All asparagus is not created equal. There are three sizes and not all of them perform in every venue the same. Please see the Asparagus blog in the technique section.
For the salmon, ask your fishmonger to remove all the skin. Since there is little to no shrinkage, a six to eight ounce portion is a good size. I like to get my seafood at Bob’s Seafood on Olive. They only sell fish and seafood, the variety is wonderful and because the turnover is great, I have always found everything to be fresh. There is wild and farm raised salmon. The wild has an incomparable taste but the farm raised is fine also. For this recipe the salmon may be roasted, as I have done, or grilled if you prefer.
Just don’t overcook it. Fish cooks very fast. The Canadian method of cooking fish works well and basically says that fish should be cooked 10 minutes for every inch of thickness at the thickest part, no matter the method of cooking. I generally roast at 350 degrees and this seems to work well. I also prefer the fillets to the steaks, as there are so many pin bones in the steaks, it seems to take me forever to get them out. No pin bones in fillets – which says it all!
The penne pasta with the asparagus and lemon sauce can be a meal all by itself for me. The shape of the penne catches and holds the sauce perfectly but any cooked pasta can be substituted. The hint of ginger adds another flavor dimension the Penne Pasta with Salmon and Asparagus in Lemon Sauce. For how to photos of the sauce, please see the Bechamel post in the Technique Section.
To save the lemon juice, squeeze it and either store in the fridge if you will use it within a week or freeze it in the cavity of an ice cube tray. When frozen, store it in a freezer proof bag to be used whenever you need a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. Thanks to a reader for asking about the lemon juice and how to save it.
1 pound penne pasta
3/4 pound asparagus
4 – 6 to 8 ounce salmon fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups half and half
3 tablespoons white wine
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Grated zest of one medium size lemon
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the salmon on one end, salt and pepper it. Trim the asparagus ends, toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on the other end of the baking sheet. Set aside.
Cook the penne in a large amount of boiling, salted water for 12 to 14 minutes, just until tender. Do not overcook. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside. (If you don’t rinse the pasta, it will stick together in one large lump as it cools. I don’t like to add oil to keep it separate as I want the sauce to coat the pasta.)
Make the sauce by melting the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk together until completely combined. Cook for about a minute but do not let it brown. Add the half and half, wine, salt and pepper. Over medium heat, whisk constantly, cooking until the sauce comes to a boil. Add the lemon zest and ginger.
Cover and set aside.
Continue roasting the salmon for a total of 12 to 15 minutes until it flakes. Do not over cook. It is better slightly undercooked, than any overcooked!
Plate the pasta on the bottom with the salmon fillet on top.