Monday, October 3, 2011

Zen and the Art of Weeknight Cooking

A former neighbor, a lovely woman with money to burn, once explained to me the necessity of employing a cook. The timing of dinner preparation fell right smack in the middle of the time when her children needed her most. When kids come home from school they have a lot going on - homework, school projects, after school activities, play dates, not to mention (sometimes) wanting to tell you everything about their day, or air their grievances on a variety of subjects. My neighbor felt better about being present and engaged with her children than cooking for them. The part about employing a cook was unrelatable for several reasons (my inability to abstain from micro-managing included) but, even tho at the time my children were not school aged, I understood completely that when they were I would have to navigate the late-afternoon/early evening with a skillet in one hand and a science fair rubric in the other.

Tonight I had planned to make Asian Grilled Salmon Salad but even before I picked my children at the end of the day I knew there was no way that meal was going to happen. So I changed things up and made Teriyaki Salmon Bowls instead. And given the cool fall night we're enjoying, it was a better meal than the salad would have been. Here's what I did:

Teriyaki Salmon Bowls
No recipe. Just follow my lead.

The critical task was that earlier in the day I made it to Whole Foods and purchased a 1.25-pound farmed Norwegian salmon filet (skin on). They had King available but it didn't look great. Also, King is so darned big and I do like staying away from the bigger fish.

Back at home, between supervising and correcting school work, unsticking the mouthpiece from my daughter's trumpet, and collecting my other daughter from her after-school sports, I made a pot of rice. Brown rice would have been my preference but I made Basmati since it was already 6:30. I rinsed the filet with very cold water, patted it dry, and transferred it to a small baking sheet. I poured over it a tablespoon or so of my favorite teriyaki sauce (Veri Veri Teriyaki) and gently but intentionally stabbed it all over with a dinner fork. This makes me feel like a bad person, but my fishmonger says it makes for a good marinating practice. I preheated the grill for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I turned off my rice, fluffed it and replaced the cover. I chopped a green onion on the diagonal. I didn't have any broccoli, but I would have steamed some at this point. I also pulled out a jar of sesame seeds.

When the grill was ready, I put the fish on, skin side up, for about 5 minutes. I flipped it and cooked the other side for 2-3 minutes. It was perfect when I pulled it off. I slid the whole filet onto this beautiful plate my lovely friend Nora gave me and brought it to the table. And there, with the rice in its cooking pot on a hotplate on the table, ramekins with green onions and sesame seeds, and the jar of Veri Veri, we assembled our Teriyaki Salmon bowls: rice on the bottom, topped with salmon and the green onions and sesame seeds on top. The broccoli was missed, but I heated up some frozen edamame, so we had something green.

And that's it. This is one of those meals I make when there's really no time to cook. The time between starting and when we sat to eat was about 20 minutes. I hate giving times for things - I've done this meal before, so don't be mad at either one of us if it takes you longer. I cannot overstate the importance of setting a meal plan for your family for the week, and shopping to support the menu you write. I'll post on how my menu takes shape - and how the menu is shared with the family - later in the week.

Happy Monday.

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