Through this long, white-and-grey winter, I discovered the many flavours of green.
The ghostly blue x-ray image of my broken wrist flickered on the computer screen with every weekly visit to the hospital. It scared me. It made me turn to what I know: food, and its elemental connection to the body, and to healing.
Spinach salad with sliced mushrooms, slivered almonds and vinaigrette. Quiche (eggs have Vitamin D, also good for bones) with broccoli rabe and two kinds of cheese. Swiss chard (a great source of calcium) with caramelized onions, garlic and raisins, seared salmon (for the Omega-3 oils) atop. A salad of alfalfa sprouts (for the Vitamin K, which aids calcium absorption) and watercress, avocado, cherry tomatoes, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and a raspberry vinaigrette.
The snow has almost melted away. I haven’t had an x-ray in awhile. I’m cooking with two hands now, even if it makes my wrist ache at the end of the day.
I’m cooking differently, now that leafy greens, good fish, beans, are essential ingredients of my life. Somehow, those robust foods demand strong flavours.
Last week, I and the new person in my life cooked dinner together – fennel crusted salmon on arugula with blood orange sauce – recipe below. It was a big deal but then, on the other hand, it wasn’t. We took it slow; we had gin and tonics first, and hung out. I met her son, who shares her gentle, wry demeanour. His best friend came over, wielding, for some reason, a scary bottle of pink champagne and some ribald stories about her toddler-aged kids. New Person had to go out again to get fennel seeds, so it was me and her son and the son’s friend, trying not to stare as I charred a pepper on an open flame of their gas stove. How do you enter someone’s complicated web of relations for the first time? They kept chatting with me, good-naturedly, awkwardly. I just kept turning that pepper over, like getting it perfectly blackened was the most important thing in the world.
“The kids”, as she calls them (they’re in their twenties), went out and we kept cooking. She ground the spices, I made the sauce. kd lang’s new album on the stereo, and the pale buttery light of an April dusk outside. Her x-ray eyes, seeing through my jokey, protective layer, being with me there.
A mix of old and new flavours. Green, of course, and subtle layers of sweet, piquant, the sharpness of spices. The ritual of food, and the bodies it connects together.
What would an x-ray of that moment look like? Fractures you can barely see, they heal, they hurt, they leave shadows, and the shadows are beautiful, in their own way.
Fennel Crusted Salmon with Arugula and Blood Orange & Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
1 tbsp. crushed fennel seed
1/2 tsp. crushed white peppercorns (we used black, no biggie)
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
2 wild or organic salmon filets, each about 2 inches thick
2 cups arugula
1 red bell pepper
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
1 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Mix together fennel, peppercorns & salt. Rub the salmon with olive oil and coat with the spice mixture. In ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat a thin layer of olive oil. Add the salmon, skin side up; fry 4 to 5 mins. Turn salmon over and finish in oven 3-5 mins or until cooked.
To make vinaigrette, roast the red pepper, remove blackened skin, pull out stem and seeds and rinse. Finely chop.
Place peppers, shallot, juice, fennel seed and vinegar in mixing bowl or food processor. Slowly add oil, using hand blender or food processor to combine until emulsified.
To serve, place a mound of arugula on each plate, top with salmon, and drizzle with vinaigrette.