Succulent salmon saves dinner

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TIPS FOR MAKING RISOTTO

Risotto is a rice dish that is cooked slowly in a flavorful liquid. A short grain rice such as Arborio is typically used because it can take a lot of liquid. The creaminess comes from the starch released from the rice. A classic risotto needs to be constantly stirred. It's well worth the effort. Here are a few tips:

• Don't rinse the rice before using because you need the starchiness.

• Always use warm broth.

• Use a large, wide skillet with sides.

• Cook the risotto over medium heat. Too high of heat and the broth will evaporate too quickly and the rice won't absorb enough. Too low of heat and the risotto will be soggy.

If you want a centerpiece dish that commands your dinner guests' attention, try a whole roasted fillet of salmon.

But not just any salmon.

Try Black Pearl Shetland organic salmon, farm-raised in northern Scotland. This fine fish is the star of this recipe, Roasted Salmon with Leek and Baby Kale Risotto.

Black Pearl salmon is raised in the waters surrounding the archipelagic Shetland Islands by a company that says its salmon is free of antibiotics, synthesized pigments or chemical antifouling agents.

"It's a top-notch farm-raised salmon that is quite awesome," says Steve Quammen, seafood manager at Hiller's Market Union Lake Road store in Commerce Township, Mich. "They are raised on a specific feed regiment that has marine oil from sustainable fish stocks providing a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids for a farm-raised fish."

Its mild taste makes Black Pearl a good choice for people who want the nutrition of salmon without the strong flavor, Quammen says. "It's very moist and mild and doesn't dry out."

Plus, the fish's bright orange flesh is pretty, too.

But with a whole fillet (ours was a whopping 3 pounds), you must take care not to overcook it or that stellar presentation will fast be forgotten.

Start out roasting it at a high temperature, then lower it and roast until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part. When you remove it from the oven, be sure to let it rest before slicing. It will continue to cook and the internal temperature will increase to 130 or more degrees. And make sure you have a baking sheet or dish big enough to hold the long fillet. Ask the fishmonger to cut the piece for your needs.

When roasting salmon, I prefer to keep the skin on because it protects the delicate flesh. You can remove the skin just before serving. A trick I learned recently from "The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook" (American's Test Kitchen, $45) is to "score the skin to keep it from buckling," which also protects it from burning.

Treat this salmon simply: Avoid overpowering seasonings. Today's recipe is paired with a creamy risotto with leeks and baby kale.

Roasted Salmon Fillet with Leek and Baby Kale Risotto

Serves: 8; Preparation time: 30 minutes. Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

SALMON

1 tablespoon olive oil

21/2- to 3-pound salmon fillet with skin on

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 cup maple syrup mixed with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

RISOTTO

41/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

21/2 cups sliced leek

11/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy whipping cream1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 to 5 cups (packed) of baby kale

To prepare the salmon, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place olive oil on a baking sheet with sides and place it in the oven while it preheats. Rinse the salmon and pat it dry. Score the skin on the salmon at 3-inch intervals. Sprinkle the flesh side of the salmon with salt, lemon pepper seasoning and parsley flakes.

Start bringing together the risotto ingredients.

Carefully remove the preheated baking sheet and place the salmon on the sheet and in the oven. Roast about 8 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Spoon some of the maple syrup on the salmon and spread it around. Place salmon back in the oven and continue baking until it reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part. Remove from the oven and spoon more maple syrup mixture on top. Tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

While salmon roasts, prepare the risotto: Bring broth to just a simmer in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

In a large skillet, heat oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Reduce the heat to medium and add rice, cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, cook about 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed. Add 1 cup of the broth, cook 3 minutes, while stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1 cup at a time (reserve 1/2 cup broth, stir in before serving), stirring until the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir in half-and-half, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in the baby kale and remaining 1/2 cup broth and cook 2 minutes.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis based on about a 5-ounce portion salmon with risotto.

507 calories (34 percent from fat), 19 gram fat (5 grams sat. fat), 48 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 1,065 mg sodium, 93 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.