“You breathe in experience, and you breathe out what you make.” – Doug Aitken
This quote has been swirling around my brain today. Does this mean creating shouldn’t be a struggle – that making art is as natural as aspiration? That sounds so effortless. I wish. Or does it suggest that limited experiences, like inadequate oxygen molecules in toxic air, results in an insipid and shallow creative exhale?
In yoga, there’s a Sanskrit word, pranayama, which translates as “breath control” or “control of life force.” Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered to produce specific results. In practice, when we focus on our breath, it becomes fuller, richer, more rounded. A deep, expansive inhale yields an equally full exhale.
Applied to the quote above, it would imply, indeed, that the best art requires a cache of rich experiences. Or does our internal creative process provide an avenue to transform any experience, even the drone of suburban monotony, into something wonderful?
Speaking of turning something mundane into something wonderful…this creamy, flavorful lemon, dill and caper sauce paired with fennel salad elevates humble poached salmon into something both healthy and crave worthy – fancy enough for company.
Poached salmon with fennel salad and creamy caper sauce
Starting the poaching process in cold water ensures the fish remains incredibly moist.
2 fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 shallot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 sprigs dill
1 bay leaf
1 large pinch salt
4 8-oz. skinless salmon fillets
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon dill, chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine fennel salad ingredients and set aside to marinate.
In a large saucepan, combine water, lemon juice, shallots, celery, dill, bay, peppercorns and salt. Add salmon to poaching liquid and additional water, until poaching liquid just covers salmon (about 2 more cups).
Cover, turn heat to medium and cook salmon until internal temperature reaches 115°F, about 18 minutes. Carefully transfer salmon to a plate and chill until cold.
To make yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients and chill. If too thick, add a bit of water or milk.
Serve salmon over fennel Salad liberally drizzled with yogurt sauce.
Lentils, with a shape somewhat resembling coins, are symbols of riches and prosperity in Italy. After eight long years, we have finally sold my childhood home this week. What better way to celebrate this little boon than with these symbols of financial good fortune?
Rather than the golden-egg-laying goose the house was expected to be, it morphed into an albatross that created unanticipated familial stress over the last eight years. My oldest sibling wanted to sell immediately, during the real estate collapse, while another mentioned keeping it for 45 years. I managed, surprisingly, to remain neutral over most of the years (caught up in my own personal turmoil, I suppose) until last year – then my exasperation bubbled up, boiled over. Get me out of here – I want to take my share and run! Trouble with the tenants, damage to the property, lawsuits and disagreements between us brought me to the verge of walking away. This house and all its complications was my last fetter to my siblings. Now, no longer financially shackled, I can, should I chose to, slip away never to be found again. Not that I want to, but there’s something liberating in realizing that I could.
Tonight, before I celebrate with my lentil salad, I say thank you to my mom and dad for making this financial provision. I am grateful for this good fortune and I hope to use my portion in a manner that will make them proud.
1 large or two small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
⅓ cup onion, chopped
¼ head cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
½ cup Feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, thyme, garlic, sugar and Dijon. Add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set dressing aside.
Cook lentils according to package directions.
While lentils are cooking, in a medium size skillet over high heat, sauté corn, red pepper, carrot and onion until softened and onions are translucent. Do not brown.
Place cabbage in a large bowl. Drain lentils. Cover cabbage with warm lentils and sautéed vegetables to help soften cabbage. While salad is still warm, fold in dressing and feta cheese. Cover salad and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Before serving, season with salt and pepper.
Remember how you suffered through the last week of school before summer vacation? You couldn’t wait for summer to begin, concentrating seemed impossible, time in the classroom dragged on forever, and you were incensed if teachers asked you to do any actual work. You just had to get through those…last…few…day.
Déjà vu. I’m one week away from being officially laid off and the hour can’t arrive soon enough. I’m anxious for the moment when my time is once mine to spend as I desire. Sign my yearbook already and let’s get on with it.
In honor of the season (although it doesn’t officially begin until Monday), today’s recipe highlights a summer produce classic – freshly-picked sweet summer corn.
Hearing your manager say the words, “Laid off” strikes fear and panic in most of the corporate set. When those words rang in my ear last week, I heard “freedom” and “new beginnings” and “free time.” I’m sure the severance package softened the blow considerably. So, if all goes as planned, I happily become a member of the unemployed starting in mid-June.
Regarding what I’m going to do next, I plan on taking a nice chunk of time off and then I have a few ideas. I’m quite sure cooking will be on the agenda – and possibly buying an Inn.
If left to my own devices, I’d probably eat and cook nothing but desserts. Butter, sugar, flour – what’s not to love? In spite of this, I’ve got to include something green in my repertoire occasionally and this salad checks that box – and makes my taste buds happy, too. Sweet, sour, salty, with a touch of heat – again, what’s not to love?
Combine cabbage, carrots, cucumber, and bell pepper in a large bowl and refrigerate.
Sprinkle ribeye with salt and pepper and cook until medium rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice ribeye on diagonal and refrigerate.
Combine lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, lemon grass, and chili and set aside.
About 30 minutes before serving, marinate cooked ribeye in half of the dressing. Add onions, cilantro and mint leaves to cabbage mixture. Pour remaining dressing over cabbage and toss. Arrange ribeye slices and accumulated dressing over salad and garnish with peanuts.