Found My Bliss

Forgive a moment’s bragging. I think I’ve found my bliss. To say I have been tense, stressed, and burned out this week is a massive understatement. This morning was looking like the pinnacle of said stress because I have a mountain of stuff today and a teething son whose only activity seems to be to stand at my legs and yell “EEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!” It’s loud, and I’m not getting anything done.

Somehow in the middle of all the chaos today I decided to make us a nice lunch, since dinner will be a light snack of fresh hot bread, cheese and fruit. I found salmon yesterday for $5.00/lb. That alone is bliss enough, right? I haven’t made fresh fish in months and months. So despite the fact that I’ve neither showered nor dressed nor even brushed my teeth yet today, I set out to make us a nice meal and from start to finish it took me 40 minutes. But within those 40 minutes I also mixed up brownie mix for the crust of a cheesecake and stopped for a naptime diaper, story, and song with a fussy boy.

I don’t feel like this is exactly bragging, it’s more that this is my version of an extreme sport. It’s exhilarating, satisfying, and when you’re into it you like to talk about it. And it makes you feel good. As I sat and ate I felt the tension just melting away. Not because I’m addicted to food, but because this, for once, turned out perfect, to my standards of perfection. Well, except the fish could’ve been a little crispier on the outside.

So this is what I made. Go and do likewise, and multiply it if you want to serve more than two. You’ll thank me later.

Boil a cup of basmati rice but go light on the classic 2:1 water:rice ratio. Spill in a bit of olive oil while you’re at it to keep the grains from sticking to each other. And a little salt. (I am addicted to salt with this pregnancy.) Cover it and simmer it, you know the drill. This is really the canvas for the rest of the meal. No big deal.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Also, wash your skillet that’s still dirty from last night’s dinner, and wipe up the contents of the baby’s high chair tray that you knocked onto the freshly-swept floor. On a baking sheet, mix some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and plenty of coarse salt. You don’t want it to be deep enough to swim in, but it should be more than “greased.” Put your salmon fillet in the middle and flip it around to coat it thoroughly with this goodness. Lay it skin side down. Thinly slice a roma tomato, a small onion, and a small lemon (rind on) and cover the rest of the pan, and a bit of the fish, with all the pretty discs/rings. Keep those rings nice and thin when you slice them so they toast up nicely in the short baking time. Get it all good and coated with your oil/vinegar; sprinkle more on if you need to, and top with another shake of salt. Bake it for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile take half a pound of asparagus, chop the bottoms off to make them long enough to just fit in your skillet. And then do this, no shortcuts. This is THE way to make asparagus, and I have decided that this formerly-tolerated vegetable could be my new daily obsession: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/detail.asp?docid=6519&Extcode=L2DN1AA00 It is perfection. (I didn’t add the lemon, and I dished it straight to plates and the parmesan I sprinkled on got on a bit of the rice as well. Mmmm.)

Fluff the rice onto your two plates. Cut the salmon in half down the center. (It should still be plenty moist, but flaking nicely. Ya know, cooked. Put half on each plate, partly on top of the rice. Garnish generously with all that lemony, tomatoe-y, oniony goodness. Divide the asparagus in half and lay it on each plate on the other side of the rice.

The tomatoes, roasted in balsamic vinegar, they taste like candy.

Yes, I ate the lemon rinds.

No dessert necessary.

And now if you’ll excuse me I need to go clean my kitchen AGAIN and bake my rising bread dough, make granola bars, whiny-baby muffins, and Nutella cheesecake, and then clean it all up again, all before the fussy baby wakes up.

I may never have time to take a shower again. But that’s just fine, because I’ve had my fun for the day and I’m satisfied.

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