|Descent into Lineham Basin. Photo from 1991.|
|A hundred years ago, I was 22.|
|The meadow. We climbed that mountain.|
We got out of the basin the same way we came in, with Pam gritting her teeth but being a hell of a sport, and Lisa practically piggybacking Brad the whole way up the mountain face. When we got down to the car, we were euphoric, punch-drunk, maniacally happy. We drove dangerously fast to Lisa's cabin (do you see a theme here?), and then Pam and I drove back to my hometown; we didn't even bother to take showers until we got home. My parents were shocked when they laid eyes on us, looking all camped-out and gross, but man -- best shower of my life, and when I got out and dried myself off, I looked totally different, as if I were a whole new person.
Serves 4-5 hungry hikers, or 6-8 regular folk
1. Make the masala: in a skillet, heat 2 TB canola oil over medium high heat. Add 2 large yellow onions, sliced and sauté over medium heat until golden brown. Add 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced, 2 sliced green chilies (or to taste), and about 1 tsp grated ginger root and saute for one minute. Add 1.5 TB bafat powder* and 1.5 tsp salt, and sauté until fragrant; alternatively, add 1 TB coriander powder, 2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cayenne powder, and 2 tsp paprika, along with the 1.5 tsp salt. Add 2 c canned diced tomatoes with their juice, and cook on a lively simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thick and well-cooked; the onions should be fully softened and almost disappear into the tomatoes, and everything should be tasty and pasty. Add 2 tsp brown sugar and 2 tsp wine vinegar along with 1/4 c water and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes or so. Check for a balance of flavors -- you should taste sweet and tart and spice and salt. Take off heat and mix in a big handful of chopped cilantro (at least 1/4 c, loosely packed, or more). Allow to cool.
2. Wash and pat dry two salmon fillets, skin on, of similar thickness, about 3 lbs; wild salmon is preferable, or sustainably farmed. Line a cookie sheet with two very large pieces of heavy-duty tin foil -- a good 5 inches longer than the salmon. Lay one fillet of salmon on top of the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; spread the masala on top, then cover with the other fillet. (Remember: the masala has enough salt to make taste good; you need to sprinkle the cavity with enough salt to make the salmon taste good, too.) Fold and crimp the tin foil around the fish to make a tight seal, leaving a little bit of air space inside the packet.
3. You can bake this in the oven, leaving the foil packet on the cookie tray (375˚F for 50-60 minutes; tear back a bit of the foil and peek with a knife to check for doneness or use an instant read thermometer, with a goal of 130˚F), or on a charcoal grill (bank the hot coals onto one side of the grate and cook over the non-coaly part -- indirect heat -- for 50-60 minutes). Cooking times depend on the thickness of the salmon; start checking after about 30-35 minutes.
4. Let rest for about 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven/off the grill, and be careful of the released steam when you cut the foil packet open. Enjoy the salmon with some of the masala, piping hot and fragrant.