Long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far…), I spent a great deal of time making salads and appetizers at a phenomenal Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco where I first learned how truly mind-altering a good tartare can be. Salmon tartare, tuna, and beef were all on the menu occasionally as specials, in different forms with different ingredients, each unique and amazing in its own way. This restaurant did the most amazing things with tartare and carpaccio, which is knowledge that has come in handy more times that I can count.
Admittedly, at the time these dishes felt like torture. Insanely busy, mixing each salmon tartare to order so that the salt and citrus never cooked the fish while it sat, then carefully molding, plating, and garnishing each order as quickly as humanly possible with dozens of different orders going simultaneously, these seemed like so much more trouble than they were worth. One bite, though, and it all seemed worth it. The best part of these specials was always the quality control. Tiny tastes throughout the night to make sure that they were seasoned appropriately were absolute heaven.
Incredibly healthy, the most important part of this dish is the quality of your fish. You are serving raw fish, so you can’t skimp on quality here. As far as ingredients go, there are endless possibilities for flavor combinations; what you want to do is combine fresh and bright flavors, especially when you have a nice, fatty salmon filled with good Omegas. Yuzu if you can find it, lemon or lime, and chilies are fantastic here. Superfoods like seaweed and salmon, and healthy seeds and nuts work well with the rich fish and bright citrus. The flavors in this recipe with the wakame, woodear, and sesame suggest tuna poke, which is pretty much always a crowd favorite. Traditionally paired with crackers, I wanted my tartare to work like a salad so that it could become a seriously healthy salad recipe. Dragging the seasoned fish through ribbons of kale, the flavors pop without the heaviness of added carbs. This dish is also really easy to turn into an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres by using the kale as little lettuce cups! Raw, healthy, fresh, bright, and fun, this salmon tartare kale salad is guaranteed to impress anyone you choose to share it with! If you want to plate yours like mine, use a ring mold or cookie cutter to press the tartare in place. Otherwise, feel free to mound it on top of the kale. Hate spicy peppers? I’ve tried this recipe with red bell pepper and it’s good. Different and sweeter, but good. Also remember: as soon as you add the citrus and salt, the salmon will begin to “cook,” so make sure everybody’s ready to eat!
Bright, Fresh, and Healthy “Salmon Tartare” Kale Salad
- 8 oz best quality salmon, cleaned and cut into tiny cubes (small dice)
- 1 tsp yuzu paste (optional-add 1/2 tsp extra lemon juice if you don't use the yuzu)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp + 1 pinch salt
- 1 chili, seeds and membranes removed, brunoise (extremely tiny dice)
- 2 tsp + 1 tsp olive oil (the best quality you have)
- 2 tsp chives, finely chopped
- 1 tsp thai basil (or regular basil), chiffonade
- 1 Tbs wakame seaweed, rehydrated in warm water
- 1 Tbs dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 cup kale, cleaned and sliced in thin ribbons
- Optional-micro kale, arugula, or fennel, basil or chive for garnish, salt for garnish (like Maldon), olive oil or basil oil to drizzle, chili flakes, like Espelette, black sesame seeds, or whatever strikes your fancy!
- Drain the seaweed and wood ear mushrooms.
- Cut the seaweed into smaller pieces and julienne the mushrooms.
- Mix with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
- Mix the 2 tsp lemon juice, lemon zest, yuzu if using, salt, 2 tsp olive oil, and chilies.
- Add 2 Tbs mushroom and seaweed mix and combine well.
- Gently fold in the salmon, basil, and chives.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- In a separate bowl, toss the kale ribbons with 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 pinch of salt. (Taste and adjust seasoning.)
- Plate the kale, top with the salmon, and scatter garnish around, if using. Dig in!