Sometimes a lot of crunchy vegetables can be the star of the show, and a very plain protein source is all you need. And summer is the best time for that.
On a summer weekend night we were suddenly invited to dinner -- not "we'll make dinner for you!" but "let's get together and eat our dinners near each other!" and I threw my ingredients into a grocery bag and headed out the door.
It was a funny jumble for sure. A head of romaine lettuce, a tomato, three carrots, an English cucumber still in its plastic wrapper, two stalks of celery peeled off the bunch and tossed into the bag, a handful of parsley, a couple of lemons. My bottle of olive oil was within a few tablespoons of empty, so I just stuck it in there.
For protein, I opened a two-pound package of frozen, Extremely Boring Skinless Salmon Fillets -- the kind where each serving is individually sealed in plastic -- pulled out six fillets and tossed them in the bag too. And then, as an afterthought, I added an unopened jar of olive tapenade. (Mark's parents had re-gifted it to us a couple of weeks ago.
I opened up a plastic baggie and dumped in about a cup of couscous, and then added a handful of pine nuts from the bag in our freezer. Off we went.
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When I got to our friends' house, I chopped up the vegetables into large dice, and chopped up the lettuce and parsley too, and put it all in a big bowl. (Romaine is absolutely the best lettuce for this -- the perfect combination of tender and crunchy.) I oiled a baking dish and put the salmon in. I used the rest of the oil and most of the lemon to make a lemon dressing, which went on the salad; a squeeze of lemon went on the frozen salmon, and into the 400° oven it went. I put the couscous and pine nuts in a bowl and added hot water for it to soak.
When the salmon was all cooked, the salad and couscous and fish all went on one plate. I added a generous dab of the olive spread on top -- some kind of pesto or salsa would probably have worked great too -- and jumbled it all up into a salmon-salad-couscous mess.
It was SO good. Even though the salmon was terribly, terribly boring on its own -- surely the meal would have been better had it been fresh salmon thrown on the grill, or seared skin-side down and finished under the broiler?
Maybe. But it was good enough, and the salad was the star. The salmon completed the meal, and together with the olive spread added its rich strong flavor, to make it all more interesting than it would have been alone.
Sometimes "okay" is good enough. Really good enough.