My Farmville crops have completely withered, and I’ve lost track of “Lost,” “Fringe,” “Bones” virtually all the other shows and games I used to play and watch prior to this absolute absorption in Jenni’s Dish–I can’t remember what life was like before this fabulous world I catapulted myself into. Except, that is, for some of my jobs in the restaurant biz that really got me really excited. One example is Abolonetti’s on the Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, owned by the brilliant John Pisto.
When I started there, in my early 30’s, I was the only female server on staff (they did later hire two female friends of mine). Prizes for top sellers included a wine sales contest whose winner got a trip to a really nice Vineyard, depending on who sponsored the contest!!! There was nothing more exciting than selling the heck out of the extensive reserve wine list and our menu with high-end dishes including abalone at $40.00 a plate and live lobster, and crab (both pricey also). Knowing your product was mandatory!!! The combination of maintaining immaculate silverware in my station, knowing the specials forwards and backwards, and all the while maintaining a bubbly yet drily witty persona made me money hand over fist.
When I get to any restaurant, the key for me is checking my bags at the door. It’s an acting job and I am the star of the show, lines memorized, marks down pat, reaching out to my audience and pulling them into my world of fine cuisine, wine, and what I consider to be my “own dining room” or home away from home. People out to have a good time recognize this and are instantly made comfortable by my presence. Being able to read a customer is so important: Some are easy-going chatty types and want lots of attention/interaction: others just want to be left to themselves but also to be (wordlessly) checked-on a million times during their meals, possessing a keen eye for what you do (and do not do) — like spotters, spies who report back to the big boss. I’ve mentioned the restaurant I will someday open and would like to make some of these rules and regulations a part of that, although maybe not quite so stringent as Pisto’s. Still, this is conceptually a great way to keep things consistent and uniform, and by the way our uniform was a starched seafoam green button-down long-sleeve, a tabasco tie and black pants with creases (shorts during summer), and black socks and non-skid shoes. Impeccable grooming was mandatory at this restaurant which is one of my pet peeves anyway — who wants a sloppy “Joe Shmoe” waiting on them? Certainly not me! I learn from everyplace I’ve worked and this job taught me the most about casual fine dining I could ever need to know. Plus, I worked with a staff of people who were outstanding!!! I have felt from the first day I perfected this dish it would be Abalonetti’s- and Pisto-worthy, and therefore Jenni’s Dish-worthy!!!

 

The Warm Peach Sesame Dressing:

 

Depending on how many you are serving,

 

1 heaping tbs. peach preserves per serving; I was serving five so five tbs.

 

1-2 tbs. rice vinegar (seasoned is best to use in this as it adds a little salt)

 

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

 

1 tsp chili paste (optional — if you like that sweet hot taste!!!)

 

Mix well, set aside.

 

 

The Salad:

 

8 oz. sliced toasted almonds

 

8 oz Dried Cranberries, tossed with a little dressing — set aside

 

5 tangelos, tangerines, or navel oranges, peeled and cut into 1/3″ rounds

 

20 cherry or crape tomatoes, cut in half

 

4-5 scallions, cut thin on the diagonal (optional). NOTE: Some people don’t eat onions, so I leave them out and ask first!!!

 

1 package baby greens

 

1 package baby spinach

 

Assemble all ingredients in a line like a restaurant, keeping the tangelos and greens very cold until ready to serve.

 

Baked Blackened Salmon:

 

 

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray well with Pam Olive Oil Cooking Spray.

 

1 whole filet of good quality Salmon (skin on)

 

1/2 lemon

 

1/2 orange

 

Adobo seasoning (light sprinkle)

 

Any good quality blackening spice (e.g. Paul Prudhomme, Emeril’s, etc. )

 

fresh ground black pepper to taste

 

paprika for extra color

 

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily and is just slightly under-done. Allow to rest on stovetop for a few minutes while finishing the “plate up.”

 

Do the “plate up” in this order:

 

Put dressing in microwave for 1 minute and then for 30-second intervals until warm-hot.

 

Place greens all over plate, spinach piled in center, tangelos in a circle around plate as well as tomatoes. Place a piece of salmon on top of spinach. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and cranberries, and spoon dressing over entire salad, leaving some pieces of preserved peach from the bottom of dressing on the salmon. Serve!!!

 

And as always, Enjoy!!!

 

LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH, COOK!!! © Jennifer Green Alger 2010