By Isa Covo
So, spring is here—lots of flowering trees on the streets, many birds in the sky. Nature is renewing as it does every year and we should all rejoice and enjoy the outdoors, but we can’t; most of us are at home in voluntary quarantine following the advice of the medical authorities. I looked out of my window yesterday and this morning; the city was almost a ghost town. I only saw just a few cars, and even fewer pedestrians. This is not surprising since everything is closed except for pharmacies and grocery stores, and as customers have already bought more than they can consume (leaving many empty shelves) there is no reason to go inside. Liquor stores were also open, and I wondered if they had good trade. This afternoon, however, I see more people and more cars in the street. I suppose they got tired of being locked in. But it is dangerous; I, for one, will not go out.
My family and friends live all over the world, and they and everyone everywhere are just as anxious as we are. I hope that very soon simple daily life will return for all of us.
Someone said, jokingly, upon hearing that the places of worship were closed, “We are all going to hell!” Well, I think that we are already there, or have a taste of it: not going outdoors, except in an emergency; no theaters; no movie houses; no restaurants; no bars; no closeness (hugging or kissing); staying six feet apart (two arm lengths). For many who live alone (the only faces they see are on television and those don’t fill the gap) and the families cooped up at home for what seems like an eternity, it’s just like in the Sartre play NO EXIT (HUIS CLOS), except perhaps that was a bit more fun because the characters were strangers.
And there are no places for worship.
Three old songs spin in my mind: Pete Seeger’s Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (let us get rid of the stubborn idiots, vote them out), Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land (let us make America wonderful again), and Billy Holliday’s I’ll Get By. Yes, we all shall.
Let us cook.
Salmon Fillets with Braised Leeks
For the fillets:
- 2 pounds salmon fillets with skin
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- ½ tablespoon dried tarragon leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, crushed
For the leeks:
- 4 leeks, white and pale green only
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wipe the salmon fillets with a wet paper or kitchen towel and cut into four pieces.
- In a spice grinder, add the fennel seeds, the rosemary and the tarragon leaves. Press the mixture on both the top and bottom of the fish.
- Prepare the leeks: cut each leek lengthwise and rinse well to remove any sand or dirt. Cut the leek halves into half an inch pieces.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to low and stir the mixture to coat the leeks evenly. Cover the pan and simmer for about twenty-five minutes, or until soft, stirring occasionally to prevent the leeks from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- When the leeks look ready, mix the mustard with the lemon juice. Cover the pan again and continue cooking for another five to ten minutes. There should be no liquid left with the leeks, but add about a spoonful or two of water if the leeks look too dry.
- Ten minutes before the leeks are ready, heat the oil and the butter in a large, preferably nonstick, skillet over medium- high heat. When the butter is melted and foaming, add the salmon fillets (skin side down) and cook for about four minutes or until the spices form a crust. Turn the filets over and cook until the spice mixture again forms a crust.
- Mix the mayonnaise with the mustard. Place the salmon skin side down on individual plates and surround each with the leeks distributed equally.
- Dot the salmon with the mustard-mayonnaise mixture and sprinkle each plate with the crushed pistachios.
Yield: 4 servings
Photo by Isa Covo.
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