Sometimes when making dinner I have just a little bit of time and the inclination to use it well. This is the sort of food that would normally get the one-plate treatment, but the simple act of approaching and presenting it as a multi-dish meal made it so much more interesting and satisfying than it would have been. Presentation matters, and that intention works to inform the cooking process with more care and attention.
We had a nice piece of salmon, and by happy chance I had concocted something to rub on it. There were three yellow pears slowly turning brown in the fruit bowl, which made me think to cook them into pear butter and mix them with the local chick pea miso. It has a complex sweetness mixed with a sort of cheesy ripeness that seemed like it would work well with fruit. Sort of like a vegan cheese course purée. I know, right? How could that not be delicious? I cooked the pears down to a thickness and then stick-blended in some of the miso–about 1:5 miso to pear. To give it a bit of sharpness, I also added a tine of homemade sambal. It fit perfectly in a half-pint jar, and I rubbed it on all of the non-skin sides of the salmon pieces.
I left the skin alone because I wanted it to get nice and crisp; it began cooking skin side down in the iron skillet and then got a quick flip to finish so the pear miso wouldn’t burn. While it cooked, I steamed shredded black kale and rolled it into oshitashi, seasoning it with local soy sauce and homemade vinegar. I had made a pot of brown rice. After the salmon was done, I quickly browned some scallion rounds in the pan and deglazed it with a bit of bird stock from the fridge. And then everything went into various homemade plates. The pink stuff is the glorious red cabbage-carrot pickle that we’ve still got three quarts of left. It goes with everything.
The plating made for an extra minute of washing, but the cooking took just the skillet and the rice cooker. And the difference in pleasure was significant. The food was far nicer to look at, and the fact that I planned to serve it this way made me pay just a bit more attention to each part so that it was as good as it could be. And of course the fortuitous pear miso helped; it was seriously wonderful with the fish and made for a luscious pan sauce. Spreading a meal out in space is a very easy way to get some of the same effects one gets by spreading it out in time through multiple courses. Each component gets a little extra attention in both the cooking and the eating. We eat a little less and enjoy a little more.
Happy 2011 to all.