My Noni and her husband Fred saw the world together, guided by great food. He was born in Yugoslavia and she, Berlin. Their families fled the Holocaust and landed in Ecuador, where they eventually met. They lived in several places, including New York and Mexico, and traveled extensively throughout Asia, South America, and, of course Europe.
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During all this, my step-grandfather loved to eat. To keep him from tipping the scales, Noni devised all kinds of trimmed-down, but still tasty, creations to keep him sated (and both of them well-fed). Their love of food ran the gamut from the familiar to the daring, and good eating was always a high priority.
I remember eating this dish during many of our visits and loving her thoughtful touches as the meal came together. My Noni - Lilly was her name - put a flourish to everything she did, so no matter what she prepared, it always felt special.
She passed away several years ago. Re-creating this recipe was in part a detective story: when I asked my folks how exactly Noni prepared the salmon -- was it poached? baked? -- no one could recall exactly. So, I made a decision, based on my memories of golden salmon flesh, that it must have been roasted briefly in a hot oven.
I may have added a little more of the chopped herb and laid a heavier hand with the cracked pepper, but this version lovingly honors her fine touch, and turned out wonderfully.
When she's not writing, cooking, styling, and shooting her forthcoming cookbook - out Spring 2022 with Ten Speed Press - Melina makes food look its best for the New York Times, Eating Well, Edible, and other folks who are passionate about real food. She grows heirloom+native plants and forages wild foods at her Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. There, Melina prepares curated menus to guests seeking community, amidst the robust flavors of the seasons.