Improvise with what you’ve got

by Brittany Grace

What I’ve eaten, Sunday January 23:

A large handful of steamed edamame

Goodness Gracious granola, straight out of the package

A bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup, skim milk, and a touch of vanilla extract

2 clementines

A mix of macadamias, almonds, ginger, and cranberries (thank you, Trader Joe’s)

A bowl of chocolate ice cream (waaaay more than the 1/2 cup serving size)

I was thinking about making cumin lentil soup, and maybe some cornbread muffins – then I settled for using the last of the broccolini in the fridge to make a simple pasta dish.

This definitely isn’t the best consumption list, and as a “grazer” who currently lives solo – solo aside from Xander, the snoring, slobbering, humping puppy I adopted last fall – I sometimes have problems making myself sit down to balanced meals. Fortunately, Saturday was not one of those days.

On Saturday, Daniel and I had a quite perfect day of eating. We went to Fritti for lunch after realizing there was a Scoutmob coupon for it – we savored an arugula and shaved parmesan salad, followed by sweet pepper and italian sausage pizza and a robust red wine I’d never heard of. We cleaned our plates. I felt a little like we had taken a vacation, and for a moment, thought about what it must be like to go out to eat like this every day. I decided it would  demean the experience of food for me. Getting my hands dirty, occasionally cutting a finger on a sharp knife, experimenting with random ingredients I find in the fridge…all of these things increase my adoration of food.

That night, I made a “lemongrass” soup with poached salmon for dinner. A gluten free soup, the dish incorporates rice noodles and a base of chicken stock, with just the right amount of citrus juice, ginger and salty fish sauce to give it a depth of character. Upon realizing the grocery store did not have lemongrass (fresh nor paste), I improvised, using no lemongrass at all, but enough fresh lime to balance the saltiness of the soup.

Lemongrass soup, sans lemongrass, with poached salmon

You need:

2 pieces wild salmon

1/2 package rice noodles

6 cups organic, free range chicken stock, or your own chicken stock (I often make my own from a Springer Mountain Farm chicken)

One lime

One piece of ginger

Assorted vegetables: shelled and steamed edamame; raw, juliened carrot; pea shoots and bean sprouts

A few dashes of fish sauce

Salt your salmon and place in fridge while broth is created. Bring the chicken stock to a gentle boil. Peel the ginger and add to stock, along with the juice from one lime and a dash or two of fish sauce (taste the broth, and adjust flavors to your liking). Let stock, ginger, lime and fish sauce simmer about 20 minutes. Taste during simmering; I find that I like to add more lime juice and fish sauce along the way. Remove the piece of ginger after simmering – otherwise that pungent, chewy piece of ginger will wind up in someone’s bowl. After 20 minutes, remove salmon from fridge and add to broth; poach for about 7 minutes, until fish is pale pink. Add rice noodles and allow them to soak up broth for a few minutes. Sprinkle in a few handfuls of steamed edamame.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a generous handful of pea shoots, bean sprouts, and carrot.