Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back to the Kitchen

Where did the summer go? The last vestiges are sitting in a box on my counter: peaches waiting to be made into a cobbler or sorbet if they last until the weekend. I've been enjoying one an evening as dessert and I will be sad when they are all gone.

We traveled only as far as San Diego, celebrated a major birthday (mine), and then it seems like I was in tax-prep hell for all of August and September. That's done, and I'm well on my way to making up for all of the backlog of statement reconciliations I've avoided doing for YEARS, as statements got lost or misplaced during the various moves because of the fires. I find reconciling bank statements somewhat zen, and I have a permanent spot to work on bookkeeping now, which will encourage me to work on this stuff during the year.

Right now, I'm looking outside at gloom and cold and all I can think of is how wonderful it would be to be at home making huge pots of soup: butternut squash for me and chicken for my son Michael. We're both going through dental work right now and soup is easy to eat.  Len's been in New York for a week and he sounds like he'll need that chicken soup as well when he gets home tonight. It's been raining in New York and he was sneezing when we spoke on the phone last night.

It isn't as if I haven't been busy cooking for the Sunday Super Supper Squad. It's just that I usually forget to grab the camera before the chow hounds chow down. I've done some new recipes and some old reliable ones. In one case, I made a beer bread that my friend Melinda Snodgrass insisted I had made for her one winter that caused her to go out and buy the Silver Palate cookbook it is in, but I had no recollection of ever making it. It was a big hit, and went well with the pot of vegetarian chili I made that night.

Another recent evening, I did make pots of butternut squash soup and chicken with rice soup for the gang, along with an old favorite recipe for a no-kneed rye bread. The stock for the chicken soup came from all of the pieces left over from when I fabricate whole chickens. Eventually, you need to empty out the freezer, and it was a good time to do it. The resulting meal was food that looked like October, in a very good way. Plus there were leftovers for lunch at work.

With Len out of town last week, I took the opportunity to make a dish with an ingredient he doesn't like: wild salmon. I used a variation on Marcella Hazan's baked fish and potatoes, and it was a huge hit. The leftovers were delicious as well.  When I started making the recipe I lived on the East Coast, and I was able to use blue fish filets, but I can't find them in California. The wild salmon is a good West Coast substitute. There were 10 of us for dinner, so I needed two large filets of salmon and I used 5 pounds of the small red, white, and blue potato mixed bag that Costco sells.  They fit nicely down the center feed tube of a large Cuisinart, so slicing them all thinly took very little time.  Marcella says to peel the potatoes, but, unlike my friend Mark Evanier, I like the skins, so I kept them on.

The potatoes are coated with a mixture of minced garlic, olive oil, and parsley.  I mixed them together in a large bowl, adding additional olive oil so the potatoes were all covered. I added some salt and pepper. Then spread the potatoes out in as thin a layer as possible in a large pan (in this case, two half-sheet pans), sprinkle with coarse salt, and put into a 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Then they are turned and I left them in the oven for another 10 minutes before I took them out to lay the salmon on the top, skin-side to the potatoes.  Spread more of the olive oil, parsley, minced garlic, salt and peper mixture over the top of the fish.  Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, until the salmon is almost cooked through. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes to continue cooking and then serve.

I made a salad of butter lettuce, radicchio, and thinly sliced fennel tossed with a lemon-garlic-olive-oil dressing and plenty of salt and pepper to go with it. Plus I cut up a couple of butternut squashes and roasted them for a side. Dinner was colorful and delicious.