Dinner With My Family #18: Baked Salmon with Asparagus

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Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to cook an excellent meal with minimal dishes to do afterwards. If I can make something delicious with only the silverware, plates, and perhaps two more items in the sink, then it’s a big win for me.

This leads us to baked salmon and asparagus, which I make on two cookie sheets (and a single person or a couple could make on one cookie sheet). You really don’t need anything else to prepare this meal. Even better, you only need about fifteen minutes of cooking time!

What You Need
You’ll need a small filet of whatever kind of fish you wish to prepare for each person. I suggest waiting for a sale. You’ll also need perhaps four ounces of asparagus per person eating, a few teaspoons of olive oil, and perhaps some seasoning for the fish (black pepper, white pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, etc. – whatever you like). I would also pair this with a fresh fruit, using whatever fruit is on sale at the store. I almost always pair fish with citrus fruits.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)
You can cut the asparagus in advance of the meal. When you buy asparagus at the store, it’s often sold with the bottom portion of the stem being fairly bitter. I generally take each asparagus stem and cut it roughly in half, discarding the other part to the compost bin. The top half is the truly tasty part.

Other than that, the meal is incredibly simple to prepare.

Preparing the Meal
Pre-heat the oven to 500 F. You’ll want the oven nice and hot for this dish.

Spread out the fish and the asparagus on one or two cookie sheets. You can do this on one sheet fairly easily if you’re cooking for two, but if you’re cooking for a family, you’ll need two sheets.

Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus, rotate them a bit, then drizzle some more olive oil on top of them. Sprinkle on some salt and black pepper.

For the fish, season both sides in whatever way you like. I season almost all fish I eat with cayenne pepper, but this may not be your preferred flavor. A bit of salt and black pepper works well for almost any fish.

When the oven is heated, put the cookie sheet(s) in for six minutes. Pull out the sheet, flip the fish, rotate the asparagus, and put it back in for four minutes.

Cooking...

At this point, remove the asparagus to a separate container, then check the temperature of the fish. It should be around 140 F. The texture should be nice and flaky and it should not be transparent – cooked fish is opaque. If it needs a bit more cooking, flip the fish again and re-insert it into the oven for another five minutes.

You’re done! Serve the asparagus and fish with a side of fresh fruit. We almost always accompany fish with citrus fruits, so we served it with orange this time.

Finished meal

Optional Ingredients
You can vary the seasoning of the fish quite a lot. Black pepper, white pepper, lemon pepper, garlic, salt – season it in whatever way you like. You may want to look up seasoning suggestions for the particular type of fish you’re using (you can use pretty much any kind of fish for this meal, too), but I use those as a general guideline at best. I just like cayenne pepper on everything.

Fish can be accompanied by many different types of vegetables and fruits. We often use either whatever is coming from our garden or whatever is on sale at the store or in season at the farmers market.

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37 thoughts on “Dinner With My Family #18: Baked Salmon with Asparagus

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the bottom end of an asparagus spear being any more bitter than the top. I thought the reason you want to discard the bottom ends is that they can be tough and fibrous (so, discarding half of each spear seems like a big waste to me).

    Why not cook the fish and the asparagus in different pans, if you’re cooking them for different amounts of time? The extra time it takes to clean the second pan probably is not much more than the time it takes to scoop the asparagus out of the hot pan.

    And if, ahem, you wanted to make this a vegan meal, baked tofu would go really well with the roasted asparagus. I’ve shared my method for baking tofu before, but if anyone wants me to repeat it, I will.

  2. The way I get rid of the tougher end of the spears is by bending them until they snap. Sometimes it will be just the lower 1/3, sometimes it will be half the spear.

    My favourite way to cook them is by grilling. Season with olive oil and sprinkle some salt and grill until they are toasted. Yummy.

    On a random note, there is a funny side effect when you eat asparagus — your urine might smell really funny in the next 12 hours or so!

  3. YUM! We’re in the middle of asparagus season here in California, and I love love love roasting spears like this. I agree with Johanna that it’s fibrousness rather than bitterness that makes the bottom undesirable to eat. I deal with it by grabbing the bottom of the spear and breaking it wherever it wants to break – this usually gets the whole tough part.

    Kudos on the salmon too, there are few meals nicer than roast salmon, imo. I’m a fan of fresh ground pepper and lemon squeezed over the top. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, so this definitely counts as healthy in every (omnivorous) food tradition I can think of.

  4. Another good way to do asparagus is to bake them at either 350 or 400 degrees F and season with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar until they’re fork tender (usually 10 min or less). I don’t really like asparagus, but this was good.

  5. @ marta – we call this “asparagus pee” in our house :-) We don’t have a grill, so I often do my spears under the broiler (or at really high heat). Squeeze of lemon at the end is nice, but not necessary.

    I also second the two-pan suggestion, with one additional tip: line your fish pan with foil. You can then bake the fish with the skin still on (skin side down). The skin sticks to the foil, and you can lift the filet right off. Then just throw the foil in the trash, and put the pan back in the cabinet – no washing necessary.

  6. I’ve tried the “break the spear where it wants to break” method too, but I usually find that that errs on the side of discarding too much (for my tastes, anyway). What I usually do is cut off the bottom inch or two with a knife – if the knife moves easily through the spear, I’ll use the entire rest of it, but if it meets a lot of resistance, I’ll cut off another inch or two, and so on.

  7. Ha! I read this entry immediately after returning from the grocery store, where I bought salmon & asparagus!

    I plan to make a slight variation on your recipe for dinner tonight. My strategy: bake the salmon in a dish together with halved cherry tomatoes and quartered cremini mushrooms (and, of course, lots of olive oil and herbs). It takes the same amount of time as your dish, but offers a few more nutrients, as well as colour on the plate.

    Yay for asparagus being in season!

  8. First thing that came to mind was the snap the asparagus method…apparently this is common knowledge that I only learned a couple weeks ago!!! Haha!

  9. I’m sure I’ve posted this on other posts of this meals series; but could you please put pictures of your intermediate steps for those of us who aren’t chefs yet?

    Seriously, 5 or 6 more pictures would make a world of difference for visual learners.

  10. I think I’ve found dinner inspiration for tomorrow night! I’ll probably roast some potatoes too though.

    For the salmon, a Dijon mustard mixed with herbs de Provence and spread on top is fantastic. Or just lemon and dill works well too.

    Trent, are you no longer vegan?

  11. Marie, have you seen the Pioneer Woman Cooks website? (I’d link but this would be stuck in moderation.) She posts very detailed steps with pictures for her recipes. (Fair warning: the people who think Trent’s recipes are too unhealthy will NOT like her site.)

  12. We steam asparagus in a covered pan in the microwave, and then put soy sauce on it, as a side to salmon or salmon steaks with lemon pepper seasoning. The citrus and the salty really compliment each other. A few small red potatoes roasted with the salmon is a nice touch!

  13. For medium to large asparagus, I peel the ends with a vegetable peeler before snapping the ends. Lots less waste.

    Use grated carrot and minced parsley on the salmon,yum.

  14. @Liz (#11): What are herbs de provence? I’ve been seeing recipes lately that call for them, and I’m interested in knowing which herbs are included.

    Also, The Pioneer Woman’s recipes are amazing. They are neither low fat nor low calorie, but hers is the only cookbook I own from which every recipe I’ve made has received rave review from my husband, father-in-law, friends, and everyone else who has eaten it.

  15. Herbes de Provence are a particularly revolting mixture of savory, fennel, and thyme. For many hundreds of years, they have been successfully used to disguise the fact that the French do not actually know how to cook. Unfortunately, this has led to a position in which no one else knows how to cook either, so that (for example) people nowadays roast asparagus and put mustard on salmon.

  16. OK, this one made me seriously hungry! We usually buy really slender asparagus and eat the whole stalks. I’ve lived in MA for my entire life, and only recently learned that we grow the best asparagus in the world (at least according to the Queen of England and many top chefs in Europe). So why are all the asparagus at my grocery store from Chile?

  17. Another way to fix the citrus accompanying the fish is to make a salad with it: dice a small shallot or 1/4 of a red onion fine. Combine in small container 1T orange juice concentrate, 1T sweet vinegar (rice vinegar or a citrus vinegar) 2T extra virgin olive oil. Mix the liquids. Toss over mandarine orange slices or cut-up orange – add salt and white pepper to taste.

    (love a summer citrus salad — this is also great with mango)
    Valerie from New Orleans

  18. My mom taught me to snap the asparagus, too, but recently I discovered that marvel of culinary engineering: the asparagus peeler. Shaving away the tough fibrous section lets you cook the whole thing evenly–and it wastes a lot less. These days I prefer to steam asparagus, but that’s because the asparagus in the Netherlands are as thick as a large carrot, and white (the relevant blog post is at the end of April).

    My boyfriend’s preferred method of cooking salmon is to coat it with a layer of brown sugar, salt-and-pepper, mixed with some zest of a citrus fruit. Typically it’s lemon, but last night we didn’t have any lemon so he used the only thing lying around, which was grapefruit. Strange though this may seem, it was DELICIOUS.

  19. Valerie — that citrus salad sounds delicious and would be way more appealing than orange segments slapped on a plate. Thanks for the recipe!

  20. My family loves this asparagus/salmon dinner. Sometimes we add dill and or garlic to it

    We try it different ways and have it often. Its a very healthy meal and always a easy one to prepare.

  21. Some of your posts are truly outstanding.

    However, every one of your cookery posts so far has been well below standard.

    Truly uninspiring recipes. Presentation, with dribbles of food not wiped off the plate – revolting.

    Stick to the financial posts. Some of these are very good.

  22. Not healthy at all. You guys don’t believe in veggies or what? No wonder all of you are so ‘heavy.’

  23. Now Shannon is being ridiculous.

    Many recipes, especially from the previous series, were on the unhealthy side, full of cream and the like, but this? It’s FISH and veggies! With OLIVE OIL.

  24. “Herbes de Provence are a particularly revolting mixture of savory, fennel, and thyme. For many hundreds of years, they have been successfully used to disguise the fact that the French do not actually know how to cook.”

    LOL David!! Thanks for clarifying though – I’ve been wondering about that. (And since my spice tastes tend more towards middle eastern and asian, I will probably steer clear of buying it before I try it :)

  25. To #22 Claire:

    Get a life. How can the cooking posts all be below standard for a financial blog?

    Trent shows real-world recipes and real-world pictures. If you want 25-ingredient recipes with professional photography at a $200 per meal restaurant, then go to the NY Times website.

    P.S. You can’t duplicate the NY Times recipes in your kitchens because you don’t have the equipment and technique. Not even if you have a personal chef in your penthouse condo.

  26. Another suggestion for the salmon and the asparagus is to use lemon zest, a small amount of sugar, and salt and pepper. Delicious and easy!

  27. Hm, 500 F is a high temperature to cook food on. Not too healthy. If the author is health oriented he should have known about it. I cook on 350 F. You know when salmon is cooked- it is pale not pink inside.
    Farm salmon has no nutrition value. Go for wild. Costco has it cheaper.

  28. I enjoy salmon with an Asian influence – a glaze of sweet Thai chili sauce or some Hoisin sauce thinned with orange juice.

  29. Salmon and asparagus with rosemary & lemon balm&thyme is one of my favorite dishes! It’s also surprisingly cheap; I buy freeze-dried salmon for $1.20 nearby and get the herbs from my herb garden (asparagus is always expensive though).

  30. I get so sick of all the negative comments. The Family Dinner blogs are some of my favorites. I’ve already cut my extra expenses down to the bone but my grocery budget can stand tweaking. I like the low cost recipe ideas that Trent shares with us. And they are just that IDEAs. As with any recipe you have the freedom to customize the recipe to your own taste and use what you have on hand. So why criticize the recipe. Just make the recipe to suit your own needs and tastes. If you have positive suggestions than share them but please lets tone down the negative things. I get that Trent is not a professional food blogger. His priority is to take these pictures fast so he can feed 3 hungry children. Maybe some of you don’t have young children around and don’t know what that is like. Around our house; however, the children are hungry a good hour before dinner is ready and the kitchen smells only intensify their eagerness to eat. I for one want to say thank you to Trent for taking time to share with us.

  31. Totally shocked me that Trent didn’t know to break asparagus spears at their “natural break”–he usually seems so knowledgeable about all food prep techniques.

    As for salmon and asparagus being “eclectic” tastes, that made me laugh out loud. That commentator might want to watch “Supersize Me.”

    Thanks for including the pictures Trent–that’s what always helps me decide if it’s a recipe I might make.

    I always make my roasted asparagus with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. I bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, tossing once halfway through. Toss with lemon juice before serving. I use a Pyrex loaf pan, as it’s the perfect size and doubles as a quick serving dish.

  32. The difference is that the Pioneer Woman doesn’t claim to be giving recipes for health food. Some of hers are healthy, many are not, but then, she’s cooking for a group of people who do a lot more physical work in a day than the average person.
    It’s only annoying when someone claims to be giving health food and then has cream, aspartame, and no veggies.

  33. “–he usually seems so knowledgeable about all food prep techniques.”

    Actually, he is not that knowledgeable about food prep or cooking in general. There have been examples of misused terms for cooking techniques or even recipes, and of bad techniques: marinading *after* the meat was cooked, wilting spinach for 30 (!) minutes, cooking tofu in a lot of water, making fried rice out of freshly cooked rice, and so on.

    I am no Julia Child but in some recipes there have been glaring errors that aren’t really compatible with someone who brags constantly about his delicious, tremendous homemade cooking and about having the very best equipment, etc.

    So his food posts should be taken with a grain of salt. ;)

  34. This is a yummy (albeit small!) meal.

    Whilst olive oil is a healthy fat, the amount shown in the above roasting dish is somewhat excessive. I would encourage anyone to omit it entirely if cooking this meal. Steamed asparagus is delicious and fish such as salmon ‘dry roast’ well without any fat. Alternatively, I know poaching it in a little milk is a popular way to cook salmon, either in the oven or on the hob/stove top.

    We also use the ‘natural snapping’ method of trimming asparagus to minimise waste.

    Whilst this is a financial blog, I appreciate Trent’s ideas and know only too well about rushing to feed starving children, I would find the 5 seconds required to wipe the plate before taking the photo. It makes the meals look far from appetizing. For all those ready to jump in Trent’s defense, let us remember that this blog is Trent’s job, his way of making a living, so there are no excuses. Mistakes are a different matter entirely. Presentation is important. Actually, I’d say it’s vital where food is concerned. This is just sloppy work, sorry.

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