Category Archives: InCity Yum Yums

Breads! … To life!

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Chef Joey made all the breads pictured here for his friends and family! From top to bottom: Italian bread, dinner rolls, Focaccia, Sweet bread! Go, Joey, go!!!!

Text, recipes, photos by Chef Joey 

Wonderful spring is upon us and, as with all holidays, food is involved.  Main courses vary for this Holiday, as it is the end of Lent, and meat is usually on the top of the list, and depending on your heritage, lamb is right up there.  But there is one staple food that is widely known and on just about everyone’s table, and that is Bread.

In many European countries, many traditions exist with the use of bread during Easter/spring. Traditionally, the bread is sweetened.


I was curious to learn that “Communion” bread traces its origin back to Byzantium and the Orthodox Christian church. However, the recipe for sweeter bread – sweetened with honey – dates back as far as the Homeric Greek period! Many classical texts mention a “honey-bread.” It is also widely known that sweetened bread desserts similar to today’s panettone, were always a Roman favorite.


The Easter holiday is one where “sweet” bread brings itself into the symbolic realm. The Sweeter breads indicate Easter Sunday and the rising of Christ. Although bread is significant for religious purposes, it is also symbolic for life. A peasant proverb mentions, “Chie hat pane mai non morit — one who has bread never dies.”

Throughout history there have been many shapes of Easter breads. One usually contained two points, and an egg covered with a cross. The egg and the points that recall birds in flight speak of fertility, sexuality, and procreation — basic themes in Easter and its pagan origins.  This was most likely the influence of today’s braided bread.

The second bread was designed to have no general shape, but was rather baked to encircle an egg, with the initials BP put on it. The initials BP stand for buona Pasquaor “Happy Easter.”

Romania and Moldova also have a traditional Easter bread called Pasca.  Ukrainians call it Paska, and they tend to decorate it with symbols, crosses, braids and other designs as a tribute to Eastern Catholic and Orthodox faith. The term Pasca is “Easter” in the Eastern Orthodox faith, similar to Pâques in French. It is derived from the Hebrew pesah, who have their own sweet Challah Bread. The Romanian Pasca bread, however, is made with cheese (and may also include fruits, nuts, or chocolate for decoration). It is usually be found alongside another traditional sweet bread which Romanians and Bulgarians make for Easter and Christmas called cozonac.


Babka is also a Ukrainian, Polish and Belarusian bread also made at Easter. Rather than being broad and round, like Paska, Babka typically is tall and cylindrical, like panetonne. It frequently contains raisins, may be iced on top, and is much sweeter than Paska. Babka usually is only made, like Paska, to celebrate Easter Sunday and the rising of Christ.

Here is a simple basic spring bread recipe – you can adjust the sweetness as you like.  It is extremely delicious!! Monday morning toasted with butter – just sayin’!


This is a basic sweet bread recipe my Greek and Italian family used with a few modern touches.

You can place colored pre-cooked, hard boiled eggs in your braid, and there is no limit, usually one egg per household member was incorporated into the bread.  FYI: My Greek family used to boil the eggs in red onion skins to color them, the Italians used red wine instead of water. Try 4 cups blueberries in water, and boil your eggs for lavender. Curry for yellow!  The list goes on!


1/2 cup whole milk
10 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/4 envelope active dry yeast
4large eggs, room temperature
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1  cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, cut nto 1″ pieces, room temperature, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave until an instant-read thermometer registers n more than 110°F

Transfer milk to a bowl;

stir in 1 tablespoon sugar.

Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend.  If the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast.

Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs; whisk until smooth.

Combine remaining sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add milk mixture.

With mixer running, add the room-temperature butter, 1 piece at a time, blending well between additions. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Knead on medium-high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

If kneading by hand, have the flour in a separate bowl and add the milk mixture and butter so it incorporates.

Take a bowl double the size of the dough and wipe the inside with some melted butter;

place dough in bowl.

Brush top of dough with remaining melted butter; cover with plastic wrap.

Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Then divide each piece into 3 equal pieces.


Dust your hands with flour and roll out to about a foot a half (18”).  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.


Arrange ropes side by side lengthwise on prepared sheet.

Pinch top ends together.

Braid dough.


Pinch bottom ends together to secure (braided loaf will be about 12″ long).


If adding hard boiled colored eggs, tuck them between the braids, spacing evenly.


Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until puffed but not doubled in size, 45-50 minutes.

Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°F.

Whisk remaining egg with 2 teaspoons warm water in a small bowl. Avoiding dyed eggs, brush dough all over with egg wash.

Bake until bread is golden usually about 20 – 25 minutes and a thermometer inserted into center of loaf registers 190°F.

Let cool on a wire rack so moisture does not make the bottom wet.

Serve warm or at room temperature!


Head to Jan’s Kitchen this school vacation week and get $1 off your omelette!

(Offer good through Friday)

You may also want to check out their pancake challenge! ICT writer Ron O’Clair did! – R.T.


Jan’s Kitchen Pancake Challenge 

Text and pics by Ron O’Clair

I stopped by Jan’s Kitchen on 580 West Boylston St., Worcester, the day after Easter to drop off a bundle of InCity Times for the customers to read and decided to take on the “Pancake Challenge” for which Jan’s is famous.

All you have to do is eat one pancake within an hour’s time. It is the largest pancake in the universe!

DSCF9076I have taken the challenge before and was unable to finish my flapjack, even though my fellow tenant and friend, “Big Mike,” got to have his picture on “Amanda’s Wall of Fame” for having eaten the “whole thing” in one sitting. Amanda is the late Jan’s daughter; she is head chef and manages the restaurant.


I thought that I could do it this time, I really did. I had not eaten breakfast, and I was quite hungry. So I gave it a try.

Well, let me tell you, that one pancake is as big around as my Renegade Cowboy hat is, and weighs in probably at over a pound of pancake. It fills the large round plate with some hanging over the edge and is as thick as a doughnut in the middle. You can order it plain, blueberry, or chocolate chip. I ordered the blueberry pancake.

As you can see from the photograph, I could only eat one quarter of the pancake. I took home the other three quarters, which fed me for three other days, and all for around $7, with a tip and coffee included.


The pancake was delicious at the restaurant and still delicious at home heated in the microwave on the following three days in which I ate a quarter portion on each day.

If you like a good value, try the Jan’s Kitchen pancake challenge, but I warn you: it is not for the light eater, and only the hearty appetite will complete the challenge. (That’s when you get your picture on “Amanda’s Wall of Fame”!)

Questions or comments? Please email

Enjoy fresh herbs … grow your own! Plant your own herb garden!

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By Chef Joey (Joey just cut these herbs, pictured below, from his backyard herb garden. He took these pics special for you!)

April! Merriment returns to the soul! We’re able to walk somewhere without destroying our shoes or fearing that slip on that slip of ice! I sing “Yippee!!” as the crocuses pop their little heads out of the freshly thawed ground, reminding us that spring raking is eminent. But who cares?! We don’t need a heavy coat to do that! Our minds and bodies turn to gardening … . Who does not love a pot-full of basil or rosemary?

Adapted from publication NE-208, produced by the Cooperative Extension Services of the Northeast States (NIFA), I found the following information on-line and thought it really needs to be shared: 

“Herbs have played an important part in  life for countless years — in  politics, romance, love, religion, health, and superstition.

“Early settlers brought herbs to America for use as remedies for illnesses, flavoring, storing with linens, strewing on floors, or burning for their pleasant fragrances. Some herbs were used to improve the taste of meats in the days before preservation techniques were developed. Other herbs were used to dye homespun fabrics.

“Herb gardens were almost an essential feature of pioneer homes. They were placed in sunny corners near the house to be readily available to the busy homemaker. As the population of the new country grew, people from many nations brought herbs with them. This resulted in an exchange of slips, seeds, and plants.

“Many herbs familiar to settlers from other countries were found growing wild in the new country. These included parsley, anise, pennyroyal, sorrel, watercress, liverwort, wild leeks, and lavender. American Indians knew uses for almost every wild, nonpoisonous plant, but they used the plants chiefly for domestic purposes — tanning and dyeing leather and eating.

“Celery was used by the Abyssinians for stuffing pillows. Ancient Greeks and Romans crowned their heroes with dill and laurel. Dill also was used by the Romans to purify the air in their banquet halls.  Some herbs were given magical properties, probably because of their medicinal uses. The early Chinese considered Artemisia to have special charms. In France during the Middle-Ages, babies were rubbed with Artemisia juices to protect them from the cold. Ancient Greeks used sweet marjoram as a valuable tonic, and parsley as a cure for stomach ailments. Rosemary was eaten in the Middle-Ages for its tranquilizing effects and as a cure-all for headaches.

“Chives, still a common herb often found growing wild, had economic importance throughout Asia and many Mediterranean countries. Odd as it seems now, the early Dutch settlers in this country intentionally planted chives in the meadows so cows would give chive-flavored milk.  Mint, another popular herb today, also had its beginnings early in history. Greek athletes used bruised mint leaves as an after-bath lotion. In the Middle-Ages, mint was important as a cleansing agent and later was used to purify drinking water that had turned stale on long ocean voyages. Mint also was given mystical powers, it was used to neutralize the “evil eye” and to produce an aggressive character.

“Mustard was lauded by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, and Shakespeare called it a desirable condiment in several of his plays.  Other herbs with importance dating back to early times include basil, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.”

So why not grow a small garden for yourself this spring?!


Anyone can have a garden and it starts with a bag of dirt.  Average cost $3. The bag can also serve as your planter.

You simply bring home a bag of dirt, decide where the sunny spot is, place the bag there, make a few drain slits on one side, flip it over, put small circle holes on the flat surface of the bag – allowing space for your plants to grow.

If you want tomatoes, symmetrically place 6 spots for one bag – one at each corner and two in the middle.

For just herbs, you can fit many more. This garden is fast, fun, low-cost and easy to maintain. Just add water!

You can cut a square opening and plant rows of lettuce, and when you harvest the lettuce you cut above the root so it keeps growing back.

If you have bunnies in your area, make sure you pick up an inexpensive fence to put around your home-made garden. My main garden became host to a very large woodchuck, and there was no stopping him!

Last year I planted 3 rows down and 5 across for a total of 15 plants. I had 5 herbs in 3 rows – basil on the end because it grows taller, rosemary on the other side, in the middle starting on the back I had 3 parsley across the top in the middle sage and, in the front, one each of oregano, thyme and tarragon because they creep forward.


The joy of herb gardens is you just walk outside and, with a pair of scissors, you snip what you need and it stays with you all summer!


You can have one or as many bags as you like and grow squash, cucumbers … You can get a head start and begin with growing your seeds indoors for an inexpensive garden experience!

Remember, these bags will not work all that well for root vegetables like carrots, beets or potato, as they need loose soil and depth.  Even if you don’t grow a garden, support Worcester County farm stands! Enjoy a taste of New England from New England!

Easter Sunday Yum Yums! Pizza pinwheels!

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We don’t need to tell you: Chef Joey’s nieces and nephews love these pinwheels!  Make ’em tomorrow for your posse, and be a bigger hit than the Easter Bunny!

By Chef Joey

Easter is upon us and the end of not eating chocolate for Lent.

Life is good – and so isn’t a snack!!!

I recently was asked to cater a party. They wanted pizza but bite-sized – so I suggested “pizza roll ups.” I got the same ol’ reaction, and I explained how it’s just a pinwheel and finger food and EASY to make.

So I made a few and took pictures, thinking I would share the magic with you all!


All you need is pre-made puff pastry – you can use the small sheets or the bigger ones.  Small sheets give smaller pieces – that’s all!

(My pictures are of the small sheets.)

Let the sheets thaw …


Brush them with your favorite pasta sauce …




Srinkle cheese (I used shredded Romano), …


… then roll it up!


Brush with an egg wash …


Sprinkle more cheese on top …


… and then place on a cookie sheet, covered in parchment paper.

Bake at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes … and slice!


Fast, easy, and you will be the star of your own show … for kids of ALL ages!

InCity Yum Yums! Chef Joey’s soda bread

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Chef Joey! 

By Chef Joey

Little is known about St. Patrick’s lifeline, but it is sort of narrowed down to the second half of the 5th century – that’s a long time ago, for sure.  What is known about this saint is he was born in what is now called Great Britain.  His first name was Sucat, and he was kidnapped around 16 years of age by pirates.

He was a slave to these Irish pirates for about six years. He managed to escape and get back to his family.

He became a cleric and took the name Patrick, which means nobleman, and decided to return to northern and western Ireland. Following his own path, he eventually became an ordained Bishop. Unfortunately, not much is known about the places he worked. He does get credited for bringing Christianity to the island and for being the first Bishop of Armagh. So Patrick is known as the “Apostle of Ireland” –  he is the patron saint of Ireland, out-shining  poor Brigit and Columbia.

What makes his day so special?

It is actually the day of his death. Patrick was so sacred it took two centuries to celebrate because it was a sacrilege to mention his name! Well, the real reason, I believe, is that it falls during Lent, and the Catholics lifted the restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol for the day. This religious miracle has promoted and encouraged the tradition of over-consumption!

There’s more, however, to the St. Patrick’s Day holiday than drinking. Eating is a big part of the celebration. And what meal goes without bread?

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Joey sent us this Irish soda scone! We’ll take it! Cuz anything Chef Joey bakes is AWESOME! 

So  here is an Irish “Soda Bread” to whet yer whistle! 

It is actually a quick bread. Its roots go back far … . By mixing cake or pastry flour, baking soda and buttermilk, you cause a chemical reaction and make bubbles in the bread!


4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk
Optional 1 cup Soaked Raisins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine.

Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly.

Soak the raisins in warm water for a half hour and drain them and add to the mixture, if desired.

Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk. Brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Check for done-ness after 30 minutes.

You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.


InCity Yum Yums! Gumbo!!!


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For St. Patrick’s Day, don’t forget to check out Chef Joey’s Irish Soda Bread recipe in this issue of InCity Times! In our city and some towns – NOW! (Joey’s so handsome! More so when he’s cookin’!)

By Chef Joey

Soul Food.  The term started appearing around the American Civil Rights movement.  The origins of soul food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa.

Foods such as rice, sorghum, okra and sorghum (a grain used in more than you think, to make molasses even alcohol. It’s the 5th most important cereal group in the world).  I’ll share a great recipe using okra that’s versatile and can be vegan! These ingredients are all common in West African cuisine and obviously came to the USA because of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

These basic ingredients became a major player in the American South, in general.

Ingredients like corn and cassava from the states, turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal were so influential in the history of African-American cooking. During slavery some of the indigenous crops of Africa began showing up in the Americas.

Plantation workers were fed as cheaply as possible, mostly with leftover/waste foods from the plantation, forcing the workers to survive with what they had.

Typically in slave households, “vegetables” were the tops of turnips, beets, and dandelions. Soon, African-American slaves were cooking with new types of “greens”: collards, kale, cress, mustard, and pokeweed. Then they began incorporating lard, cornmeal, and organ meats – not to mention discarded cuts of meat such as pigs’ feet, oxtail, ham hocks, pig ears, pork jowls, tripe and even the skin.

By adding everyone’s favorite flavor enhancers like garlic, onions, bay leaves etc new foods were being created. The use of organs and small intestines, aka chitterlings, using sheep intestines dates back in recipes thousands of years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade! Because African-Americans didn’t have access to sheep intestines, chitterlings became the norm.

Some families supplemented their meager diets by gardening in small plots where they were allowed to grow their own vegetables. Many engaged in fishing and hunting, which yielded wild game for the table. Critters like raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turtle, and rabbit up into the 1950s, were common dinner items in rural and Southern African-American households.

By rendering the fat many foods were fried and that still is prevalent in today’s soul or comfort food.

My GUMBO recipe is a healthier choice, and by eliminating a few ingredients, it can be a nutritious vegan dish as well.

Here is what you’ll need. I’ll write out the vegan version and list the “Meat Lovers” additions at the end.

The meat lovers version is usually made with Andouille sausage, which originated in Northern France. It is made with pork chitterlings, onions, wine and seasonings, and just for another tidbit: the name is Latin and means “made by insertion.”



1 cup flour

1 tbsp cajun seasoning

½ cup cooking oil*

½ tsp thyme

1 cup chopped celery

2 tsp Gumbo filet (Spanish section of market)

1 green pepper chopped

1 large can of stewed tomatoes

2 or 3 cloves garlic minced

1 small can of tomato sauce

1 large onion finely diced

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp tobasco (OPTIONAL!)

1 tbsp sugar

12 cups water

3 tbsp vegetable base (sub Veggie broth is an option)

2 pounds okra chopped – tops removed (you can use frozen okra – thaw it out first!)

Salt and pepper to taste

* Real gumbo uses bacon fat!!

Meat options:

1 pound of Andouille, sliced

1 pound crab meat

3 pounds U-15 size (medium) cleaned and deveined shrimp

Make a roux by mixing over a medium heat the oil and flour in a heavy pan. Whisk until smooth, stir constantly until it starts to turn brown. This can take 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to burn it!

Take it off the stove and whisk until it stops bubbling.  Take the garlic, onions, celery and peppers and add to the roux.  If making a meat version add the Andouille at this point.

Place back on a lower heat and stir until the veggies are tender.

In a separate pan, heat the water and add the bouillon (you can use prepackaged vegetable about 3 quarts needed instead of water or beef broth if non vegan).

Bring to a boil and slowly add the roux to the broth.

Reduce to simmer and add everything else except the gumbo filet, vinegar, Worcestershire and okra.

Simmer about an hour, stirring constantly.

While that is cooking, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the okra to the pan and add the vinegar – cook the okra for 15 minutes and add it to the mixture.

At this point, add the gumbo filet and the Worcestershire sauce.

Add crab meat and shrimp, if you are using those ingredients, too.

Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Just before serving, add another couple teaspoons of the gumbo powder and salt and pepper to taste!


For the birds!


Chef Joey loves feeding everybody – including the birds!

From Chef Joey:

Feeding the birds is cathartic and it provides a beautiful background setting. Just look out your window and enjoy the loveliness! February is National Bird Feeding Month and, believe it or not, peanuts are a great way to get even more birds into your back yard!

Blue Jays automatically know when there are peanuts in the shell! BOOM! They are there! Of course, setting out bird feeders is an open invitation to squirrels, too, but there are bird feeders out there that dispense peanuts and are squirrel-proof!

Make sure your peanuts are unsalted!

Be consistent, and soon you will see other birds in addition to the Blue Jays. Fine feathered friends like … woodpeckers, cardinals, sparrows, finches and chickadees!

Make sure you keep your feeders clean. As with dampness, mold can form on them. As harmful as mold is to humans, it is the same for our feathered friends!

Suet feeders near a window also create a beautiful nature-scape and are very inexpensive. I have a red crested woodpecker that adores my feeder and he dines there quite often!

This time of year is crucial for these little guys – so spend a little and enjoy a lot!

You can go online and have a bird guessing contest with your family. It’s fun and you may learn something new!


Give wildlife a boost. While it’s best to provide natural sources of food and shelter for birds by planting flowers and trees that produce seeds and berries, birds may need an extra boost during the winter, when they are burning extra calories to keep warm.

Use a blend of seeds that includes oiled sunflower seeds, which are high in calories.

Remember to stop the feeding when the weather warms up. An artificial food source causes wild animals to congregate in unnaturally large numbers in areas where they may be welcomed by some, but not others, and it can also make them easy targets for predators. Eventually, they may lose their ability to forage for food on their own entirely.

If you venture out to feed the ducks at a nearby pond or the gulls at the beach, do not feed them bread or corn. These foods don’t have enough nutritional value for wintertime eating. The best thing to feed ducks and gulls during the winter is dry dog or cat food. The birds love it! And the fat in it will help them stay warm, as well as replenish the water-repellent oil in their feathers.

Skip the Valentine’s Day commercialism! Salmon for you and your lova any day of the year!

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Joey’s got his very own InCity Times category!

By Chef Joey

I was supposed to write an article about Valentine’s Day and share a recipe – I can still share a recipe, but my skew on this “hallmark holiday” has changed. I worked a double shift Friday night and, with the snow pending, many couples made their way to various establishments and dined to avoid the “Valentine’s Rush” – not unlike the “Mother’s Day Rush” (which is always a fun Sunday – just sayin’!).

So Valentine’s Day celebrations this year were about people going out early because of the winter storm that was bearing down on Worcester. And Massachusetts –  the very state that once had the “curse” but beat the Yankees – now exceeds the snowfall average for the entire union! (Sorry Southern States – Sherman had a dream).

So waiting for dinner for 45 minutes to an hour and a half is protocol because who wants to rush a romantic dinner? Never mind the Valentine’s Day $75 roses that cost just $20 today. It’s cheaper to feed chocolates to the neighborhood at Halloween than to buy a heart-shaped box of Russell Stovers!

So the legend begins with Saint Valentine of Rome, who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire . According to legend , during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. Hence the ancient precursor to the “Valentine” cards or letters of today.

Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer during the Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets , and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart,” as well as to children, in order to ward off Saint Valentine’s Malady or illnesses.

Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the omni-present figure of the winged Cupid . Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards that seem obligatory to commemorate the day.

Here is a quick recipe that can be the precursor to any romantic encounter! This one involves salmon, but you can substitute chicken as well.


1 lemon, thinly sliced

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed 2

salmon fillets, bones and skin removed

coarse salt to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Arrange half the lemon slices in a single layer in a baking dish.

Layer with 2 sprigs rosemary and top with salmon fillets.

Sprinkle salmon with salt and layer with remaining rosemary sprigs. Top with remaining lemon slices. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork. (Bake 30 minutes for chicken.)

Serve with fluffy basmati rice and a grilled veggie of your choice – I like asparagus.