, cut into wheels
  • 2 celery ribs, plus their leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (flat-leaf or curly)
  • Flaky salt, for sprinkling
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Pat the salmon dry, then set on a tray or plate flesh side up. Lightly sprinkle the top with salt. Leave at room temperature while you work on the spice rub. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds. After 30 seconds or so, lower the heat to medium-low and shake the pan. Keep toasting until the cumin is fragrant, about 2 more minutes, shaking the pan regularly to avoid burning the seeds. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, coarsely grind the seeds. Transfer to a shallow bowl large enough to lay the salmon into.
  3. Toast then grind the fennel seeds in the same way, followed by the coriander seeds. Once all three spices are in the shallow bowl, stir in the 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the sumac.
  4. Lay the salmon flesh down onto the spice mixture, softly pressing to coat it in the spices. Turn and repeat for the skin side.
  5. Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the salmon flesh side down, then lower the heat to medium. After 2 minutes, flip the salmon, then transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 4 to 6 minutes, until the fish is opaque at its edges and flakes easily with a fork. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack or trivet.
  6. While the salmon rests for a few minutes, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper until emulsified. On a serving dish, toss together the radicchio, chile, orange, celery, and parsley with 3 tablespoons of dressing. Taste and adjust the dressing and seasoning as needed.
  7. Nestle the salmon in the center of the salad or serve it alongside. Sprinkle everything with flaky salt and black pepper to taste.

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When she's not writing, cooking, styling, and shooting her forthcoming cookbook - out Spring 2022 with Ten Speed Press - Melina makes food look its best for the New York Times, Eating Well, Edible, and other folks who are passionate about real food. She grows heirloom+native plants and forages wild foods at her Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. There, Melina prepares curated menus to guests seeking community, amidst the robust flavors of the seasons.

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