I dreamed of sharing the foods of the world with my son before he was even born. In one of my many I-will-be-the-perfect-parent dreams that only a not-yet-parent can have, I imagined introducing him to homemade, savory, complex Indian, and sweet and tangy Thai. He would be a cosmopolitan eater. He would play quietly while I cooked these fabulous meals and savor every bite.
That bubble was popped by sharp realities of parenthood. The contradictory and ever-changing guidance on how to introduce children to solid foods is far too difficult for any new parent to understand or prioritize (or, as I often do with such advice, disregard). And the playing quietly while I cook dinner? Oh, well.
Getting dinner on the table in front of two working parents is hard enough as it is. As my husband and I worked tirelessly to share our love of food with our son, our own formerly excellent eating habits were deteriorating. Eating well started to feel like a zero-sum game.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. My son is at the stage when he is really starting to enjoy “table food” and wants everything we put on our plates. And so as we have devoted a bit more energy to our own diets, his has flourished, as well. It’s like they tell you on the airplane: put your own oxygen mask on before putting on your child’s.
But what to prepare? He might be interested in food, but he’s not that good at playing quietly yet. And so, I needed something that would be done in minutes, with little prep time. In search of such a healthy summer meal, I browsed through a few cook books. As often happens, a couple things caught my eye, and without fully reading the recipe, I shut the book and headed to the kitchen. Here’s what I came up with.
Herb-Poached Salmon Recipe
In her fantastic book, The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters reminded me that you don’t always have to poach fish in wine. In the case that my son was interested in the fish (and, thankfully, he was!), I poached this in water as she suggests. As it was a last-minute decision, I didn’t have many fresh herbs on hand. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the dried herbs were.
Serves 2 adults plus a few bites for a growing toddler!
½ - ¾ pound of fresh salmon fillet
2 tablespoons dried herbs (I used parsley, oregano and some thyme, but I bet herbes de provence would be tasty, too.)
½ of a fresh lemon (divided)
1. In a small nonstick skillet (I used a 6-inch one), bring the water to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, rinse the fish and season it with salt and pepper.
3. Cut the lemon in quarters. Squeeze the juice of one quarter of the lemon over the fish.
4. Place the fish, meat side down, in the water. Squeeze the juice of the remaining quarter of the lemon into the pan and drop it into the water next to the fish.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the dipping sauce (recipe below).
6. Watching carefully, cook the fish on medium-high for about 8-12 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. When it is done to your liking (I like it thoroughly done, with no rawness, and this took 12 or so), remove the fish from the pan and place on plates. Serve with dipping sauce.
Dipping sauce for herb-poached fish
This is the perfect light, flavorful topping for the fish. It’s strong enough that you only need a little; it’s likely you’ll have leftovers.
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Light or regular mayo is fine here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove (or less, depending on preference), peeled
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1. Finely chop the garlic clove.
2. Sprinkle ¼ of a teaspoon (approximate) of the salt onto the chopped garlic, and with the side of your knife press down on the garlic, using the salt to help you break it down. Smoosh it with the side of your knife, then chop, the smoosh again. Repeat. Soon, you will have a paste.
3. Place the mayo and the oil into a small bowl.
4. Add the garlic/salt paste and mix.
5. Add the chopped basil and a bit of lemon if you like. A bit of lemon rind would be tasty, too.
P.S. I served this with some fantastic late summer zucchini, sautéed with onions, tomatoes and corn and a little basil. Very simple and very light. A nod to Ellie Krieger’s mention of this combo in her healthy eating magazine now on grocery store check out shelves: Quick and Fresh.