D and I had people over Friday night. As of Thursday, I not only had done no cooking, I hadn't even figured out my menu. Now, I'm not one to plan these things all too far in advance -- but 24 hours is not much time to plan, shop, and make food for a dinner party. Not impossible, but not ideal.
When I'm cutting it close to the wire, I tend to keep it as simple as possible. I picked up a bunch of salmon fillets and all the good-looking vegetables that TJs had to offer. Without much time to contemplate interesting recipes and a lingering fear of making the whole house smell like fish, I wrapped each piece of salmon individually in parchment paper and tucked a bit of herb butter inside. The herb butter infuses the salmon while it steams, and the end result is both healthy, flavorful, and much less potent. No fish smell whatsoever in the house as of Saturday morning.
I made a vinaigrette with the herb butter, some capers, and lots of lemon and lime, and served it alongside the fish. In retrospect, I should have just made the vinaigrette first and skipped the herb butter step entirely; that's the recipe I provide below. It's a simple presentation that almost always pleases.
In terms of vegetables, I had a big variety -- eggplant, cauliflower, baby potatoes, grape tomatoes, zucchini -- but not enough of any one to feed 7 people. The solution: I roasted each separately, and then served them together on a big platter and let guests take some of each. Another success: the mix of vegetables gives the plate nice color contrast, and because I roasted them individually, I flavored each vegetable slightly differently to give the final dish even more appeal. Cauliflower got east-Asian treatment with galangal, tumeric, and a pinch of saffron; tomatoes got the sweet tangy complexity of red onions; potatoes were a nod to the season with the last of my summer savory; and zucchini were simple as can be, with just olive oil and salt. Given the slightly frantic menu planning and shopping for this dinner, I certainly can't complain about the end-product.
The only thing to end a meal like this is birthday cake - red velvet cake, in particular, to celebrate the lovely Rebecca's birthday. But that's another post for another time.
Salmon with Herb Butter and Various Roasted Vegetables Serves 8
8 fillets salmon, cleaned and patted dry 3 tbsp. butter, melted 2 tbsp. chopped herbs; I used a mix of mint, parsley, and chives, but any herbs will do 2 tbsp. capers, chopped 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (I used half and half and needed 2 limes and 1 lemon) salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add citrus juice and salt to blender. With motor running, pour in butter in steady stream. Mix until fully blended. Transfer to bowl.
Add herbs and capers; mix to combine. Set aside.
Meanwhile, rinse fillets and pat dry. Rip 8 pieces parchment paper; each should be at least 8x11. Set one salmon fillet on the center of each paper at a diagonal, and drizzle 3 tbsp. vinaigrette over each one. Rub into flesh to help absorb. After washing your hands, wrap paper around each fillet and twist ends as you would a piece of candy in a wrapper, until snug.
Put individually-wrapped fillets on baking sheet in single layer. Bake at 350 for between 15-25 minutes, or until cooked through. My oven runs a bit cold, and my almost 2-inch thick fillets took about 22 minutes. Definitely start checking them at 15 minutes; you're looking for orange flesh that's not translucent but also not tough to the touch. You can always open the one you plan to serve yourself and check for doneness.
Various Roasted Vegetables serves 8
2 heads cauliflower, de-stemmed and trimmed into florets 4 zucchini, sliced on sharp bias 2 lbs. grape tomatoes 1 red onion 2 lbs. baby potatoes
Here's the method: put vegetables in a clear plastic bag with plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever spices you're using. Shake, mush, and toss to get those spices and seasonings spread evenly over the vegetables. Put on a roasting pan in a single layer and roast in a 325-degree oven until done. Details below:
Cauliflower: I used 1 tsp. galangal (a mild, floral, fruity relative of ginger), 2 tsp. tumeric (for color), a pinch of saffron threads, salt, and pepper. Baking time was about 15 minutes, maybe 17.
Tomatoes: I sliced a red onion into 1/2-inch rings and scattered them among the tomatoes. Come to think of it, I also used a sliced garlic clove. Other than that, just salt and pepper. I tossed them once at minute 15 and left them in there for about 30 minutes, at which point the onions had basically melted into deliciousness and the tomatoes were about ready to burst. Perfect.
Zucchini: real simple -- slice on bias, toss with salt, pepper, olive oil, bake 20 minutes turning once halfway through.
Potatoes: I halved them but you don't need to. I coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and summer savory (two sprigs was plenty). I roasted them for about an hour. I like'em tres crunchy.