10 March, 2007

my favorite kind of day, and I didn't get lost!












Well, first can I just say what a difference a decent night's sleep makes! No bad dreams, two cosy little girls asleep down the hall, and sleeping in until 9. Now John will be cruel to me and tell you that I actually prefer to sleep until 11, but truly, 9 is quite enough. But I did wake up in a panic at 7, thinking I'd overslept and Avery would be late to school. But this did not stop me from going right back to sleep.

Becky and I had a luxuriously long lunch yesterday at a place in Marylebone called Caffe Caldesi, a downscale-ish brother to the fancier resturant down the road (and with a cooking school that would be fun to try). I'm not sure it was terribly noteworthy, but I did have a very fresh plate of bresaola with excellently spicy rocket and good parmesan cheese, Becky reported her linguini al ragu was competent, but the sauteed spinach was inedible. Parts burned black, all of it rather tepid, not enough butter or oil, and it needed salt badly. I guess I do wonder a bit when a restaurant cannot produce a dish that is virtually foolproof (throw spinach in a skillet over low heat with some butter, garlic and a little water, cover it and come back in two minutes. Hmmm). But mostly it was wonderful just to chat, to compare notes on parent-teacher conferences and to hear that, while she was at a bible study meeting that morning, and had mentioned to the other ladies that her children go to our school a mother swung around and said, "I know a little girl called Avery who goes there, with a mother called Kristen." And of course it was Simone, my friend from Ross Nye Stable, with whom I have had many a heartwarming, sociable chat over the paddock fence. No sense even repeating the "small world" bromide. It's a good thing I don't have anything to hide! Mostly, though, it was good to have Becky back with all her wry humor and appreciation for all our children, such a nice thing to share with her.

It was a busy sleepover last night, what with practicing the violin, trying to record a CD for their beloved violin teacher, making brownies, and going through the gorgeous stamp albums my dad gave Avery for Christmas. She has infected Anna with her fervor for all things philatological and gave her some duplicate stamps to start her own collection, plus they invaded my complex dinner preparations (the requested bolognese sauce) in order to soak stamps off several envelopes Avery had been saving. Nothing like a hobby project involving bowls of hot water to make chopping endless garlic and carrots that much simpler. They they had fun watching "Bringing Up Baby" which Avery adores but is second only to hot needles in my eyeballs as far as suffering goes in my book. Finally, however, it was bedtime, and I said, "Don't forget to brush your teeth, girls," and they shrieked and said, "We've got to brush the teeth!" "THE teeth?" I queried, thinking it was an odd turn of phrase. "Yes, the teeth we lost this week! We must put them under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy!"

Now, it has been several years since Avery believed in the Tooth Fairy, but Anna's enthusiasm was hard to resist. So they wrote long notes to the Tooth Fairy explaining that since they were an incisor and a molar respectively, they thought special attention was merited. Lord have mercy. I'm happy to report that the Fairy forgave Avery for her skepticism and rewarded both girls suitably, with a couple of pounds and a little tin horse for each of them, how clever of her.

Well, today I really must pat myself on the back for getting the girls filled with pancakes, bacon and pears and achieving Coco's house in Shepherd's Bush without even a wrong turn! "Praise me, girls!" I begged, and Avery made a very important philosophical point in saying, "But Mummy, if you keep not getting lost, very soon we will stop praising you for it. It will just be expected." Now that's food for thought. Why does the world do that to us? If we usually screw up, we get praised when we don't. But if we stop screwing up and people get competence from us, very soon competence is ignored and the bar is raised to excellence, which gets praised briefly until that too becomes commonplace. Then one is left like a gerbil on a treadmill, providing excellence and getting nothing but a bed of sawdust and a water bottle with a ball bearing in it for one's pains. I must think that through and find another way.

In any case, I did pat myself on the back, and proceeded to get only slightly lost from Shepherd's Bush to the Cromwell Road where I did a mammoth Tesco shop (I know, I know, don't scold me: I'm under pressure here). Now I'm spending my favorite sort of day: cooking something elaborate for a dinner party this evening. I'm going to repeat the recipe here so you don't have to be clicking on hot links if you just can't wait another minute to make this salmon.

Vincent's Salmon with Cream & Vegetables

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Very Easy
Occasion: Dinner Party or Sunday Lunch

Approx 1 Kilo of Salmon Fillet in one piece if possible - (Enough to
feed 4 generously or 6 if you're having a starter)
3 Medium to large carrots
1 Large fennel bulb
1 Medium Onion
1 Large Red Pepper
2 Large Celery Stalks
200g Green Vegetables (Green Beans, Asparagus etc.)
3 Tbsp Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp Chopped Dill
1 1/2 Tbsp Chopped Chervil (Not absolutely necessary)
Grated Rind of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1 Lemon
400 ml Creme Fraiche
150 ml White Wine (Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignion Blanc)

Preheat your oven to 200C (Medium hot oven). Put the vegetables through a food processor with a shredding/julienne blade. Transfer the grated vegetables to a mixing bowl. Add the grated lemon rind. In a separate mixing bowl, add the Creme Fraiche, lemon juice, white wine, chopped herbs and mix well. Season this with generous amounts of pepper and some salt. Pour the liquid mixture over the vegetables and mix thoroughly. When you're done, you should have a very wet mix of vegetables sitting in but not covered by liquid.

Partially strain and arrange 3/4 of the vegetable mixture evenly on the bottom of a large and flat backing pan/tray. Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on the vegetables. Season the salmon. Strain and place the remainder of the vegetables on the fish. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of liquid left in the bottom of your mixing bowl. Pour that over the salmon.

Bake the salmon for 25-30 minutes, checking half-way and basting the fish with some of the cooking liquid. When the time is up, check that the fish is cooked. It should be a bit "pink" in the middle.

Serve over white rice or boiled new potatoes and with some steamed green vegetables.

Chef's Tip: If the Salmon and vegetables render too much liquid during cooking, and the sauce looks watery/runny, then when you are done cooking, remove the fish from the pan along with most of the vegetable mixture. Take the remaining vegetables and all of the liquid and place in a pan. Add 2 Tbsp of creme fraiche, and reduce on a medium/high heat (stir regularly). When the sauce has achieve a pleasing consistency, add some of the fresh herbs if you have any left for color and pour over the fish and vegetables.

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I must say I would rather have John's mom here sharing the prep work and chatting, or my mother filling me in on family news. But one can't have everything, where would one put it? I will be attempting Vincent's fabulous salmon, and I will report to you on its real level of "easiness," as compared with Vincent's claim of "easiness." I wish he were coming too, but I don't think I could take the pressure of repeating his own dish for him to eat! Some evening soon I'll run down to the cellar and bring up a fatted calf to roast. That should impress.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Hurray for staying on track as it were. :o)

What a delightful photo of the girls!!

You're missing a periwinkle sky in NY today...hopefully yours is as pretty.