Has it really been 3 whole weeks since I've posted a cook-along recipe? Boy, how time flies when one is attending Broadway openings with a renowned fashion model on one's arm, experimenting with French methods of home-scenting, and chasing towel-clad dancers around the locker room. (Hi, George, if you're reading this — I'll be at the gym later this morning!)
|[Note: do not read this caption unless you are George.] Hi, George — remember me? If this picture isn't ringing any bells, you could try imagining me in a towel. (Oh dear, now I'm imagining you imagining me in a towel......)|
Not to mention inaugurating a new teaching space, starting a program of working out under the guidance of a personal trainer, and walking the dogs for longer periods now that the weather is getting milder. Whew! It's actually a respite to enter the kitchen and spend some relaxing time cooking a meal. The seed idea for today's project was the container of garlic scape pesto I'd discovered in the freezer yesterday. What fun, to discover a few tablespoons of this heavenly stuff left over from almost a year ago — garlic scapes appear early on in the growing season, so we get them in one of our first CSA deliveries each year, in late May or early June, and I always make pesto out of them.
I went to Whole Foods yesterday (not directly from the gym this time, but after a little lunch break) with the mission to find something to go with the pesto. I was thinking shrimp, but when I read the sign "U.S.-caught Gulf Shrimp" I changed my mind. The pesto contains enough oil without adding an additional contribution from B.P. (I can't imagine why, in the aftermath of last year's oil-spill disaster, the fishmonger thought that adding the word "Gulf" to his signage would encourage customers to choose his shrimps.) Salmon was on sale, and looked fresh, so I bought a pound-sized fillet. Then I found some interesting-looking trumpet mushrooms and threw in a box of capellini (angel-hair pasta), the delicacy of which I thought would complement the fish nicely.
I got all my goodies home, nestled in among $60 worth of other absolute necessities like cake and cheese, then decided to ease back into cooking with a relatively simple salad to accompany my pasta dish. Shall we begin our cook-along with this salad? (Again, I'm marking all ingredients in magenta to facilitate your shopping. My salad recipe serves 2; the pasta dish, 4.)
First, I sliced a small pickling cucumber as paper-thin as I could manage with my slightly rusty knife technique:
I put the slices in a bowl, then added some papaya, diced small, and some chopped fresh oregano.
I made a dressing of 2 T fermented grape juice (very vinegary, from an Amish farm), 1/2 t ground roasted cumin seed, and 1/4 t pink Himalayan salt. (By the way, I always roast and grind my cumin seed right before using it. It loses its flavor rapidly.)
I poured the dressing over the salad, mixed it well, and let it marinate on the countertop while I prepared the rest of the meal. Easy! And the oregano/cumin mixture turned out to be an inspiration — well, it would have qualified as an inspiration if I'd not just grabbed the only fresh herb we had on hand. The pairing of these pungent flavors was a bit strange but (I thought) very appealing. Peter found the oregano a little strong in the amount I used, so it's a matter of taste. The great thing about being the cook is that you can always accommodate your own tastes....although I'm so
OK, enough self-revelation.....let's get back to dinner prep:
Capellini Pesto with Salmon and Mushrooms
To start, I gathered all my ingredients together: One package of capellini (angel-hair pasta) and the remaining 3-4 tablespoons of 2010's garlic scape pesto. (I don't remember exactly what went into this particular batch of pesto — something like garlic scapes, salt, EV olive oil, romano cheese, and almonds. You could use any kind of pesto you have for this recipe.)
Also a few stalks of celery and the trumpet mushrooms I'd just bought (feel free to substitute clarinet or ukulele mushrooms if you prefer):
Some aged asiago cheese, which I grated.
And last, the pound of salmon fillet. I removed and saved the skin and then flaked the flesh. Actually, my skin removal technique was so crude (or maybe I can blame it on my tools) that the fish was pretty well flaked already when I set about flaking it. Good thing I didn't want nice big chunks of fish for this dish.
Not knowing if my sauce was going to be liquid enough to coat the pasta, I decided to make a little fish stock to add just in case. In a small pot of water, I brought to a boil the fish skin with a few pieces of asiago cheese rind, a bay leaf, some carrots, celery, oregano stems, cucumber peels, and a half-tsp salt. (Clever way to use up the garbage produced in preparing this meal, huh?)
Once the mixture came to a boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so, then strained it and put the liquid aside. (The solid ingredients were truly garbage now, so I threw them away. The chihuahuas also got a few tasty morsels thrown their way.) I ended up with about a cup and a half of stock, of which I ended up using about a half cup for the pasta dish.
Time to make the sauce. I sliced the celery stalks and mushroom stalks and heads and sauteed them for about 5 min in EV olive oil. How much oil? Who knows, I just dumped some in — just like B.P. Rather a lot, I suppose, since mushrooms are such sponges to oil, and I wanted to end up with enough oil in the sauce to coat the pasta.
When the celery had softened a bit, I added the pesto and stirred it in.
Then I put in the flaked fish and about a half cup of the fish stock, stirred well, and brought the pot to a simmer.
I covered the pot, turned the heat to low, and let the fish mixture cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it was done, I turned off the heat and left the lid on to keep the sauce warm until serving time. Meanwhile, I had heated up a big pot of salted water and cooked the package of capellini, which took only 4 minutes. I drained the pasta and served it into pasta dishes, spooned over some of the fish sauce onto each serving, and topped it with some grated cheese.
|Please excuse the exposed flesh and visible undergarment in this picture. We hadn't bothered to dress for dinner . Now stop checking out Peter's leg and take a look at the food.|