Thursday, 28 February 2013

Weeknight Supper

When I got engaged, the first thing my mother gave me was a copy of The Joy of Cooking.  It was never my favourite book and rarely inspired creativity in the kitchen.  While there were a couple of things I learned to look out of there, many recipes just didn't work for me.  Then one fateful day after a tragic experience with a recipe for salmon croquettes, I had enough. I came to the startling realization that just because a recipe gets published doesn't mean that it is actually good.  So, I went out and bought myself a really good cookbook; one that has become my weekly go to for good, easy and healthy food. If you are looking for such a cookbook, I highly recommend that you invest in this one.

The other thing I realized during this time of enlightenment was that the only path to sanity with two small children was to plan my weeknight suppers.  There is nothing worse than getting to four o'clock, when everyone is tired and cranky from the day and all they keep asking is "what's for dinner? That's when you realize that you actually have no idea.  First panic ensues because you know if you don't feed these kids they are going to tear the house or worse, each other apart.  Then comes the anxiety as I would look in the fridge hoping that something would pop out and say cook me! I can tell you right now that never happened.

So with my new book in hand (that would soon be followed by a couple of other essential titles), I began my Sunday mornings sitting with my coffee, flipping through this cookbook creating a menu for the week.  Yes, I really called it that.  I got myself a nice piece of paper and wrote menu at the top with the days of the week following.  Each day was filled with something good to eat and as I wrote the menu, I was also able to write my shopping list.  You know how they always say that you will save more money at the store if you go with a list?  It's true.  Gone are the days where I need to wander the isles hoping that some kind of dinner inspiration will come upon me as I fill my cart with chips that are on sale and other random things that I had no plan for but looked good.  It's such a good feeling to know that everything you need to cook for the week is in the house.  And if one day needs to be swapped with another because you don't actually feel like eating that supper on that particular day, no problem!  Because you have what you need to be flexible without having to go back to the store or even order out, which is expensive and often not that great for you.

So to get you started on the meal plan train, I thought I would post a supper that I often make once a week in some variation of this one.  It is written on my menu as Fish Supper which somehow conjures up feelings of comfort and health.  So here you go, it is easy to make, my kids LOVE it and actually so do I.  If you aren't used to meal planning, I highly recommend it.   You can either do what I do and just cook what you think you want to eat or you can follow a template where Mondays are soup, Tuesdays are a pasta, Wednesday is vegetarian... you get the picture. It will bring some sanity to your day and save you a little money while you are at it.  Until then, if you don't know what to cook tonight, here is a good place to start, cook this supper in order of the recipes.  You can pull the potatoes out of the oven and throw the salmon in. Or if you are crunched for time, put the salmon in close to the end of the cooking time for the potatoes.  While the salmon is cooking get on with your veg.  The broccolini doesn't take long to cook or make, so leave it until the last minute. The potatoes will be screaming hot so letting them rest for a few minutes before you eat will be met with gratitude from little mouths.

Herb Roast Potatoes
Adapted from Dolce Vita by David Rocco

4-5 russet potatoes
few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and sage
Sea Salt
Good Extra Virgin Olive oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds

Cut your potatoes up into large chunks and tumble into a baking dish.  Next add your chopped up herbs and then a good sprinkling of salt.  Remember when I said to save your rinds from your cheese and that you would use it later?  Well, now is your chance! Throw in your rinds that you have saved from your Parmesan block (if you don't have any, no worries, don't let that hold you back from making this dish).  Lastly drizzle your olive oil all over, a few good glugs should do it.  Now, get your hands in there and toss everything all around so it is coated in the herbs and olive oil.  Bake at 425℉ for 45 minutes.
Parmesean rinds

Salmon with Lemon and Dill

2 lb. Wild Sockeye or Coho salmon fillet,  general guideline is 6-8oz per person
Fresh lemon, preferably organic
Fresh dill, but dried is ok too
1 garlic clove
Sea Salt, Maldon if you have it
Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Splash of white wine 

Lay the fillet of salmon on a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and cut a few slices of lemon and lay it on the fish.  Next mince a clove of garlic and put on as much as you feel you would like.  I don't encourage you to go overboard here, I love garlic as much as the next person, but too much will overpower the fish.  Sprinkle your dill, fresh or dried, again, don't go overboard, no one likes piles of soggy herbs all over their fish.  You can add a splash of white wine here if you have it, then drizzle with your olive oil, wrap up the fish in the parchment or in the foil and cook at 425℉ for 20 minutes, assuming that you have a 2 lb piece.  You can test the fish if you want to make sure it is done, the fish should be flaky but not dry, don't over cook the fish!

Broccolini with Parmesean and Lemon
Adapted from Nigelissima by Nigella Lawson

Broccolini is a lovely vegetable that looks similar to broccoli but its stems are much thinner and the florets are more delicate.  This is a very sweet vegetable so even kids who would normally cry at the sight of something green on their plate will likely love it.

1 bunch of broccolini
Juice of one lemon, zest too if you like 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parmigiano Reggiano

Cut your broccolini up into edible pieces, including the stems!  Steam lightly, just until it turns bright green, is fork tender but still a little crunchy.  Transfer to a warm bowl, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.  Now with your vegetable peeler, just slice off some of your Parmesean, the warm vegetables will melt the cheese making a lovely, light yet flavourful veg dish.

There you have it, a good, healthy, easy and relatively inexpensive weeknight supper.  Let me know how you liked it and if you have any of those potatoes left over, they make killer hash browns for breakfast the next morning.

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