Over the winter, I’ve been stuck on things that sustained me. A lot of them were excellent, and I’ve gained inspiration from various media on what I should make to enjoy the food coming out of my kitchen (Il Corvo Pasta, I’m looking at you). Even though I work at a grocery store, I get tired of the heavy things throughout the colden times that I’m forced to make. I love potatoes. I really enjoy pizza, pasta, casseroles, etc. I am from Wisconsin, after all. Still, if I want something that’s fresh and seasonal, that leaves me without the sluggish feeling of a cream sauce or offseason comfort, I’m going to go for fish. Even though I talk about Seasonality, just waiting for the first fruits of spring and summer can be agonizing.

During the colder months, it was pasta with the green leafies like kale and chard, some beans, a bit of parmigiano to make it stick to the ribs. Maybe a lasagna with some squash and a bit of California basil to make it at least feel a little fresh.


Now, with the weather getting warmer, I want to eat something that gives me some energy, and doesn’t leave me wanting to curl up in a ball on my couch underneath a blanket. I’m making the transition to the summer menu, and a large part of that is based on seafood.

In the fridge, I have my pickled vegetables- carrots, ramps, scapes. They are a combination of the last remnants of winter and the first shoots of spring. Last week, I got some baby turnips and beets and incorporated them into a dinner with the first fresh Pacific salmon of the year.

I boiled a few beets until tender, chilled them, and sliced them on a mandolin. With the turnips, I did the same thing, and then let them soak in a combination of soy sauce, a shot of maple syrup, and a small spoonful of chestnut honey. Roots and nuts go well together, but the chestnut honey is so strong that a little goes a long way. Fortunately, it doesn’t really go bad, so I can have it around for a while.

The salmon got a rubdown of some Alder smoked sea salt that has become a staple of our indoor kitchen. I let it sit for a few hours, and as I was ready to sear it, I set up a second pan to saute the turnip greens. Since they were still baby turnips, the greens themselves were not terribly bitter; They were almost light enough to dress in their own salad, but still benefitted from a quick go-round in the pan.

Two minutes in the pan with a turn of the pepper mill, and they were out. Next, into the pan went the turnip slices. Since they were almost fully cooked, I just swished them around a few times in the hot pan, enough to caramelize the syrupy glaze a little bit. As the pan with the salmon was going simultaneously, I finally accomplished in this apartment what I’d done so many times in so many kitchens before.

The smoke alarm went off.

Oh, well. Can’t do too much about that. Those not cooking went over to the alarm and began fanning it with pillows and blankets, hoping in some small way to create the smoke signal that dinner was ready, and with a secondary purpose of ceasing that infernal beep. It’s good to know that were a real fire ever to break out, that thing would definitely wake me up. Sometimes I just like to remind myself.

Anyway, back on the stove, everything was in place. I pulled a couple of pickled scapes out of the brine, and stacked alternating slices of golden beet and tomato in the center. A pinch of smoked paprika and a squirt of rosemary infused oil, and we had our salad.

Next on the plate was the salmon. I took my eyes off it for a second while the great smoke alarm debacle took place, but it seemed to me to work itself out. The final product was something that I have been missing for months. Just a nice piece of fish. That’s all. Good salad. Fresh flavors. Simple prep. Minimal components. Little bit of green. Little flashy color. Manageable portions.

A Passable Success


Last night, I got home from work with a day off ahead of me, once again, I didn’t feel like cooking. I purchased some items to fill the fridge. We had fresh vegetables, some frozen dessert treats, and some refreshing beverages now at our disposal. I also picked up a small, wild caught whole black bass.

I got home and salted it, took a few sprigs of dill, half an orange cut in small pieces, a bit of garlic and onion, and stuffed those right in the cavity. Even though it’s not corn season yet in the Midwest, I shelled a couple ears and roasted the fish whole on the bed of kernels and onions. A simpler and fresher dinner there never was.

The best thing about whole fish is that when you cook on the bone, it retains so much more moisture than a fillet. Many people I’ve talked to over the years show some trepidation about cooking fish, not wanting it to be raw, but not wanting to overcook it. On the bone, the fish stays  flavorful and tender, flaking right off when you need it to. If you put foil down on your baking sheet, or if you have a nonstick pan, the cleanup is a cinch.