Tossed Mesclun Salad with Scallion, Cashews, Parmesan, and Broiled Orange-Chili Shrimp &Surf ‘n’ Turf Dit ‘n’ Cheese with Mixed Wild Mushrooms and Smoked Salmon
INSPIRATION CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE. And many times, that “where” can be as much of a surprise as what it does indeed inspire. Better yet, though, is finding that one thing that is a constant and never-ending source of inspiration.
Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life comes to mind as an album that always has informed my own songwriting, whether it was compositions from over 3o years ago or last week. Edward Hopper, another artist of sorts—or, literally—has oil paint-brushed canvasses have made me look through the peepholes of various cameras in search of a unique perspective.
And “Trixie”, my friend, confidante, and “soul sherpa”, has inspired a great many unique culinary creations, and for many reasons. First, my extreme respect and admiration for her forces me to not just impress her, but myself as well. Second, her preferred diet consists of a lot more beef- and pork-free recipes than I used to attempting, so anytime she is expected for dinner, it becomes like me y own personal Top Chef-like Quick Fire Challenge, where I must cook a completely vegetarian meal.
The first meal I meal for her over 10 years ago consisted partly of what has now become her namesake salad. A compliment as she almost always has requested this dish since she the first time I made it for her. I started out as a simple salad of arugula tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped scallions, and topped with roasted peanuts, shaved parmesan cheese, and broiled shrimp in an orange-chili glaze. I’ve only made this for her, and last night’s edition, due to ingredient availability, became a Tossed Mesclun Salad with Scallion, Cashews, Parmesan, and Broiled Orange-Chili Shrimp.
As great as ever, and she even eventually requested to have whatever remainder of the salad left to be GladWare-ed for her to take home later.
The entrée was such a self-put-upon challenge that, in my untiring need to keep impressing Trixie, I had come home earlier from the supermarket without some of the items I had gone there to purchase—including the box of ditalini that would be the main ingerdient!
So having her pick up that box of pasta on her way over to my place (along with toilet paper and paper towels…she b(r)ought about a year’s worth!), I started boiling the requisite pot of water while prepping my other ingredients.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be using beef or pork, I knew to buy some hearty, earthy mushrooms such as Shiitake, Cremini, and baby Portobellos (they were out Oyster mushrooms) to include in what would be my version of a mac ‘n’ cheese. Goat, brie, and sharp cheddar would be the cheeses of choice, as I was proud to have the in-store epiphany of rounding out all of this earthy, hearty, goodness with some smoked salmon and give a nice herbal hint with some tarragon. I present to you for the first time my Surf ‘n’ Turf Dit ‘n’ Cheese with Mixed Wild Mushrooms and Smoked Salmon.
She seemed to love it, noticing the subtle notes of garlic, nutmeg, and chili powder in the creamy and, yes, very rich pasta sauce. The mushrooms maintained their natural firmness and gave nice, sweet earthy flavors with each bite. The surprise bites that also contained the smoked salmon just improved the layer of flavor by adding an additional source of subtle salt taste.
Trixie, whose company is all the dessert I ever need, was kind enough to also bring a bottle of bright, autumn-spiced, slightly berried 2007 Shiraz, the second half of which I’m truly enjoying as I write this (instead of washing last night’s dishes!), and was only happy to, again at her request, doggy bag an extra portion of the pasta for her trip home.
My home has just finished being the source of inspiration too, having not only been repainted, but the threat/thrill of Trixie’s earlier arrival inspired me to do some major redecorating as well. Her company is so worth it, that afterwards, I feel like my day/night couldn’t get any better, so instead of going out and socializing with any number of people and/or shots of Jagermeister, I slink happily into bed, sleep like a medicated toddler, and wake up to greet the new day, thrills, ills, and all!
Bun Apple Tea!
Tossed Mesclun Salad with Scallion, Cashews, Parmesan, and Broiled Orange-Chili Shrimp & Surf ‘n’ Turf Dit ‘n’ Cheese with Mixed Wild Mushrooms and Smoked Salmon