Engaging with food is a holistic experience. It transcends consumption and nourishment and I believe we can find a deeper wellness in our life through how we respond and interact with food. mr and I will often joke that I will never be one of the suburban moms on the walking path with a frou-frou dog. There are a myriad of reasons why and that is just fine. What that also means is that our life is on a pretty serious journey and food is at the centre of it all. The food we take into our body has profound effects on our physical and emotional health.
The preparation of this salmon was therapeutic. The stress of the day and all the white noise I had been carrying around squeezed out of the sunny lemon and splashed into our classic white bowls. The flavours of this meal alternate between biting acidity and the soothing and gentle flavours of egg yolk and oregano. The preparation was an equally intense yet rhythmic experience.
I think I have mentioned my fondness for aioli. I particularly love a creamy aioli on top of a strongly flavoured, almost acidic main. The salmon is seared in the hot pan and topped with a syrup of red wine so the aioli simply tones down all the acid and brings the fresh taste of the salmon forward.
It is important to marinate the fish because it infuses flavour and moisture into it; however, you should not marinate past 30 minutes because the acid will break down the fish and it will become mushy upon cooking.
This may sound funny but when you are preparing to make dinner (or any meal), you should really think about the order you plan to follow. I am not a highly organized person because I have a busy 2 year old and and even busier 4 year old, but when it comes to meals I do find it is important. The last thing you want is to realize that the part of your meal that takes the longest you have left until last.
To start, marinate the fish. While it sits in the fridge, happily absorbing flavour, prepare the aioli. I served this meal with left over quinoa and an already prepared cucumber salad which left me time to tidy up and corral the kids into the dining room (that takes longer than one would think).
The Marinade/Cooking the Salmon
juice of 1-2 lemons*
a splash of red wine
a healthy dash of white and black pepper
1. Squeeze the lemon over a strainer set in a bowl. Or, you could do what I do which is fish out the seeds with a fork because you stand in the kitchen tools aisle at the store and stare blankly because you know you want something in particular and don't want to buy the wrong one so you end up leaving empty-handed.
2. Add other ingredients and mix.
3. Lay the fish in a flat bottomed glass dish. Pour the marinade over the salmon and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
4. Once ready to cook, heat oil in a pan. Place the salmon flesh side down to sear. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Flip.
5. Pour the marinade over the salmon and finish in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork. This is where the magic happens with the wine. See the lovely sear on the top of the salmon? That is largely because of the hot pan but it is also the reduced red wine/lemon juice mix. Intoxicating.
*We use one sizeable filet for our family of four. The marinade is mostly lemon juice so the red wine is for colour, but once cooked all that red wine turns into a syrup and this is where it shines.
The Oregano Aioli
a healthy bunch of fresh oregano
dash of coarse sea salt
threetwo egg yolks
juice of one mandarin*
1. Grind the leaves of about 4 sprigs of oregano and a pinch of coarse sea salt in a pestle and mortar. My fancy schmancy pestle and mortar are the old mortar (accompanying pestle ran away) and wrong end of a lemon reamer. It should be a really fine paste.
2. I use a separate bowl to mix the aioli because my whisk is too big for my mortar. If you don't have this problem, don't worry about it. Start whisking the egg yolks. With a steady and sure hand, add a touch of olive oil. The trick with aoili is that the more olive oil you add, the thicker it becomes.
3. Slowly add the mandarin juice, alternating with the olive oil. Season with a touch of salt and pepper to taste.
4. Refrigerate while the salmon is cooking. If you leave aioli out in a hot kitchen for even three minutes it can go bad. This is why fresh eggs (obviously!) are best.
5. Spoon over your plated salmon. Enjoy!