Today is the second Ember Days of Winter of the Advent Season. The Ember Days of Winter focus on the Oils of Anointment. The harvest of the season is both physical and spiritual.
Ember Days revolve around the changing seasons. There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven. Ember Days remind us of this fact. Why are Ember Days Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays? Why are Catholics called to prayer on those particular day? Why not Tuesday or Thursday?
Ember Days are very much like Lent – a time of reflection. Wednesday is the day Christ was betrayed. Friday He was crucified, and Saturday He lay in the tomb. We are called to His side during those dark moments. Yet there is joy, for we know that He loves us through all our betrayals of faith, of spirit, of humanity. Betrayal is not without forgiveness. Suffering is not without reward. Death is not the end but the closing of one door and the opening of another.
Today is Friday. In our house, we observe the tradition of Friday Penance. After all, none of us are perfect. Flaws are a part of the human condition. Penance is a form of humility. Forgiveness is also a form of humility. There is a line in Our Father that has always struck a cord with me: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.” It is a reminder to put aside anger and to forgive. It is a reminder that we cannot expect to be forgiven if we are not willing to forgive.
Every day we are presented with reasons to pray. The more we pray, the more we begin to change in subtle yet meaningful ways. Ember Days and in particular Fridays, give us an opportunity to look outside ourselves. It’s amazing how life can be transformed when we no longer see ourselves as the center of the universe.
Poached Salmon Seared in Oil
4 Salmon Filets with skin
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups White Wine
1 cup Water
Fresh Thyme Sprigs
2-1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Season Salmon Filet with salt and pepper, set aside. Slice lemons into rounds, set aside.
Add wine, water, 4 lemon slices, a scattering of thyme and tarragon to a deep sauté pan. Bring poaching liquid to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, gently place salmon, skin-side down, in the poaching liquid. Cover and let poach for about 5 minutes or until just cooked through.
Gently lift fish from liquid, place on a cutting board skin-side up. Carefully remove the skin and dark layer directly beneath the skin.
In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. While the oil warms, chop a little thyme and tarragon for added flavor. Scatter herbs, then immediately sear salmon’s top side in oil. Sear for about 30 seconds, remove.
Plate salmon, seared side up, on individual plates. Garnish plates with a lemon round and serve with steamed asparagus tips.
Lemon Butter Steamed Asparagus
1/2 lb fresh Asparagus
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons Butter
Wash asparagus and snap off at least 2 inches from the bottom of stems. Set aside. Zest lemon, cut in half and squeeze juice over the zest. Set aside.
In a large skillet, bring about 1/2 inch of water to a rapid boil. Season the water with salt, then add the asparagus. Cook the asparagus for about 2-1/2 minutes or until bright green and just tender.
Drain the asparagus, set tips aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Add butter to the now empty skillet. Stir in the zest with the lemon juice. Return asparagus tips to the skillet and toss to coat. Serve immediately.