Broiled Crispy-Skin Salmon with Gingery Greens

 I have had these lines from the Robert Hass masterpiece poem "Meditation at Lagunitas" running through my head this week:  "All the new thinking is about loss./  In this, it resembles all the old thinking."

This has been a week where much of the new thinking has indeed been about loss.  The loss of an idea, the loss of a former student, and my father being ill.  

I have been cooking.  

Because cooking is not about loss.  

Why do we cook?  We cook because it is about creation and nourishment.  It is about sustenance and connection and distraction.  It is something to do with the hands, even if the mind is on something else.

I have made salmon this week.  

Salmon, the fish that at one point my father tried to convince me that a bird had taken from his grill one frozen December evening.  

Salmon, the fish that I was convinced I didn't like until the husband's parents slowly won me over to its many merits while we sat around their dining table, the lights invariably low, and the husband's feet curled under him as he perched on the chair.

Salmon, the fish that when smoked and placed atop a bagel makes a divine brunch with the husband while at Absinthe in the city on a Sunday.

Salmon certainly has been about creating memorable snippets of meals.  Not full blown memories that require polishing to update, but just a little snippet of a meal here and another there.  So I turned to Mark Bittman this week to bring in a classic, comfort foody salmon that brings us nowhere near to loss.

First you make these wonderful greens.  The recipe says originally that it will serve four with a 2-pound salmon.  However, the greens serve at best two, but I would have been happy to eat the greens all myself.

The greens call for garlic and ginger and a lot more oil than needed, so I cut that back down a little too.  Bittman tells us that we can substitute collards for kale, so I did, and sweet be-jeezus, someone tell me why I don't cook with collards more often?

 Seriously, have a gander at that skin.  The skin in the best part of this recipe, and the real trouble you will have is whether to eat the skin first while it is almost still sizzling with fish fat or to eat it last so it's the very last flavor on your tongue.  I admit, I did a little bit of both.

And in the end, the dinner:  one that really has no big fanfare, no celebratory or notable appearance.  Just a simple, tasty salmon on greens for a weeknight meal. But it was creation, it was a moment to not be thinking about loss, even if all the old thinking is about it.  And so might the new thinking.  But not while making this salmon.

One Year Ago: Gajar Aur Matar Ka Pulav (Vegetable Pilaf made with Carrots and Peas)

Broiled Crispy-Skin Salmon with Gingery Greens
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

2 servings

One 3/4- or 1-pound salmon fillet, skin on (but scaled)
1 pound kale, collards, or other greens
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil


1. Heat the broiler until moderately hot and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Rinse the fish well and let it rest between paper towels, refrigerated, while you prepare the greens.

2. Wash the greens in several changes of water and remove any pieces of stem thicker than 1/4 inch in diameter. Steam or boil them in a medium saucepan, covered, over or in 1 inch of water until good and soft, 10 minutes or more depending on the green (older collards will require 30 minutes). Drain them, rinse in cool water, squeeze dry, and chop.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute; do not brown. Add the greens and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes; add the ginger and cook for another minute, then add the soy sauce and sesame oil and turn off the heat. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.

4. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the salmon in a crosshatch pattern. Oil the fish well with the remaining olive oil. Put the fish under the broiler, skin side up. Cook undisturbed until done, 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Remove the fish carefully with a large spatula (or two) and put it on top of the greens. Serve immediately, making sure everyone gets a piece of skin.


By Popular Demand

Cookbook #4: Cheese Board: Collective Works

Butternut Squash Crumble

Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Marmalade Cake

Ottolenghi's Lemon and Eggplant Risotto

Whole Roasted Celery Root from NOPI