A fresh take on salmon

Vegetables pump up the plate

The challenge: to create a “home-run” salmon dish that could supplant the grilled salmon that had been on Brio Tuscan Grill’s menu since day one. Salmon always was a good seller, says Matt Harding, corporate executive chef of the Columbus, Ohio-based chain, but “we wanted to take a stand with a better-for-you entree to help our customers eat more healthfully.” He shrank the salmon portion and built up the majority of the plate with roasted, sauteed and grilled vegetables. The new Grilled Salmon Fresca is under 550 calories, as are the other seven entrees on Brio’s The Lighter Side of Tuscany menu. After one menu cycle, the dish surpassed the “old” grilled salmon in sales and bumped it off the menu; the lighter salmon is now the No. 1 seller of all entrees across Brio’s 60 locations. Consumers have a natural affinity for salmon, Harding says,  and “when guests see the calorie count and presentation, they say ‘I want that.’”

Grilled Salmon Fresca

Harding lightly coats the salmon and vegetables with olive oil spray—a new product he purchased for this dish. “Since I wasn’t using olive oil for sauteing, I had to rethink how I prepared the vegetables and tighten up the specs,” he says. Harding chose more tender varieties and cut the pieces smaller so the heat would penetrate and soften the vegetables. He browns the coated sweet potatoes, peppers and spinach for caramelization, then adds a half ounce of water so they cook through. 

Grilled asparagus and diced tomatoes add to the vegetable variety; slivered basil punches up the pesto accents.

A sprinkling of feta cheese provides another layer of flavor.

Smart swaps

Instead of...Try this...
7- to 8-ounce salmon filet5 1/2-ounce salmon filet
Olive oil for sautéingOlive oil spray
Pesto butter saucePesto red-wine vinaigrette


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