Around Our Table Cup of Jo

Chances are, if you know the Sprouted Kitchen creator Sara Forte, you rely on her for wholesome, mostly vegetable-forward recipes. Maybe you love those magical veggie burgers or her freezer zucchini muffins or her popular cooking club?

In her new cookbook, Around Our Table, Sara writes that her mom friends did, too, and this made her pause. “Like the other parents, my toaster oven was full of chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas, and my purse and glove compartment had granola bars and applesauce pouches for the in-between moments,” she writes. “In the frenzy of family life, my experience with food wasn’t giving me a leg up.”

Kids! They will humble you.

The mother of two, Sara wanted to address this new reality in her recipes: “It would need to be less romantic and leisurely, more practical and adaptable.”

Around Our Table Cup of Jo

The answer, she found, was not to cook more, but to cook smarter. In her cookbook, packed with recipes that fill her family’s days from cornmeal waffles (kids) and breakfast salads (mom) to skillet meatballs and cauliflower al pastor bowls, she offers a consistent stream of advice on short-cutting, streamlining and advance-prepping.

Blackened Salmon with Tropical Pico Cup of Jo

Her blackened salmon recipe (my prep, above) is an insanely delicious example of all this. She offers a seasoning blend that can quickly be made from scratch, or, if that’s not in cards for you, picked up at the store. There’s a tropical pico that can be made a few days in advance, and the recipe itself, which might yield more than you need, but “don’t overthink it,” because your next day’s self will appreciate the leftovers.

Blackened Salmon with Tropical Pico Cup of Jo

Blackened Salmon with Tropical Pico
Recipe from Around Our Table, by Sara Forte

This is your salmon for a crowd, generously seasoned and served with some punchy pineapple pico and avocado. Here it’s paired with coconut rice, but it could just as easily be wrapped into a burrito or served over greens. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil + more for the pan
2 pounds / 900 g center-cut slab of salmon

Blackened Seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Coconut Rice
1 cup / 200 g short-grain white rice, well rinsed
1 cup / 240 ml water
1 cup / 240 ml coconut milk
Pinch of sugar
Zest of 1 lime
Sea salt

2 large avocados, cubed
Fresh cilantro and microgreens
tropical pico (below)

Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray or rub it with oil. Dry the salmon with a paper towel and place it on the oiled parchment sheet. Mix all the blackened seasoning ingredients together. Mix in the oil and gently rub it all over the flesh of the salmon.

Start the rice. Combine the rinsed rice, water, coconut milk, sugar, lime zest, and salt together. Stir to mix. Bring the rice to a boil, then down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 18 to 20 minutes until cooked and tender. Set aside.

While the rice cooks, roast the salmon. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat up to broil and cook another few minutes until the top starts to char. Timing will vary by oven, but assume somewhere in the 2-minute ballpark. The salmon should be cooked to about medium in that time; add 5 minutes to that ­first bake if you prefer it well done. Remove to rest.

Serve the slab of salmon over the rice on a platter, flaking it apart with a fork, with the avocado and pico over the top. Garnish with cilantro and microgreens.

Blackened Salmon with Tropical Pico Cup of Jo

Tropical Pico
This salsa in great in fi­sh tacos, on top of Blackened Salmon, or with Mushroom “Carnitas.” If you want to serve it on its own, adding two cubed avocados helps make it a more substantial appetizer with chips. Not to put pressure on your knife skills, but the smaller you can get the produce, the better. The acidity in the pineapple breaks down the other ingredients, so this is best eaten within a day or two. Makes 3 cups

2 cups / 330 g chopped fresh pineapple
1 ripe mango, diced small
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1 bundle cilantro, chopped
1⁄4 of a red onion, minced
1 serrano, seeded to taste and minced
1 lime, zest and juice
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
A few grinds of freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sugar

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.

Thank you, Sara!

P.S. A five-ingredient dumpling dinner and “muffin tin” tapas for picky eaters.

(Photos by Hugh Forte.)