Peggy Ewing Casper expresses her creativity through food. She and her husband, Mike, live in south Kansas City with Thor, their Bracco Italiano dog. She enjoys cooking with fresh ingredients and entertaining.
Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: I always had an interest in food and am grateful that friends along the way taught me to cook. As a child, while others watched cartoons, I watched cooking shows on PBS and loved television chefs like Julia Child and Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet.
Q: What inspires your cooking today?
A: I enjoy eating out and I turn to cookbooks. I use Williams-Sonoma’s “Weeknight Fresh + Fast” by Kristine Kidd, and that is where I discovered this salmon recipe.
I also enjoy using cookbooks by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and for healthy dishes, I turn to Ellie Krieger. In addition, the Food Network can help cooks learn new techniques.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking seasonally or using fresh produce?
A: My husband was a farmer, and we lived in Chanute, Kan., where he raised corn and soybeans. He retired from farming and we moved to Kansas City a few years ago.
He is an avid gardener who enjoys raising cool season vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, radishes and kale, then turns to warm season vegetables including tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini.
My neighbor also shares fresh produce with me, and I shop at farmers markets.
Q: You are sharing a salmon recipe and the aroma coming from the oven is enticing. Do you cook fish often?
A: Many people in the Midwest are afraid to cook fish, yet it is quick, easy and healthy. I suggest you get acquainted with the fishmonger at your local store so you can find out when they get the freshest stock.
I also use frozen fish, as I find that fish flash-frozen on the boat may be of better quality than what is available here fresh.
The aroma you smell is from the vinaigrette on the fish, and that adds a fresh flavor to the fish and accompanying salad. I enjoy it, so I often double the vinaigrette so there is plenty.
Q: You mentioned that you like to entertain. Can you share an example?
A: For 50 members of our dog club, I prepared white chicken chili, corn chowder with leeks, mushroom barley soup and a variety of breads and tarts.
I also enjoy hosting casual dinner parties and cooking for holidays.
Q: Do you have some tips that make entertaining easier?
A: Remember, we first eat with our eyes, so choose colorful foods and serve them attractively.
Do not try to make something new when entertaining; instead, choose a menu you are comfortable with.
Planning is essential when entertaining. Plan the type of event, the menu, the number of servings, what dishes are hot and what is served cold and what dishes or steps can be done ahead.
Finally, use a timer, as it is easy to get distracted when cooking several dishes or when guests arrive.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published 11 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com. Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com
Oven-Roasted Salmon With Thyme Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings
1 teaspoon plus 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 pounds fresh Alaskan king salmon or sockeye salmon fillets
5 ounces mixed baby spring lettuce
Brush a baking dish, about 9-by-13 inches, with 1 teaspoon olive oil; set aside.
Place the mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in the vinegar. Gradually whisk in the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix in the shallot and the minced thyme.
Place the salmon, skin-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Spoon about half of the vinaigrette over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Uncover and roast the fish 20 minutes or until almost cooked through and fish flakes easily with a fork. Let it rest while tossing the salad.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve the fish with the greens immediately.
Tips: This recipe is ideal for entertaining as it doubles easily so it can serve 8. It is excellent served with roasted new potatoes.
The vinaigrette is delicious and easy to double so there is plenty for the fish and salad.
Chill any leftover fish and serve cold in a salad the next day.