Summer is for salads, grilled meats and loads of fresh vegetables and fruits. Perhaps that’s why, when the cold weather hits, I’m ready to pull out all the stops on my favorite comfort foods. My Dutch oven once again becomes the hardest working piece of equipment in my kitchen, as hearty stews, braises and soups make their way back into my dinner rotation.

By the time Thanksgiving has come and gone, though, I’m ready for a reprieve from rich, heavy meals. At least until the next round of holidays comes along.

It feels good to take a week or two in December and focus on lighter meals, like this week’s Sesame-Seared Salmon With Spicy Stir-Fried Vegetables, which is good both for the family and for a more festive gathering.

The toasty nuttiness of sesame permeates this dish. It starts with the salmon, which is brushed with a ginger-garlic-soy sauce and toasted sesame seed oil mixture and coated with raw sesame seeds. The salmon is seared, sesame-side down, briefly in a skillet, to develop a beautiful crust. It’s then flipped over, letting the skin of the salmon have a chance to get nice and crispy, before being popped into the oven to finish cooking, which only takes a few more minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, a mélange of fresh vegetables is quickly stir-fried. In this case, I chose Napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms and matchstick-cut carrots. The combination is crunchy, earthy and slightly sweet.

To give a bit of heat and a pop of red color, sliced Fresno chile peppers are added. I like it hot, so I add two peppers, seeds and all. This makes the dish zippy, to say the least. Just the process of stir-frying these hot peppers can bring tears to the eyes. For me, those are tears of joy. If that’s not the case for you, simply cut down on the amount of chiles, or leave them out entirely.

Once the vegetables have been cooked to crisp-tender perfection, the same sesame-ginger-soy sauce mixture that we brushed on the salmon gets added in. Just a minute or two more over the heat cooks the garlic and ginger and flavors all the vegetables.

While this dish would be terrific served with cooked rice, it doesn’t necessarily need it. It’s satisfying enough on its own. Should you want rice, make sure to start it before you begin cooking the salmon and vegetables, so they are done at the same time.


Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.