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I agree with Caroline, as I suppose, do lots of you. Summer is a time to say yes a little more often. For instance, the other night, even though there was a great spread of salamis, pasta, bread, at our local concert in the park, I said “yes” to ice cream for dinner.
My contribution to dinner in the mountains was a twist on one of our family favorites: grilled salmon tacos. It was inspired by bags of fresh chips and fresh corn tortillas that were in the cabin, a pile of limes, and a bag of shredded cabbage. We had sour cream, and plenty of mayonnaise and cumin for the baja sauce.
We never use salmon for tacos, but I made the drive to Overland Meat Company and bought the fish most recently brought in, which that day proved to be some beautiful looking salmon tail. If you’re ever on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, this is the place to go for beautiful, freshly butchered meant and impeccable fish. Normally I would have balked at using it in tacos, but I had eaten some recently that were surprisingly good. I bought 2 lbs, and we had a simple, delicious dinner. They were, in fact, some of the best fish tacos I’ve made, but I attribute that to the quality of the wild salmon and not so much anything fancy I did with it. Here is the recipe that served 5 adults and 4 children, with no leftovers:
Grilled Salmon Tacos
serves 7-8 adults or 5 adults + children
- 2 lbs wild salmon filets
- 2 lemons
- 2 limes
- white wine
- olive oil
- Marinate the salmon in a ziplock bag with the juice of 1 1/2-2 lemons, 2 limes, a splash (about 1/4 cup) wine, a good sprinkling of salt, about 2 T cumin, and olive oil to cover the fish. 30 minutes will do, but you can leave it longer for more flavor. I generally marinate from after lunch to dinner.
- Grill salmon, skin side down, over medium high heat until cooked through.
- Let cook slightly, peel strips of salmon off the skin, cut into chunks if you prefer, and serve with:
- warm corn or flour tortillas (your preference)
- shredded green cabbage
- red salsa
- cream sauce (equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream, lime and cumin to taste)
- refried black beans
- shredded cheese
- cherry tomato salad dressed with salt, olive oil & lime
The pace of life has not abated here, and like a lot of you, I’m still not finding a whole lot of time to cook a leisurely dinner. I’ve had to innovate a lot in order to have some variety. It helps that the markets are full of lots of fresh produce, which needs very little to adorn it or get it ready for the table.
Recently, I needed something fast to cook in between soccer practice and the school performance, and while I love pre-cooked sausages, the kids love mini pre-cooked sausages even more. I built the meal around these, which were ready in the convection oven in 10 minutes.
I put out a tray of mustards, mini rolls, mini carrots, cherry tomatoes, & shelling peas.
Dessert was a no-brainer.
I tried this recipe because in the middle of cooking a run-of-the-mill dinner for my kids last week, I got a text from a friend with a cooking question. I responded & asked what she was cooking. She told me she was trying to cook like Giada. I responded I wanted to look like Giada. That is not going to happen.
But the chicken did happen, in both our homes, and with good results. These are basically a version of chicken “nuggets” rolled in mixture of polenta and rosemary and sprinkled with lemon rosemary salt. They’re nicely crispy, great at room temperature, and appealing to kids without being too familiar. It’s a fast, good weeknight chicken recipe. Next time, I might experiment with baking these, since frying can be messy & I hate the clean up.
The kids liked it, the book club liked it, and we even liked it leftover as a little side dish of protein for a composed salad (with Boston lettuce, cilantro, cucumber with olive oil and white balsamic)
It was a busy week and I forgot to take a picture, but you can trust me that it’s an appealing looking dish. For the visual, today, in honor of Giada, here’s the closest thing I have a to a glamour shot, taken by the amazing Lisa Johnson, Rock Photographer, in case, you know, one of those glossy magazines comes calling.
But seriously folks, try the chicken. And be sure to make extra salt: it’s great on salads. Or popcorn.
Crispy Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
1 (6-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 cup kosher salt
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fine cornmeal or instant polenta
For the salt: Heat 1/4-inch of oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat (the oil is hot enough when a pinch of cornmeal sizzles when added to the pan). Add the rosemary sprig and fry for 30 seconds until crisp. Using tongs, remove the rosemary sprig and drain on paper towels. Remove the leaves and finely chop to yield 1 tablespoon. Place the rosemary, salt and lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until combined. Set aside.
For the chicken: In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Add the cornmeal and toss until the chicken is coated. Add 1/2 of the chicken to the same skillet used to cook the rosemary and fry for 2 to 3 minutes each side until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Sprinkle with the rosemary-lemon salt and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 to 7 minutes