If there was a more beautiful day, I refuse to remember it. In Louisville during the summer months to get out of bed and walk outside and feel like you need a jacket is a rarity. It’s my first day off in many, many days and I am perched on a bar stool on my deck with my feet propped up in another and wrapped in a blanket. The door is flung open and I turned off the A/C. Man, what a relief! My goals today are fairly simple: write a blog entry, walk Brie, work in my garden and meet my son for a few medical appointments. After that, dinner and drinks on the deck should wrap up a perfect day. Back to work tomorrow and the intense flow of my job begins again.
But seize the day, and seize I shall. My hands are itching to get dirty and move some plants around. I have a hanging basket holding a ‘Tumbler’ tomato plant that has far outgrown its original home. I’ll move that to a larger pot, so that the fantastic harvest of yellow tomatoes continues. I need another planting bed like another hole in my head, but my red daylillies with the yellow throat are in the ‘nursery’ area and I suppose we are going to wait to later to build onto the patio, so I feel another urge calling me to fill in this little plot of dirt next to the deck. And so it continues, this need to plant, move and create in the garden.
Creating in the kitchen is my key obsession, and when challenged to create a menu of ‘Brain Food’, I referred to a list of the 50 best foods for Brain Health given to me by my friend, Carmelita. Not surprising, the list holds many of the same sorts of foods that we are told to eat for an overall healthy lifestyle: olives and olive oil, fresh fruits and berries, broccoli, red peppers, fish and nuts.
It was a fairly easy thing to do, really. To put together a menu of brainy foods while the book club discussed ‘Still Alice’, a story of a woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. We started the night out with olive and fig tapenade, tomato bruschetta and green tea. A salad with spinach, oranges, avocado, dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette followed. The main course was a pan seared salmon filet atop a bed of red lentils and finished with a blueberry salsa.
Many times while cooking for a group, I watch rather than eat. But on Monday night, I luckily had enough of everything to prepare myself a plate to enjoy after the dishes were cleaned up. I surprised myself with the combination of flavors. The pop of the sweet, cool blueberries with the hot, seared salmon was a delight. Earthy and creamy lentils were a perfect foil for the smoked paprika I used as a rub for the salmon and played nicely against the lime-enhanced salsa. Someone not too long ago said that I routinely referred to a dish as my ‘favorite’ thing. Well, here I go again. Let’s just say that during blueberry season, this combination of flavors will be my new favorite thing.
For the Brain Teaser mentioned in the title of this post, perhaps you can name the simplest thing that we all can do to improve our brain health. Again, no big surprise here – drink plenty of water!
Seared Salmon with Blueberry Salsa and Creamy Red Lentil Hash
For the blueberry salsa:
- 1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and drained
- 2 Tbls minced red onion
- 1 Tbls freshly minced Italian parsley
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 Tbls honey
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup minced red pepper
- Several gratings of black pepper
Mix all ingredients except the blueberries together until the honey and lime coats all the vegetables. Add the blueberries and stir gently. Chill.
For the Red Lentil Hash
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups red lentils
- 1 cup blanched broccoli florets
- 1 smashed and minced garlic clove
- pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
- 2 Tbls minced fresh parsley
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt and the lentils. Cook until just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Keep warm until the fish is covered, then stir in the broccoli florets, pepper, garlic, red pepper and parsley. Cover and allow to rest while the fish is in its final cooking stage.
For the Salmon:
- 4 4oz portions of fresh (preferably wild caught) salmon, skinned
- salt, pepper and smoked paprika
- olive oil
Drizzle olive oil over the salmon and sprinkle generously with the mixed paprika, salt and pepper. Heat about 1 Tbls of olive oil in a large saute pan. Place the salmon portions in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes until the fish released from the pan easily. Turn each portion over and seared the second side for 2-3 minutes. Cover and allow to finish cooking to desired degree of doneness, about 2 more minutes for medium-well.
Place a mound of the Red Lentil Hash on the center of a plate. Top with a portion of the Salmon and Spoon the Blueberry Salsa over the salmon. Garnish with fresh herbs or as I did, with a beautiful nasturtium blossom.