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Look around your kitchen.  Now, open your cabinets. 
Are there plates collecting dust, appliances you use but once a year? 

In an effort to make use of what I have, I pulled open all the cabinets in my kitchen and found tools that were long neglected.  Take this food processor.  It was only this year that I realized it could do much, much more than pesto.  I have always been aware of its presence, but I continued to ignore it, due to my irrational fear of technology.  I won't forget the time Mike bought me the first shiny iPhone-there were long queues and visions of a new world order.  I made him return it, ranting something about frivolity and distraction. 

I am still a fan of paper and pen, but time constraints are forcing me to change my ways.  I now use the dishwasher to actually wash, not dry, dishes.  I type notes to myself, instead of jotting them down by hand.  Last night, I had a silent epiphany while using the Kitchenaid mixer to make a batch of cookie dough.  I don't miss the old painstaking methods much.  You could almost call me a technology convert.  (Just don't tell Mike.)

Back to the food processor.  I threw in two cups of cilantro, a couple cloves of garlic, the juice of a lime, some kosher salt, a scallion, and some olive oil.  A few quick pulses, and I had cilantro scallion sauce.  It tasted too acidic, so I drizzled in a tiny bit of sesame oil.  Delicious, and ready to be eaten on toast, with chicken, in soup, tossed with pasta, or over salad.

Making the most of what you have is not always simple.  It requires some thought as well as initial effort, the goal being to eventually fall into a rhythmic, almost thoughtless routine.  One day, I will be pulling this processor out by blind habit, but until then, I am trying recipes one by one, hoping to make this machine my elbow friend.

Looking for a quick dinner that requires only a handful of ingredients?  Look no further. [Fine, I burned it slightly.  M would not approve.  But it still tasted great.]

I've been keeping track of my diet recently-not for any insidious objective like calorie restriction-and noticed that in the course of a month, I eat very little fish or fruit.  Fruit I understand.  My body has rejected fruits by way of inflammatory response over the last five years.  But fish?  I don't love fish the way M does, but I can eat it without having to go to the hospital.  Still, I had this uneasy feeling that preparing fish was smelly and difficult.

But secretly, I wanted to learn how to cook fish, and The Kitchn came to my aid with this salmon recipe.  I tweaked it based on the ingredients I had, and it proved at least one of my fears wrong.  This salmon is very, very good. 

I used farm-raised salmon, even though M said he prefers wild.  According to M, wild salmon is less oily than farm-raised, but I wasn't ready to fork over nearly $30/lb.  Oh Whole Foods.  Sometimes you gouge my heart.

The fish is, of course, flavorful, but for me, it's the vinaigrette that makes this meal.  The scallion brings a piquant kick, the lemon juice the acid, and the cilantro an integral brightness.  [If you're one of those people who hates cilantro (maybe it's not your fault), you can leave it out.  But for me, the more cilantro, the merrier.

Finally, I substituted polenta for couscous, and I think I prefer this thick, creamy base.  It soaks up the vinaigrette and lends a pleasant enveloping texture to the flaky salmon.

The Kitchn blogger sums it up nicely: "[I]t's something I'd order in a restaurant, and at a fraction of the price."

* Now there is a lingering fish smell in my entire apartment.  How do I get rid of it?  Opening the doors and windows hasn't entirely helped.  I've already taken out the trash.

Salmon with Scallion and Cilantro Vinaigrette

Serves 2-3


1 medium to large salmon fillet, skin removed
1 cup dry polenta
Salt and pepper
A few tablespoons olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup cilantro
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

How To:

  1. POLENTA | Start here, since polenta takes a while to cook.  Add 1 cup polenta to 3 cups boiling water and cook until it has absorbed the water, about 25 minutes.  Add 1-2 tbsp. butter toward the end, if you wish.

  2. FISH | Season your salmon with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Heat a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat in a pan.  Cook your salmon about 3-4 minutes on each side.  

    [Avoid excess oil, since the fish is already somewhat oily.  Using a nonstick pan helps, but I used stainless steel, which gave the fish a nice crust but, then again, almost burned it.]

  3. VINAIGRETTE | While your fish is cooking, mix the sliced scallions, cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil together in a bowl.  You can chop the cilantro if you want, but I left it whole.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

    [The Kitchn calls for equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, but I prefer more acid, so my lemon:oil ratio was probably 2:1.

  4. SERVE | Plate polenta on a large plate.  Add your salmon fillet.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top, and serve.


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