It’s hot. Hot enough that the thought of turning on anything that generates heat, including a shower, is out of the question. When I was in Florence with
the daughter about this time last summer, I would take 2 or 3 cool showers a day, finishing with a final turn of the lever all the way to cold. At night I’d crank the air conditioning as low as it would go; it honestly wasn’t all that cold, but it was enough to take the edge off the day’s heat accumulated in both the apartment and in me. For the first time ever, I got the point of those heavy wooden shutters closed against the day’s heat. The daughter complained that she couldn’t sleep with the AC on, that it was too cold for her. I suggested, and not gently, that she put on a sweatshirt and some socks, because I was not negotiating (“baby!”). I’m certain the owners of the apartment building lost money on our stay.
But I digress. A couple of nights ago, when it was a bit cooler, I’d made a wonderful salmon dinner. I caramelized some onions in olive oil (that alone tells you just how much cooler it was; caramelizing onions is a serious investment in both time and heat), then added some broccoli that I’d chopped rather finely. As it began to release its water, I cleared a space in the center of the skillet and added a lovely salmon fillet. I let it poach gently in the accumulated juices, and when it was ready, squeezed the juice of half a lemon over everything and removed the pan from the heat. Meanwhile, I’d thawed a ziplock bag of Mountain Red Blend rice in a bowl of cold water, then popped it into the microwave for about a minute right after I added the lemon juice to the pan. I scooped half the rice onto a plate, gently lifted the salmon on top of it, and surrounded them with the broccoli and onions. It was terrific.
I could only eat about half the salmon and vegetables, and I still had some rice left, so everything went into the refrigerator for another time. Its time had come.
I fantasize about dabbing drops of sesame oil behind my ears as perfume; it’s that rich in flavor and aroma. Needless to say, I always have it on hand. So first I whisked together some of Suzanne’s Asian Vinaigrette (she is also a solitary cook). I turned the last of the rice into a mixing bowl along with the onions and broccoli. I shredded about a half-cup of red cabbage, and flaked the remaining salmon into the bowl with my fingers. Avocados are (relatively) inexpensive and (usually) ripe right now, so I keep a few on the work table. I diced one up and added it to the bowl. Over the top went the vinaigrette, I tossed it all together, and let it sit for about 20 minutes for the flavors to blend. One more toss and it went onto a plate with a kiss of freshly chopped cilantro and a wedge of lime. I carried it outside to a shady spot in the back yard. With a good book (Colette: Looking Backward). It was heavenly, nearly effortless, and left little in the way of clean-up. That’s pretty perfect in my book.