Girlfriends feed my soul.Hubby has been my best friend and love of my life for more than 30 years, but a night ending with girlfriends dancing on the table donning lace panties on our heads gives my life dimension and spirit. (Matching, brand new, panties of course!) My friends inspire me, motivate me and challenge me. We celebrate each other and are there to support each other in the deepest, darkest moments. I couldn’t imagine my life without a group of amazing girlies to see from time to time.
I have lived in numerous cities over my years so my group of girlfriends is quite geographically and personally diverse. A few friends have stayed with me from each location over the years and I always find new ones to add to the mix. It is a pleasure to connect with a new person, learn about their life and make memories together. There is nothing like the comfort and companionship of an old friend, but new friends are also important to keep life interesting and fresh and challenging. As I wrote long, long ago to my oldest dear friend in the world whom I have known since I was ten, "Make new friends but keep the old, some are silver and others are gold."
When Hubby and I moved to Santa Barbara in 2000, I found myself living in a beautiful place with three young children and no friends. Our wonderful neighbors jumped in and invited us to meet new people. The kids started school and I met a whole group of moms. I joined a walking group, a book club, and took classes. I made friends and they introduced me to their friends and so on. I have a few of the same close friends that I met that first year I arrived, and many more that I have met since then.
In 2011, MaryAnne was a relatively new friend. My good friend Daryl had brought MaryAnne and I together years before, but we had only recently started hiking together, meeting for a chat, going out to dinner, and cooking together.
Cooking together and eating together were our favorite activities. MaryAnne is a great cook so when we decided to throw a birthday dinner for Daryl and MaryAnne offered to cook, we were in! She made a whole side of salmon baked in the oven and beautifully presented on a big tray surrounded by green beans. Of course, I immediately wanted the recipe. She rattled it off in a jiffy; it was so simple and it was absolutely brilliant.
I made the salmon the following week for some friends and they loved it. Mom’s 80th birthday was a dinner for fourteen at my house so I made the salmon and it was gorgeous. We had weekend guests and I needed a quick dinner after touring the town all day so I made the salmon. It was easy, delicious and it always worked; I thought MaryAnne was a genius! And I still do.
I probably don’t make the salmon exactly like MaryAnne told me that night I first tasted it, but I’m not sure it matters. She gave me the idea of the basic method and ingredients and it seems they can be varied to your own taste. One time I forgot the mustard and added the olive oil; now I just use both. Another time I didn’t have any chives so I used italian parsley. Maybe the reason it always works it is that I usually make it for a crowd, and how critical can guests be when there is wine or cocktails involved?
Or maybe it is just that good. Like a trusted girlfriend.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” -Anais Nin
MaryAnne’s Girlfriend Party Salmon
One side of fresh Salmon, 3-4 pounds, skin on or off2 medium/large leeks, chopped fine, both white and light green part, rinsed well (2 cups)2 T. Olive Oil1/2 T. butter (optional)1/2 tsp salt3 T. Stone Ground MustardHandful of fresh tarragon, chopped fineHandful of fresh chives, chopped fineHigh Quality Flake Salt (Maldon or Fleur de Sel)Fresh Ground PepperParchment Paper for bakingBlanched green beans to garnish and as side dish.
Saute chopped leeks in 1 T Olive Oil, 1/2 T butter and 1/2 tsp salt over medium low heat until slightly browned and very soft. 20-30 minutes. They will condense quite a lot in cooking. Do not burn! Set aside in pan to cool. 1 hour before dinner set out salmon on parchment paper on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle Fish with 1 T. Olive Oil and spread mustard over top. Mix together chopped tarragon and chives and spread over fish, pressing into mustard. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on size of salmon. Do not over-bake. Remove from oven and spread leeks on top. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve surrounded with green beans. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper.
Note: This serves 8-12 ladies. For a smaller group, I ask the fishmonger to cut it into portions of 6-8 ounces each. Prepare it just the same way, adjusting the other ingredient amounts and baking for 20 minutes.