When asked by a fellow foodie earlier in the week what I was cooking, I replied, “Nothing too exotic!”
We are adventurous and experienced eaters; however we do realize that not everyone seeks the thrill of the unfamiliar. Not everyone gets excited about eating tongue, spicy Indian curries, Japanese delicacies, and drinking austere wines. Last week we had family visiting, so perhaps it was time to come back to Planet Earth, and try to make something an average person would be comfortable with. My mother-in-law loves salmon, so I can certainly be a fish-and-potatoes kind of gal for a week. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep myself amused while cooking, and to give the ubiquitous dishes a bit of a makeover without making them too demanding. Of course, since we were busy all day looking at cherry blossoms, etc., our meals had to take less than 20 minutes of active time to prepare.
So, here we go:
- Wild sockeye salmon steamed in a banana leaf (previously marinated in garlic, lemon juice, and fresh cilantro) with cumin potato cakes. Make a neat little parcel when wrapping the fish in a banana leaf, and place in the oven inside a glass dish at 350F. 15 minutes should do the trick (or even less, if you like a lean fish like that a bit more rare).
To make the potato cakes, bake potatoes (50 min at 375), scoop out the flesh, mash with cumin, toasted cumin seeds, chives, egg, a touch of cream, and salt. Form patties and fry 2 min on each side with butter in a skillet. (For a quick lunch, I also threw in some roasted fennel with lemon and wild oregano for my husband since he is not pescetarian).
- Oven roasted grey (lemon) sole with thyme, capers, and a side of slightly charred smoky artichokes (available already pre-cooked in the WholeFoods produce department). Serve with roasted fingerling (Russian banana) baby potatoes with a paprika and lemon scented fat-free yogurt dip. You simply half the potatoes, season with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, and roast for 15-17 min. In the meantime, mix plain fat-free Greek yogurt (preferably Fage brand) with lemon juice, Spanish smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
And finally a superfast and simple dessert to polish it off:
- Meyer lemon yellow cake with lemon infused mascarpone frosting/filling. Beat ½ Betty Crocker mix with ½ cup Meyer lemon juice instead of water, zest of 4 lemons, 2 eggs, and ½ cup olive oil on medium for 2 minutes. Fold in 4 egg whites beaten till soft peaks form to lighten the cake. Bake for 20 min on 350-325 depending on the baking dish (as always, till the toothpick should come out clean). Only 5-7 minutes to prep!
Combine mascarpone cheese with Meyer lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon, blood orange segments, and chill. It works both as a filling and a frosting. (Douse with Grand Marnier for an additional kick if really you want to). Nothing too crazy… it is a great reminder that simple is nice.
P.S. As I was uploading the post pictures, I came across a few shots I took in NYC the previous weekend, – a slightly grotesque but very familiar world, far removed from the potatoes and yellow cake reality…
I have to tone it way down when we have family visit. No way they are eating what we eat 🙂
It is hard to look at our culinary choices in perspective without a dollop of fresh reality every now and then.
Hah! My mother-in-law doesn’t even let me pour my own glass of milk when they are visiting. She takes over completely… Did I mention I’m pretty submissive? 😉
Love the cumin in the potatoes idea!
In my house I do all the pampering; maybe it is the motherly instinct talking, since it does not have another outlet.
Double the cumin (ground and toasted cumin seeds) is double good! I would have never thought cumin was such a familiar spice for Americans, but it is.
“We are adventurous and experienced eaters; however we do realize that not everyone seeks the thrill of the unfamiliar. Not everyone gets excited about eating tongue, spicy Indian curries, Japanese delicacies, and drinking austere wines. Last week we had family visiting, so perhaps it was time to come back to Planet Earth, and try to make something an average person would be comfortable with.”
Bingo. As a trained Italian culinarian, people presume each and every meal of mine is an extravaganza and completely over-the-top. The reality is that I regularly keep our meals here in my House simple and flavorful. Can I do beef tongue? Yep. Can I cook a tripe so buttery soft it will make you cry? Yep. Do I eat raw meats and fish on a regular basis? Yep.
But I can also throw down a killer grilled cheese sandwich, peanut butter toast, chicken soup, cucumber salad, and Ramen noodles like a champ. Being a culinarian means I have a huge library from which to select the longest of novels, but I definitely prefer short stories and tales of an anecdotal flavor as well.
This post made me smile. Thanks for writing it!
🙂 I felt like I needed to work on my short stories…
Btw I like your new profile picture!
Thank you for the like. I hope you will let me know if you try the Garlic and Rosemary Pork Roast and how you liked it. I love cooking for family when they come over. Most holidays are at my house and lots of other times in between. I plan to check out some of your recipes. Thanks!
Well I’m an adventurous foodie as well, but even sans mother-in-law I do enjoy a nice homely meat-n-veggies kind of meal every now and then. Salmon steamed in banana leaf?! My mum does that too…a Bengali dish in which we steam fish fillets in mustard sauce wrapped in banana leaves. Yours look yummy!