Achieving Flavorful Depth

Salmon DinnerYou know how some meals are just too beautiful to eat? I’m not gonna lie…we were pretty darn proud of this meal, and just how amazing it turned out. At the same time, it’s actually a fairly simple one that doesn’t necessitate the skill set of a sous chef. Avocado was the clincher: we saw some great looking ones on sale at the market, and it’s always hard to resist an avocado temptation. Creamy, rich, AND it’s actually kind of good for you? Done. My boyfriend and I needed a quick weeknight meal that didn’t taste like a last-minute option. So we ended up making a gorgeous Pan-Seared Salmon with Avocado Remoulade, with a side of Warm Quinoa Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette. Hungry yet? I thought you might be 🙂
Quinoa Salad 2Let’s start with the quinoa – awesome, quick, and healthy?? I daresay this salad was out to seduce me (my boyfriend did make it, to be fair, and he knows my food weaknesses). This ancient grain works in an infinite number of contexts, and one of my recent favorites has been serving warm quinoa tossed with vinaigrette. While you can use any vinegar or mustard on hand, it’s always a treat to have “foodie” indulgences – in this case, a Green Peppercorn Mustard and a Tarragon Wine Vinegar. Meanwhile, kale gives this dish a nutritional kick while the raisins provide a subtle sweetness. The result is a dish full of complexity and healthy goodness – click HERE for this spectacular recipe!
Quinoa Salad 1As I’ve said time and time again, salmon is one of my favorite fish types. Omega-3’s and protein aside, it is just outright delicious. For this dinner I was also able to use one of my favorite kitchen tools: the grill pan. Don’t get me wrong – nothing replaces the smoky, flame-roasted aesthetic of an actual grill, but this pan works wonders in a pinch. I seasoned the salmon with a simple spice rub (paprika, some chili powder, salt and pepper) and “grilled” them over medium heat for about 5 minutes before popping them into the oven to finish. Worth noting that I used a cast iron pan – do NOT put just any ol’ pan into your oven…unless you have a weird fascination with melted plastic.
Salmon Avocado 1Avocado and salmon are an unexpectedly perfect couple  – in addition to their congenital contrasts, they are a stunning duo in presentation. The remoulade is nothing too fancy…it’s basically guacamole with some olive oil. The oil gives the purĂ©e a glossy texture, which in essence justifies the “remoulade” appellation. While I opted to plate the dish as seen below, you can top the fish with the avocado or even set them side-by-side: at the end of the day it’s all a matter of what you want to eat (without mourning the destruction of a beautifully assembled meal). We were starving by the time this was ready, so we had no qualms whatsoever to dig in – trust me when I say we had no regrets after the first bite. Click HERE to check out the recipe for this impressive dish!
Salmon Avocado 2The wealth of this meal is bound to sweep anyone off of their feet – not to imply that this is heavy fare, rather that the complexity of flavor and texture is inspiring. So for my musical pairing, I opted for a light work with striking depth: Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53. Written in 1869, the work is scored for contralto (the composer’s favorite), male chorus, and orchestra – it runs just under 15 minutes, and yet is lush with “Brahmsian” texture and chordal progressions. He wrote the work as a wedding gift for Clara and Robert Schumann’s daughter, Julie – a girl for who it is certain Brahms had romantic feelings. Naturally, you can imagine this marriage was a source of sorrow for the composer, so he poured his anguish into his work. After reading the score for this piece, Clara wrote in her diary:

“It is long since I remember being so moved by the profound pain of words and music. It is the expression of his own heart’s anguish. If only he could speak so candidly in his own words!”

The lyrics are taken from Goethe’s poem Harzreise im Winter, which reflects on the despair and agony of young love lost. Brahms opens in the sorrowful key of C minor,  shifting to the happier Major equivalent at the promise of redemption and a revived spirit. He personally felt it was one of his best works, which for Brahms (whose self-critique was as harsh as it gets) is a big deal. I think Brahms, my boyfriend and I share a similar pride for our respective creations in this instance, which further justifies this musical pairing. The below recording is with the remarkable Marilyn Horne – a voice practically made for this piece. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Alto Rhapsody,” Wikipedia.com
“Philpedia: Alto Rhapsody,” LA Phil

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