Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Treat Yourself Tuesday

"The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task; courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance."  Brian Miller.

Passion.  Courage.  Balance.  These three traits not only build an exceptional cook, but they are also the basics for living a fulfilling life.  Find something you are passionate about, have the courage to chase your dreams, and balance everything in-between.  Seems simple enough, right?
Study time.
This balance quickly becomes a little more complicated when these eight things are all crammed into a 24 hour day.  For most of us, it is impossible to include all of these things in our daily lives without completely losing our minds. 

With my final semester of culinary school coming at me full speed, I want to do everything in my power to soak it all in.  My final restaurant class will be the experience of a life time.  I will be surrounded my some of my favorite people and doing the thing I love the most for 24 hours a week.  My first food column will be coming out in a few short weeks.  Looking ahead, I see myself getting a little overwhelmed.

It's time for me to challenge myself to find my own balance in order to keep my sanity and make the most of the next 16 weeks. 

Tonight, instead of worrying about my never ending to-do list, I decided to treat myself to a satisfying and nourishing meal.  Cooking allows me to step away from the nagging voices in my head.  Even if the feeling is only temporary.  Nothing compares to the smell of garlic on the stove or freshly cut basil.  I have also found that being mindful of what you put in your mouth can completely change the entire dining experience.  Allow yourself to feel the texture and temperature of the food and taste the contrast in flavors.  So many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that we forget one of life's greatest pleasures: eating. 

For the next 16 weeks, my goal is to try a new recipe each week using at least one ingredient I am not used to cooking with.  Not only will this enhance my food knowledge, it will provide me with an opportunity to balance my hectic schedule and nourish my soul.  It will be the perfect way to treat myself in the middle of a busy week.

Tonight's Treat Myself Recipe:

Pan-Roasted Salmon Panzanella

Panzanella -  An Italian salad typically made with stale bread, tomatoes, basil and olive oil
  I have only worked with capers once or twice in the past.  They have a wonderful salty bite that perfectly complimented the richness of the salmon and heat from the red pepper flakes.

Eight 1-inch-thick slices of ciabatta (from a 12-ounce loaf), cut into large chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 lemon, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds center-cut skinless salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks

(I topped it with feta cheese and fresh basil to give it my own twist)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a large roasting pan, toss the ciabatta chunks with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast for about 5 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the tomato halves with the garlic, capers, lemon, parsley, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Stir the tomatoes into the toasted bread. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down.
  3. Meanwhile, in the same bowl, toss the salmon with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Nestle the salmon into the bread and tomatoes, spooning some of the tomatoes on top. Roast for about 6 minutes, until the salmon is just cooked through. Serve right away.
Go ahead, treat youself... and find a little balance in return.  Cheers! 


  1. It works and thank you for reminding us to do this very important thing for ourselves- as often as we can!

  2. Any time you need "balance" feel free to come over and cook for our family. We love experiencing new tastes plus it gives Steph an opportunity to talk food with a more knowlegable person than myself. The kids are very forgiving critics. I might be missing the point but either way, we got to get You, Ray and Steph together more often to cook and laugh together. It is so fun to listen to you three talk! I think you guys need to stop talking about and start doing it! Never hurts to surround yourself with good friends when your family is so far away. Just my opinion. Great job Kelsi!