Off The Rack

With so much work to do, it’s been pretty hard lately to rise much above maintenance mode in the kitchen. I don’t even feel the urge to get fancy or spend all day messing around with various components or techniques so that dinner can be a unique and creative improvisation like I did so much in the winter. Having said that, I still want things to taste good, and given the chance I will incorporate some high-tech tricks to achieve a better result- provided that doing so is not time-intensive.

In this case, broiled salmon with herbes de Provence is about as basic as it gets. Black rice is a cool-looking departure from the short-grain brown we usually eat, but not any harder to make. The sauce, though, is a little bit interesting. I took both kale and spinach (since we had about a half-bunch of each) and wilted them in a pan to which I had already added a little oil and a few each of fenugreek, coriander, and mustard seeds. In addition to the greens, I threw in a couple of chopped kaffir lime leaves and let it all go for a minute or two. Then I puréed it with the stick blender, adding a little yogurt, a little leftover dashi from Milo’s breakfast miso soup, and enough Ultratex to thicken it so it wouldn’t weep.

The last bit was key, in its subtle way; the extra density of the sauce gave it a spoon-coating texture and light, almost frothy body that was noticeably different from the normal puddle of green leaking a brighter green liquid around the edges. And the spices and lime leaves gave it a surprising South and Southeast Asian lift that perfumed the other components in a welcome way, helping rescue them somewhat from banality. At some point I hope to return to the more adventurous and ambitious end of the spectrum, but for now it looks like simple stuff with minor tweaking will be the focus of our spring eating. Which is fine. And I’ve been wrong before.

4 comments to Off The Rack

  • Brooke

    Wow, you’re really phoning it in aren’t you?

    …overachiever. “Off the rack” means boxed mac n chee. But this looks great, and simple. Simple is good sometimes.

  • Zoomie

    As Brooke said, “simple is good.” And your idea of simple is my idea of over-the-top! :-) I have to go looking for black rice – what a great accent to the salmon!

  • Brittany

    Brooke is a dirty whore, but I will agree. My version of phoning it in involes a take out menu.

  • peter

    Brooke: Simple is good most of the time.

    Zoomie: It’s pretty easy to find.

    Brittany: This was one step above that, on account of it didn’t involve an actual phone.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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