For those of you on our holiday card exchange list, I apologize. I’m about to take away the smoke and mirrors, fling open the curtain, break the fourth wall, and reveal the illusion that those smiling subjects, posed ever so gleefully on the front of our holiday cards, are fake. It’s not that we can’t take authentically happy family photos. We just can’t get them to come together within the rushed thirty minute intersection of available time when our daughter’s home from college for an already hectic Thanksgiving weekend and I, despite having three camera lenses, cannot take a focused, marginally-lit photograph. Perhaps the lens is affected by angst in the air.

They say in Hollywood never work with children or animals. If I thought we were adorable, I’d have made this year’s christmas card with just my husband and me, but no one really wants to see a middle-aged couple on Santa’s lap, especially Santa.

The trouble started with the annual discussion-turned-argument on the way to Thanksgiving dinner – a holiday tradition. We had delusions of grandeur thinking perhaps a concept card might be fun; inspired by one family who knocks our stockings off every year with their comical, mostly inappropriate, holiday cards. Honestly, we haven’t been friends with them for ages, but still send them cards to stay on their mailing list. Team-building brainstorming is not my family’s dynamic. To be fair, I was reveling too much in my old marketing role, “kids I don’t think those our your best ideas, we can do better.” Killed it.

Without a concept, we went back to basics, a photo of grimacing kids and feisty animals in the backyard. Out of 200 photos, not one was marginally lit or focused well enough for the single image designs and minted.com told me so. What’s the fix with my daughter back at school? Would a photo of only our son traumatize or delight her? I couldn’t take that chance. Last year, I had to reduce the size of the unfocused photo to a collage that included travel photos, which some people said they liked, but the kids thought it seemed too braggy. Gotta love their humility, but travel pics are the only moments we’re together and taking photos. So, I decided to make this year, the year of the dog and cat. Pepper and Cocoa would get covergirl status and when I told them, they screamed like Sports Illustrated models. Taking cues from The Dogist, tennis balls, kissing noises, and whistling echoed in my house while I conducted my own pet photo shoot, followed by name shouting, pose shaming, pleading and crying. Cocoa can be such a bitch.

This is a big lead up to what will certainly be a let-down of a card. Yes, of course I had lighting problems. I’ve learned nothing over the years except that salmon and lentils are an amazingly satisfying combination. Topic whiplash!

Years, years ago I had the most memorable lunch at Kincaid’s in Washington D.C. (braggy), crispy seared salmon over a bed of cold french lentils and tomato. Kincaid’s has since closed and I’ve never found quite the recipe, but this one comes close to celebrating the pleasing pairing of salmon and lentils. Served warm with a slight broth, this one will take the edge off of cold winter’s nights and mix up the holiday meals and party appetizer load. Besides, salmon and lentils are quite cooperative photo subjects that I’d work with any day.

seared salmon over french lentils

preptime: 15 min                                 4-6 servings

cooktime: 30 min

  • 1 ⁄2 pound French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
  • 1 ⁄4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for salmon
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 ⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1 ⁄2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
  • 1 1 ⁄2 cups chopped carrots (3 carrots)
  • 1 1 ⁄2 cups chicken stock canned broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 4 – 6 8-oz, center cut servings of salmon, skin removed
  1. Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan, add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
  5. Add the vinegar and season, to taste.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  7. For the salmon, heat a dry oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops very liberally with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned.
  9. Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare. Spoon a mound of lentils on each plate and place a salmon fillet on top. Serve hot.

recipe barely adapted from Barefoot Contessa and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com

1 Comment

  1. Tracy says Dec 14th 2015 7:11 pm

    Looks very yummie. Loved again the photo drama story.

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