grilled asian salmon on mixed greens : a beginner’s meal

3 May

When Sean and I were newly married, I affectionately referred to it as the “young and stupid” time of our life together.  Nearing mid-thirties now, I think we are still a titch stupid, but at least we got rid of Sean’s Vespa. We lived in the Avenues in Salt Lake City right after our wedding. Sean drove a Vespa, named Francesca. Impractical now, with our two kids and living in a city that has no respect for the term “yield,” it was perfect for him and his .6 mile commute to LDS Hospital for work. We each had 9-5, M-F jobs that required absolutely no work-to-catch-up-on work on evenings, or weekends. I look back at that time and ask myself and Sean, “What in the hell did we do on weekends?” I’m sure most parents do this. If I remember correctly, Sean would spend most weekend mornings at the library, studying his balls off for the MCAT in order to get into medical school. I probably would run with my dad up City Creek, shop with my mom, or futz around at home figuring out what to do with 18 cordial glasses and 6 glass vases we received that we’d never use – and still haven’t 8 years later.

In this time of newlywed bliss, I do remember taking advantage of my mom’s cooking classes once or twice. Even though I’d been exposed to my mother’s instruction in the kitchen my entire life, I never valued what she had to teach me until it came time to prepare meals nightly, in our apartment behind the Cathedral of the Madeleine, listening to our whore of a neighbor below us get her freak on with many men, one of whom we discovered was our MARRIED landlord. Ahhhh, the sweet life of apartment living. Who knew Melrose Place could be an accurate example of art imitating life? I also got into a verbal altercation with this woman, my first ever.

My mom started teaching from her home in 1987. In my youth and adolescence, I found it a burden that strange people would come into MY kitchen, MY home, while I was trying to do MY homework upstairs. THEY would stay until 10pm, laughing and imbibing on a weekend night. What about MY dinner? Am I allowed to come downstairs? What if I need water? Who do these people think they are Ugh, mother. You’re ruining my routine!

Growing up, I never appreciated her students, both men and women, who were taking cooking classes from my mom not only for the educational aspect, but also for the promise of socialization – a brief, but definite escape from the routine of a weekday night. From those damn kids, undoubtedly.

While weekday cooking classes disrupted my very important to a 10 year old routine, I see now they were (and are) the most perfect way to get out of a monotonous week.  Twenty-five years later, every quarter with the release of her new cooking class schedule, my mom has her loyal-return students and a new mix of students as well. I’ve asked my mom if she feels perhaps she’s not entirely done her students justice if they continuously return for more instruction. My mom, laughingly informed me that those who are “the regulars” – signing up for 6 or more classes at a time – come for the night-out. At this point, they are probably master hostesses and have culinary skills most would envy. Sure, they appreciate the meal prepared for them before their eyes, the instruction, and chestnuts of knowledge they can take home with them, but they come for the release of everyday bullshit.

Not only do I wish I had appreciated what my mom does for her students more as a child and teenager, but I wish I had taken more classes from my mom in my young and stupid stage. When you’re newly married, you want to spend every single waking moment with your spouse. You forget about taking time to educate yourself, even if you’ve yet to realize you’re passionate about it. Now I know that’s the time in your life when you need to pounce on every possible opportunity to better yourself.

Sean and I lived in Salt Lake for one year after our wedding. It was on our one year anniversary that he received his acceptance letter into medical school in Omaha. Fitting, seeing as how the one year anniversary gift is paper. But shit, where will I take cooking classes? Now living in Massachusetts, with our third child on the way, I revel in the thought my mom is still teaching cooking classes. I like to think of all her students, all the countless stained and ripped recipes floating in their kitchens, stashed away in binders or favorite cookbooks, and the knowledge they impart in their home. Once they’ve gotten over their young and stupid stage, of course.

The other night, when trying to find something to make for dinner, this tattered recipe fell out of my mom’s Savor the Memories cookbook. It was from her “Five One-Dish Meals” cooking class, taught in Autumn 2004. I remember making this for Sean right after I took this class and how much he loved it. Over seven years later, when I made it the other night, we had two little girls fighting over who got to eat daddy and mommy’s salmon skin. Cringe-worthy, but at least they know what’s good.

As a side note, my mom has experienced a growing trend in cooking classes as private parties. For example, last month, someone requested a surprise birthday party for her friend’s 40th to be held at my mom’s house. With 4 couples, it was not only a huge surprise for the birthday girl who arrived in my mom’s kitchen, but also an intimate gathering, with recipes, cooking instruction, and a full meal prepared just for them. Also, she recently received a call from a woman who wanted to book a cooking class-bridal shower in my mom’s backyard for her close friend getting married later this summer. There was an article recently on Martha Stewart Weddings’ site (which for some reason isn’t working now) on the trend of cooking class-bridal showers. If you’re hosting a baby shower, bridal shower, or want to have a birthday party with a twist, there’s a trend going on with making these learning opportunities, like cooking classes. It’s a hell of a better option than playing those dreadful games. Visit http://www.margueritehenderson.com if you’re in the Salt Lake City area to book your own!

grilled asian salmon on mixed greens (from my mom’s cooking class, autumn 2004)

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 pound salmon filets (about 6 ounces each)
2 cups shredded matchstick carrots
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 cups green peas, thawed
8 cups mixed greens
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Whisk well. Reserve half the mixture for later use as dressing. Place the salmon in remaining soy sauce marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Heat a grill pan, or large skillet; sear the salmon for 4-5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. In a large bowl, combine the carrots, green onions, peas, and mixed greens. Toss in some of the reserved marinade (not all of it), just enough to coat the lettuce lightly. Place on a large serving platter; top with grilled salmon filets and toasted sesame seeds. Serves 4-6.

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