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As winter trudges on, I’m met with a seemingly endless parade of soups, stews, various permutations of chili and other traditionally hearty, cold weather fare. Nothing wrong with those but, at some point, I need to lighten things up — add a bit of color and fresh flavors that give me a view to what spring might look and taste like even though it’s months away.

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And if I can get what I crave and demystify a venerable cooking technique, then all the better. So, let’s wrap this up, shall we? Literally.

I was inspired to put together this salmon en papillote (French for in parchment) by a generous gift of citrus that included my favorite Meyer lemons. While they might look gorgeous lounging in the sunlight, they’re infinitely better eaten.

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And what’s not to love about the perfume of Meyer lemons mingling with fresh oregano?

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En papillote sounds mysterious, but it’s nothing more than a simple oven steaming method that contains the ingredients – often fish and vegetables, but not exclusively — in a parchment package.

For this dish, I made a fragrant oil using the Meyer lemon zest with garlic, shallots and fresh oregano, which served as a flavoring agent for the fish and a quick marinade for the julienned veggies – carrots, red bell peppers and leeks. Simple and crazy good.

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As the ingredients heat up, the little package puffs with hot air and, with no chance of escaping, the steam gets to samba with the flavors, resulting in succulent fish bathed in its own fragrant juices. And the bonus is that, depending on the size of your piece of fish, it usually cooks in about 10 minutes or less.

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What might seem the most daunting about cooking en papillote is the folding/sealing process, which is so simple that once you do it correctly, you’ll realize that none of the precious juices will spill from the package. However, I do my folding and baking on a cookie sheet. Just to be safe. And, yes, you can use foil, but then you risk ending up with something that resembles Jiffy Pop, the stove top popcorn. Not so pretty if you’re serving guests. I tend to keep my foil packages relegated to the grill. It’s entirely up to you.

But won’t you try it my way? Just once? I’ll show you how to do it after the recipe. Ridiculously easy.

Part of the fun of preparing a dish en papillote is that you can tailor each package to individual tastes. Add a bit of this or leave out a dab of that. For this version, the main piece of information you need to take away is to make sure that you cut the carrots into small matchsticks. If you make them too big, then they’ll end up beyond al dente and simply too crunchy. You have a little more leeway with the red bell peppers and leeks because they start out pretty soft and cook quickly.

I hope you give this dish a try and let me know what you think. Oh, and if you’re not lucky enough to have Meyer lemons around, try regular lemons and mix them up with a bit of lime, orange or even grapefruit. And feel free to mix up the fresh herbs, too. A little tarragon wouldn’t kill you.

Oregano & Meyer Lemon Salmon En Papillote

Heat oven to 450-degrees

Four salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each and about 1-inch thick, remove any bones

To make the oil, in a glass heatproof measuring cup, mix together:

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 medium shallot, finely minced

Zest from one Meyer lemon, reserve the juice

1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped (if using dried, use only a fat pinch)

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Microwave the ingredients for 50 seconds. The shallots should be transparent at this point. Set aside to cool.

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Meanwhile, julienne (cut into matchstick-size pieces) the following vegetables:

1 large carrot, peeled

1 large red bell pepper

1 medium leek, white and light green parts only

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Combine the vegetables in a bowl and drizzle half of the flavored oil, along with 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved Meyer lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and let sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

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To assemble:

Place a fourth of the vegetables in the center of one half of the heart-shaped parchment.

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Top with a piece of salmon, spread a teaspoon or so of the remaining flavored oil on top of the fish, add salt and pepper to taste.

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Seal the parchment by folding the other half of the heart over to meet the edges, folding them over one another and then pressing them down tightly.

Bake for about 9 minutes. I don’t bake them longer because the fish will continue to cook while sealed. To serve, slip the package onto a plate and let each guest cut open his or her own dish.

Making the en papillote package:

It’s easy. You’re making a large paper heart. Really. Nothing more complicated.

You’ll need a roll of parchment paper, not waxed paper, that’s 12 inches wide.

For each serving, you’ll need a piece about 15 inches long.

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Simply fold the paper in half (so that it’s fat, not skinny) and trim it so that when it’s unfolded, it looks somewhat like a heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs a fat round end at the top and a point at the bottom.

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This piece was vexing because it was rolled and didn’t want to lie flat, so part of the side is hidden.

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Place your ingredients – not too many – then fold the other half of the heart over so that the edges meet and you have half of a heart again.

Starting at the round end or the top of the heart, start folding the edges over and make sure you press each fold down firmly.

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When you get to the tip, fold it up and not under so that no juices escape. And that’s all there is to it.

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(Printer friendly recipe version)

Oregano & Meyer Lemon Salmon En Papillote

Heat oven to 450-degrees

 Four salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each and about 1-inch thick, remove any bones

To make the oil, in a glass heatproof measuring cup, mix together:

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 medium shallot, finely minced

Zest from one Meyer lemon, reserve the juice

1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (if using dried, use only a fat pinch)

Microwave the ingredients for 50 seconds. The shallots should be transparent at this point. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, julienne (cut into matchstick-size pieces) the following vegetables:

 1 large carrot, peeled

1 large red bell pepper

1 medium leek, white and light green parts only

 Combine the vegetables in a bowl and drizzle half of the flavored oil, along with 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved Meyer lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and let sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

 To assemble:

Place one-fourth of the vegetables in the center of one half of the heart-shaped parchment. Top with a piece of salmon, spread a teaspoon or so of the remaining flavored oil on top of the fish, add salt and pepper to taste. Seal the parchment by folding the other half of the heart over to meet the edges, folding them over one another and then pressing them down tightly. Bake for about 9 minutes. I don’t bake them longer because the fish will continue to cook while sealed. To serve, slip the package onto a plate and let each guest cut open his or her own dish.