May It Please the Palate ... The Great Tomato Robbery

By Nick Roumel

On Memorial Day my sister asked me if I would cook dinner. Happily I went about planning and shopping for an impromptu party of seven. Well, “happily” except for a couple of experiences while shopping.

The first was in a certain store, the name of which rhymes with Whole Paycheck, where I found a single tomato weighing in at six dollars.

“But it’s an heirloom tomato, sir! And it was organically grown, prayed over by a diverse group of non-denominational spiritual practitioners, and harvested by a family of immigrants who earned a living wage!”

Then sold to a sucker like me, who has to work about sixty seconds to earn enough to buy that tomato. (Touché.) So I left Whole Paycheck, and went the store that Pittsburghers lovingly call “The Gi.” There I was much more pleased with the prices, especially when I saw a sign advertising wild caught Atlantic salmon for just 7.99 a pound.

“I’ll have some of that, please!” I said eagerly. I looked through the display case quizzically, however, as I did not see any actual wild caught Atlantic
salmon among the selections - although they did have farm raised salmon from Thailand for 7.99 lb.

The fish lady explained, “We don’t actually have any wild caught Atlantic salmon, sir.” But what about the sign? “Oh, our artist just puts whatever he wants. I have no control over that.”

I kid you not, she actually said that. I bit the bullet and paid for some more expensive salmon and it was the main course for our Memorial Day dinner party.

I made this in the oven. I would have loved to have done it on the grill, but my sister was having her house remodeled, and there was a twelve foot drop where her back deck used to be.

Baked Salmon on a Bed of Spinach
There are lots of complicated “baked salmon on a bed of spinach” recipes out there. This one is pretty simple, especially for a larger crowd.
•    Six salmon fillets, not farm raised in Thailand
•    1/2 cup olive oil for salmon, plus 2 TBS for spinach
•    Three lemons
•    Salt and pepper
•    1/2 cup each chopped dill, parsley, and scallions
•    2 lbs grown-up (not baby) spinach, washed and roughly chopped

1. Toss salmon with the oil, juice of two of the lemons, salt, and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400°. Place salmon filets on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or so depending on size and desired doneness.

3. Remove it from the oven to rest, and turn the broiler on low. Place a large sauté pan over high heat and coat with oil.

4. Return the salmon to the oven to lightly brown, about six inches under the broiler. Place the spinach and scallions in the sauté pan and toss with tongs continuously for two minutes. Remove from heat. Divide spinach among six plates.

5. Remove the salmon from the oven. Place a filet on the spinach on each plate, top with dill and parsley. Divide the remaining lemon into six wedges for garnish.

Accompaniments could include roast potatoes, rice pilaf or elegant Persian rice, along with a cold Retsina or Sauvignon Blanc.

If you’ve billed a lot of time that day, go the extra mile: make a tossed salad with plenty of spiritually correct heirloom tomatoes. Or if you can’t afford them, use cheap ones – but make a sign that says you used heirlooms. If anyone catches you, blame the artist.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at