Anyways, this blog is dedicated to the times things go wrong. Every good cook just has a day where nothing comes out right and it follows through to their cooking. Friday was that kind of day for me. It started when my daughter had a fever for the second time that week and had to stay home from pre-k, missing her field trip. Then my Boxer, Rex, decided it was a great idea to drink two cups of coffee left unattended while I attended to the kids. When my husband came home from school we discovered the shoe website he ordered me a pair of Uggs from is not legit and we had to call our bank and contest the charges, fearing identity theft. (Side note: never order from BLUEFLYBOOTS.COM). Friday was a day that I wished I could just go back to bed, wake-up again and pull a do-over. Now if only life worked that way.
While my husband was on the phone with our bank, I started preparing dinner. A dear friend of mine asked me for a salmon recipe since she was looking for different fish recipes to prepare for her family. As soon as she asked, I knew I had a great recipe for a simple salmon dish coupled with an aioli. I hardly ever prepare fish in my house since my husband refuses to eat it, but this week I put it on my menu. Needless to say, it had been a while since I prepared this dish but it was so simple I didn't even worry about it getting screwed up. But with my luck that day, life had other plans and I ignored the warning signs.
I had bought a salmon filet from the commissary and it's sell by date was Friday so I figured I was OK. When I opened the fish and sniffed it I should have known not to even bother. The salmon smelled fishy, which I know is a warning sign that the fish has already went the way of the dodo. I persevered on though, figuring that since the flesh was still firm and clear that I was OK. I also didn't want to believe that my cooking would follow the pattern of this ill-fated Friday. So I prepared the fish for the oven using olive oil, lemon juice, paprika and a sprinkling of dill. I preheated my oven and put the fish in to bake (350 degrees for 25-30 minutes). I had planned on making roasted garlic couscous and sauteed green beans for my side dishes. I use frozen vegetables quite often, for their convenience. If the smelly fish wasn't warning enough, I should have known that things were swiftly going down hill when every bag of string beans I had were either too frost bitten or frozen to use. I had already started my pan with olive oil and garlic before discovering my string beans were not usable. I managed to salvage the sauteed garlic by adding it to my couscous.
I believe in balanced meals, and I always prepare a veggie dish to go along with my meat and starch. So I now found myself scrambling in my pantry for some sort of veggie, what I found was a can of beets that I had bought to make a beet-orange salad. Score, things were finally looking up. I had a box of clementines in my fridge and I had stuff to make a quick vinaigrette. All this scrambling occurring in between asking my husband if our identities were stolen and whether all the money in our bank account was at risk to shady Chinese "entrepreneurs". I wasn't in the best of moods, becoming more and more frustrated in the kitchen as my husband was becoming more and more frustrated recounting his tale to different bank representatives.
Anyways, if you like beets you should definitely try this salad, this is the only dish that came out right. I don't know what it is about citrus fruits but they just had something special to a can of plain old beets. I had lime and cilantro in the house so I decided to take a southwestern route in making this beet salad. You could top hearts of romaine with the beet-orange mixture or you can eat it as is, like we did. The most surprising part of this whole debacle is that my kids like beets. The three of us (my husband refused to try it) devoured most of it before the salmon was even done. Below is the recipe:
Beet and Orange Salad with Lime- Cilantro Vinaigrette
1 can of sugar beets, drained
2 clementines, peeled and segmented (or you can use mandarin oranges, about 1/2 a can, drained)
2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped.
In a small serving bowl make vinaigrette with the garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and s&p. Whisk until emulsified.
- Add drain beets and stir into vinaigrette, then add segmented oranges and gently stir til lightly coated with vinaigrette.
- Let stand about 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to incorporate
- Use as a topping to salad greens or eat as is.
Once I was done with the beet salad (literally, it was 2/3rds gone by this point), my oven timer started beeping, alerting me to my salmon being done. I checked the flesh and it was firm and flakey. Still concerned over the freshness of the fish, I decided to taste it before serving it to my kids. It tasted horrible! The fish had definitely moved on to a better place before I even cooked it and I blatantly ignored all the warning signs. I rarely have kitchen mishaps so this was a blow to my ego. I also found myself whining to my husband that I write a food blog that, so far, has been given a great reception from my readers, what was I going to write about now? And what was it going to do to my credibility as someone who seemingly knows her way around the kitchen? All along, I knew I shouldn't have prepared that piece of fish but my stubbornness won out and in the end I lost. My wonderful husband suggested I write about the mishap and that is what I chose to do.
So after relishing in self-pity for a few minutes, I thought back to my childhood and the kitchen mishaps my mom and grandmother experienced. I remember my parents smoking a duck in the backyard that caught fire, nearly burning down their deck. My parents hadn't thought of the amount of sub-cutaneous fat ducks have that could turn it from a delicious poultry dish to a fire bomb in a matter of minutes if left to close to the heat source. Then there was the time my grandmother made turkey soup for Thanksgiving dinner, and her brothers compared it to tea water. And there was another Thanksgiving incident where my mom's homemade gravy turned into a chunky, gelatinous mess instead of liquid-y goodness to pour over turkey and stuffing. It helped me remember that sometimes things just don't go according to plan and it is what it is.
This experience also made me think of Julia Child, the penultimate TV chef. How many times did she have screw ups in her kitchen all while being filmed for viewer consumption? She never got flustered, she just went along with the missteps with dignity and persevered til she got it right. I am sure the glasses of wine she imbibed while cooking helped with her laissez-faire attitude, but no matter what, she never let it get in the way of her message.
So, instead of having a tasty salmon dinner, I submitted to an Arby's Roastburger. The salmon got tossed, the beet orange salad was devoured by me and the kids, and all through this I found my calm and carried on. In the manner of my mother, grandmother and Julia Child I found the resolve to keep doing what I love and whatever bumps that lay in the path, I will surmount. I just promise not to whine (too much) when they occur.
And it goes without saying that I won't be buying fish from the commissary ever again.