Dill salmon sits ready to eat with half a baked sweet potato and a quarter of an orange. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

Dill salmon sits ready to eat with half a baked sweet potato and a quarter of an orange. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

THE COOKING HOBBYIST: A dinner even a dinner-despiser can love


It’s not that I mind eating the meal.

It’s just such a hassle to plan, prepare and serve dinner.

I don’t know what the problem is. I have the same breakfast every morning. The same lunch nearly every day. I eat the same mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks every day.

But dinner demands variety.

I really don’t get why. I’ve tried to keep the same level of consistency with dinner and it never lasts longer than a day or two.

I just get bored with the same dinner every night, I suppose.

But regardless of the reason why variety is needed for dinner, I truly despise the meal.

I think one problem is that I work a 40-hour week and get home after 6 p.m. Who wants to make dinner after working for eight hours and getting home so late?

I know I usually don’t.

Another problem is that to properly make dinner one must have all of the ingredients for a recipe or an entire meal. This means deciding days in advance — I try to only engage in the dreaded grocery shopping chore each Friday — what I’m going to have for dinner.

Do I seem like the kind of person who knows while grocery shopping Friday what I will want for dinner Monday?

I probably do, based on what I eat the rest of the day, but let me assure you: I definitely don’t.

So I often wander a bit aimlessly around the store while shopping, trying to think of things to make for dinner for the next week.

I usually draw a blank, but sometimes I feel inspired to try a recipe or return to one I’ve had before.

I found one such recipe in 2015 after mentioning to my doctor that I wanted to eat more healthfully. She suggested the Mediterranean Diet. I had no idea what that was, so I bought the book “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners” (2013, Rockridge Press) and gave it a read.

There were some helpful eating tips in there and a few good recipes. The diet didn’t last long — what diet ever does? — but I discovered something new about myself.

I love salmon.

To be more specific, I love it when it’s prepared correctly, in this case dill salmon.

I didn’t like salmon

Prior to finding this recipe, I had only ever had salmon the way my dad always prepared it: Baked until it was bone dry and dipped in copious amounts of melted butter.

This dill salmon recipe was different, though. For one thing, it turned out rather moist. For another, it’s incredibly tasty. Finally, it’s actually kind of fun to make.

I don’t do it often, but I found myself craving dill salmon recently so I bought the necessary ingredients and prepared it once again.

While making this now-favorite meal, I remembered my first outing with it. The ingredients are pretty easy with one exception: orange zest.

In the grocery store, this caused quite a lot of confusion. I remember wandering around the produce aisle and the spice aisle several times with my sister, searching in vain for orange zest. We asked at least two employees if they could help us find it to no avail.

A zesty secret

Finally, just when we were about to give up, a kind woman in the spice aisle overheard me talking to my sister about how maybe orange zest is something we can only find at a specialty shop. This woman let us in on the secret: Orange zest is literally scrapped off the orange peeling.

She told us it’s easiest to do with a zester but could also be done with a knife.

That is, of course, how my sister nearly sliced her thumb half open. I really don’t recommend the knife approach.

But I eventually found a zester and realized how easy the task is with the proper tool. (In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up “zester” online to see what one looks like, find it in the store and then just rub it against the outside of an uncut orange. The pieces of peeling that come off are the zest).

So now, with proper tools and a pinch of advice, I give you the Mediterranean Diet’s recipe for dilly baked salmon.

P.S., lest anyone think I’m turning a new leaf on my health-rebel status, I had a pan of brownies cooking in the oven while I ate dinner.

Dilly baked salmon from “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners”

4 6-ounce salmon filets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice of an orange

4 teaspoons orange zest

4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare four 10-inch-long pieces of aluminum foil.

Rub each salmon filet on both sides with the olive oil. Season each with salt and pepper and place one in the center of each piece of foil.

Drizzle the orange juice over each piece of fish and top with 1 teaspoon orange zest and 1 tablespoon dill.

For each packet, fold the two long sides of the foil together and then fold the short ends in to make a packet. Make sure to leave about 2 inches of air space within the foil so the fish can steam. Place the packets on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Open the packets carefully (they will be very steamy), transfer the fish to 4 serving plte and pour the remaining sauce from the packet on top of each fish.

This fish goes really well with a baked sweet potato (just place the sweet potato on aluminum foil on a baking sheet, stab it a few times with a fork and bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees).

Because I only ever make two filets at once, I only use half the orange for juicing. I then split the remaining half in half and give myself and my sister equal shares.


Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.

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