Perfect 10-minute salmon with Greek couscous

Sometimes the seasons seem to blend together, making it difficult to determine when one ends and the next begins.  Other times it's a lot more obvious.  This was the week where we went to bed one night after an 85-degree summer day and woke up the next morning to 55-degree fall.  

I adore fall, and I've only come to adore it more since living in Colorado.  I live for the chilly, wrap-in-a-blanket mornings followed by beautifully brisk and sunny afternoons, the aspen trees just beginning to turn golden yellow, and wonderfully hearty autumn root vegetables.  

With the cooler weather, however, comes cold season.  After feeling a little under the weather lately, I've been trying to get more immune-boosting foods into my diet.  So before the glorious season of pumpkin everything officially begins, try this one.  It's filled with lemon and parsley makes a great last summer hurrah, and fortunately for your immune system, it's also packed with nutrients.  
You know that little leafy sprig that comes on your plate when you eat at a steakhouse?  That's parsley, for those of you who didn't know.  Parsley is the most widely used herb in the world, and for good reason: it's delicious and it's loaded with nutrition.  I'm going to try my best to convince you that you need to start eating your plate garnish from now on by telling you about a few impressive feats for this leafy herb:

Cancer prevention and organ support.  Parlsey may protect against cancer in a number of ways: it contains a flavonoid called apigenin, which has anticancer and antioxidant properties that fight free radicals while myristicin, a substance within parsley's essential oil, neutralizes carcinogens.  These two chemicals also work together to activate a powerful detoxifying enzyme in the liver.  Now let's be clear: research does not support the idea that our bodies need to be "detoxed" through depressing strict vegetable and water diets from time to time, but we do know that our bodies have incredible built-in detoxifying systems (your liver and kidneys!), and it possible that parsley helps to support those systems.

Immune system support.  Add to parsley's antioxidant arsenal luteolin, a flavonoid that seeks out and destroys free radicals, along with vitamins C and A, which also help support immune health.

Protection from heart and vascular diseases.  Parsley also contains folic acid, a very important B vitamin that helps to neutralize homocysteine.  Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid that, in large amounts, can damage blood vessels and lead to inflammation and heart disease.  Studies have also shown parsley's potent antiplatelet properties that can help thin the blood and reduce risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

Less impressive, but still valuable.  Other properties in parsley can help reduce bloating, lessen acid reflux, prevent urinary tract infections, and ban bad breath.  Who knew?

If that doesn't convince you to routinely pick up some fresh parsley on your grocery runs (come on, it's like 50 cents per bunch!) and add a sprinkle to your foods, then I don't know what will.  Besides telling you that it's delicious and it adds fresh flavor to anything, which it does as well.  I love throwing a handful into my morning smoothie to add some tasty, neutral freshness.  The moral of the story: don't be afraid to eat your garnish.  

I'm convinced that cast iron is the only way to go here.  This salmon is absolutely delicious and basically foolproof, given your pan is properly seasoned.  Serve with the couscous and a side of grilled vegetables, and you've got yourself a great meal.
Greek couscous
Serves 4

1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry pan
4 large olives (I used Spanish pimento-stuffed olives), quartered
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
Juice of half a lemon
  1. Pour the champagne vinegar into a small saucepan and heat to a simmer.  Let the vinegar reduce down to 1/8 of a cup, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the honey. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the couscous and toast for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the white wine, stir, and simmer to reduce by half.  Stir in the water and salt, reduce heat to low, and let the couscous absorb the water.  After 2-3 minutes, remove from heat.  The couscous should be fully hydrated after about 5 minutes.
  3. While the couscous cooks, toast the sliced almonds by placing in a dry pan over medium heat, tossing occasionally until golden brown. 
  4. When the couscous has absorbed all the water, add the almonds, olives, parsley, cherry tomatoes, feta, lemon juice, and reduced champagne vinegar mixture to the pan.  Toss to combine.  
  5. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.  I let this sit on the table while I cooked my salmon.

Perfect 10-minute salmon
Serves 2

1 Tbsp high heat cooking oil (canola, coconut)
2 wild-caught salmon fillets, 1" in thickness
Butter or olive oil
2 lemon slices
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat a large (12") cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Pour in the oil, tilting to cover the bottom of the skillet.  
  3. When the oil is hot and the surface looks shimmering, put the salmon in the pan flesh side down. Cook for 2 minutes without touching, then flip with a metal spatula.  Cook undisturbed with skin side down for 1 1/2 minutes. 
  4. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Put a small slice of butter or a drizzle of olive oil on each salmon fillet and top with a lemon slice.  Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 4 minutes. 
  5. *Note: This recipe works great every time for salmon fillets that are 1" in thickness.  For thicker fillets, 10 minutes per inch is a good rule of thumb.  Increase cooking time on each side and in the oven accordingly.

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