I was a pretty good student. I don’t ever remember seeing “Does Not Follow Directions Well” written on my report card. Of course, I was also not the kind of kid who waited until the night before the book report was due to start writing, but I most certainly have become that sort of writer now.
Nonetheless, if the instruction is “Stay away from other people for 14 days after returning from a foreign country,” or “Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching anything someone else may have touched,” I will get at least an A-minus. I mean, I’m gonna go out for a run every day the weather permits, and I’ll take a route that is not crowded with other pedestrians, but I won’t get closer than 6 feet to anyone I do encounter.
While we were on vacation recently She said often, “I miss your cooking.” I guess that’s gonna work out well for her, now that we’re home (and staying home) and getting groceries is going to be a challenge. She scheduled a delivery from our favorite market, but several things in the order didn’t show up.
I looked at the lovely piece of salmon that arrived, thought long and hard about it, and realized we hadn’t had Thai food for quite a while. There had been “Pan-Asian” night at the resort we visited; I think in that particular case “pan” was meant as the opposite of “rave.” (I didn’t miss my cooking generally, but that meal was a pretty big disappointment.)
I Googled “Thai salmon.” I scanned the first page of hits. I Googled “Thai Salmon Peanut Sauce.” I saw a pretty promising title. I clicked through and, while the page loaded, headed to the kitchen.
Oh. I’m gonna need coconut milk. And chili paste. Maybe I’d better do something else.
Nah. What I read was enough to get started. Bakers need recipes. Cooks need ideas.
Not At All the Recipe I Looked for Salmon with Peanut Sauce and Coconut Cilantro Rice
Serves 2, with some leftovers to repurpose for lunch
Salmon filet, about 1/3 lb. per serving
1 cup rice
2 cups water (or 1 cup water, 1 cup fish stock)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened if possible)
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce (more to taste)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp each curry powder and paprika
Juice and zest of one lime
Cut the salmon into serving pieces. Pat dry and set aside.
Toast 1 cup of rice in a little butter. Add 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or, if you have it as I did, 1 cup water, 1 cup stock), reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, still covered.
While the rice cooks, in a dry skillet, toast the coconut and remove; then toast the sesame seeds and remove. (Take care—neither one takes very long to toast!)
Make the sauce:
Warm the peanut butter in the microwave to make it easier to stir. Add the soy sauce, hot sauce, garlic, and lime juice.
Add a little oil to the hot skillet; add the peanuts, paprika, and curry powder and stir. When they’re hot and fragrant, add the spice/oil mixture and sesame seeds to the sauce, along with another 1 tbsp of oil. Stir until well combined and set aside.
Put 1 tbsp of oil in the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the salmon, skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes without touching, then top with a little of the peanut sauce. Place skillet in a 350F oven for 5 minutes.
Use a fork to fluff the rice. Stir in the lime zest, toasted coconut, and cilantro. Put the lid back on.
Remove the salmon from the oven and turn the filets over, now sauce-side down. Return to the oven for 5 minutes more.
In serving bowls, place the salmon over the rice, topped with a little more sauce. Serve with sautéed spinach (or whatever green thing you like).
Feel free to read this recipe and riff off it any way you want to–as I did with the ones I saw to come up with our dinner. Just wash your hands first, and afterward.
I hope whoever got the pastrami we ordered enjoys it.