Surprise Romantic Dinner: Chipotle Quinoa & Salmon En Papillote

"If he delicately tastes a piece of fish to test whether it's done, we tremble, anticipating a similarly knowing nibble on the neck. We cannot resist men who know how to cook. Epicures who lovingly choose the freshest and most arousing ingredients, prepare them with art, and offer them as a gift to the senses and the soul, men who uncork a bottle with style, breathe in its aroma... while we watch him clean, spice, and cook the shrimp, we imagine that patience and dexterity applied to an erotic massage." ~ Isabel Allende, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses

After a long day, I hadn’t heard a word. Not one text message since the night before. So I sent Darling a little hello text message just after 6pm.

He wrote back, “Do you have a can opener?”

He was in my kitchen. As if I weren’t already completely, madly in love with him. He secretly made this dinner for me while I was at work. I came home to a bouquet of beautiful blue irises on the table, parchment baked salmon (en papillote), and a wooden bowl full of quinoa with black beans, corn, red pepper, chipotle and cilantro. The kitchen was a creative mess. I could see by the dishes, pots, pans, knife with cutting board, the counter scattered with the evidence that he spent some time putting this beautiful meal together.

It was nearly sunset. We decided dining outdoors would be lovely, so we brought our two plates full of this magical dinner, a bottle of wine, a big cozy blanket, and sat overlooking the marina channel waters. The boats went by, seagulls, pelicans, egrets flew along the pink horizon. There we enjoyed our dinner on the deck, sitting on lounges, glasses of wine, mouthfuls of quinoa and the buttery, delicate salmon. I felt myself simmering with pleasure and delight, not only for the food, but the moment.

Darling’s Recipe for Parchment Baked Salmon & Chipotle Quinoa:

Darling: "This dinner idea started from a lunch I had at a diner near my office. Surprisingly, despite all the enticing burgers, I ended up eating their healthier selections. I actually love the Tofu Scramble, but it wasn't on the menu that day. Just like the Mojito Shrimp, it was a dish that inspired me to try and make my own version.

Knowing I would never replicate that lunch perfectly, I searched for recipes that would be similar to the dish. I did a general search on Google for "Quinoa Corn Bean Salad" Surprisingly, I found many different variations. So I looked through a bunch and found the commonalities.

If I could do it all over again, I would use this recipe."

Darling's Chipotle Quinoa

  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup red quinoa (the amount I used was 1.5 cups, which was too much in proportion to the rest of ingredients)
  • 2 ears of corn (raw or grilled. the grilled looked so good)
  • 1 cup of cooked beans. Canned is fine, drained and rinsed (Black or Pinto. I chose black because of the color of quinoa, but pinto would look just as delicious with red quinoa)
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • 3 Chipotle peppers, seeded.
  • Cilantro, fresh
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 5 tbls of fresh lime juice
  • Red Wine Vinegar (To taste. I used Sherry Vinegar, about 3 tbl to compensate for the extra quinoa)
  • Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Parchment Baked Salmon

  • 1 filet of fresh salmon, skin on. (I used a 1 lb filet) Season with salt and pepper generously on both sides.
  • Chives
  • Lemongrass
  • Olive oil

Place in prepared parchment paper.

Lay the herbs on top of the fish. I wanted to use dill, but I used what was available in the spice cabinet.

I had dried chives, dried lemongrass seasoning.

Drizzle with olive oil. Place the lemon slices (or other citrus like oranges or limes) on top and fold tight the parchment paper.

Cook at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the filet from the skin onto prepared plate.

The recipe can be eaten warm or cold. Allow it to rest at room temperature to allow the flavors to set.

Afterglow Recipe:

The next morning, with the leftover quinoa, I made a poached egg. Warmed the quinoa, set the egg on top, sprinkled on some cayenne, plucked a few leaves of cilantro, and enjoyed a lovely breakfast on on the patio, remembering fondly my Darling making such a romantic dinner.