salmon masala

January 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Oh, no.  This one had nothing–nothing–to do with the kids.

Mondays are riding days, and we end up getting home late as it is.  So we’ve decided that instead of rushing dinner and homework, that will be our one out night per week.  Tonight it was Culver’s.  I love Culver’s.  Best fast food hamburger this side of the Rockies (In’N’Out, of course, is the best ever…)  But the Daily Burn would reach out and grab me by the aorta if I did that to myself these days, so I’ve decided that on nights when the kids choose something completely irredeemable (and let’s face it, Butterburgers are, for anyone over 18, irredeemable), I’ll take the opportunity to be completely self-indulgent and cook something for myself after they go to bed.

So Bon Appetit had a little throwaway page about South Asian spices (I have GOT to get me some Ghee…and I know where to find it) that caught my eye.  “Hey,” it suggested in an offhand way, “throw some Garam Masala and some apricot jam on a salmon fillet or two and broil them!”  That seemed to be relatively foolproof, so I bought some salmon last night…and again this morning (no comment)…and headed out today to find Garam Masala.

Bon Appetit, of course, mentioned a top-shelf brand that’s carried, they said, by Whole Foods, so I checked last night at the upper-crust natural foods store while buying my salmon, and couldn’t find it.  Same deal today at the supermarket (though I was impressed when the clerk suggested that Indian spices might be in the Hispanic foods section).  I had to buy fortune cookies today for the boy, though, so my backstop was the international student grocery, and sure enough, they had the low-rent version, straight from New Dehli and boasting that it was, as you can see, not only “flavourful and tasty,” but also “hygienic.”  My kind of stuff.  (Got some Moroccan sardines, while I was at it, and I’ve bet the kids $5 each they can’t eat one.  No takers).

So tonight I hustled the kids off to bed, burgers quietly digesting, and fired up the stove and the broiler.  Bittman’s book says to fry the salmon for 6 minutes and broil for 2, so I dropped the fillets into an oiled pan, waited a few minutes, and then hit them with the garam masala and the apricot jam.  I screwed this up–it would, of course, have been much easier to mix them into a paste and just spread that out on the fillets, but I powdered them first and then tried to spread the jam.  Huge cleanup job.  The masala had a really familiar smell.  My best friend in middle school was from an Indian family, and his mother was an amazing cook.  Their house always smelled like this.  I probably could have used more, but I was just a bit careful since it seemed pretty strong.

It should have gone on rice, but I had the peas leftover.  They were fine, but it needed a bed of something a little saltier or grainier, I guess.  As it was the fish was great, though.  The masala and the apricot glazed nicely in the broiler so there was just a bit of a crust around the edges, and they went nicely with the salmon without overwhelming it.  We don’t get great salmon here in the midwest, but these two were OK–nice and flaky and a clean taste that let the spices come through.

The only problem, of course, is that this used about a tablespoon of the masala, and I’ve got the whole box.  Salmon for dinner every night would be great–but expensive–so I’m thinking of sneaking this onto some baked chicken and just sliding it in front of the kids.  I’ll call it South Asian Barbeque and see if they notice…

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poached salmon with peas and pesto

January 12, 2011 Comments Off on poached salmon with peas and pesto

One of the last dinner dates we had before Christmas was to Lucca, our new favorite restaurant on the planet and one of Des Moines’ leading foodie havens.  The menu every night is simple but invariably good, and the decor is minimal and architecty without being cold.

I had salmon with peas and pesto, which sounds like an odd match.  But it was really good–the flavors all balanced each other out really well, and the textures blended nicely.  I was impressed, and it occurred to me that it would be relatively easy to make at home.  K doesn’t eat fish and peas aren’t her favorite, so this had been on my solo list for a while.

I poached the salmon instead of grilling it–less messy and slightly healthier.  I also knew that even with a ‘commercial grade’ stovetop there was no way I was going to get the super crispy skin that Lucca can.  Poaching salmon is dead simple.  I used a vegetable strainer in a stockpot–let a cup or two of water boil, then threw in the fish and let it sit for exactly seven minutes.  The center came out just barely cooked, which seemed perfect to me…

Pesto was one of the first things I figured out, and I’m proud to say that I’ve made it on three continents and with tools as minimal as a single, dull knife.  In addition to the ton-and-a-half of basil, a clove of raw garlic, and oil, I threw in some shredded asiago instead of parmesan (it was what I had, but worked out really well), and I always put in a chunk of butter to smooth out the texture and to balance out the garlic a bit.  It was a good batch.

The result wasn’t nearly Lucca-quality, but it was certainly passable.  And the best part?  The kids LOVED it!  They commented on the dialogue of flavors, appreciated the flaky texture of the rare salmon, and thought the garlic notes really made the pesto perfect.

HA!  Who am I kidding.  They had nachos.

Movie night tonight.  The boy’s choice.  Batman Begins. I’m watching the establishment shots, all filmed in Chicago, and trying to catch everything they’ve added with CGI.  Fun stuff.

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