My dear friend Madeline is a tremendous writer. Tremendous. She truly is one of the greats, and while the world perhaps hasn’t realized it yet, they will, and sooner rather than later I suspect. Mark my words.
(Madeline, when you became oh-so-rich and oh-so-famous you remember who gave you your first food blog shout out. That’s right.)
She lives in Brooklyn now (because where else do tremendous writers live) and is a total night owl which is dreamy for me when driving home from the barn because it means she’s one of the few East Coasters who will answer my calls. One night a few months ago we were talking and she indicated the slightest possibility that she might be able to come for a visit. Being the unrelenting honey badger that I am I immediately began a harassing campaign of emails, text messages, and phone calls to convince her that she must come visit. And it worked!
Madeline arrived with her infectious laugh and unbelievable stories (except they are totally true) for this past President’s weekend. What immediately commenced was four days of hooting and howling, dirty childish jokes, long walks on the beach, great meals, and the contagious dreaming of “what if”. We sat by the fire at my Aunt Jean and Uncle Ryan’s beach house in Cape Meares, warming our feet by the fire, snuggling with a very happy Duke, and imagining “what if” we became famous writers and food bloggers….what if we traveled the world together…what if that good fortune that seems to strike others, struck us.
Duke never tires of chasing the ChuckIt
And so over lots of bubbly, and buoyed by each other, we made big plans.
In talking about Shut Up & Cook, Madeline was an unfailing supporter. On and on she went with things about my writing she’d liked, recipes she was “obsessed with” (Madeline tends to fall massively in and out of love with certain food types), and ways to build up traffic. At one moment she blurted out, “I know why I like reading your blog….you’re real. You’re not a chef. You’re not professionally trained. You’re not perfect. You’re the every woman. You’re the Attainable Gourmet.”
Oh So Happy Puppy Paw Prints in the Sand
This Salmon Nicoise is almost too good to be true, very healthy, beautiful to present, and pretty easy to make. It’s an Ina Garten staple and I wouldn’t change too much because it’s just so yum. Perfect served on a winter’s night, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and the dreams grow in our heads and hearts.
Roasted Salmon Nicoise Platter
Adapted from Ina Garten with just a few tweaks
4 lemons, zested and juiced (lemon juice from a bottle is just fine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 pounds skin-on fresh salmon fillets
3 pounds small red bliss potatoes
1 1/2 pounds haricots verts, stems removed
3 pounds ripe cherry tomatoes
12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
1 bunch arugula
1/2 pound large green olives, pitted
1/2 pound artichoke hearts, quartered
1 can anchovies, optional
Vinaigrette: (I’ve doubled hers in below because it’s so good and I didn’t think it made enough)
1/2 cup champagne vinegar (red wine vinegar was fine)
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good olive oil
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
For the marinade, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, mustard, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 tablespoon pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the salmon on a sheet pan that has been covered in aluminum foil, and drizzle the marinade over the salmon. Allow the salmon to sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in thick slices and set aside.
Place the salmon in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it is almost cooked through. Remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and break into large pieces.
Blanch the haricots verts in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Drain again and set aside.
For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Set aside.
Arrange the salmon, potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes, eggs, watercress, olives and anchovies, if used, on a large flat platter. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.