It gives me great pleasure to cede the floor to guest-poster Jenna Helwig today. Jenna is the senior food editor at Parents Magazine and author of Baby-Led Feeding, an inspiring manual for raising good eaters and kickstarting the family meal habit nice and early. Yes, your baby can eat the salmon you’re looking at above. Read on for the recipe and for a fun little surprise. Take it away, Jenna.
You may wonder why this dinner party-worthy (but Tuesday night-easy) salmon dish is in a book called Baby-Led Feeding. This is baby food? Yes! And grown-up food and teenager food, kid food, and toddler food.
Baby-led feeding is my take on baby-led weaning, the increasingly popular method of introducing babies to solid foods. Instead of being spoon-fed purees, babies eat finger foods right from the start, grasping soft foods in their sweet, chubby little fingers. Baby-led feeding encourages babies to really get to know their food, to smell it, touch it, play with it, taste it, and yes, probably drop a lot of it on the floor (at least at first). It helps develop hand-eye coordination and teaches babies to recognize and rely on their own hunger cues.
But, my favorite part about baby-led feeding is that babies can take part in family meals from an earlier age, eating the same foods that their parents, caregivers, and siblings do—like the family meals in Baby-Led Feeding such as Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burgers, Spiced Lamb Meatballs, Slow-Cooker Maple-Dijon Pork, or this Mother-in-Law Salmon.
My mother-in-law, Iolanda was born and raised in southern Italy. When she was 16, a man in her village 10 years her senior (my father-in-law!) chose her to be his wife. They had barely met when they were married. Soon after, they immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Within five years Iolanda had three sons. Iolanda didn’t have an easy life those first couple of decades, learning how to be the wife that her traditional husband expected, navigating a foreign culture, learning a new language, suffering through ridiculously frigid winters, and wrangling three rambunctious boys.
But, Iolanda survived and, in time, the best word I can think of, is bloomed. When I met her more than 15 years ago I discovered a petite, chic woman who was bursting with warmth and the center of a large group of devoted friends. She begins to sing at the table with the least provocation; it takes only a tiny bit more prompting to get her dancing. She is crazy for children and unfailingly generous, perhaps most of all with her endlessly delicious cooking. Her lasagna, with 15 layers of homemade pasta, is legendary. Her meatballs inspire moans of pleasure, and she can make simple blanched broccoli mouthwatering. (The secret is well-salted water and garlic, naturally.)
This salmon is a mainstay in Iolanda’s repertoire. Slathered in a Dijon mustard, lemon, olive oil, parsley, and garlic mixture with a dollop of mayo for creaminess, the fish simply bakes in the oven. It really is dead easy. My mother-in-law prepares a side of salmon and then cuts it into pieces, but it’s faster (and more budget-friendly when you’re cooking for a smaller crowd) to start with individual filets.
GIVEAWAY ALERT! I’m giving away a copy of Baby-Led Feeding to two lucky readers — just leave a comment to be eligible. Contest ends Thursday, March 15 at noon ET. Good luck! UPDATE: The winners have been notified. Thank you for playing!
Like many instinctive cooks, Iolanda isn’t much for measuring, so even though I’ve eaten this delicious salmon dish countless times it took me a few tries to nail the proportions—experimentation that was well worth it. Note: If your salmon still has the skin on it, no problem. Once the fish is cooked you can lift the fillets up off the skin easily with a spatula, leaving the skin behind on the baking pan. Makes 3-4 servings
1 pound salmon, cut into 3 or 4 fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the salmon fillets on the parchment. Sprinkle with the salt (except for baby’s portion) and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and mustard. Stir in the parsley and garlic.
Spoon the olive oil mixture over the salmon fillets. Roast the fish until it flakes easily in the center when tested with a fork or knife, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. If you’re serving a baby, cool and flake the fish with a fork.
Mother-in-Law Salmon from Baby-Led Feeding by Jenna Helwig. © Copyright 2018 by Jenna Helwig. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photo by Lauren Volo.
Related: A Picky Eater Taxonomy (still one of my favorites)