THE WASHINGTON POST – Ever have a friend who finds little ways to make life easier? She offers clever asides or makes astute observations that result in why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moments.
The cookbook Prep and Rally by Dini Klein delivers that same feeling: Here’s someone who not only gets it, but wants to help you get it, too.
I found myself nodding and saying “so smart” as I flipped through her cookbook filled with organising tips, detailed grocery lists, and specific food prep and cooking advice designed to help busy home cooks like Klein, a trained chef and working mother of three, get dinner on the table without sacrificing fun and flavour.
The book mirrors what Klein offers through her Prep + Rally family meal plan service. The gist: Pick four dishes to cook, make a solid grocery list, then spend an hour or so on one day (maybe Sunday) making sauces, sides and recipe building blocks so you can then quickly throw together dinner on Monday through Thursday.
Even if, like me, you don’t feel the need to completely revamp your cooking habits, her cookbook delivers something you probably do want: fast, make-ahead recipes that don’t feel like retreads.
This hasselback salmon is my favorite example from the book. I chose this recipe from among the many tasty options because as much as I love salmon, I sometimes find myself falling back on buying fillets, pan searing them, and drizzling them with olive oil and lemon. Tasty, but sigh.
This one offered something differently delicious, but still quite simple. And you can assemble it the day before, wrap it up nice and tight in the refrigerator and bake it for 30 minutes the next night.
What’s fun about it? Rather than buying individual fillets, you get yourself a two-pound slab of the fish. Then you hasselback it.
That is, you take a sharp knife and make two rows of horizontal slits and one long slit down the centre, using care not to cut through the skin underneath. Then you sprinkle it with garlicky parmesan breadcrumbs, tucking those savoury bits in the slits.
The fish is drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice before it is slipped in the oven to crisp and turn golden. The fatty fish and cheese create a dish that is quite rich, so Klein serves it with a bright, clean-tasting chimichurri-style vinaigrette that also can be made a day or two ahead.
And the final little nugget that made me smile: Klein lightly oils broccoli florets on another baking sheet and tucks that into the oven in the last 15 minutes of cooking time to create a full meal. While the food cooks, you can toss together a green salad, if you feel like it.
But Klein wasn’t finished. Don’t want the cheese or just want a variation? She recommends spreading a thin layer of honey mustard on the salmon before adding the breadcrumbs for a twist.
This dish, which got raves from my colleagues, is definitely now in my weeknight rotation, but it also just might become my next casual dinner-party main dish. It’s that pretty and that tasty. Try it.
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Rather than buying individual salmon fillets, get a two-pound slab of salmon, make thick slices into the fish and sprinkle with garlicky parmesan breadcrumbs, tucking some in the slits, before drizzling the whole thing with oil and lemon juice. Run it in the oven until the top is crisp and golden. Cookbook author Dini Klein serves it with a chimichurri-style vinaigrette, but you could serve it with your favorite sauce.
If you prefer, you could spread honey mustard on the salmon before adding the breadcrumbs. Klein also slips lightly oiled broccoli florets on another baking sheet and tucks that in the oven for the last 15 minutes of cooking time to create a full meal.
Make Ahead: The fish can be sliced and seasoned, tightly covered and refrigerated for up to one day in advance before baking.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate the cooked fish for up to two days and the chimichurri vinaigrette for up to three days (the vinaigrette may lose its colour).
For the salmon
– One skin-on side of salmon, bones removed
– Three-quarter teaspoon fine salt, divided
– A quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– One lemon
– Three-quarter cup finely grated parmesan cheese
– Half cup panko
– One teaspoon garlic powder
– Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or more as needed) or cooking spray
For the vinaigrette
– One cup fresh parsley or cilantro, leaves and tender stems
– Half cup white vinegar
– One-third cup extra-virgin olive oil
– Two cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– Half teaspoon dried oregano
– Fine salt
– Freshly ground pepper
– Water, as needed (optional)
Make the salmon: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer the salmon to the sheet, skin side down.
Using a sharp knife, make about 15 horizontal slits in the fish half- to three-quarter-inch apart, being careful not to cut through the skin. (The size of the pan and the number of slits will vary depending on your fillet.)
Make one long, lengthwise slice down the centre of the salmon, again being sure not to cut through the skin. Season the fish with half teaspoon of salt and the pepper.
Finely zest the lemon, reserving the citrus for serving. In a medium bowl, mix together the parmesan, panko, garlic powder, the remaining salt and the zest until well combined.
Sprinkle the panko mixture over the fish, tucking it into the cuts and grooves and lightly pressing it so it sticks to the salmon. Drizzle the fish lightly with oil or spray with cooking spray.
Transfer the fish to the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fish is golden and crisp on top. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish and preference for doneness.
Make the chimichurri vinaigrette: While the fish is roasting, in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine the parsley or cilantro, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and oregano, and pulse to desired chunkiness.
If the sauce is too thick, add more oil or water, two teaspoons at a time. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed.
Serve the fish family-style, with the sauce and lemon wedges on the side.