Tapenade Salmon with Orange Spinach en Papillote

Tapenade Salmon en Papillote over Orange Spinach before baking

Tapenade Salmon en Papillote over Orange Spinach before baking

This is an easy, low-carb make-ahead supper. Well, it is easy if you buy a jar of  olive spread (I used Ta’amti tapenade).

It also helps if you know how to cook “en papillote,” which is a French term for cooking something wrapped in paper. According to the dictionary, the term doesn’t come from “papier” (paper) but “papillon” (butterfly). Maybe because the paper is traditionally cut into a heart shape, folded in half, so it looks a bit like a butterfly? I don’t know . . . But, you can even more easily wrap the fish in a rectangular piece of foil and that will still accomplish the primary “en papillote” goal of trapping and infusing flavor during baking. I have made this fish in foil and in paper and both ways work.

Here is what you do: saute baby spinach with garlic and orange zest and then lay it on a piece of parchment or foil (traditionally, the paper is greased, but I didn’t bother and it was fine). Spread a piece of salmon with tapenade and place the salmon over the spinach. Squeeze over a little lemon juice. Wrap the fish up in the foil or parchment (here is how you crimp the parchment, if that is what you are using). Set the package aside in the refrigerator until about 20 minutes before you want to serve the fish. Then cook the fish and serve.

You could also make this fish without the paper or foil, just roasting it uncovered on a baking sheet. The spinach can be cooked separately on the stove instead of with the fish in the oven. The en papillote method seems to infuse the flavors more, plus you get a delicious blast of savory aromas when you open the package. Olive, orange and garlic fuse together, creating an aroma that is intense, almost meaty in its umami-ness (if that is a word).

The spinach all by itself is lovely, fragrant with garlic and a hit of orange that is both unexpected and yet absolutely right. If you want to make the spinach separately, you can just leave the spinach in the pan in which you wilt it, cover it and cook it another 20 minutes on low before serving.

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Tapenade Salmon with Orange Spinach en Papillote
The inspiration for this was an open jar of tapenade in the refrigerator plus a recipe for orange and garlic flavored spinach from The Country Cooking of Greece, by Diane Kochilas (it also appears in her book Mezze in a slightly different format, called Warm Fried Spinach Salad with Orange and Garlic). The original recipe for orange spinach called for using 1″ wide strips of orange skin, with the pith and some orange pulp still attached. I liked this, but found it to be a bit much, except for serious orange rind lovers. So, I used just a little orange zest (without the pith and pulp) instead for a subtler version of the recipe. The recipe calls for cooking the spinach, covered, for 20 minutes. To make it work with the en papillote salmon, I sauteed the spinach just until it wilted, and then packaged it with salmon for further cooking in the oven. This recipe serves just one, so multiply as needed for more servings, with each person getting their own wrapped package of fish.

1 Tbl. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, very thinly sliced (Goodfellas thin . . . .)
6 ounces baby spinach
zest from 1/3 orange (use vegetable peeler to get three 2″ long strips of orange rind, without the white pith, then cut these strips into thin strands)
salt, pepper, to taste
1 filet salmon (about 6 ounces)
1 Tbl. tapenade
lemon juice (maybe a Tbl. of juice or about a quarter of a lemon’s worth of juice)

Using a saute pan, heat the garlic in the olive oil just until fragrant and translucent. Add the spinach and orange zest and toss around over medium heat until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Take a 12″x16″” piece of parchment, folded in half, (or you can use a 10″x12″ piece of foil) and place it on a baking sheet. Take a look at this video if you need instructions on making parchment or foil packets. Lay the spinach on the bottom half of the parchment(or foil) sheet. Place the piece of salmon over the spinach. Spread the tapenade over the top of the salmon, creating an even layer. Squeeze over a little lemon juice.

Fold the top half of the parchment over the fish and spinach and crimp the edges to seal by making small, overlapping folds all the way around the open edges. The finished parchment packet will look like a calzone: a half moon turnover with a crimped edge. The finished foil packet can look whatever way you want, as long as the edges are sealed tight and you leave some air space for the fish to steam in.

At this point, the fish packet can be refrigerated until about 20 minutes before you are ready to serve it. When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and then bake the fish until the parchment puffs up and browns (with the foil, you can open and check and then reseal if it isn’t quite done). In my toaster oven this takes about 20 minutes at 425 degrees, but most recipes call for baking fish en papillote at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, so maybe my toaster oven runs a little cool.

Serves 1

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