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Tonight my husband volunteered to cook dinner and I gladly took him up on it! Though I love to be in the kitchen, I knew I would be spending the evening making cupcakes for a family dinner tomorrow, so it was a perfect time to take a night off cooking and get a delicious meal made for me. He was kind enough to put his dinner steps on paper for me, and now I bring those to you!

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I guess I am supposed to write some impressive piece of prose detailing my culinary exploits. If that’s the case, prepare to be disappointed.

Truth be told, I have cooked for as long as I can remember. My mother was an expert in twisting pantry items into workable meals, and she taught me to make the basics early. (She also made me learn to iron my own clothes). Her tips on cooking evolved into a high school job cooking in a department store (and pretty posh) restaurant. Oh yeah, and a few stints at McDonald’s, too.

Learning the basics was great, but the real education came from working alongside other seasoned and trained kitchen staff. I have no idea how at 16 I wound-up in a kitchen cooking meals for Hoosiers. From knife work to temperature control, I quickly learned how to time my presentations. You had to think on your feet, cooking multiple items at once, and have it all hit the plate in a semi-polished and enticing way. It was a cool experience, and I still use those skills every time I cook something. Quite simply, you don’t have to be a professional chef to have fun cooking… you just have to enjoy making a bit of a mess.

I volunteered to cook tonight and I knew right away I wanted to have fish be the protein. My son hates fish, and I have tried to convince him many times he’s missing something special.  Tonight was the night to change his mind. I immediately thought salmon or sea bass, and even chose the best grocery I can find looking for fresh, non-frozen fish.  Four beautiful filets later (and an entire SUV full of grocery bags), and we were on our way back home.

Crusted Salmon with Baby Spinach, Red Peppers, Carrots, and Pasta
4 fresh salmon fillets
Bread crumbs
Freshly grated 3 cheese blend
Bread crumbs
1 shallot
Shoestring carrots
1 red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Baby spinach
1 box whole wheat angel hair pasta
Olive oil


Step one

I finely chopped a shallot and used a few shoestring carrots and let them sweat under low heat. I also julienned a red pepper to add later. Once the carrot/shallot mix was sweating I set a pot for pasta on the stove. A teaspoon of salt and some olive oil in the water, and wait for it to boil.

Step two
Combined freshly shredded Italian cheese blend, fresh bread crumbs, fresh ground pepper, and salt in a food processor. I kept it up until it was powder fine. Wash baby spinach and pat it dry. Lastly, add angel hair whole-wheat pasta to the boiling water.

Step three
Two skillets, large and small, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and medium heat for both. Red peppers into the carrot and shallot mixture. Salmon filets dredged through the cheese-pepper-bread-crumbs mix. Excess cleaned off and the fish is left to rest for a minute.

Step four
About five minutes before the pasta is done, and the olive oil is hot (but not scorched) the fish goes into the skillet. I planned for three minutes per side (I don’t like overcooked fish), and on the turn I threw the spinach in the other pan.

Step five
Pasta out and drained (not rinsed though), immediately back into the pot. It’s then tossed with olive oil and a handful of grated Italian blend cheese.

Step six
Flashed spinach down, salmon cut and placed on top. The shallot, peppers, and carrots blend down in the middle. Lastly the pasta added, and everything was sprinkled with some yummy scallions.

I wouldn’t have changed too much, but I would’ve used an onion instead of the shallot, and the red peppers were too much. They should’ve been omitted. Otherwise I thought the meal was tasty, light, and healthy.

Perhaps the biggest thumbs up came from my son who ate a huge piece of fish and loved it. Total success. He also stayed in the kitchen with me while I cooked and watched the whole process, asking questions along the way.

Cooking and eating and should be family events, passed from one generation to the other. Even now, in our increasingly rare family get-togethers, the conversations center around the dinner table. As we’ve gotten older the meals have become a little less complicated, but no less important. Good food, cooked well, shared with those you care about. My mother gave that gift to my sister and me, and now I give it to my son.

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