Every Sunday, Kaukab had the day off from cooking. Mornings, my father would kidnap us to church, where his father would often lead the liturgical procession, wafting burning incense plumes about the congregation.
It was our duty to show up, even though our family did so with more irregularity than the rest of the clan–a fact brought to our attention each time we visited the grandparents’ house after church. The food at my situ’s (that’s Arabic, for you) was unappealing, both in flavor and appearance. It wasn’t purely Middle Eastern, like Kaukab’s, nor was it American. It was her’s, alone.
Which made Sunday evening dinner all the more tasty. Ham sandwiches, with lettuce and tomato, on white bread. That was it. Nothing fancy. Just a large heap of chipped ham that my father would retrieve from the neighborhood Lawson’s–a forerunner of a 7-11, and any Clevelander would remember fondly. They sold Salem potato chips and the best french onion chip dip.
Well, Lawson’s is long gone, and the idea of chipped ham for dinner didn’t appeal to me the way it did then. Some things are better left in the past, I suppose.
Instead, I made salmon.
It's Not Ham
It had been a long time since I had cooked any and the family was excited to hear that I was to prepare the pretty, pink fish. I like to make a quick Asian-inspired marinade and use a cast iron skillet or grill pan of the same ore. It gives the fish, or anything I sear, a nice brown crust.
I also had a few Yukon Gold potatoes (I feel a geological theme going on) hanging around and decided to cut them up and boil them, to throw in along with some cooked green beans, and dress them with a simple vinegarette of lemon, dijon mustard, olive oil, sea salt, and a little cracked pepper, while still warm. It was a perfect complement to the fish. Usually, I make a nice rice, but I wasn’t feeling especially prolific Sunday night–a point Kaukab will surely take up with me the next time we fashion a visit.
Here are the ingredients I used to make the Asian-inspired marinade. Mind you, I don’t measure, so these “quantities” are circumspect, at best.
Asian-Inspired Marinade for Salmon: Enough for 8 – 10 small fillets
Using a 2C. measuring cup, pour in the following:
1/2C soy sauce (I like to use Kikkoman–original)
1/8 tsp. or slightly less of ginger paste
2T brown sugar
2T grape jelly (I had on hand, but apricot or marmelade would be really tasty, too.)
1/4 slice of lime
a couple light squirts of dijon mustard
light drizzle (1/2tsp.) of hot sesame oil
canola oil, enough to whisk in to even out the soy, about 1/2C to 3/4C.
Pour all into a large plastic bag, preferrably one with a zip-top. Add in a few (4 or 5) while the pan is heating up. (While your first batch are cooking, place the remaining ones in the marinade to ready them for cooking.)
Heat pan on med. high. Do not put any oil in. You’ll have enough from the fish marinade. When hot enough, place 3 or 4 (depending on your pan) and cover pan. Mine were rather thin, so it took a couple minutes before they were ready to flip. (You’ll know when they’re ready to flip when you see the fish sides turning whitish-pink reaching about half-way up.) Once you flip them, turn heat to medium and return cover. Wait another minute or two and check. You want the inside to still have a little pink. Touch the fillet with your finger. You should still feel some give.
Place cooked fillets on plate and cover lightly with foil to keep warm and moist. Serve with your favorite side.
The boys didn’t care for my new twist on an old favorite, but maybe your side will fare better.
I’m thinking about taking the boys to Cleveland. See if that might change their minds about my sides.