eating with your eyes closed

These days we’re doing a lot of guessing. It’s hard to know exactly how to plan, even for the week ahead, when the world is changing so rapidly around us. What was easy and accessible—second nature—only a few days or weeks ago is now socially irresponsible, even unthinkable. This week for the first time in a long time, I planned our meals for the entire week ahead. My partner is now home with me, working from home alone while I return to the office where my department is considered essential in our roles. I’m not complaining. I’d like to be home but for now, this is where we are and we’re making the arrangement work. We’re blessed to have what we do.

So on Sunday I planned our meals ahead, based on what I had in the fridge and the few things I would need to supplement that. Tuesday, I decided, would be great for thawing out the two big pieces of salmon I’d gotten from Aldi and trying out Alison Roman’s slow-roasted salmon with whole lemon dressing.

The idea behind this, which is very interesting, I’ll admit, is to make a kind of chunky vinaigrette with a whole entire lemon—peel, pith, and flesh of the fruit into the bargain. You chop it all up with a small shallot, add white wine vinegar and olive oil, a little seasoning, and you’ve got yourself a dressing. Half of it is spread over the salmon before it’s roasted (I let mine go quite long because the boyfriend likes it well done, and I don’t mind either way), and the other half is served fresh on top with greens.

Any time I try a new recipe like this, with an unusual flavor profile or use of ingredients, or anything I’m not familiar with, I feel like I’m cooking with my eyes closed. This is especially true when there’s none of the accompanying video that we’ve all learned to expect from our YouTube cooking channels and cooking vlogs. However, I was feeling adventurous and optimistic, and dove in full force.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like it much. Now I had read somewhere that Alison forewarned people that if you’re not into the bitter-forward flavor category, this may not be the dish for you. I tried it anyway and, wisely, used only one lemon from my dwindling hoard. It was OK but definitely not the bright, beautiful dish I was hoping for. As for L, he scraped the dressing off and ate the salmon without complaint, bless his heart. We tried.

This isn’t the first recipe of Alison’s that has failed me. However, it’s not enough to put me off her work entirely. The caramelized shallot pasta alone is enough to keep me going. I’m hoping to get to that one tomorrow night. And maybe this weekend I’ll be able to make Marcella Hazan’s bolognese, or a really slow simmered marinara sauce for a simple pasta meal. I haven’t decided yet. Who knows what’s coming, anyway? We’re facing the days ahead with our eyes closed, and some of us with our arms and breath held tight, too, lest we risk the contagion we’ve been warned about so seriously. We still have to eat, even if it’s with our eyes closed.

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