Friday, July 2, 2010

Salmon on my mind

One of the cookbooks that I'm currently obsessed with is A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. While we haven't managed to plan any large dinner parties using it, I've made two very memorable meals from it:  for our 6 month dating anniversary we made parts of 'Dinner for a Tuscan'--the fried potatoes and artichokes and then grilled steak were amazing.  Recently we cooked 'Salmon on my Mind' for my sister and her husband.  While they certainly aren't 30 minute meals, they are very achievable with just one or two cooks.  I love how the menus are so well put together--they balance light and heavy dishes and dishes that can be made ahead with ones that need last minute prep, focus mostly simple preparations, and above all, emphasize seasonal produce.

It's exactly how I want to cook.  I want to have friends over for dinner and to feed them really good food and still feel relaxed and be able to socialize. Now, I'm not opposed to a more complicated curry or stew just long as I can make it a day ahead and reheat it before dinner.

Even though A Platter of Figs isn't gluten free, with its focus on seasonal, really fresh ingredients, most of the menus, including the desserts, are gluten free or easily gluten free adaptable.  When we made 'Dinner for a Tuscan' instead of the lasagna, we cooked a big bunch of chard and dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. We could have just as easily made the lasagna, substituting pre-made gluten free noodles for the handmade ones in the book.  Desserts are simple and often require no flour or very little.  There is a cherry clafoutis with only 2 tablespoons of flour, Castagnaccia that uses only chestnut flour, and many naturally gluten free desserts like rose-scented strawberries, peaches in white whine, and goat cheese with honey.

It's such a wonderful book to remind you that delicious food doesn't have to be overwhelming to prepare.

So...back to our recent menu, Salmon on My Mind.  We made the garlic soup with fried eggs, Vietnamese cucumbers, and salmon with some brown rice on the side.  I substituted strawberries macerated in amaretto for strawberries in rose syrup since I don't really like rose-flavored foods.  We also deviated from the menu by grilling the fish instead of roasting it.  The entire menu, including making stock, took the two of us only two hours, and it was *so* delicious. 

I expected the fish and the cucumbers to be good--I love quick pickled cucumbers, but I wasn't sure how the soup would turn out, though garlic sounded good.  The stock was easy to make and rich-tasting.  The sunnyside-up fried eggs quickly cooked on the top when added to the hot soup.  Really delightful.  So, yeah, you should get this book and cook from it, too!

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