Miso Salmon | Cooking With Bells On

Weeknight Dinner: Miso Salmon + Learning to Cook for One

Written in fine print beneath the title of a recipe: Serves 4 to 6.

Oh, this recipe makes enough for four people, and I’m only cooking for myself tonight… I guess I’ll keep looking.

Sound familiar?

This was the scenario I found myself in night after night when I first began cooking. At the time, I had decided that I wanted to get in the habit of daily preparing meals for myself. I knew already that I enjoyed cooking, and I wanted to develop a practice around this hobby that would allow me to focus my time and energy exclusively on self-care – something I really needed, in those days.

I wanted to be able to plan my meals around recipes that appealed to me in cookbooks and magazines, but I was constantly hindered by this obstacle that lurked on every page: Serves 4 to 6. I couldn’t understand why, no matter where I looked, I could not find recipes that would show me how to prepare a meal to serve one diner. I mean, having friends over to share a meal is great, but nobody does that every night – why were recipes not acknowledging that many of us have to cook for only one or two the rest of the time?

Eventually I gave up on recipes altogether, realizing that I was never going to find exactly what I was looking for in the pages of any book or magazine. I began to regard printed recipes as sources of inspiration that could teach me new techniques or ingredient pairings. Once I made this shift, the number of options for meals I could prepare, whether for just myself or a full table of guest, expanded infinitely.

This Miso Salmon was one of the first ‘Serves 1’ meals I perfected. I believe my original inspiration came from David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, wherein he describes liberal use of a miso butter concoction across myriad dishes in the Momofuku kitchens. I like to smear a thick coat of the salty umami-rich miso butter over a piece of fatty fish before roasting the fish in a hot oven. As the fish cooks, the fat from the salmon oozes up and mingles with the creamy miso butter as the miso butter itself begins to melt and char. It’s such a crazy simple dish – only three ingredients – and yet it works so well, making for a beautiful meal that could easily serve a single diner or a crowd.

Tweet: I can't wait to make Miso Salmon from #cookingwithbellson! via @kemayellTweet: I can’t wait to make Miso Salmon from #cookingwithbellson! via @kemayell

Miso Salmon

Serves 1 or more

This recipe makes much more miso butter than you will need to use just for the salmon here, and that’s a good thing. Keep it on hand in the refrigerator for up to a year. I like to melt a bit of miso butter over pan-roasted brussel sprouts or mix some into scrambled eggs. 

Ingredients:

6 tbsp (84g) butter, at room temperature

6 tbsp (90g) white miso

1 4-6 oz. salmon filet (per person)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make the miso butter: Mix together the butter and miso in a small bowl until well combined. Transfer to a storage container.

Roast the salmon: Spread a heaping spoonful of miso butter over the salmon filet and spread until you have an even 1/4″ layer. Roast on highest rack in oven for 6 minutes, then switch on the broiler and broil for another 1-2 minutes until the miso butter is golden brown.

 

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I’ll Make My Lunch To Go

I’m blowing up on Instagram. Seriously. Cooking With Bells On officially has, wait for it… nineteen followers. That’s right, of the service’s 200 million odd users, nearly twenty of them (twenty of you) have boldly clicked “Follow” and become pioneers in the Insta’ With Bells On movement.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I am genuinely surprised by how much I find myself liking this particular social media platform, one which I resisted using for so long. It’s been a few days now that I’ve been posting as Cooking With Bells On’s intrepid iPhone photographer, and in that time I’ve made a special effort to preserve moments I might otherwise allow to pass. I’ve captured evidence of my mid-day cappuccino quests*, sniped images of loitering kitchen appliances, and shot outtakes of my adorable schnauzer in the morning. And I’ve diligently collected photographs of the food coming out of my kitchen, too, because I know that’s what you really want to see.

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Of the food-centric Instagrams I’ve shared, those involving pictures of my daily lunches have accumulated extra attention, with consistent “likes” and responses from my small but dedicated army of followers. Given this attention, I thought I’d go ahead and share with you just what I’ve been making in my kitchen lately for this meal.

Lunch, as I make it for myself, is generally a humble meal, cobbled together of leftover vegetable scraps and pantry staples. I make an effort to make the meal as nourishing as possible, though to tell you the truth this isn’t a difficult task, as the ingredients I like to keep on hand tend to be of the delicious and good-for-you variety anyways. And, while I do savor the time I take to prepare something good in the morning, I never really use more than a few minutes to put it all together. It’s a simple task, though one worth finding delight in.

*I’m on a mission to visit all of the coffee shops listed on the New York Times’ The Scoop app. So far, I’ve checked off 27 (or 35, if you include places I visited but were later retired from the list) out of 112.

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Salmon Avocado Salad (In a Jar) with Endive

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The only real condition I have for making lunch is that I be able to carry the finished product with me in a small jar. Back in the day, this restraint made good sense for a girl carrying her lunch to the office. Now office life is history to me, and the logic for lunch in a jar is kind of gone, too, but for some reason I still prefer to make my meal this way.

This recipe is just a framework for how I make lunch, and you should feel free to get creative with it. Here I used salmon as a protein, though I use canned sardines just as often, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs or leftover chicken instead. I almost always include avocado, which I like for its flavor, texture, and color; but the other vegetables included change depending on the season and what I have in my fridge. Two things you shouldn’t leave out are fresh herbs and citrus. Both play a huge role in brightening the whole thing up, which becomes especially important if you plan on eating several hours after you’ve made the lunch.

A note on home-made mayonnaise: it is totally optional in this dish, but I’ll go ahead and say that I am pro-mayonnaise, especially when it is home-made. I could really geek out over how good this mayonnaise is for you, what with its bounty of egg yolks and healthful oil. But I’m not here to be on a “don’t-fear-fat” soapbox. I do recommend that if you make it, try to use a more non-inflammatory fat, such as MCT oil or macadamia oil, but you could also go the conventional route and use a neutral-tasting oil such as grapeseed or canola oil. You could also use store-bought mayonnaise, but where’s the fun in that? If you decide to omit the mayonnaise (which I often do, anyways), I suggest bulking up the lunch with some salad greens and just using some oil and vinegar as dressing.

Photo Mar 27, 11 55 49 AM

Ingredients:

Mayonnaise, preferably home-made (see recipe below)
Mustard
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup (or more) diced vegetables: golden beet (used here), or: radish, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, carrot, etc.
Salmon, fresh and cooked (leftovers) or canned (I used about 1/4 of a 14.5 oz can here, saving the leftovers for another day’s lunch)
1 tsp fresh herbs, chopped: dill (used here), or: tarragon, basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, etc.
1/2 a lemon, zest reserved (optional)
1 endive, washed and outer leaves removed

Photo Mar 27, 12 02 12 PM

To make lunch in a jar: Stir together a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise with one spoonful of mustard and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper in a small jar. Add the diced vegetables, salmon, herbs, and lemon juice and zest (if using). Mix to combine. Trim bottom inch of the endive to separate leaves. Twist lid onto jar, pack up endives, and head to a park or sunny corner of your office to enjoy.

Home-made Mayonnaise

The miso here is a new addition for me. Miso pretty much makes everything better – saltier and more complex – and I highly suggest using it if you have some around.

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Ingredients:

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup neutral oil: MCT oil (used here) is usually found in the supplements section of the store (or Amazon.com) and has the dual merits of extremely neutral flavor as well as superfood status, or: macadamia oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil.
1 tbsp white miso (optional)
1/2 lemon, or less
Salt

To prepare mayonnaise: Using a blender (or an immersion blender with the jar in which you intend to store the mayonnaise), combine the egg yolks, oil, and white miso. Add lemon and salt to taste. The finished mayonnaise will taste rich, but balanced.