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Eric Akis: Mashed cauliflower subs for potato in this salmon dish

Baked salmon is topped with a tangy and aromatic sauce of lemon juice, honey and ginger and served with mashed cauliflower.
Salmon, baked, set on mashed cauliflower, and topped with a ginger-spiked, honey/lemon mixture. ERIC AKIS

When the weather’s damp and cool, I like serving salmon on a bed of mashed potatoes topped with a sauce. I think of it as seafood comfort food that always seems to take the bite out of a rainy November night.

The other day, when the rain was pelting down, I was definitely in the mood for that type of dish. But the beautiful head of cauliflower I saw and purchased at a food store made me switch things up on how I normally prepare it.

Instead of making mashed potatoes, I decided to simmer florets from that head of cauliflower with some sliced garlic. When the cauliflower was very tender, I drained the florets and then mashed them, with some milk and butter, as I would do with mashed potatoes.

The end result was a somewhat similar in texture side dish I served with my salmon. If you can’t have dairy, you could replace the milk and butter I used in the mashed cauliflower with your favourite dairy-free options.

To prepare the salmon fillets I had, I set them in a baking pan, brushed them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and then baked them until cooked through. Just to remind you, salmon fillets vary in thickness, so when determining if cooked, remember that when it is, the fish will feel slightly firm. Too soft means it’s not cooked through, too firm and it’s overcooked. When cooked, a white protein will also seep out from the flakes of the fish.

I kept the preparation of the salmon very simple, because the sweet and tangy mixture, the “sauce,” I spooned over the fish and the mashed cauliflower was packed with flavour and it nicely enhanced the flavour of both.

But, the sauce preparation was simple, too. All I did was put some lemon juice, honey, chopped fresh ginger, whole grain mustard and some minced green onion in a pot, brought it to simmer for a short while, and it was ready to use.

My recipe serves two, but you could double or further expand it if serving a larger group. Along with mashed cauliflower, I also served the salmon with some halved and quickly steamed baby bok choy, but other types of green vegetables would also work well with the fish, such as snap peas or green beans.

If you were wondering, yes, cauliflower is nutritious, containing vitamins C and K, folate, fibre and other good things.

Salmon on Cauliflower Mash with Ginger, Honey and Lemon

Salmon, for two, baked, set on mashed cauliflower, and topped with a tangy/sweet/aromatic lemon juice, honey and ginger mixture.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: about 17 minutes

Makes: two servings

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cleaned, cored and broken or cut into 2-inch wide florets (about 2 1/2 cups)

1 large garlic clove, halved and very thinly sliced

2 (6 oz./170 gram) sockeye or other salmon fillets

2 tsp olive oil

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp water

2 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 Tbsp minced green onion

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp milk

• lemon slices and parsley sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place cauliflower and garlic in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Set pot over medium, medium-high and bring cauliflower to a simmer. Simmer the cauliflower 10 minutes, or until very tender.

While cauliflower simmers, line a baking pan with parchment paper and set on the salmon fillets, skin-side-down. Brush each salmon fillet with 1 tsp olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper. Roast salmon 12 minutes, or until just cooked through.

While salmon cooks, place lemon juice, honey, water, mustard, ginger and green onion in a small pot and set it aside for now.

When cauliflower is tender, drain well, and then use a potato masher to thoroughly mash it. Mix in the butter, milk and salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the mashed cauliflower and keep warm over low heat.

When salmon is cooked, remove from the oven. Set the pot with the lemon juice/honey mixture over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, simmer 30 seconds, and then remove from the heat.

To serve, mound mashed cauliflower in the centre of each of two dinner plates. Set a piece of salmon on top of the cauliflower on each plate. Spoon some of the lemon juice/honey mixture over each piece of salmon, garnish with lemon slices and parsley sprigs, if using, and serve.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.