Time for me to flex my “I’m pretty awesome” muscles again to show you how I made an awesome lunch for the hubs and myself! Remember when I had given you pointers on cooking with the seasons??? It was pretty awesome right? Well here in Arizona, we’re still getting pretty awesome looking Brussel sprouts, so I figured why not cook them up! Then the wheels started turning about how I could make an awesome meal out of them and then finally the light went off and I had it!
I had been given salmon scraps a few weeks ago at work, which I promptly froze until I had the perfect opportunity to bring this piece of deliciousness to life. I also saw that I had a head of purple cauliflower (yes it does come in purple… and orange too!) that I needed to make something out of. The components came together beautiful and I thought I would experiment a little with something I had never really attempted to do but figured it would work. It totally did (lucky for you guys!)
Typically when I cook at home, because of my background in a professional kitchen I know, roughly, how to get a concept to come together. Since I wanted this to be a pasta dish, I knew that I would have to have sauce of some kind but knew that roasted cauliflower is so passe… That’s when I remembered that I had (and thankfully was able to find) a recipe for cauliflower puree from a kitchen I had worked at before and knew my husband loved! When I cook to impress, I look for ingredients with amazing flavor, and probably evenly importantly, amazing color! My veggies were green and purple, my starch was a tan, my protein was a pink… plating it on a white plate would pop the color out even more. When you cook, please also consider the colors going into your dish. There are many fruits and veggies that have different colored brothers and sisters that don’t used often and usually don’t require a different cooking technique or even taste all that different. So if you see purple carrots, they’ll taste just about the same as orange carrots; throw your inhibitions aside and grab that purple carrot!
Now how I actually went about making this dish:
I made the cauliflower puree ahead of time, so I took out what I needed and threw it into a small sauce pot and left it on my stove. Done.
I preheated my oven to 375 degrees and cut my Brussel sprouts in half, put them on an aluminum lined sheet pan, salt and peppered them with some extra virgin olive oil and let them roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or so. I wanted a nice caramelized color to them!
Next, I chopped up one shallot (what the heck is a shallot??? It’s a small bulb from the onion family with a purplish red skin to it) minced two cloves of garlic, and chopped a handful of parsley leaves. Why do you use shallots, Marlee??? Well…. Truth be told, I like the size of shallots. I hate having to commit to a whole big onion if I only need a little bit for a recipe… I feel like I can commit to a whole little shallot and still achieve the onion-taste I need in my cooking! If you haven’t, by chance, used shallots before, give it a whirl! You’ll convert over, I am sure.
Once I had that done, I got my salmon scraps ready with some salt and pepper. If you happen to use some salmon filets from the store, don’t be afraid to cut them down to small pieces; it’ll make it easier to work with if they are smaller. I heated up my frying pan (stainless steel mind you! Move over tephlon) with some EVOO and then got a medium sized sauce pot filled with water and onto some high heat for my angel hair pasta.
I then turned on the heat under the sauce pot with my cauliflower puree on a medium-low heat so that it could heat thoroughly through but not splatter all over my nice, white stove. When my frying pan was nice and heated through, I laid my salmon down on the oil and waited for it to show signs of being ready to flip. When salmon is ready to flip, you’ll see the sides turn a pale pink, almost white color, flip it! I had decided long before that I didn’t want huge chunks of salmon running through my dish, I wanted little flakes so once the salmon was mostly cooked through after being flipped, and I went through with a fork and broke up the pieces to being the size I wanted them to be. Once the salmon was broken up, I add my shallots and garlic. I didn’t add it to the pan before the salmon because I didn’t want to run the chance of it burning which would ruin my dish. I knew that the salmon would in a sense protect my shallots and garlic so that they would still cook through but not be overdone.
Once 20 minutes was up, I pulled out the Brussel sprouts and let them cool a little. I also needed to cook my pasta! Angel hair is a thinner pasta so I knew I only needed to have a 6 minute window for the pasta to be done in order for it all to come together. In the pasta goes to the well salted water.
At this time, I began to realize that there was some caramelization of my salmon on the bottom of the pan. Oh no!! What to do?! Never fear! I didn’t want to add toooooo much of a different flavor base, so I just ladled some of the salted-pasta water to my pan… the pasta was already going into my dish so why not right?! With the pasta water in there, I began to gently scrape at the bottom of the pan to loosen up the caramelized bits and what do-ya-know??? I had some nice little crunchies to go with my dish! And nothing burned to my pan! If you stay alert and on top of what you have going on in your kitchen, you’ll never burn things to a pan! Guarantee. Once my salmon was safe in a little impromptu sauce, I added my Brussel sprouts to the salmon to introduce the flavor and get the ingredients well mixed.
Then my pasta was done. 6 minutes goes by fast! I drained my pasta quickly and added it to my pan of salmon and Brussel sprouts, tossed my chopped parsley into the pan, along with some lemon juice and turned off the heat. By this time, my cauliflower puree was nice and hot and ready to work its’ magic. Now you may be wondering “how did you come up with the idea for plating???” Simple: lots and lots and lots of experience. I’ve also worked with tons of chefs and have seen how they plate certain dishes. How can you accomplish this at home??? You have to look at food pictures and lots of them. If you are a visual learner, take pictures of food every time you get the chance. Every time you go out to eat, take a picture. The more you see different plating styles, the more you’ll be able to make awesome looking plates. Let’s step away from the tv-dinner-style plating and start making our food dance with each other (I totally get it if your little ones don’t like food touching, it’s a phase and I understand BUT that doesn’t mean your plate can’t look awesome)!
Like I had said before, I wanted my cauliflower puree to be my sauce, so I put it on the bottom of the plate and then using tongs, I twirled my pasta (much like you would spaghetti on a fork) around to place it in the middle of my plate. Then gingerly added my salmon bits and Brussel sprouts to the plate. Dressed it with some good quality EVOO and boom! Dinner is served, ya’ll!
With this post, I hope you guys got more than just a “oh, let’s replicate this dish” feel to it. By all means, please do because it was super delicious! I hope that you also were able to learn some of my tricks and tips that I’ve picked up on throughout my cooking career as how to get the most WOW from your dish color wise and presentation wise. We truly eat with our eyes first before our mouths; so this week, make a colorful dish and practice plating! Please please please, for the love of everything holy, remember to wipe your plate rims. We just… we don’t want dirty rims. Happy eating everyone; let’s try something new and exciting this week!!!