Having grown up in Asia, with its tradition of clear, brothy soups, it's hard for me to get into stick-to-your-ribs bisques or chowders. My ideal soup is still the Vietnamese canh: a light, broth-based soup floating with gently cooked ingredients, often with a distinctly tangy flavor.
Today's Cook the Book recipe is a salmon canh with tomato, garlic and dill, a light, simple recipe that uses plain old water instead of stock. With just 15 minutes of simmering, the salmon stays mostly intact, and the barely-collapsed tomatoes add lots of bright acidity to cut its fat. The flavor is fresh and delicate, and it couldn't be easier to make.
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- 1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon canola or other neutral oil
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2/3 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 6 cups water
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, feathery tops only
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Black pepper
Briefly blot the salmon dry with a paper towel before cutting it into 1-inch chunks. In a nonstick skillet, heat the 1/2 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the salmon and sear, turning once, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. The fish will cook further in the soup. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes and salt, cover, and simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have collapsed. Uncover and add the salmon, fish sauce, and water. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, using a ladle to skim and discard any scum that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, so that the ingredients dance in the broth. Cook for 15 minutes to develop and concentrate the flavors. If you are not serving the soup right away, turn off the heat and cover.
Just before serving, return the soup to a simmer. Taste and add extra salt or fish sauce, if necessary. Add the dill and garlic and turn off the heat. Ladle into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the pepper. Serve immediately.