19 October, 2008

getting back to normal



















Yes, John's on an airplane, Avery's at the stable, I'm at my desk: life has got back to normal in an unnecessarily decisive way. I've waded through the mound of paper staring me in the face and found all the responsibilities therein completely uncompelling: dental appointment for Avery who has already found endless ways to say, "Don't make me go," thank-you notes I've written but not bothered to send, parent-teacher conference appointment sheets that have not been filled in, reminders to get a flu jab. You can see why I'm in avoidance mode. But it's either deal with all that admin, or get down to the business of writing my next cookbook chapter, and as a result, here I am, blogging. A friend of mine has just begun a new blog because, as he says, it's a way to get oneself writing every day. True, but it's also a massively convenient bolt-hole to save oneself from REAL writing, as in crafting, editing, choosing one's words. But perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. And I DO have a load of laundry going, so the day has not been for naught.

We dropped Avery off this morning on what looked like a rainy day until we were about halfway to the stable, and suddenly it was all blue sky so we put the top down on the Mini and felt cheerful. Sadly she arrived too late for the first ride but JUST in time for the first scraping up of horse detritus in the Square. Poor child. At least she has really good chorizo in her lunchbox, which makes up for a lot.

What could be more normal than a good dish of bolognese? That's on the menu for tonight and I'll tell you why I did not make it last night even though Avery begged. I was in the mood for seafood, something light and really fast and easy. I can't call it a recipe, exactly, but perhaps the description will inspire you to save the red meat for another night.

Fox Point Seafood
(serves three with leftovers for lunch)


2 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch sea salt
couple grinds black pepper
1/2 cup good readymade mayonnaise, or your own fresh
12 raw king prawns
12 raw scallops (roe off for me)
2 wild Alaskan salmon fillets
several shakes Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning
juice of 1/2 lime
sprinkle olive oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Now, something really interesting, chemically speaking, happens when you mince garlic together with lemon juice and sea salt. I think it must break down some essential building blocks of solid matter (oh dear, I think my art history PhD is showing), well, whatever it is I mean, the garlic is pulverized by the acid and salt in a very satisfying way. And the results are quite different to simply mincing the garlic and mixing it with the lemon and salt. Trust me on this point. I once made a mind-bendingly pungent vinaigrette for cole slaw that involved peeling and sectioning a lemon (nice obsessive compulsive job that was) and chopping the sections with salt and garlic. I loved it, but I have a memory of some of my guests crying. So this modified garlic rapture may be just the ticket for the faint of heart who nevertheless want some kick to their aioli.

Mix the minced garlic, lemon and salt mixture into the mayo and set aside.

Place all the seafood on a platter and sprinkle it all with Fox Point Seasoning. This miracle condiment is a classic example of a whole being more than the sum of its parts. Why should dried shallots, chives and scallions be such a perfect thing to accompany seafood, chicken, scrambled eggs and dare I suggest it, buttered popcorn? But it is. Magical. Drizzle the lime juice and olive oil over all the seafood.

In a very large skillet, heat the vegetable oil till nearly smoking and place the salmon fillets in skin side down. Resist the temptation to play with them: don't poke at them, peek underneath as they cook, just sit for about 4 minutes. Now you may turn them. One hopes the skin will have cooked very nicely so that you can either enjoy it, or peel it off (I don't do salmon skin). Cook on the flesh side for just another minute and remove the salmon to a warm plate. Turn back to the skillet and see if you need more oil, if so add it, but judiciously, as you want this to be a nice light dish. Place the scallops as quickly as you can in the hot oil on one side of the skillet and throw the prawns in at the other side. Toss the prawns with tongs and after about 2 minutes, turn the scallops over. Now remove from skillet and arrange nicely on the salmon plate. Serve with the aioli.

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Avery's back from the stable, weary, cold and filthy, but in her usual euphoria after several canters. "You just wouldn't believe how gorgeous The Mile was, today, with all the fallen colored leaves underfoot, Mummy," she sighed, "but Hobbs freaks out if a leaf falls on his nose. He has very sensitive skin." To think until that moment, I hadn't known it. She is becoming quite the writer herself these days, I think inspired by my tiresomely constant chatter about my week in Devon. Yesterday, as she was adding to a story she's been working on all week, we had the following exchange, which for some reason filled me with joy.

"Mummy, you can't really say that stone steps are 'rickety,' can you?"
"No, but you can say they are 'well-worn.'"
"Oh, thank you so much."

I'm off to produce spaghetti bolognese with plenty of white wine and whole milk and just a hint of nutmeg, plus wilted pea sprouts and fresh applesauce. It's autumn.

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