A Few Thoughts on Writing Menus and Life (and a Recipe)
As a personal chef, I write a lot of menus. And because I specialize in cooking for people with food restrictions, I often find myself writing menus composed of items for which there are no recipes. It is not usually a problem; after all, whenever I do use a recipe I find that I am really just using it as a guide, filtering the instructions through my own creative lens as well as some years of practical know-how. So it is not much of a stretch to imagine writing a menu and figuring out how to do it later. For example, this week a client requested a no-fat, gluten free, dairy free, grain free menu that was heavy on the veggies (but only certain ones) and light on the proteins (but only certain ones).
After I made the menu it struck me how much like life this kind of menu & recipe writing is. How often do we know exactly how we are going to do something, whether it has to do with a creative vision, healing from health problems, or with the directions of our careers/relationships/goals, to name just a few of the challenges that come up in life? Do we play it safe or stop trying just because we don't know how we're going to make our proposals/ideas/wild dreams realities?
And so when it comes time to make the thing for which there is no recipe, what do we do? We use our resources and figure it out. We rely on our experience, knowledge, curiosity, creativity, drive and enthusiasm, as well as the people around us, and we get to it. So I say, write down your menu proposal. Let it include items for which there are no recipes. You are an original and will find a way to write them.
This recipe wasn't too terribly hard to figure out, as it is an adaption of a recipe from Epicurious. To me, scallions and basil are a perfect combo for the spring/summer transition, with scallions available now in the local farmer's markets, and basil giving a hint of the summer to come. Baking is a good method for preparing salmon, as rain may get in the way of your grilling plans. Perfect with a simple green salad, quinoa pilaf, or potatoes.
Scallion Basil-Crusted Baked Salmon
Gluten free, dairy free, grain free
1 ½# salmon (or steelhead trout), skin off, bones out (you can ask your fishmonger to do that)
4 large scallions (aka spring onions), ends trimmed, white and green parts finely chopped/minced
1 cup packed basil leaves, destemmed & finely chopped/minced
1 level Tablespoon mayonnaise
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Set the oven to 350. Line a baking dish or sheet pan with parchment paper, and place the salmon flesh side up. When serving family-style, I like to leave the fish filet whole, but you can portion the pieces if you’d like. Season the top of the fish with a sprinkle of kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Mix the finely chopped scallions and basil with the mayo and a sprinkle of kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Spread the scallion-basil mixture evenly over the top of the fish. Place on a center rack in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, how accurate your oven is, and your preference for doneness. (I usually check for doneness at about 13 minutes. You can pierce the top of the fish with a paring knife and then fill in the hole with some of the topping).