The Internet cannot properly convey the incredible smells drifting around my kitchen. Here, let me waft some air in your direction. *waft waft*
I do almost all of my weekly meal preparation and planning on Sundays. I work through the week, from oh-god in the morning to somewhere between four and six in the evening, then head off to whatever appointments or gatherings I’m scheduled for. This leaves me with little inclination or desire to put any effort at all into what I’m going to eat for dinner each day. I try to put a little more energy into lunches, because unless I’m incredibly lucky, one or more coworker will also be eating and I will inevitably feel defensive and guilty because my lunches frequently consist of a salad and some kind of smelly fish thing, usually a simple broiled mackerel fillet or something. I try to keep my lunches presentable, inoffensive, and ostensibly nutritionally balanced.
This week I will be spending a lot of time smirking at people instead of apologizing.
Enter the hero (villain?) of this story: the sockeye salmon.
It is salmon season. This means that, even at the Whole Foods around the corner from my apartment, salmon is approaching affordable prices. Wild caught sockeye generally goes for $15.99 per pound at my Whole Foods; today the price was $9.99 per pound. I went for broke and got just over two pounds.
I remembered that my mother, who abhors anything that ever thought of evolving gills or fins or shells or fronds or tentacles, shocked me a while back by linking me to a recipe she’d seen on The Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen blog for rosemary and garlic salmon. I winced as I picked up a packet of organic rosemary but rationalized that I don’t cook seriously all that often. I had two pounds of fish in my shopping basket, I was damn well going to make this worthwhile.
Following that logic, I picked up some whole baby portobello mushrooms, some shredded parmesan cheese, a bunch of asparagus shoots, and a loaf of artisan whole wheat bread (…who am I kidding, I get that every week) as well as my standard bag of lettuce (spring mix, baby!). I paid about double what I usually pay for my weekly groceries, cried a little bit inside, gave myself a little peptalk of anticipation with the help of both the cashier and the girl in line behind me at the register, and shuffled homeward.
Generally I try not to spend much time in the kitchen because I’m one of five people in this apartment but today was all about damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead! I tossed a few unnecessary items into cupboards and the fridge, rinsed off my cutting board, and then went to town!
I love garlic. I love garlic so much that I will probably scare off vampires for the next three weeks just based on the amount of raw garlic that made its way into my system this afternoon. Although I minced the garlic and rosemary for the sake of patting it onto the fish, I minced so much of it that I ate two slices of bread with the leftovers and olive oil and still had to toss some into the garbage. My salmon is positively buried under a layer of garlic and rosemary and I don’t know who originally wrote that recipe but they must eat well because I got seven portions out of my two pounds of fish, where the recipe claims to make four.
While the salmon cooked in the oven, I rinsed the asparagus and heated up some more olive oil in a pan. You see, I chanced across another food blog last week that featured a recipe for grilled asparagus and a balsamic vinegar reduction, had emailed the link to my father (whose great joy in life in the spring comes from the little patch of asparagus that grows at the back of his driveway), and had heard really good feedback about. It doesn’t take much to sell me on something. My father’s reverent “oh, my GOD, that was good” has had me craving it ever since. [On a personal note, my own reaction was so frighteningly similar to his that I think my mid-life crisis will actually happen when I realize that I am my father.]
While the vinegar simmered into syrup in the pan, I kept myself busy by attacking the mushrooms. I took some of the leftover garlic and rosemary, crumbled up a piece of bread I had toasted, mixed in some shredded parmesan cheese and a little more olive oil, and then crammed as much of my concoction into the mushroom caps as I could, plus a little extra cheese tossed on top. When the fish came out of the oven I tossed the mushrooms in just long enough for the parmesan and bread crumbs to brown, which left the caps incredibly moist and the garlic mostly raw and biting, which (possibly because I am sick in the head), I love. In retrospect I maybe should have gone with a goat cheese of some kind, something softer against the garlic. It’s something to ponder for the future, anyway. [Do goat cheeses even cook well? So far I’ve managed not to poison myself with my cooking but frankly it’s probably only a matter of time…]
I have eaten so much today that I may very well explode in my sleep tonight while my body tries to process everything. For the time being, I think my entire physiological system has shut down and is just waiting for my excitement and sense of fulfillment to ebb enough that I can slip into a food coma of epic proportions. My lunches for the next week and a half are surely going to reek of some combination of salmon and garlic and I am not sorry. Sunday has long been my “cooking” day but it’s been months since I actually cooked instead of just making sure I had things I could cobble together into something resembling a meal.
Best of all, I did all of my cooking today without adding any salt. You hear that, high blood pressure?! I’ve got your number, now!
I cannot recommend these salmon and asparagus recipes strongly enough. They are fantastic. If you don’t like salmon or asparagus (or mushrooms, for that matter, although I’m not naming names here, Mom), go check out The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Savory Sweet Life (and prepare yourself for developing diabetes just by looking at some of these pictures). You will find something that makes you want to scurry over to the grocery store, guaranteed.