Recipe: Simple Baked Salmon with Kale Salad

healthy baked salmon with kale salad

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

In the winter months, I’m all about soups, and chili, and slow cooked, hearty meals. They taste like cozy comfort and I find them so satisfying. But I’ve noticed that by mid-January, I’ll hit a saturation point on the heavy food, and then all of sudden, I’ll crave a meal that’s light and simple and fresh.

It’s like I need a clarifying break in the menu.

baked salmon with kale saladkale salad ingredients

I figured I’m not the only one that might be on winter-food overload, so I asked Lindsey to come up with a meal that would fit the fresh and light category, and she came up with this gorgeous salad, served alongside baked salmon.

Oh my goodness. I want a giant bowl of the salad right this minute! Don’t the ingredients look amazing?

blood orange and mintkale ribbons and ingredients for saladsalmon with garlic lemon pepper oil

I also want to say, I loved reading Lindsey’s thoughts on this meal (see below). She’s all about getting as much nutrition from her food as possible. I love that thinking and want to be more intentional about the nutrition I’m getting from my own food. This meal seems like a good place to start.

Before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to hear: Is anyone else out there ready for a break from soups and stews? Do you get fresh food cravings mid-winter? If yes, what do you like to eat when those cravings hit?

blueberries for kale salad

Here’s what Lindsey says:

It’s always good to bring a light, refreshing meal into regular rotation. Our favorite? Fish and a hearty salad. Simple Baked Salmon with Kale Salad just kinda hits the spot when I’m tired of soup.

Salmon tends to be our go-to because it’s pretty easy to find wild-caught frozen salmon year round. But if salmon isn’t your thing, you can totally still make this with your choice of protein — be it beef, chicken, pork, plant-based protein (tofu and tempeh), or other types of fish.

baked salmon with garlic lemon pepper oil

But forget about the salmon for a bit, because the real star here is the citrus. Winter is the season of citrus, and I welcome it with open arms. So many different types of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, limes, and more! It’s glorious and I use every meal as an attempt to add more citrus into my day. This kale salad is full of good-for-you ingredients and drizzled with a bright and refreshing Blood Orange Mint Dressing.

You’ll feel so good after eating this! And it’s delicious. Eating the rainbow is never a bad thing. I added blueberries, the superfood darling. I know they’re not in season where I live, but oh my goodness, they are such sweet little gems! I couldn’t resist. I also love the fresh crunch of raw cucumber and pepitas, and the pungency of the red onion. There’s a whole lotta flavors going on — and then there’s the avocado! So creamy and decadent.

blood orange and fresh minthealthy dinner of salmon with kale salad and quinoa

This year I’m really focusing on getting as many nutrients from food as possible. It sounds trite, even a little trendy, but I really believe in eating real food whenever possible. All that citrus is full of vitamin C to help keep our immune systems in tip-top shape. During the cold weather when most of us are indoors, we still need to be getting our vitamin D that we aren’t making without spending some time in the sun. One 3-ounce serving of salmon contains over 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. Eating it once a week can really help give you a boost.

Anyway, just know that if you’re trying to eat healthy, this meal is really going to help get you on your way.

I also believe simple food is the best kind of food. It’s not fussy. It relies on really good ingredients and easy, straight forward cooking. Salmon is so good seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar, if that’s more your thing. That’s really all it needs here. I prefer baking to frying, but if you don’t feel like turning on the stove, you can certainly cook the salmon (or your protein of choice) on the stovetop.

bite of baked salmon

As for the greens, I know some people are tired of kale, kale, kale. But I lived for so many years thinking of kale as a garnish for the local fast food condiment station, that I’m still catching up. So forgive me for being all about the kale. (I really do love it though!) You can pick your favorite leafy green as the base for the salad, whatever that is. I also love the peppery flavor of arugula, or mild spiciness of watercress with the sweet and tart flavors of the citrus and other ingredients. And you know what else? If it’s not salad to you unless there’s cheese in it, by all means add a sprinkle on top. A salty feta or creamy crumbled goat cheese would work really well here. I’m looking out for you dairy lovers!

heart healthy kale salad

Now let’s talk about this dressing because I predict it’s going to become one of your favorites. Fresh squeezed blood orange juice and mint are a perfect dressing combo. I love it so much, I drizzle it all over the salad and the salmon. And on the quinoa too. Totally acceptable.

By the way, because the blood orange juice is sweet and not very acidic, I add a little lemon juice to balance things out. But because it’s not as tart as vinegar, it doesn’t need quite as much oil to tame it. So I guess you say this is a little lighter than most dressings too. That adds even more to its charm.

light and fresh salmon with kale salad and quinoa

Simple Baked Salmon with Kale Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For Simple Baked Salmon:
Four  (4- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper

For Kale Salad:
1 bunch kale (or 6 cups of your favorite salad greens), washed well and patted dry
1 cup fresh blueberries (can substitute another berry, or another fruit)
1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

For Blood Orange Mint Dressing:
1/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh mint, thinly sliced or minced
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a casserole dish or line a baking sheet with parchment. Place salmon in casserole dish or on pan.
In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. Fish should flake easily with a fork.
While salmon is baking, prepare salad.
Tear or cut the kale leaves from the fibrous stems. Discard the stems. Stack the leaves on a cutting board and cut crosswise into very thin ribbons. Place in a large bowl. Add the blueberries, cucumber, avocado, red onion, and pepitas. Gently toss and set aside until ready to eat.
To prepare dressing, place all of the dressing ingredients in an 8-ounce jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Chill until ready to use.
When salmon is finished baking, serve warm with kale salad on the side.

Other serving suggestions — serve with a side of quinoa, rice, baked sweet potato, or a steamed veggie.

baked salmon with healthy kale saladhealthy baked salmon dinner and salad

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Thank you so much, Lindsey! I always love to see a recipe that features blood oranges. The first time I ate them — or even heard of them — was when we moved to Greece as newlyweds. They’re called sanguinis there, which is such a fun word to say. They’re gorgeous and delicious!

Tell me, Friends, have you ever eaten a blood orange? And what flavors get you through the dark, dreary winter days? (Or the beautiful, ethereal snowy ones?)

Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Lindsey Johnson. Assistance by Amy Christie.

13 thoughts on “Recipe: Simple Baked Salmon with Kale Salad”

  1. I never knew you lived in Greece as newlyweds! Is there a blog post about that somewhere?! Sounds like a great big adventure.

    1. Good question! I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever dedicated a whole blog post to it. I’m going to have search my archives and see if I can find a link. The short story: We moved to Greece while we were undergrads — I worked at Ogilvy & Mather in Athens, and Ben Blair did a research project in the Greek school system.

  2. I had never had a blood orange until I moved to Sicily 2.5 years ago. Now they’re coming into season and I just bought 5 pounds of them today. I eat them like candy and I look forward to them all year long!

  3. I have not seen any blood oranges at the grocery store this year! I did find Cara Cara oranges though.

    What kind of mint do you use? I always get confused since there are so many types of mint available at the garden shop. I grew peppermint and sweet mint last summer.

    1. That’s a great question! I don’t have any in my garden right now, but typically I believe the kind I find at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s is spearmint. I have used almost every other type of mint before in some way (I had a friend who had a bunch of different varieties in her garden) and this should work with any of those, except maybe chocolate mint. :) Peppermint would be fine too.

  4. I need to get KALE in my life! I’ll do the smoothies, but actually putting it in meals, not so much. I’m always looking for ways to add a little health in my life :)

  5. Yes, I always get a winter food overload! During January I start craving fruit and veggies, and am especially drawn towards fresh juice. Just this week I pulled out my juicer and made a carrot, apple, cucumber, ginger blend. This week I also had several green smoothies, meals made entirely of roasted sweet potatoes or steamed broccoli.

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