Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring pasta with salmon and sugar snap peas--and a look back on an independent year

A year ago last week was my last day as a wage slave. My plan had been to go out on my own and start a food blog and share my passion for seasonal and local food; the future was grand, rosy, exciting. After years of feeling stuck in jobs that didn't seem to appreciate all that I had to offer and were leaving all my brilliance and skills on the table, I was going to get out on my own and put all that smart and talented out there. (And I was going to get my house in order, get in shape, and about a dozen other things.)  

Well, I started a freelance career as an editor, proofreader, and writer, and I started a food blog. I quit some bad habits. I ran a lot. Some portions of my house got clean--for a while. But only now do I begin to understand how differently I need to think about my work, to plan my life, to organize my time. Only now do I realize several hundred thousand food bloggers are out there, sharing their passion, and doing it with way prettier pictures and often with far more graceful prose. Only now do I realize that, yeah, I am smart and talented, but a lot of people are smart and talented, and many are way more trained and knowledgeable than I am. Ouch.

So those were some lessons: I wasn't nearly as good and smart as I thought. I wasn't nearly as passionate about food as I thought. Finding clients wasn't so easy, especially after the funding for my first big one dried up. There are always going to be people who are more talented, more committed, less diffused over multiple priorities. Less confused really. A heck of a lot more focused and driven.  

As you can imagine, that hurt. Especially the part about not being as good and smart as I thought I was. Yeah, that stung.

But it was an honest lesson, a real lesson. I wouldn't say I am humbler now, but I am gaining some clarity and perspective. I am clearing away some imposed rules, some imposed ways of thinking, some imposed parameters for beauty. And that's good, because I get to try and start fresh, to see with new eyes, to start to remember the first look and feel and smell of creativity, what that was like, so many years ago when the block of clay first hit the table.

And all I really meant to do tonight was share a recipe for pasta with sugar snap peas and salmon, and here I am, off on this tangent. Oh well. Here's how to make the pasta. It's really good: light, fresh, pretty in green and pink, with a nice crisp crunch from the peas--everything you'd ever want in a spring pasta. So get thee to the farmer's market and find some sweet crunchy sugar snaps!  

Pasta with salmon and sugar snap peas
  • 12 oz. salmon fillets (whatever's in season, or wildcaught frozen and defrosted)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used rombi in this recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
  • 3 spring onions, green tops removed, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed
  • juice from a half lemon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper, dried thyme
  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. (Start boiling the pasta about the same time you start the fish so they finish at the same time.)
  2. Rinse the salmon fillets in cold water, dry them with paper towels, and salt and pepper them. Prepare your produce (shallots, spring onions, and sugar snap peas).
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large deep pan.
  4. When the butter bubbles and browns slightly, place the salmon fillets in the pan. Sprinkle the lemon juice all over the fillets. Let them cook for 1-2 minutes, and turn them over to cook for another minute on the other side. Take them out of the pan, put them on a plate tented with foil (keeps them warm). 
  5. Add the shallots and the spring onions to the pan, cook until they soften (about 2 minutes). 
  6. Add the sugar snap peas to the pan, let them cook for 2 minutes. 
  7. Add the heavy cream and the Dijon mustard to the pan. Let the sauce cook until it thickens (about 2 minutes). Season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. 
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce in the pan and mix it all together. Turn off the heat. 
  9. Removing the skin, break the salmon into flaky pieces and mix them into the pasta.
  10. Eat! Enjoy! Even my five-year old liked this: