Earlier this year, we took a trip to the Caribbean, and in the months that have passed, I haven’t been able to shake my craving for tropical fruit. It’s the only part of our trip I feel like I can take home with me. When I sip on coconut water or snack on mango I can, for just a moment, get back into the vacation mindset.
For that reason, I was compelled on a recent date night to order one of the specials at Café Zona Sur. The chef was serving a pan seared salmon fillet over sautéed spinach, topped with a pineapple pico de gallo, and I couldn’t resist getting my island fix. It was everything I could have hoped for—an intoxicating mix of crispy, fatty, tangy, and sweet. The meal was so satisfying, I set out to recreate it at home. Without a side-by-side comparison I can’t say for sure if it would match up to its inspiration, but I have no doubt that if you try my version you won’t be disappointed.
Pan Seared Salmon with Pineapple Pico de Gallo
2 c pineapple, medium dice
2 c tomato, medium dice
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 c loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
10 c loosely packed spinach, thoroughly rinsed
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
Sunflower or other high heat oil, for cooking
Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for finishing
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the pineapple, tomato, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, and two big pinches of salt.
2. Coat the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (such as cast iron) over medium heat with oil. Once the oil is hot, add the spinach and toss to coat. Stir often and cook until the spinach is bright green and fully wilted, about five minutes. Divide the cooked spinach between four plates.
3. Wipe the pan and coat again with oil. Place over medium-high heat. Generously salt both sides of the salmon and, once the oil is hot, place skin side down in the pan. Sear five minutes before flipping. Cook until the second side is deeply golden, about five more minutes.
4. Top each plate of spinach with a salmon fillet and sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper. Divide the pineapple pico de gallo evenly over each fillet. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve warm.
Rich, unctuous salmon requires a white that can hold its own—which is why I gravitate towards wines with a little more body, like this Pinot Gris from New Zealand. The underlying tropical notes in this wine are a natural complement to the pineapple in the pico de gallo and the fresh, citrus peel quality brightens the finish.