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India meets East Africa in 1-skillet curried salmon filets recipe

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Centuries worth of ships brought spices to East Africa during the spice trade, and the results were delicious.

Locally available seafood and coconut were combined with rich spices from India and beyond. Those seafood curries inspired the cooks at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. They borrow from that tradition for a simple one-skillet salmon recipe. They pair fillets with a saucy mix of vegetables simmered in coconut milk. A small measure of curry powder is a stand-in for the Somali spice blend called xawaash. It flavors the dish and gives the sauce a pale golden hue.

For centuries, the channel of ocean running between Mozambique and Madagascar provided passage and port to ships during the height of the spice trade. The results were delicious, combining local seafood and coconut with rich spice blends for seafood curries.

We borrow from that tradition — inspired by a recipe in “In Bibi’s Kitchen” by Hawa Hassan — for this simple one-skillet recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals.

Instead of mackerel, we use salmon fillets and pair them with a saucy mix of vegetables simmered in coconut milk. A small measure of curry powder, a stand-in for the Somali spice blend called xawaash, flavors the dish and gives the sauce a pale golden hue.

Don’t let the sauce reach a simmer after returning the salmon to the skillet. Gentle heat — just enough to create steam — is all that’s needed to cook the fillets so that they remain moist and tender. Serve with steamed rice.

Salmon in coconut-curry sauce

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Four 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater

1 teaspoon curry powder

14-ounce can coconut milk

2 jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the salmon flesh side down, then immediately reduce to medium. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Using a wide, thin spatula, transfer the salmon browned-side up to a plate.

Return the skillet to medium-high and add the scallion whites and the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, carrots, curry powder and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until the liquid released by the tomatoes has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, chilies and ¼ cup water, then bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are softened, 6 to 9 minutes.

Stir in the lime juice and return the salmon, skin side down, to the pan. Cover, reduce to low and cook until the thickest parts of the fillets reach 120°F or are nearly opaque when cut into, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the scallion greens.

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