Sunday, June 16, 2013

Made dinner for a friend's mother's birthday today:

HYR poster TiNK asked me if I would help cook for her mother's birthday so I said, "Yeah, sure."  I wanted to something really light and simple (with a short amount of prep and cook time).  So she picked me up and we went to the store.

The first thing I had in mind was a variation on the fruit salad I've been getting at La Michoacana for the last month or so (damn near every day).  Seasonal fruit with lime and chile powder.  The ones at the store have a random mix of fruit but for a $1.99 it's really two solid servings of fruit and I've gotten kind of hooked on the idea of working with jicama since tasting it fresh in some of their salads.  Last week, or so ago, I was flipping through Earl Peyroux's Gourmet Cooking and found a recipe for "Salade de Pasteques" - (a.k.a Watermelon Salad) and I thought, "Well, right on, I'd like to try his version sometime but I think I found a starting point for making my own."

I didn't do any jicama or mangoes but kept it simple.  Not to crow but I was really impressed by the result.

Abuelita J's Fruit Salad: (serves roughly ten people)
  • 1/4 seedless watermelon -cubed bite size
  • 1/2 cantaloupe -cubed bite size
  • 1 pineapple - cubed bite size
  • Juice of two proper limes
  • generous amount of fine sea salt
  • liberal amount of Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 4 capfuls of apple cider vinegar
Yeah, this requires some prep work because fuck a bunch of paying triple just because someone cut it up for you.  This is easy prep work if you have a sharp knife and good fruit.  TiNK had purchased a cantaloupe from our local Farmer's Market that was exquisite not only in a sensory way but to simply work with was dream (plus a freshly sharpened knife helped).  When your ingredients are like that, not only does the dish flourish but the "work" vanishes.  This dish is so fucking easy even I can do it.

Cube everything, put it in a big ass bowl, add everything else, cover bowl and shake like a Polaroid picture.  Add a few inches of salt, cover.   Put the whole thing into the fridge for an hour to chill.  Take out and toss again.  Serve.

The reason I used Smoked Spanish Paprika and not something smokier or stronger is because TiNK's mom ain't real into the heat.  When I make this for myself, I might use a touch of the ghost chile powder I have in reserve and add maybe some minced ginger and chopped jicama.

We also did a standard spinach/crushed pecan/dried cranberry salad.

Then for the meat she bought a solid filet of salmon (about four lbs).  I have to admit that I felt like kind of a dick at the fish counter of the grocery store, asking shit like, "When was this brought it?", "Can you bag it with ice?"  I mean I was joking and cordial about it but after my May the Fourth 2013 debacle I have to ask these kind of questions.

I was thinking of doing a baked salmon with a yogurt glaze, seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I was prepping the fish I decided not to since I've never really been comfortable cooking with yogurt (inexperience) and I didn't want to fuck anything up.  So it was a simple affair with ground rosemary (I had some fresh that I dried and then ground today), smoked black pepper, sea salt, smoked spanish paprika - more for color than taste, a liberal amount of #42, a solid drizzle of this California olive oil TiNK's mom brought back (the texture of which was more velvet than oil).  Sliced two lemons into 1/4" rounds, put the rounds on a broiler pan, then salmon on top of those.  350 oven for roughly a half-hour.  Eh, voila.

Learned a brilliant thing from TiNK today -  use a broiler pan as a baking sheet but put liquid into the pan to help steam the fish (or chicken).  I never broil anything because; a) I don't have a broiler pan, b) my oven is a piece of shit, and c) Fuck it, I'll just use my cast-iron skillet.  I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

All in all, a productive and relaxing day, and I might have stumbled across a secret weapon ingredient.  Seriously, it blew my man-panties off.  I'm not going to say anything more than that (otherwise my descriptions of the ingredient might get pornographic).

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