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By Denny Stein
“Dining” makes you think about going out for dinner, or special lunch. But dining is something we all do every day. The quality of that dining is important, for health, for pleasure, for your own creativity.
A good, imaginative, thoughtful cook can produce a better meal than most restaurants. Lately, while traveling, I had two delicious, unpretentious meals that elicited that “mmmm” factor. One was cooked by a friend in Cambridge, MA. Minnie, a college chum, took several approximately six-ounce salmon filets (wild Salmon), and coated them with a crunchy mixture of wheat germ, ground mustard seed, and other spices. The filets were then pan-seared, and finished in the oven. A quinoa salad, with garbanzo beans and parsley and light olive oil-lemon dressing, green salad, and warm artisan bread rounded out the meal. The execution was so good, and the ingredients so simple and inviting, that six of us sat around the table for several hours, talking and reminiscing, relaxed and well-fed. A bakery pear and almond tart capped the evening.
The second meal that rang my bell was put together by my lucky father’s talented mate. From a small scantily appointed kitchen, Betsy turned out curried summer squash, tomato and mozzarella salad, a green salad, roasted potatoes, warm bread, and beautifully grilled thick sirloin steaks. This dinner for nine, served in the formally set dining room, was finished off by fresh berries over angel food cake, and vanilla ice cream. Again, uncomplicated but beautifully presented, absolutely delicious, and satisfying.
The secret, I think, is good cookbooks, and practice. So don’t wait until you have guests to try something new, or hone an old favorite. Too many ingredients, over dressing or spicing, will lead to muddied palates. Start practicing now, but remember, keep it simple sweetie. Here is a similar salmon recipe from the web, http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/triple-mustard-salmon.
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, crushed
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon canola oil
In a shallow dish, combine the wheat germ and mustard seeds. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. In a bowl, blend the Dijon mustard with the dry mustard and spread it over the skinned side of the fillets. Dip the mustard side of the fillets in the wheat germ mixture until thickly coated.
In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the fillets, crust side down, and cook over moderately high heat until browned and crisp, 3 minutes. Turn the fillets and cook over moderate heat until barely cooked in the center, 3 minutes longer. Transfer the salmon to plates and serve crust side up.