Monday, October 18, 2010

A Subtle Taste

I'm suddenly longing for long steamy summer evenings and popsicles that drip and run down your legs, as if that were a simpler time. But there was never a simpler time, was there? There is unknowing and knowing. Now I know a few things, and I'm trapped in this insecurity not knowing what to do next. This is a rare place for me. I'm decisive. I think about things and then I choose something. Sometimes (often) I choose wrongly. But then you get the knowing place, and it feels worth it there even if it's more painful and humbling. The paralyzing unknowing is where I stand now. There's no decision to make me feel safe; there is only               . I can't control a             .

Summer is that simple season. Same with winter. It's just hot, or it's just cold. You wear either as little or as much clothing as possible. You eat either salads or plain roasted vegetables and meats. Grilled or baked. But fall and spring, they are times of change and complexity. We go back to school (or finish out the year). There's a new bounty of produce to be made into stews or soups or braised for hours.
I'm scattered all over here today when what I should be doing is remembering and recounting a great meal I had last week. Most of the meal involved poaching, a form of cooking known for its subtlety. Subtlety, that is an art form I am decidedly not well-practiced in. Decisive, direct, to the point in my cooking and elsewhere. I lack the patience I think. My dad would tell me that the best things are the ones you wait for. He's so wise you sometimes want to punch his arm really hard.

So that brings us to the salmon poached in water infused with lemon and peppercorns. I say infused because it smelled like tea just before the salmon went in. And the salmon was just ever so lightly flavored with lemon that you couldn't much taste it once it was covered in the horseradish dressing. If I draw a silly metaphor, which I now will, my dad is the subtle quiet salmon who says the most important things at just the right moment. And the horseradish dressing, all zing and creamy spice, is my mom (and me), she keeps things interesting.

The poached apples were a bit of a showstopper, at least for me. A knife sliced through the apples cleanly, but they were cooked through--maybe you could call it al dente because it still had some bite. Incredibly, after an hour of soaking in hot apple cider, the fruit I had plucked from some trees last weekend actually tasted more like apples than when I had munched on some in the orchard. The candied almonds and amaretto whipped cream didn't hurt. And neither did the company. I called up a bit of a random group of friends to help me with my homework (eating the food, that is). I love to surround myself with people. And I always think the louder the more rambunctous the better. But maybe I'm wrong about that.
Poached Salmon Salad: from What Katy Ate
2 8-ounce filets of salmon
3 cups water
juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 or 3 large handfuls of mixed salad greens
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
1 teaspoon capers, sauteed to cripsy in olive oil
salt and pepper
feta cheese

1 tablespoon minced horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk

Pour the water, lemon juice and peppercorns into a saute pan, turn on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for five minutes so the flavors meld together. Remove from heat, add the salmon and cover, cooking for 15 minutes. Or until salmon is firm to the touch and light pink and flaky. Set aside to let cool and flake apart.

Arrange the lettuce on a serving platter. Toss on the garbanzo beans, capers, salmon and feta. I left the dressing on the side because I know not everyone is fond of horseradish.

Poached Apples with whipped cream and almonds: from Gourmet
6 apples
1/2 lemon
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar

For whipped cream:
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Candied almonds:
1 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg white

Apples: Peel top two-thirds of apples and rub outside with lemon to prevent discoloration. Bring the cider to a boil. Once it's boiling, add the apples and brown sugar. Remove from heat and let sit for one hour. Remove apples and let cool or chill. This can be done several days ahead of time.

For the whipping cream, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on high speed until it forms soft peaks.

Preheat the oven to 450 for the almonds. In a small bowl, combine all ingredient and stir together. Lay out on a piece of parchment paper and bake for five minutes. Let cool and break apart to garnish the dessert. Combine all the parts for one apple drizzled with leftover cider served with almonds and a dollop of whipped cream.


meg said...

wow, lainey, that salmon looks really really good.

Allison said...

ugh, wish i could have come!

Anonymous said...

I guess I really am passionate about salmon! Mom

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I have to cogitate on being labeled a Salmon.