This is going to be my annual how to use up that fish we have in the freezer from last season post. I came upon this idea indirectly, but bear with me. It's worth it.
OK, full disclosure: At the time of writing this, I do not have the TikTok app, and have never been on TikTok. That may change at some point in time, as I do have a business to promote. Plus, I enjoy watching a good video as much as the next bloke.
We've all seen recipe videos popping around social media. This particular one apparently came out of TikTok, then made the rounds of the other platforms. I had totally missed it when it was trending, and didn't hear of it until a friend on FaceBook posted that she gave into curiosity, and tried this recipe that "everyone" was sharing online.
At this point, there are countless different video version of that recipe. Like this one.
Recipe videos like that go by me all the time. The difference on this occasion was that I happened to have on me at the moment: half of a two pound block of feta cheese that was left over from a dish I made earlier that day, and a large package of grape tomatoes that were too ripe for some salads I had been making. And what kind of Chef would I be if I didn't have garlic, olive oil, and pasta around?
Also I hadn't planned what I was going to make for dinner that evening. Seemed like the stars had aligned for me to give this recipe a shot.
The recipe is really simple and easy. You're essentially roasting seasoned tomatoes and garlic with a block of feta cheese for about 40 minutes. Then you mix that into cooked pasta. Voila! You have TikTok Baked Feta Pasta.
I find this recipe to be good, not great. At the time, I noted to friends that I liked the feta-tomato mixture better as a dip for pita bread than as a pasta sauce. That's because feta is a sharp tasting cheese, and tomatoes also have a sharp flavor. So the whole dish leans that way, without much to counterbalance that sharpness. It needs something savory to round out the flavor. And that's where the salmon comes in!
Almost forgot you were reading a seafood blog, didn't you?
As I said above, I like this recipe for using salmon from the freezer. These two coho portions I defrosted for this dish were stored properly. Read: they were cleaned, patted dry, vacuum sealed, and once fully frozen, they were then kept in an insulated bag within the freezer so that defrost cycles and other temperature fluctuations don't effect the fish. As you can see in the photo, the coho kept its color and has no freezer burn on it.
Still, even with proper freezer storage, frozen fish is always going to have a somewhat stronger flavor than its fresh counterpart. That's why I like to pair my freezer fish with stronger flavored items, like the baked feta and tomato pasta.
Baked Feta Pasta w/Salmon
2 lbs grape tomatoes
6-8 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 ground black pepper
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
1 lb block of feta cheese, sliced in half
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 portions of salmon, sprinkled with salt, pepper, oregano, and olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach *optional*
2 Tbs chiffinade (cut into thin strips) fresh basil
1/2 lb cooked pasta
Pre-heat your oven to 400°.
In a large baking dish, mix together the tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, and oregano.
Make space to place the two pieces of feta in the middle of the pan.
Drizzle a little more oil on the cheese, then sprinkle the chili flakes over it.
Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese starts to brown, and the tomatoes have softened.
Place the salmon on top of the cheese and return it to the oven.
Bake for another 12-15 minutes until the salmon is just cooked.
Cooking the salmon on top of the cheese will allow any of the oils that come out of the fish to flavor the rest of the dish.
Remove the salmon and set it aside.
Add the fresh basil and the spinach, then stir it all together. The spinach should wilt and the whole thing should become a creamy sauce.
I tried this two different ways. Serving the salmon along side the pasta was very good. Although, breaking the salmon up and mixing it into the pasta dish was even better. However, it didn't make for a very pretty picture, so you'll have to create your own visual for that.