Right now I’m writing this post listening to my Earth, Wind and Fire station on Pandora and hoping that my hotel room stops smelling a little less smoky before I go to bed. Maybe that means I’ve really broken the room in?
Don’t worry. Nothing actually caught on fire. It’s those darn non-non-stick pans! But I digress. We’ll get back to that in a few.
So this week I had planned on making a bunch of things. Among these were shrimp stuffed avocados, pan-cooked salmon, mozzarella and provolone melts, a blueberry and feta salad, and I think some kind of pasta. Haaaaa. I’m a grownup with a job that involves evening meetings out of town. When am I going to sauté mushrooms for provolone melts? And while shrimp stuffed avocados are quite easy- mash an avocado. Add cooked shrimp. Toss to coat. Season to taste. Put back in avocado skin.- that involves more work than putting something on a plate and sticking in the microwave and then in my mouth.
I still made a few very yummy dishes, though! I made that blueberry, feta, and pecan salad. I also cooked salmon today (which is why my kitchen smells smoky) and threw together a panzanella. Photos will follow.
First, a disclaimer. I shoot with an iPhone in a room with limited lighting. I recently discovered that I get the best pictures on the desk in front of the window. The next best spot would be on the floor in front of the bedroom window. Limited lighting. I don’t have a fancy photo editing program. The most I use is Instagram. I don’t style or edit my food. Why? Because most real people, whose livelihoods do not depend on how their food looks, don’t worry about the placement of the berries on their salad. Or the composition of the plate. Or what paper straws or Mason jars or a ribbon-tied napkin will add to the visual experience of the food.
Most people, who are not entertaining or looking to use their cooking to earn a living, cannot live up to the Pinterest aesthetic because Pinterest exists in a cloud, on a screen. Paper straws and Mason jars and ribbons don’t taste good. You know what tastes good and feeds me? The salad I threw together in less than five minutes, which I didn’t spend 20 minutes styling. shooting, and editing.
The women and men who run dedicated food blogs, who do style and edit their photos, are awesome. It is a lot of work, and they create some really lovely dishes. Their styling and photography makes me want to eat what they make! But there’s one catch: if it doesn’t arrive at the same level of visual aesthetics, I’m still eating it because it will still taste good.
I enjoy Pinterest as much as the next girl. But there’s something to be said for the way that the Internet and the ability to share our food- and what it looks like- maybe be changing the way that we cook and expect to feed ourselves. I’m not going to stop sharing my food. But I’m just saying, I’m not putting an effort into making my blog Pinterest-able, because a) I don’t depend on it, and b) I just want to eat good food and prove that you, the average person and not a professional food blogger, can cook and eat good food too. Without the assistance of Nikon and Lightbox.
Now that I’ve finally written that, you deserve some food.
First up: salad. This salad is simple. Greens, blueberries, feta, and pecans. You can toast the pecans in an oven or on the stove for a few minutes, but it’s not necessary. I enjoyed the salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little bit of sugar.
Yup. You’ll scarf it down. Probably standing directly in front of the television, getting bits of feta and salad greens on the floor (I might need to ask for a vacuum). The official recipe is here.
I didn’t cook anything new the whole rest of the week. I sautéed shrimp and bought another rotisserie chicken, so I was able to have burrito bowls and sandwiches for lunch. On Thursday morning I did boil some pasta because I was out of grains. Lesson learned: it takes water forever to boil in my kitchen. I think it has to do with the chlorine in the water. Anyways. That happened.
On Saturday I went to the farmers market and bought some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and a big, fresh loaf of French bread.
At first I wondered what I would do with such a large loaf of bread. And then I remembered that my extensive experience with bread in Chile meant that I would have no problem whatsoever eating bread with ham and cheese as onces (supper), topped with avocado (pan con palta), maybe smeared with Nutella…the possibilities were endless. But I had the tomatoes. Tomatoes + bread = bruschetta? Maybe. But difficult to eat by yourself. Panzanella? Much better.
Panzanella is bread salad. Yes. Bread. Salad. This is also an easy recipe, adapted from this one but inspired by this one. Step 1: tear up some crusty bread into pieces. Let it sit out overnight in a bowl, until a little stale.
Step 2: mix up the lemon garlic vinaigrette in the first recipe. It’s basically the same lemon garlic stuff I’ve been putting together for shrimp for the past three weeks. Let it sit so the flavors develop.
Step 3: Cut up the tomatoes into chunks and put in a bowl. You can decide how big or small.
Step 4: Rinse and tear up some fresh basil.
Step 5: Add half of the dressing to the bread. Toss to coat. Add the other half to the tomatoes. Yes, in a different bowl. Don’t mix them yet! Toss to coat. Let both bowls sit out for at least fifteen minutes.
Step 6: Add the tomatoes to the bread bowl. Mix. Add basil and fresh mozzarella cheese (optional, but really. Is it optional?). Let sit for at least another fifteen minutes before serving at room temperature.
It’s key that the bread sit out overnight. The harder and more stale it is, the better it will soak up the dressing and tomato juice without getting soggy and falling apart. Soft, garlicky bread. Creamy, salty cheese. Ripe, juicy tomatoes. Sharp basil. Just go make this now.
And then I made salmon. My favorite way to make salmon is in an oven. It cooks it slowly and evenly. But I wanted it, and I wanted to make it myself. I started off with this recipe (which looks amazing, right?) but mostly used tips from my dad, probably the best cook I know.
Tip: fresh fish should smell clean. Maybe a little like saltwater. If it smells strongly fishy, in a way that makes you crinkle your nose, it’s not so good.
Step 1: spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. I like the olive oil kind. Heat the pan on high. If you have a non-stick pan, heat the pan and coat with olive oil.
Step 2: Place skin side up. Sear- cook on high- for three to four minutes.
Step 3: Flip, placing the skin side down. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for another 6-10 minutes, depending on how hot your stove is. How do you know when it’s done? When the fish is opaque, and the thickest part of the fillet flakes easily. It doesn’t take long!
Case in point about the aesthetics/visual food thing: I didn’t upload a picture of the finished salmon. Whoops. Maybe I’ll update the post later. I was clearly too concerned with eating it and making sure it was good.
That’s my food for the week! I have that pasta already cooked. Maybe I’ll whip up some kind of a carbonara with it if I get bored of bread salad, salmon, and the other staples in my fridge.
Comments and suggestions are always welcome! Have a great week, friends!