A Recipe for March: Salmon with Mojo Sauce, Coconut Rice, and Plantains

If you can’t hop on a flight to the Caribbean this spring break, cooking this dish is the next best thing.

As I write this, I’m browsing swimsuits for an upcoming trip to the British Virgin Islands, where I’ll be escaping New York’s winter for four blissful days of lounging on white sand beaches, sailing on a yacht, eating fresh seafood, and drinking fruity cocktails (I’m so sorry). But if you cannot do the same, do the next best thing: plan a Caribbean-themed dinner party and channel that island spirit. The team behind Bushwick’s favorite new Caribbean spot, Sally Roots, shared a super simple recipe for salmon (though you can substitute any fish you like) with Latin-inspired mojo sauce, West Indian-style coconut rice, and plantains.
“We take the flavors of all the different islands and even part of the mainland on the Caribbean and create a bigger profile,” owner/operator Johnny De Piper told me at Sally Roots as we waited for the salmon to come out. Hence the amalgam of aromas from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and West Indian islands like St. Croix, where De Piper’s partner James Freeman grew up. They developed the pan-Caribbean menu along with Chef Milton Magdaleno. De Piper recommends pairing the salmon with a tomato-and-avocado salad and sangria. “Spike it a little bit with some cognac or flavored brandy. It’ll be nice and light and easy and bring out the flavor of the dishes.” Put on some calypso or reggae and you’ll almost feel the ocean breeze. 



Sautéed Salmon with Mojo de Ajo

Mojo de Ajo
5      garlic cloves
1      tbsp. ground
        black pepper
1      oz. olive oil
1      oz. white vinegar
        juice of 1 lemon
½     bunch of cilantro
½     bunch of parsley
2      tbsp. dry oregano
1      8oz. salmon steak
Coconut Rice
  cup long grain rice
        tbsp. coconut oil
½     cup diced white onions
½     star anise seed
2      cups coconut milk
1      cup water
½     cup green granules
        (pigeon peas)
Sweet Plantains 
3     very ripe sweet
       plantains—the riper the
       better (skin should be
       dark brown or black)


Mojo de Ajo
Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until consistency of a paste.
Cthioconut Rice
In a medium size pot add the coconut oil and diced onions and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat for 2 minutes, let the rice sizzle for a minute and then add the coconut milk, water, gandules, star anise, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Taste and adjust the salt if needed. Let it boil until almost dry and then turn the heat very low and cover with a tight lid for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 more minutes before serving.
Coconut Rice
With a knife, carefully slice 1/3 thru the salmon diagonally and add mojo de ajo in between the slices. Get a sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil, and wait until you can see the oil smoking lightly. Add the salmon skin and let it sear for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip it over and finish in the oven at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes or until it reaches desired temperature.
Sweet Plantains
Get 3 very ripe sweet plantains—the riper the better (skin should be dark brown or black). Slice them 1 inch thick diagonally. In a sauté pan add 1/2 cup of oil and heat it over medium heat until very hot (about 350 degrees). Add 8 sliced plantains and cook them on both sides. flipping them over a couple of times until golden brown and cooked through.
Plate the coconut rice first and lay the salmon on top. Smother the salmon with extra mojo de ajo and finish the plate with the sweet plantains. Enjoy!


Photos by Jane Bruce



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