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(post, Donia Clark)
Ben Bernanke recently declared the recession over, which may very well be true for him and those on Wall Street, but the company I work for doesn't feel the same way. They recently gave me a raise, then cut me down to part-time in order to save money. They no longer have to pay for a full day's work or any benefits. I've decided to look on the bright side of this event. With the raise they gave me, I'm bringing home as much working part-time as I was working full-time and I don't have to come in until 11:30 a.m. each day, so I get to sleep late and be leisurely in getting ready for work. If there's two things I don't like it's getting up early in the morning and being rushed. I decided to celebrate having a little more slack in my life by splurging on something I don't get to eat too often because it's too expensive: fish. I was in luck that day because I found a great deal on some salmon, which is one of my favorite fishes. I decided I would throw together some salmon and lentils. I heated up a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven and tossed in about a tablespoon of chopped shallots and a couple teaspoons of chopped garlic, then added a few cups of chicken broth, about a cup of lentils, a small onion with a clove pressed into it, about a half teaspoon of thyme, a dash of salt and about a teaspoon of pepper. I brought it to a boil, then turned it down to simmer, covered it and left it alone for about a half hour. At that point, I peeled and chopped a couple carrots and a couple small turnips, put them in the pot and simmered them for about another 10 minutes. After that, I took the clove out of the onion, threw it away and chopped up that clove-flavored little allium and dumped it back in the pot. I added a little more salt and pepper into the soupy mass of lentils and veggies. Then I laid half of the the salmon fillets I bought on top, covered the pot and simmered it for about another 10 minutes. I squeezed some lemon juice over it, made a martini (another luxury) and served up the tender salmon on a bed of lentils. It was heavenly. The next night I continued the decadence after I read this article by Matthew Amster-Burton about searing fish: http://www.culinate.com/columns/bacon/searing_fish I followed his directions for searing thin fillets with one exception. I didn't cut the fillets into smaller pieces to practice until I obtained the perfect sear. I'm not a fussy eater and I figured my cooking skills are good enough that any mistake wouldn't be horribly inedible. My audacity was rewarded with some excellent beginner's luck. The four fillets I placed in the pan came out with a beautiful golden crust. I took the fillets out and put in a little more oil, turned the heat down, scraped up the crispy bits from the pan, tossed in some spinach, onions, garlic, basil and a little salt and pepper, put the cover on and let it wilt. Once again, I squeezed some lemon over the fish and spinach, made a martini and enjoyed yet another supremely delicious meal. I'm only working part-time, I'm living paycheck to paycheck with no health care, no vacation, no sick days, no benefits whatsoever and I'll soon have to turn back to the inexpensive minimalist dinner recipes I've stored from Mark Bittman, but until the leftovers run out, I'm in a land of plenty and the future looks bright.