The recipe du jour is basically the anthem of domesticity. The epitome of what it means to be homemade. The very essence of casual comfort food.
Okay, quite possibly, I am exaggerating. You don’t need to listen to me declaim about the recipe’s epicness – especially when it does such a good job of being simple and straightforward. The only thing that’s really different about this unassuming meal is that you can make it all yourself.
I have always loved the feeling I get when the food on my plate started from many small parts that I put together myself. It’s fun for me to get the whole hands-on experience. Almost like when I would bring home the macaroni-noodle picture frames I made at school, and I could say, “look at what I did, Mom! I cut out the cardboard and glued the macaroni on! All by myself!” (I’m pretty sure this was in pre-college years.) Except that now I’m mostly saying that to myself right before my fork plunges in and happily demolishes the project.
The other great things about making everything in this meal yourself are that,  you know exactly what went into it, which is kinda cool, and  it will most likely taste a zillion times better than something you bought, owing to your complete control over ingredients and the ultra-freshness of it all.
You see a downside to this. I sense it. Or, perhaps, I’m just guessing. But I think this perceived downside is: This must take so much time! Right?
Well, I’d say it can take only as much time as you allow.
The bread itself can be made ahead of time or during your other prep. This takes up about 2 hours to make, but only requiring about 30 minutes of your actual presence. The salmon will bake for 15 minutes, but you will probably want to chill it at least 2 hours – I go for overnight, so that’s easy to make ahead as well. And, if you make the mayo and relish a few days ahead, you can use them as delicious condiments in the meantime. Then, when I need them for the salmon, I can just pull them out of the refrigerator.
The salad itself is constructed in minutes, and can be stored for future quick lunches, when you will be even more pleased with your own domestic prowess.
Of course, this can all be made very easily using store-bought ingredients… but where’s the fun in that – right?
But, just to make this a little easier on your busy schedule, I’ve listed the ingredients you can prep ahead of time in order of most time before eating.
Make up to 2 weeks ahead. Recipe found in my Garde Manger textbook.
1 ½ lb. unwaxed Kirby cucumbers, minced
6 oz peeled yellow onions, minced
6 oz red bell peppers (stem + seeds removed,) minced
2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
4 oz cider vinegar
3 ½ T. light brown sugar
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/8 tsp each, ground allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger
Combine minced cucumbers through salt and squeeze as much extra vegetable liquid out through a cheese cloth.
Transfer the veggie mixture to a medium pot along with the rest of the ingredients and boil 10 minutes or so to reduce the liquid.
Cool in the pan until room temperature, and chill until needed. You can store the relish in a tightly-sealed sterile mason jar up to 3 months.
“Homemade” Cider Mayo
Make up to a week ahead.
½ c. light mayo (I liked the light safflower mayonnaise I bought – the ingredient list was very short and straightforward, and there were only 45 calories per tablespoon)
2 T. unsweetened natural applesauce
3 T. apple cider vinegar
¼ - ½ tsp. prepared horseradish (or just use store-bought wasabi)
True, each of these ingredients are most likely to be store-bought rather than homemade, so this is not exactly a hard-core homemade dressing. However, it will be lighter than many of the creamy store-bought dressings, without the additives and preservatives they often contain, and you can adjust the ingredients to your own taste.
Just mix them all thoroughly together, taste-test, and adjust ingredients as needed.
Be sure to tightly seal and refrigerate any extra to use on salads [try this one!], wraps, or sandwiches! Good for at least 2 weeks.
Whole Wheat Bread
Best if made the day of or night before making sandwiches – but will freeze well in a freezer bag for at least a week or two. Found in my lovely Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, makes two 9 X 5” loaves.
1 ½ T. active dry yeast
Pinch of brown sugar
1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 ½ c. tepid buttermilk (about 90 degrees F)
¼ c. maple syrup
¼ c. canola oil
1 T. salt
3 cups white whole-wheat flour (or regular whole-wheat)
3 ½ - 4 c. bread flour (extra as needed)
10 oz diced, seeded jalapenos (optional)
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Mix the yeast with the sugar and warm water, and let stand 5 minutes. Combine this with buttermilk, syrup, oil, salt, and 2 cups whole-wheat flour in a stand mixer for about 1 minute. Add jalapenos and cheese, if using. Add the rest of the whole-wheat flour, and beat with the dough hook about 1 minute. Add the bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls from the sides of the mixer. Knead on a low speed about 5 minutes, adding small amounts of flour if needed to make a smooth, but slightly sticky, dough. Rise in a loosely covered and oiled bowl placed in a warm place (such as in an OFF oven after heating for just 30 seconds) about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Grease two 9 X 5" loaf pans with cooking spray. Halve the dough and roll each half into round loaves. Place each one in their pans, and rise again, covered, about 1 hour, or until about 1" above the rim of the pans.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and pulling away from the sides. Remove the loaves gently from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Baked + Flaked Salmon
Can be made the day of, or day before sandwich-making. Makes 5-6 sandwich servings.
12 oz salmon fillet
3 celery ribs, ends removed + discarded, and chopped
2 sliced heirloom tomatoes, (or about 2 slices per sandwich)
Large green lettuce leaves (1-2 big leaves per sandwich)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on a non-stick baking sheet lined with tinfoil. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes.
When the salmon is done, cut the fish away from the skin and transfer the meat to a large bowl. The fish should flake easily without being dry. Flake it into large chunks with a fork.
Combine the fish with ¼ c. each of the mayo and the relish with the 12 oz of salmon, as well as the celery ribs.
You can use this mixture right away, but I prefer my salmon salad chilled, so I like to make this the night before I want it.
When you’re ready to make your sammie, slice the bread about ¾” thick, toast, and layer a slice with lettuce leaves, tomatoes, and the finished salmon salad.
Now you might even have to photograph your proud achievement and post it somewhere. Like the fridge… or a blog page…