Wild Salmon and Short Stories
There was Marioche band on the train. Just two men with cowboy hats and their boots curled at the toes. They played a song about saying goodbye to Colorado. I recognized the word "Adios" and the place name. I wondered if what I heard as "Colorado" was a word I didn't know, perhaps for valley or canyon, a little town with a folk song it wore like a name tag. Did they miss someone or somewhere? I slid a dollar into a upside down cowboy hat as it passed, which meant I did not have a dollar for the old man signing, "You are my sunshine" who entered the stage a few minutes later. He sang it as a blues and proclaimed, "just because I'm old, don't mean I can't play guitar". Benevolent strangeness brings a measure of comfort. On the F train this morning there was all manner of minstrels from different lands, and in this way New York is like Macondo in Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude- full of ghosts and gypsies and monumental figures, and small ones never to be seen by anyone it seems. And if it is not a dream like an empty table where people once sat and took their meal, then it is a vision of a banquet with a music far off and lovely. You are left in the kitchen with all the sweet remains of things.
Across from me a Hasid read from a thin book. The title: "Improve Yourself: the Power of the Subconscious Mind". He held the book atop his belly and his side-locks pronounced the turns of the train and his rapid progress through the pages. A women leaned over him to look at a train map and ventured a hesitant question. An old woman nearby entered into the debate about how to direct her. The lost woman like me many times, was on the right train going the wrong way. "You will have to go out. But not around! If you do you will have to pay again", chorused the odd committee. The woman left the train, and as the doors closed the old woman observed to the Hasid that she had walked the wrong way. "She will find it", he replied. It was a reasonable enough thought, she would most likely ask another person or see a sign and find her way. We give directions the best we can from different tracks. She will find it.
But the tone in which he declared this was full of the repetitions of faith that make our everyday language both wise and ominous. It was to him as natural and as miraculous as the very wonder that we are sustained from one day to the next, and that there is a Sustainer from one dawn to a dusk. How is finding the right train like knowing God in your inner- inside? I recalled a line that has been running through my head very much of late, and my paraphrase is paltry. "I did not bring you out into the wilderness to put you to death, but to provide a home for you", God assures the people of Israel. This is indeed a wilderness, one in which it is quite necessary to re-confirm with Her and oneself the nature of one's venturing. Yes to life? Yes, this way? This cave and this sand for my bed, and the mixing of a million tongues falling soft over one another like folded laundry? And yes God, this is not Egypt but a patchwork Eden? Everyday is a simple enough task if taken at its own measure. Do not require more from the day than it can bear, in fact let it bear upon you. The pressure will squeeze your heart into a wider channel. My bigger dreams are boats there, I am trying to dock alongside.
Yesterday I blanched green beans and cleaned mushrooms great in number. When I was done, and still today, mushroom dirt is making half moons on my fingernails. I thought of how Opie always had grease and fuel, or whatever else was in a car or a boat, under the nails of his hands. I liked that thought that we were sharing a similar work. And last week I had a dream and you were in it. It was so real that when I woke up I felt like you had most definitely been there. I mean, it was as if you had just taken your leave. I was strongly overcome by your presence and then also, your absence. Like the Hasidic man's faith in God and his interest in the psychological mystery of our minds, our walking awake or asleep is always buoyed by longing.
Salmon is a story fish. It invites a long tale and lingering guests. In the creation stories of two continents (perhaps more!), the salmon contains vast wisdom and represents sacred and sustainable relationships between human tribes, water spirits, and fish. Salmon has been one of my favorite foods for as long as I can remember. Its fat is the fat of feasts, giving succor and strengthening in an immense offering of life. It is hardly surprising that this fish has been imbued with especial power, it has meant the very survival of fishing peoples. Cooking salmon is my specialty and it comes with one essential side dish; a story. The salmon reminded me of my short story on desire, in part because the salmon is sorrowfully over-fished. While our hunger helps us to navigate the world, it also allows us to understand how we can balance our hunger with another's need. Cooking and eating can provide the space to imagine new ways of finding nourishment. It seems like we are people who are concerned with the story of our food, not only do we want it be safe and just, we want it to be meaningful. How are the true stories around our food going to change the way we eat? A generous hunk of wild caught fish is a privilege indeed, the occasion calls for a good story. And a good story can change the very world.
Red Pepper Roasted Salmon and Tahini Broccolini
For the Muhammara:
2 medium to large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or torn fresh bread
2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter ( I used crunchy style)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
Simple Salmon Recipe:
1 pound wild caught Salmon
1/4 cup Sir Kensington's Chipotle Mayonnaise ( plain Mayo works wonderfully too)
salt to taste
fresh chopped herbs
squeeze of 1 lemon
1 healthy bunch of broccolini
1/2 lemon and 1 tsp zest
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon maple syrup
The best garlic bread as an accompaniment! Find it at this snazzy spot.
1. To make the Muhammara, which will be your sauce for serving the salmon on top of, place the red pepper slices on a roasting pan with a good dose (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil and a liberal sprinkling of salt. Roast at 375 degrees until tender and a little charred around the edges.
While the peppers are roasting you can wash the little broccoli babes and remove some of the leaves, they can be bitter when roasted. Save for a salad if you can dig it.
2. When the peppers are finished, add them to a food processor with the bread, garlic, tahini, peanut butter, maple syrup, Greek yogurt, 1/2 tsp cayenne and salt. Blend together while drizzling in a teaspoon or two of olive oil. The mixture is traditionally a little chunky and I love it that way. Taste test and add salt if needed.
3. Roughly chop the broccolini and toss with lemon zest. Place on the same roasting pan you used for the peppers, add a little more olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Roast at 375 degrees until tender and crunchy. When finished place in a serving bowl and give the veggies a squeeze of lemon. Mix together the tahini, maple syrup, and a dash of water. Toss the veggies in the tahini sauce.
4. Finally the salmon! Take out your fish while the broccolini is doing its business. Salt the fish and coat with a good squeeze of lemon juice. Brush or spoon the fish all over with the mayo mixture. Add fresh chopped parsley or chives if you have them. When the oven is free, roast the fish at 375 degrees until flaky, very warm to the touch but only a smidgen past raw.
5. Make a little muhammara couch for your salmon on the plate, adorn with broccolini, and serve with hot garlic bread. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Much love and big news to come!