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an earned retirement

These are the dishes I bought at Target when I graduated from college and moved to Georgia. I have fed a lot of people on them in the past thirteen years; they’ve crossed North America twice. Nothing looks as good on them as sliced red, black, and yellow tomatoes with shavings of bright basil and a drizzle of olive oil. I had eight of everything at one point, but now I’m down to four dinner plates, four bowls, and seven side plates, and the ones I have left are chipped, cracked, and oh, heavy as a guilty conscience. I’m ready to move them out of daily rotation and into the cabinet where my grandmother’s dishes stay safe.

They’ll be slowly retired as I bring home more of these new dishes, a few at a time. Yesterday I picked up four of the pasta bowls first, and they’re just perfect. The tiniest hint of cream in the glaze, lighter than my blue beasties but heavier than Corelle, and they let the food speak for itself. And it does that, don’t you think? The dishes went straight into service when I found this beautiful salmon. A quick search for “salmon pasta” gave me pages of Alfredo recipes, and that’s just too heavy for this weather. But buried in the results was this quick Giada De Laurentiis entree that was perfect—so perfect that I know I’ll make it again.

Pasta with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon

adapted from Food Network: Giada De Laurentiis

makes 2 very hearty servings, or save some for lunch

  • 1/3 pound whole wheat pasta (these are penne rigate)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (this will wind up being 99.9% raw; use less if you’re not used to it)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of your best olive oil, plus some for sauteeing the fish
  • salt and black pepper to taste; lemon pepper if you’ve got it
  • 3 salmon filets (these are all around 5 ounces; Myron eats two)
  • 1/4 cup tiny basil leaves (or chopped larger ones)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed if packed in salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1.5 cups of cooked vegetables of your choice, optional (see step 3)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  1. Cook the pasta in salted water until done to your preference. Toss cooked pasta with chopped garlic, a little salt and pepper (not too much!) and 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, season salmon filets with lemon pepper and a bit of salt. Preheat a pan or grill and add a small amount of olive oil. Pan-sear or grill the fish until done and remove from heat.
  3. Toss pasta with lemon zest, capers, basil, red pepper flakes if using, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste a little and adjust juice to taste (I used 2 tablespoons and made this very zingy). This would also be a great place to add another cooked veggie, like roasted red pepper strips, steamed broccoli florets, or grilled summer squash.
  4. Place half the spinach leaves in each bowl, top with hot pasta, and rest a salmon filet on top. The heat from the pasta wilts the greens.

Yum, I tell you. We had it with broccoli on the side, and I wish I would have tossed it in with the olive oil. If I would have been able to control myself yesterday, a handful of the pasta and some flaked salmon would have made a great cold lunch today. Instead, I’m just telling you about it and wondering if it’d be overkill to serve this next week, too.