Thursday, December 3, 2015

Remembering Janis Burhop Aug. 28, 1914 - Dec. 1, 2015

I first met my future mother-in-law, Janis Clark Burhop, when I was five years old. She and Vern bought a home in Glenview in our neighborhood that belonged to the Palmers, good friends of my parents, and they came to a farewell party that the Palmers threw to say goodbye before moving - a party that included a giant inflatable pink elephant.  The Palmers threw some pretty crazy parties.
     The Burhops joined the Glenview Community Church, our family church as well, and Janis and my mother became friends who did good works together, mostly at Bargains Unlimited, a charity resale shop in Chicago. Bargains benefited the Infant Welfare Society, among others. Many family treasures disappeared to Bargains - in both our families, when something couldn't be found, we were pretty sure it went to Bargains. My Nancy Drews, Jeff's Mickey Mantle rookie card, all for a good cause. (We also got some treasures back, notably our Limoges oyster plates). She also delivered for Meals on Wheels up into her 90s, and I would tease her about the fact that she was older than most of the people she took meals to. In her case, age was truly a state of mind.
     When I was in first grade, the bus stop was just a few doors from the Burhop's house, and Janis loved telling me, after I married her son, about how at about age six I had fallen on the way to catch the bus, and knocked on her door to ask her to brush me off, which she obligingly did. On May Day, I would hang a basket of wildflowers on her door, ring the bell and run away.
     Janis was one of the "cool" moms, she drove a sports car - I remember her Porche - and she always looked wonderful. She was tiny - a 2 petite - but also a bundle of energy. She and Vern took up ice dancing around the same time Jeff took up ice hockey, and Vern would flood their back yard so Jeff and Jim could have pick up hockey games with neighbor kids, and they could practice their their ice dancing. They ended up as Senior Illinois Armature Champions - and Janis kept skating
until she was 89, almost 10 years after Vern died. For decades, Janis served as a skating judge and mentor to hundreds of young skaters through the Skokie Valley Skating Club. A few years ago, a friend gave us tickets to a Skokie Valley skating exhibition, and we took Janis. When she walked in, it was like we'd brought a rock star - dozens of people, young and old, came rushing up to hug her. For one wonderful night, she was back in the skating world, a huge part of her life. After she broke her foot and couldn't skate any more, she would take hot coffee over for the skaters every weekend, until she couldn't drive any more at 94.
     Janis and Vern had moved from Wagner Rd. to another Glenview home with a swimming pool in the back yard, so when our kids were little, going to Grandma and Poppy's was always a happy excursion. Both our children learned to swim there, and were very popular among their peers, as they were always welcome to bring along a friend.
     One of my biggest debts to Janis was her willingness to share her knowledge of cooking with me - especially fish cooking, but also teaching me how to make and can preserves. She loved the Evanston Farmers Market, and went there with us every Saturday for years, enjoying the hunt for the perfect strawberries, the tastiest peaches, the freshest greens. Growing up in Rantoul, Illinois, in a farming community (though her father was a lawyer who, for a while, worked with Clarence Darrow in Chicago), she knew her produce. Every week, Jeff would buy her a little bouquet of fresh flowers, something she loved when she could no longer walk around the market. The last time she went was the weekend of her hundredth birthday, and the farmers were glad to see her back, if only that once.
     I've never known anyone else in my life who was such an eternal optimist - she was always up for almost anything. I took her to Seattle on a visit to our daughter, her only granddaughter, and she wanted to go whale watching, bird watching, hiking, she was up for anything, and she was 90. She did yoga every morning for as long as she could, and could touch her toes at 98. Of course, at 4'9" her toes weren't very far away.
   When I asked Janis about her childhood, she talked about sitting around the radio, and the fun she had with her siblings, older sister Elizabeth and younger brother Henry. Living near the Rantoul air base, her father forbid her from talking to the military men, because the girls who hung out with them were considered "fast." Janis would never tell us - always with a twinkle in her eye - if she ever did "fraternize." She met Vern at the U of I, where she studied home economics and nutrition. He was the true love of her life, and the wonderful letters we found in her room, from when he was on a ship in the Pacific during WWII, have revealed a whole new level of their devotion to each other.
    After Vern was diagnosed with brain cancer, at age 79, Janis vowed to take care of him herself, which she did to the very last. He died March 11, 1995 in their home, with Janis holding on to him until he was gone. She called hospice, and they took Vern away, and she sat there alone for over three hours, because she didn't want to wake us up.
    Nine years ago, when I came back from South Africa really sick and needing surgery, Janis came to see me in the hospital, the concern etched across her face. When she left, she turned around at the door and said "You know I love you." And I said "I love you too." It was the first time, but not the last, that we told each other.
    She was the final member of that generation in our family, now we are the oldest. She was our mother, our grandmother, our protector, our cheerleader, our buffer against the ills of the world. We shall miss her forever.
 

     


Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday entertaining ideas - seafood makes it special

When we entertain over the holidays, we generally start off the party with sparkling wine -- there's just something extra festive about a sparkler. And it goes great with seafood appetizers, like cooked shrimp or our family favorite, oysters on the half shell. If you're having a big party, consider setting up an oyster bar, and find some young person who is willing to sit and open oysters for an hour. It's a great way to meet virtually everyone at the party, and there's an easy to follow video on our website that teaches how to open an oyster, Click Here for "How to Shuck and Oyster."
     If you're having a cocktail party, we have many seafood and non-seafood things that are easy to
serve. Our seafood spreads (Smoked Salmon, Smoked Whitefish, Shrimp or Crab Blend) need nothing more than a bowl and some crackers, our various smoked fish require some toothpicks or
crackers, our party trays require nothing more than a table to put them on.
     Vegetarians on your guest list? Try some of our pesto on toast points -- lightly toast some bread, then heat up your broiler. Cut the crusts off the toast, spread with pesto (various choices: Sun Dried Tomato, Artichoke, Poblano, Arugula etc.), cut into triangles and put under the broiler on a cookie sheet for moments -- serve while still warm.
     We generally have two or three varieties of herring in sauce during the holidays, always popular around New Years, and all you add is crackers and toothpicks. We should probably sell toothpicks.
     For dinner parties, we have our elegant fresh salmon entrees, Papaillotes (perfect for Christmas Eve or Christmas day - already gift wrapped!), Salmon Cozies (wrapped in puff pastry) and Stuffed Salmon Fillets - when you place an order, we make them up just for you. We can also order in something really special for you, such as genuine Dover sole or French turbot, as long as you're willing to pay the high price these wonderful fish command these days. French turbot is my all time favorite fish, and I was thrilled to be able to get it at a reasonable price in Italy two years ago. It's getting it from there to here that costs so much.
     For a more casual party, where everyone is willing to eat with their hands, there's nothing better than live lobsters, crab legs (already cooked, just thaw and warm), or lobster tails. If you click on the link above for oyster shucking directions, you'll also see our videos on cooking lobster tail and warming up king crab legs. All of these go well with melted herb butter, or for something lighter, serve with our Lemon Dill Sauce.
   Mussel Recipes. Just add lots of crusty bread and a green salad. I like to add fruit to my salad, and this time of year the clementines are readily available, as well as avocados. I sprinkle a little goat cheese over the top and serve with my homemade vinaigrette. An easy, delicious salad with many seafood dishes.
 Last Christmas eve, we had guests from France and Sweden joining our family meal, and I made a giant pot of mussels in a wine, shallot and cream sauce - we had 8 people and what seemed like way too many mussels - but everyone ate 2 or 3 helpings, and there was not one mussel left. This is a wonderful meal for a crowd, and so easy to do - check out our
     The Italians go quite fish-crazy on Christmas Eve - The Feast of the Seven Fishes is something that many of our customers have done over the years. If you're taking on a challenge such as this, and you need something special, such as salt cod, please call and order in advance -- though we often carry many unusual things, such a lutefisk and whole tube calamari, be sure to call in an order. If there's a run on lutefisk, we want to be able to get more in for our Scandinavian friends. I must say, I've never worked up the courage to try lutefisk. I guess you have to grow up with it.
     Let us know what special items you need for your celebration, and we'll do our best to get it in for you. Ask us for seafood suggestions, wine suggestions, side dish suggestions - we even do dessert. Whether you're a fabulous cook who just wants great ingredients, or an "I can barely turn on the oven" cook, we can help you serve up a fabulous holiday meal for friends, family or just yourself.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Seafood at the 1st Thanksgiving


When the Pilgrims invited the local native tribe, the Wampanoag, for a harvest dinner, it's not completely clear what was on the menu. Culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving meal consisted of seafood, which is often absent from today’s menus. Mussels were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested from the rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese; we serve them with cream, not so far off. Lobster, bass, cod, clams and oysters were most likely also part of the 3-day feast.
     One thing we do know from letters from one of colonists, only the men of the Wampanoag tribe came to the event.  They brought venison, still on the hoof, so to speak.
     I can only imagine the conversation on the way to the feast - one of the Wampanoag says "Do you think we should bring something?" when a small herd of unfortunate deer appear. Bam, five dead deer for a hostess gift - just not gutted, skinned or ready to cook. They were handed over to the Pilgrim women to clean and prepare for the spit - it's no wonder the event lasted three days.
     One wonders why the native women weren't invited - or perhaps they declined the invite to stay home and not have to do much cooking for a few days, for which they were undoubtedly thankful. 
     For those of you who are not cooking this Thanksgiving, but are going to partake with friends or relatives, I have a venison-free suggestion as a hostess gift that doesn't require any preparation at all - take some of our cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce, some oysters (East Coast to go along with what the Pilgrims ate), some smoked salmon, or one of our tasty spreads. No skinning or gutting involved, though someone will have to open the oysters -- we have an oyster shucking video on our web site - check it out here.  
     Your host/hostess will thank you, for bringing something wonderful that requires no work on their part! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Looking for delivery options for Glenview customers...

The outpouring of sad messages from our Glenview customers has been both heartwarming and heart breaking -- staff has been so happy to see the customers who have driven down to Hinsdale for their fresh seafood. Now that's loyalty!
     We are talking to a number of potential delivery services, the only concern being that the majority of them are designed to deliver hot food, and virtually all of our food needs to be kept cold. We particularly want to get something set up before the holidays, because of the demand for our cooked shrimp and party trays. We have talked to several companies, we will keep you posted.
     What we envision being potential delivery items:
Sandwich roll kits - Lobster, Nutty Tuna, Cranberry Tuna or Seafood Harvest
Party Trays - Shrimp, Shrimp & Claws, Salmon 3-Ways, Poached Salmon
Cooked Shrimp - by the pound, with sauce by the pound
Prepared Oven-ready Entrees - Stuffed Salmon, Salmon Papillotes, (or same made with tilapia); Salmon Cozies, Stuffed Rolled Sole
Soups - hot or frozen
Sauces - by the pound, Lemon Dill, Pico de Gallo, Bruschetta, variety of pesto
Salads & Sides - rice dishes, potatoes (Herb Roasted, Garlic Mashed), Broccoli Salad, Almond Green      Beans, Tuna Salads (Nutty or Cranberry) etc.
Key Lime Pies and Tarts
     If there is something you would feel is a great potential delivery item, let us know! As this is a work in progress, we won't know for a while if it will be viable. We hope so, for the sake of all our sad customers. We didn't want to close the Glenview store, but the rent was killing us. The landlords there (Regency Centers) are the partners of all the Marianos opening in the Chicago area (soon to be owned by Krogers), a very big mall management company that was happy to charge us the highest rent/sq. ft. in the center. When we told them over a year ago that they would put us out of business, they basically let us know that they didn't care. So those of you who are angry with us for closing, please transfer your anger to them!
     We will keep you posted on the potential delivery service - if you know of a possibility that we may have missed, let us know.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Aquarium Scarium

Some of the aquariums in the US started issuing wallet cards, advising people on what were good fish to eat and what were not, based on a variety of criteria. They basically told people not to eat farmed fish, and not to eat certain species of fish that may truly be in danger, though some that they warn you about are fine to eat, depending on where they're caught.
     Example: East Coast cod is on the bad choice list for many aquariums. However, the New England fishery is now being well managed, and the fish has rebounded very quickly. When it's available, it's a wonderful fish, and you don't have to feel guilty eating it. The Icelandic cod fishery is one of the best managed in the world, and Icelandic cod is always a good choice. Pacific cod, very similar to its East Coast cousin, is also from a well managed fishery, as long as it's from US waters - cod imported from Russian and Asian waters is still being over fished. Ours comes from US waters.
     Recently, many farmed fish have been added to the "Best Choice" lists, because the aquariums finally realized that in order to feed people and maintain wild stocks, there has to be a farmed alternative. Some of the ones they mention include Arctic char, sea scallops, shrimp, barramundi, yellow perch, oysters, mussels and clams. One fish they refuse to recognize as a good choice is farmed salmon, because of issues with Atlantic salmon being raised in Pacific waters. Wild salmon fisheries were terrified of escaped salmon co-mingling with the Pacific salmon and damaging the species. Perhaps a valid fear, but we don't buy Atlantic salmon raised in the Pacific. All of our raised salmon comes from operations that we know to follow sound environmental practices, off the east coast of  Canada and the west coast of Scotland.
     Seafood species that are particularly in danger (and we don't sell them for that reason) include warm water lobster from South America and the Asian Pacific - these are the cheap lobster tails you see in box stores and chain groceries that are cheaper than cold water tails - and they are being wildly over fished. We get our tails from Maine, a well managed fishery, and North Australia, a very successful operation managed by native Aborigines near Darwin.
     Blue fin tuna has been fished almost to extinction, largely to feed the Japanese, and we don't sell it. We also don't sell Caspian Beluga caviar - also horribly over fished. During the holidays, we sell American sturgeon caviar, which is wonderful, from sustainably raised fish, and much cheaper.
     The aquariums tell you not to eat imported mahi mahi, not sure why, but don't mention American caught mahi, which is plentiful and delicious.
     In September of last year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium de-blacklisted 21 species of west coast fish that had been endangered. According to a report on CBS news:
"Key actions that helped the West Coast ground-fish rebound include greatly increased government monitoring and control of fishing boats’ take, assigning fishing quotas to individual fishermen rather than to types of fish, and closing off some areas of the ocean to safeguard vulnerable habitat..."
     It took just 14 years to rebuild the fisheries and get them back to a sustainable industry.
     The bounty that comes from our lakes and oceans is one of our greatest treasures. Those of us in the seafood industry who rely on the resource want to preserve that resource for future generations. The best thing that you can do, as seafood consumer, is know your fishmonger.
     And stop avoiding raised seafood - as long as you know the source!! Where do you get your wild beef, chicken and pork? Responsibly farmed seafood will save wild stocks, and that's vital to the future of the only food we still hunt for public consumption.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My beef with red meat

For most of my younger life, I loved the occasional steak or burger. The thought of a nice juicy steak still makes my mouth water, but I know too well that I can't enjoy red meat any more.
     The reason? About 10 or 12 years ago, I started to notice that if I ate red meat for dinner, I didn't sleep well, and the food would stay in my stomach, seemingly for days. I wasn't digesting it properly any more, and it was giving me heartburn.
     Now the medical researchers are telling us that red meat and processed meats are pretty much for sure a major cause of colon cancer, and they contribute to coronary disease. I'm guessing that all the antibiotics in cattle and the chemicals in bacon and salami are coming back to haunt us. (Will this week's news about red meat cause children to wear cow costumes for Halloween...?)
     I weaned myself off of beef years ago, but I still eat the occasional piece of pork or a tiny portion of lamb when I'm feeling the need. I figure a couple of times a year isn't catastrophic. Instead of red meat, we generally have poultry once or twice a week, fish two or three times a week, and vegetarian the other nights. A plate of pasta with a tasty shrimp sauce makes a great meal with a salad, and you can keep some frozen peeled and de-veined shrimp in the freezer for whenever the urge takes you.
     Colon cancer is an awful disease, something to avoid at all costs. I heartily recommend eating a nice tuna or swordfish steak, or even better a nice piece of salmon (my favorite red fish) instead.
     In Japan, where people used to have a very good prospect of longevity, the introduction of a western diet has literally shortened their lives. Where they used to eat fish almost every day, they now eat burgers and fries, and they suffer coronary disease like we do, something that virtually didn't exist there before WWII. It's like a giant science experiment, with the Japanese people the unfortunate lab rats. It's pretty easy to draw the conclusion that the American diet of red meat once or twice a day is killing us, and anyone else who eats like we do.
     So what would happen if people started to eat a lot less red meat? The environment would improve, because the South Americans wouldn't need to continually clear cut the Amazon jungle to raise cattle, there'd be less methane gas from ruminants, and there would be fewer cases of colon cancer and heart disease, lowering our national medical bills. Sounds like a giant upside to giving up something that really isn't good for us.
     When I gave up beef, it was only hard when I was in a restaurant where I could smell a steak, but then when my own meal came - usually seafood - the feeling passed, and I enjoyed my meal without the slightest guilt, and I slept very well afterwards. It wasn't a hard price to pay.
   

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cubs Flounder, need something good for the sole

Well, they lost in spectacular fashion. At the end, I couldn't watch. A team we beat 7 times in the regular season trounced us. The Cubs are a young team, and got way further than anyone expected, but I was so hopeful that they would at least make a go of it. Lots of cheap Cubs paraphernalia around town. By Christmas some people will want it.
     Now for the sole -- as I explained in our email newsletter today, we don't really have any in the US, all the flat fish we call sole are actually flounder. The only true sole is Dover sole, from Europe, an amazing fish. When I lived in England, I used to love to order it in a restaurant and get a whole small fish which they would fillet at the table. So delicious when it's cooked whole - much more flavor, not sure why. Must be the bones.
     Dover sole is very expensive now, so we don't carry it on a regular basis. During the holidays we always get inquiries, and can certainly take special orders, for both Dover sole and French turbot, my absolute favorite fish.
     Don't be fooled by the west coast flounder that gets sold in supermarkets as Dover sole - it isn't the same fish, by a long shot. If you see something called Dover sole for $9.95/lb., I guarantee it's not the real thing.
     Cooking sole is easy - it cooks very quickly, because the fillets tend to be fairly thin. One of my favorites is the traditional Sole Almondine - in this case, Flounder Almondine. I gently saute the almonds in a little butter, then coat the fish in seasoned flour and saute in a mixture of butter and olive oil. I top with the almonds and serve with a lemon wedge - totally easy. I love using my Lodge wrought iron pan - it heats beautifully and cooks the fish perfectly. A good, heavy pan makes a great difference in many preparations.
     Making a stuffed sole is also easy - you just make your stuffing and wrap a fillet around it. We're doing a Florentine version this weekend (spinach stuffing), but this mild fish lends itself to many types of stuffing.
     Give flounder/sole a try - I believe it was a piece of beautifully prepared sole that influenced Julia Child to become a chef - thank goodness she did!
     As always, we'd love to hear from you about your favorite sole recipes.
   
     

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Five generations of Cubs fans

My great grandmother Anna Stemwell emigrated to the US from southern Germany in the early 1900's, and her English was pretty rudimentary, according to my dad. He grew up in the same house with her from the age of 10 in Milwaukee. In the late 1930s, when my dad was in college, he would call his grandmother regularly, and she always worried that her English was hard to understand on the phone. At that time, there was no major league baseball in Milwaukee, only a minor league team called the Brewers. If you wanted to listen to a baseball game on the radio in Milwaukee, you could listen to WGN broadcasting the Cubs games. So my dad suggested to his grandmother that she listen to the Cub games to improve her English.
     This lead to my great grandmother becoming a huge Cub fan. She listened to every game, and her English did get a lot better - I've often wondered if she ever got to go to a game.
     For years, when my dad would call his grandmother during baseball season he would ask her how she was. Her response depended on the Cubs - if they'd won, she was in great spirits; if they'd lost, she'd say "terrible, terrible. The damn Cups, they lost again." (She lived into her late 80s and would have lived longer if she hadn't fallen on the ice running out to get the newspaper.)
     Because my dad lived in Chicago by the time the Braves went to Milwaukee in 1953, like his dad, he was always a Cubs fan, even when one of his good buddies, John Allyn, owned the White Sox from 1961-1975. We went to White Sox games at Comiskey Park, usually sitting in the owners box, but it was never as much fun as sitting in the stands at Wrigley.
     My brother became a die-hard fan, listening to games whenever he could - he was living in Arizona for the last 20 years of his life, and was over the moon when WGN-TV became a "super station" and he could watch his beloved Cubs again. He died much too young, but I hope he has a birds-eye view of all the games, along with all the other Cub fans who left us before the Cubs could have a good post season.  He was a huge Billy Buckner fan - that added to the heartbreak.
     I married a Cubs fan - one of my requirements - and we took our kids to games from a very early age. When our son was around 6, I took him to a game without his dad along. When he had to go to the men's room, I walked him to the door, and told him I'd be waiting at the exit door, which was down at the other end. I waited patiently at the exit, but he didn't come out. I was getting worried, so I found an Andy Frain usher, a young African American lad, and asked him to search the bathroom. He went in, called out our son's name repeatedly, but came out empty handed with a very worried look on his face. We looked all around the concession stands, no luck, and I was getting extremely nervous.
     The usher asked me if he could have gone back to his seat, and I thought it would be impossible for a 6-year-old to find his way through all those seats, but we decided to go look. and there he was - sitting happily in his seat, watching the game, oblivious to the fact that I was not there. When I saw him in his seat and exclaimed "He's there!" the usher and I hugged each other in relief.
     I went to my seat and asked my son where he'd been, and he said that he just came out the entrance and went straight back to his seat - he remembered "the hair do of the girl sitting in front of him," and found it with no problem. I, however, was having a coronary for about 20 minutes.
     Then there was the time I got hit by a Vance Law line drive foul ball - right across my chest. All I had time to do was turn sideways, so it didn't hit me straight on - it was a night game, and the guys in front of me, in business suits, didn't even try to catch it. Boy did that hurt. The ushers took me to the first aid room (the fish husband said it was a big inning and he'd find me after it was over). I was amazed at the number of people who'd been hit by balls - you definitely need to keep your eyes on the game!
     None of this has anything to do with fish - everything to do with a multi-generational love affair with the Cubs. It's hard not to get our hopes up - being very cautiously optimistic. Go Cubs!!
   

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The demise of the dinner party

After the sad closing of our Glenview store, it's hard not to think about other things that are being lost to the constant clamor of change.  In conversation with a new acquaintance, an antique dealer, we were both lamenting the architectural swing to "open plan" homes, where the kitchen, the kids, watching TV, and all dining takes place in one big room. There isn't really a place to have a nice dinner party.
     It seems that many younger people would prefer just to meet friends at a restaurant, of which there are many these days. They don't want to bother with cooking or cleaning up.
     'What's wrong with that?' you ask...
     How can you have a really good conversation in a place where there's noise all around you, and wait staff is constantly bringing you things and asking if you want more? How can you relax, when it becomes apparent that there's someone waiting for your table? How can you bring together a group of people who may not already know each other?
     Don't get me wrong, I love a good meal out in a restaurant with friends, but I also love to have friends over for a nice meal that I've cooked myself. And, of course, I generally serve seafood for the main course, because it's delicious, and because it cooks quickly, so I don't have to hang out in the kitchen all evening.
     We recently had 9 people for dinner - 2 Chileans, a French chef, a Finnish post-doc at Northwestern and various significant others, plus some beloved neighbors. Not everyone knew the other attendees, but they all found things in common and the conversation flowed. As did the wine.
     It's extremely intimidating cooking for a French chef, but in this case, he is incredibly appreciative of anyone cooking for him - he says the only people who invite him for dinner are other chefs.
     Here's my advice to anyone contemplating a dinner party:
1) Choose foods/recipes that you can prepare mostly ahead of time.
2) Ask guests in advance if they have any allergies or food issues and adjust your menu accordingly.
3) Don't try out new recipes when entertaining (though I have broken this one myself). If something goes wrong, there may not be a Plan B.
4) Take advantage of seasonal items for the best flavors and freshness.

Here's what I served at the party:
Appetizers:  
Oysters on the half shell with lemon or cocktail sauce (opened just before guests arrived)
Fresh farmer's market melon cubes wrapped in Italian prosciutto (done in advance, refrigerated)
Sparkling wine - always a festive start
1st course:
EZ peel shrimp in fresh garlic & basil marinade (did on the grill while we enjoyed appetizers on the deck - recipe is on our web site) served over fresh greens
Main Course: 
Salmon baked with fennel, garlic, red onion & cherry tomatoes (vegetables are roasted in advance, you just add the fish and bake for about 15-20 minutes - this is what's in our Provencal Papillotes - buy those and save yourself a lot of chopping!)
Farmer's market multi-colored potatoes roasted with fresh herbs (done that morning, re-heated while cooking the fish)
Choice of Fume Blanc or French Pinot Noir
Dessert:
Fresh peach cake with vanilla frozen yogurt
Decaf espresso

     All the food was consumed, almost everything was prepared in advance and only needed a few minutes of cooking time, so I got to enjoy talking to our guests.
     Don't be intimidated by the challenges of getting food on the table for a crowd - with a little planning and some convivial people, you can give your friends a night to remember! If I can cook for a French chef, you can cook for your friends.
     There were a lot of dirty dishes, but the Fishhusband does those - works out well at our house. Something I negotiated on the honeymoon.

   

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Heartfelt thanks to our Glenview Friends

We have been receiving hundreds of messages from our Glenview customers, thanking us for our commitment to quality and telling us how sad they are that we're gone. We're sad, too.
     Closing Glenview was a very hard decision for us - but our rent there was just astronomical. We know our Hinsdale location is too far for most people to drive, but we are still there, and we're looking into joining forces with a home delivery service, something which many Glenview customers said they would be interested in.
     I didn't understand until I took over last September how hard it is for small businesses to be successful. We have to pay the same licensing fees and insurance as the big guys, our utilities are expensive, every sale we make the credit card companies and the credit card processing companies take a chunk, we have to pay an accountant to do the taxes, we want to pay our employees a living wage, we're required to pay workman's comp, equipment breaks and needs to be fixed, and all of this is on top of paying for the fish. The large volume retailers can absorb these costs better than us small guys. Eventually, all the small specialty retailers will be gone.
     We have always tried to maintain a very high standard of quality, by buying only the best fish from small boats and top restaurant suppliers who do the same. So many of the Glenview customers said things like "Oh no, where am I going to get my really good fish from?"
    My request to you all - please support the small business that you love - the butchers, the bakers, the flower shops, the gift shops - and the fish mongers. It's not enough to just come at Christmas, we have to pay the bills all year long.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fish or cut bait

This past year has been a very difficult one for the Burhop family. Illness caused the rather sudden retirement of our CEO (my husband) last September, and I had to take over many of his duties. I found that important things had fallen by the wayside in the management of the company, and that mistakes made years ago had come back to haunt us.
     After a lot of soul searching, a decision was made to close the Glenview store at the end of this month. There is a possibility that another seafood operation will take over from us, I will keep you posted.
      We have been in the Glen Oak shopping center for over 30 years, a long time. We wish it was going to be longer. I found out that we were paying the highest rent per square foot in the center, and we were paying retail rent for our wholesale space in the back, a giant drain on our bottom line.
      While the former owners of the shopping center were local, the current owners are a very large corporation. They were not willing to work with us on changing our lease - at least not until we told them that we were closing. Too little too late.
      We are incredibly grateful to our loyal staff, some who have worked for us for decades, and are very sad to see them go. We are also sad about letting down our many wonderful regular customers in Glenview - we will truly miss you. We just wish that there had been more of you.
      Our Hinsdale store will remain open, and we're looking into the possibility of providing delivery service to people in the northern suburbs who still want to get our incredible party trays, our famous cooked shrimp, and various oven-ready entrees, sauces and other prepared foods. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to tell if fish you buy is fresh

I always get my fish from one of our stores, but that doesn't mean that I don't go into grocery stores on a regular basis and check out their fish counter. Here are some tips for picking out good, fresh
De-boned fresh Scottish salmon fillets
with a nice fresh shine.
fish, using your eyes and your nose:
1) Notice as you approach the fish department how close you can get before you smell the seafood. Fresh fish smells like the sea, sort of like being at the beach. If there's a strong fish odor 10 or 20 feet before you get to the fish counter, probably not a good place to buy your fish.
2) Look at how the fish is displayed - is it laying right on the ice? How high is is it piled up? Putting fillets of fish right on the ice can suck the juices right out of the fish. (Whole fish is OK on the ice). We use stainless pans embedded in the ice. When fillets are piled up too high, the fish at the top of the pile are not being kept cold enough, and it will go off quickly.
3) Look at the flesh of the fillets - does the flesh have noticeable gaps in it? Does it have a nice sheen, or is is it dull? For things like tuna, do they have a loin from which they will custom cut some steaks for you, or is it already cut up?
4) Read the small print - fish that has been "thawed for your convenience" is a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with buying frozen fish, but once it's thawed, it deteriorates much more quickly than fresh fish. If you have a choice, buy the fish that's still frozen, thaw it overnight in the coldest part of your fridge, and cook it as soon as it's thawed. Thawed out fish that's been put into a fresh case is there to fool you into thinking it's fresh. If it's been there more than a day, it's no longer worth buying, no matter how cheap it is.
5) Fish and shellfish that are kept wrapped in your home fridge can accumulate gasses in the wrapping. We recommend cooking fish the same night you buy it, or storing it in the coldest (bottom) part of the fridge and rinsing with cold water before cooking. Things like cooked shrimp should be refrigerated in a covered bowl in the fridge if you're keeping them overnight, and also rinsed in cold water before serving.
     Truly fresh fish is a real treat - we're lucky in Chicago, because as a hub, planes come in constantly from all coasts and overseas, bringing fresh product from many oceans. We also have the bounty of the Great Lakes - there's nothing better than fresh lake perch floured, sauteed and served with Burhop's Tartar Sauce.
     Use your senses to choose your fish - and if you suspect it isn't fresh, don't buy it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gaining fish cooking confidence

Have you ever noticed how often commercials for some kind of room deodorizer show you a picture of a fish? We feel like suing them every time they do it, because they're enforcing a stereotype of fish being smelly that just isn't true - if you buy good fish. Here are two odor prevention steps which are totally in your control:
     1) Buy really fresh fish - when you buy fish that's been sitting there for a week, or cheap, thawed out fish, yes, it probably will smell when you cook it, and it won't taste very good. Fresh fish that is properly cooked will barely smell at all, except to smell good.
     2) Don't overcook your fish. When fish is cooked too long, it dries out and starts to smell - so follow the Canadian cooking method, 10 minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness, measuring at the thickest point, at medium high heat. (We cook at 425 degrees). If the fish isn't quite done, put it back in for a minute - you can always cook it a little more if it's underdone, but once it's overcooked, there's nothing you can do about it. And fish keeps on cooking even after being removed from the oven or grill - fish that looks a little rare probably won't be by the time it's served.
     We have numerous customers who cook fish on the grill all summer long, then when the weather dims, they stop eating it, for fear of making their house smell of fish. This is unfortunate for all concerned! Fish is an important part of your diet 12 months a year.
     If you are baking your fish, add a tablespoon of white wine to the baking pan - it enhances the flavor, keeps the fish moist, and also prevents odors.  Our Lemon Dill Sauce, great on almost any fish you can think of, also prevents cooking odors when poured over the fish during the last few minutes of cooking.
     But still, the most important thing of all is starting with top quality fish. If it smells bad before it goes into the oven, why would you expect it not to smell during and after cooking?
     We have lots of simple, delicious recipes on our web site - check them out at  www.burhopsseafood.com/.  But remember, we don't guarantee our recipes with someone elses' fish.
     And you can always ask our staff for cooking tips.
   

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Labor Day does not mean Put the Grill Away

Before global warming, when it actually was chilly for the start of school, people would start rolling their grills back into the garage for the winter. Now that so many of us have gas grills (we only converted last year, but we love the convenience, and the food tastes great), there's no reason why we can't grill all winter long.
     We did have to dig the grill out of the snow once or twice last winter, but we covered it with a tarp that protected the grill and made using it a matter of dumping the snow off the tarp and unwrapping the grill. It was great to have that tasty grilled flavor in the middle of January.
     Technically, it isn't actually fall until Sept. 21st, so a few more weeks of meteorological summer are left, and then fall is a great time of year for seafood. October is National Seafood Month for a reason - there are loads of great fresh fish in season during the fall months.
     Here's a list of fish and shellfish that are great on the grill this time of year:
Salmon, tuna, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, mahi mahi, tuna, marlin, halibut, grouper, wahoo/ono (when available), scallops, shrimp, red snapper, lake trout, black sea bass, whole fish, lobster tails. 
     Any time of year, when you're grilling, preparation is important. Always scrape any residue off of your grate, and rub it with oil before you start your fire.
     Pre-heat the grill to medium high - hold your hand about 5" from the grate and see if you can count to 5 before pulling away - if it's too hot, lower the gas or let the charcoal burn a little longer.
     You can cook almost any fish on the grill with a grill basket or grill topper, which allows you to turn the fish easily. Whole fish, like trout or snapper that have been cleaned can be stuffed with fresh vegetables and herbs, and roasted in foil on the grill - really delicious, with some roasted sweet corn on the side. Yummy.
     We don't know why, but fish consumption seems to go down in the fall, and we think it's because many people like their fish grilled and don't consider grilling when the weather gets chillier. My advice: If your grill isn't under 10 feet of snow, there's no reason not to use it, no matter what month it is. Just keep the grill close to your back door, and put on a jacket if you have to. Grilled fish tastes even better when it's cold out!
   

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to school Brain Food

It's easy to find information on line about the benefits of eating more fish, but below I've assembled some that I thought were particularly interesting -- feeding your kids a healthy, brain friendly diet will most likely help them do better in school.  

There's a reason why fish is referred to as brain food - because it is. Here is some advice from the UK, as reported on the BBC:
Eat oily fish
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. They are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general well being. Oily fish contains EPA and DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

A medical study done in New Zealand concluded:
'Maintaining brain health and getting your brain to perform at its optimal capacity is just as vital as maintaining physical well being and health.' 
     DHA, is one of the most highly concentrated fats in the brain and known to play a vital role in the structure and functioning of the brain. But as the body cannot effectively make this fatty acid it must be consumed as part of the diet.
     Researchers highlighted that as many people fail to eat enough fish and seafood, the brain's performance is potentially compromised.
     Professor Stonehouse added: 'These findings contribute to the growing body of research showing that omega-3's play a very important role in brain function throughout the life cycle, even in healthy cognitively intact individuals.'

And:
Eating baked or broiled fish once a week is good for the brain, regardless of how much omega-3 fatty acid it contains, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published online recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, add to growing evidence that lifestyle factors contribute to brain health later in life.
"Our study shows that people who ate a diet that included baked or broiled, but not fried, fish have larger brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition," Dr. Becker said. "We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little. It led us to conclude that we were tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health of which diet is just one part."
Lead investigator Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., who now is in radiology residency training at UCLA, and the research team analyzed data from 260 people who provided information on their dietary intake, had high-resolution brain MRI scans, and were cognitively normal at two time points during their participation in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a 10-year multi-center effort that began in 1989 to identify risk factors for heart disease in people over 65.
"The subset of CHS participants answered questionnaires about their eating habits, such as how much fish did they eat and how was it prepared," Dr. Raji said. "Baked or broiled fish contains higher levels of omega-3s than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying, so we took that into consideration when we examined their brain scans."
People who ate baked or broiled fish at least once a week had greater grey matter brain volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory (4.3 percent) and cognition (14 percent) and were more likely to have a college education than those who didn't eat fish regularly, the researchers found. But no association was found between the brain differences and blood levels of omega-3s. (There's more good stuff in fish than just omega 3s). 
"This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain," Dr. Becker noted. "A confluence of lifestyle factors likely are responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life."
Cyrus A. Raji, Kirk I. Erickson, Oscar L. Lopez, Lewis H. Kuller, H. Michael Gach, Paul M. Thompson, Mario Riverol, James T. Becker.Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter LossAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014; DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.037

13-year-old Evan O'Dorney of Danville, Calif. won the Scripps National Spellling Bee in 2007 (he came in 14th in 2006) with the tradition of eating fish for dinner before every competition, except for the big one he won, because they didn't offer it on the menu. Evidently he'd had enough already to keep him smart. In 2011, as a senior in high school, this fish-eating wonder won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for his mathematical project in which he compared two ways to estimate the square root of an integer. Evan discovered precisely when the faster way would work. As a byproduct of Evan's research he solved other equations useful for encrypting data. This furthered an interest he developed as early as age 2, when he was checking math textbooks out of the library. He went on to Harvard, where he won even more awards and accolades. 

I know, I know, a sample of one. But he eats fish regularly and is really, really smart! His favorite food - a tuna sandwich. 

Want your kids to do well in school and go to college? Feed them fish, every week! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Is Fish Healthy to Eat if You're Pregnant?

I was listening to NPR in my car the other day, when a woman who was being interviewed, a conservative Republican who was also an environmentalist, was saying that she was awakened to environmental issues when her obstetrician told her not to eat fish when she was pregnant.
      Any doctor who would say that to a pregnant woman should be either de-licensed or re-educated as to the value of eating fish while pregnant. Her doctor needs to catch up on his reading.
      Medical research, of which there is a great deal on this subject, clearly shows that women who eat a lot of fish during pregnancy give birth to healthier, smarter, more physically coordinated babies. The Seychelles Study and the Avon Study in England followed pregnant women and their children for decades, and the results were unequivocally in favor of pregnant mothers including fish in their diets on a regular basis.
     The Avon Study, in summary: "Researchers followed nearly 12,000 mother/child pairs enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to assess the impact of factors such as diet and lifestyle on health and growth during pregnancy.  Mothers who eat the most seafood during pregnancy -- more than 12 ounces per week -- have children with the highest developmental outcomes.  Researchers conclude advice to limit seafood consumption could be detrimental to optimal fetal development."
     An on-going study in the Seychelles found similar results: "An exhaustive study of 643 children from before birth to 9 years of age shows no detectable risk from the low levels of mercury their mothers were exposed to from eating ocean seafood, according to a study in the May 16, 2003 issue of The Lancet. Children born to mothers-to-be who ate an average of 12 meals of fish a week - about 10 times the average U.S. citizen eats - showed no harmful symptoms.
     The study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center is the latest in a series of updates on children who have been studied since their birth in 1989 and 1990 in the Republic of the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. The children have been evaluated five times since their birth, and no harmful effects from the low levels of mercury obtained by eating seafood have been detected.
     'Consumption of fish is generally considered healthy for your heart, yet people are hearing that they should be concerned about eating fish because of mercury levels,' says lead author Gary Myers, M.D., a pediatric neurologist. 'We've found no evidence that the low levels of mercury in seafood are harmful. In the Seychelles, where the women in our study ate large quantities of fish each week while they were pregnant, the children are healthy.' "
     When doctors in the US just tell their pregnant patients not to eat fish, they are potentially harming the unborn babies. Fish is full of healthy minerals, vitamins and protein, and the omega 3's in fish are essential to brain development in babies. Perhaps steer them away from shark and large swordfish, and fish that's caught in unclean waters (i.e. not commercially harvested) but the vast majority of it is good for the mother and good for the unborn baby.
     Mercury is in our environment - both caused naturally and from industrial and power plants. It would be great if industry cleaned up their act - in fact it's essential to stop global warming - but it shouldn't keep women from eating good quality commercially caught seafood while pregnant. Cattle that graze on land near coal fired energy plants contain mercury as well - who's warning people about that?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seafood for Company

Most of the people who come to our house for dinner are people whom we know, and we know that they like seafood. But since some people have allergies and digestive issues (me, too) I always ask about dietary restrictions if someone new is coming for a meal. We have one friend with a severe allergy to clams - but he eats raw oysters. It's always good to ask.
     Summer and winter entertaining is different - in the summer, we like to grill and sit outside, so we lean towards simpler menus. I like things that can be prepped in advance, so that I don't have to spend a lot of time away from my guests.
     One of my favorite hors d'oeuvres is a Garlic Basil Shrimp recipe - CLICK HERE to see that recipe and several other tasty shrimp recipes. Many people who don't want to eat fish will happily eat shrimp. The garlic basil marinade should be made in advance, and the shrimp can be put on skewers and marinaded for half an hour before the guests arrive. Then all you have to do is grill it for 2 to 3 minutes and serve. We like to start off with a bottle of bubbly - it makes everything seem more festive, and it's great with shrimp.
     For the main course, grilled Alaskan salmon is a big favorite. Sometimes I make my own pesto out of mustard greens or basil, sometimes I just get some from one of our stores - Jaime can make almost anything green into an amazing pesto. I add a green salad, usually with some fresh fruit on top from the farmer's market, and fresh sweet corn from the market as well. To cook the corn on the grill, I pull down the husk (don't remove it!), take out all the silk, then put the husk back up. I soak the corn in a big pot of cold water for about an hour before cooking, then put the corn, still in the husk, on the grill just before I put on the fish. The corn cooks in about 10 minutes on the upper shelf in our gas grill. Let everyone pull down their own corn husk (they make a handy handle) and provide lots of butter.
     Another favorite for entertaining in the summer is Salad Nicoise - the recipe is in my July 9th posting - great, because you can do the whole thing in advance and just pull it out of the fridge and serve. Add some fresh crusty bread and a nice French rose or a Sauvignon Blanc for a blissful summer dining experience.
     Of course, one of the primo entertaining experiences is a New England Lobster Boil - CLICK HERE for a wonderful lobster boil recipe.  It can be made either with whole live lobsters, or with Maine lobster tails - the key is to have bibs and lots of napkins, and a crowd ready to dig in with their hands. This is definitely outdoor dining fare! One of our customers in Hinsdale sent us the photo to the right from her recent New England Lobster Boil party, which she proclaimed a resounding success. Love the terrycloth napkins perfect for a deliciously messy meal.
     For dessert, I tend to make use of all the great fruit available this time of year - fresh peach cake is a big favorite, or a Sherry Trifle, filled with lots of fresh berries, custard and whipped cream layered with sherry-soaked lady fingers. Not low cal.
     Summer is the time to take advantage of all the great fresh produce at the farmer's markets, and of course, all the great fresh fish!
   

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My favorite simple fish recipes

We tend to like our fish simply prepared - that's the way we think it tastes best. Most important, regardless of the recipe, START WITH REALLY FRESH, GOOD QUALITY FISH.
     I've told the story many times, but to summarize, a woman came into one of our stores years ago, tasted a recipe we'd made, picked up the recipe. She came back a week later, complaining to our culinary person that our recipe was faulty. Our employee went through everything with her, step by step, couldn't find a problem. Finally, she asked "did you buy the fish from us?" and the woman said no, she got it cheaper at the grocery store. Our exasperated employee said "we don't guarantee our recipes with someone else's fish!"
     No matter what you do to bad fish, it won't taste good. If the fish is really cheap, chances are it's either thawed out or from China. Or both.
     Now, for our favorites.
GRILLED FISH: We love salmon on the grill, but we also enjoy the heck out of mahi mahi, ono, swordfish and halibut on the grill.  I just rub the fillets or steaks with a little olive oil, sometimes a little salt-free spice rub, and cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness over medium high heat, starting with the flesh side down first, flipping over to the skin side down.
     The fun part comes at the end, when I flip the fish for side two. That's when I add some of our fresh pesto - I spread it on with a spatula - so it heats up and melds with the fish during the last few minutes of cooking. All of our pestos taste good with any of these fish - it's just enough fresh flaovor to add to, but not mask, the taste of the fresh fish.
     When I use a spice rub with kick to it, like some of the Cajun ones, I counter the spiciness with Tropical Salsa - or just slice some papaya, fan it out over the fish, and sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top - pretty and easy to do.
      We also love shrimp on the grill - one of my favorite marinades is on our web site - it contains garlic and fresh basil, (hence the name, Garlic Basil Shrimp) and you just put everything into a blender and mix it up. Easy peasy. To find all of our delicious shrimp recipes, CLICK HERE.  Small skewers of this shrimp can be a great appetizer, bigger skewers a great main course with some rice pilaf and a salad.
     
BAKED FISH. In the colder months - don't like to think about that - we still use our grill when it's not covered in snow, but most of the time I bake our fish in the oven. Most of the thicker fillets I treat the same way as for the grill - but you don't have to flip the fish, so just put it in a pan skin side down. One of my favorite salmon party recipe is as follows:

Baked Salmon with Mustard & Herbs

This is a simple recipe to do in the oven or on foil on your grill. Choose your favorite herbs – we suggest a blend of thyme, fennel greens and oregano, but any of your favorite herbs will work. Serve with our Herb Roasted New Potatoes and Garlic Green Beans.
4 servings | Active Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges for garnish
  • 25-35 sprigs mixed fresh herbs (reserve 2 tsp. and chop)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound center-cut salmon fillets in 4 equal pieces, skinned (Burhop’s will skin on request)

Preparation


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Lay a piece of heavy-duty foil on a Tony pan or rimmed baking sheet. Arrange lemon slices in two layers in the center of the foil. Spread herb sprigs over the lemons. Place the salmon on the herb sprigs.
  3. With the side of a chef’s knife or a pestle and mortar, mash garlic with salt to form a paste. Transfer to a small dish and stir in mustard and the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped herbs.
  4. Brush the mixture over both sides of the salmon. Cook until the salmon is opaque in the center, 10 to 14 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges (discard herb sprigs and lemon slices).
SAUTEED FISH. The two fish that I love to saute are fresh lake perch - I dredge it in seasoned flour, dip it in egg & milk mixture, and saute in olive oil for about one minute per side over medium high heat. I serve it with lemon wedges and Burhop's Tartar Sauce - just a great dinner.
     My other saute favorite is Nut Crusted Ruby Red Trout - just grind up 1/4 cup of nuts in the blender - we like pecans, but almonds or pistachios are good too (and if you want to get fancy, add some chopped dill) - rub the fillets with a little olive oil, press the ground up nuts into the fillets. I use olive oil, and saute the fillets nut-side down first, then flip to the skin side. I add a little of our Lemon Dill Sauce, or a squeeze of lemon. So easy, and great for entertaining - most people have no idea how easy it is to nut crust a piece of fish! 

If you try any of these preparations, let us know how you like them!  


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why our fish is different - & better

Not all wild-caught fish is the same for many reasons. It's hard for the untrained consumer to see the difference, but generally they can taste it.
     We only buy restaurant-quality fish, which is usually from day boats, not the giant trawlers that supply grocery chains. The big boats stay out for days, even weeks, and the fish is processed on the boat. Before it's processed, it's in giant holds, where the fish on the bottom is pretty much crushed. Grocery stores order tens of thousands of pounds of fish, they mostly don't even consider where it comes from or how it's caught, they just want lots of it at a cheap price.
     Exactly how fresh can fish be that's been on a boat for 2 weeks?
     Much of the fish that's in grocery fresh cases is fish that was previously frozen. (Read the tiny print.) There's nothing wrong with fish that's been frozen right after being caught, but it should be left frozen. Once it's been frozen, thawing starts a rapid deterioration of the fish, and the fish should be cooked immediately, not left sitting in a fish case for days.
     We generally get whole fish which we process ourselves. We want to look at the eyes, to see if they're clear, and can smell whether the fish is truly fresh. Our fish doesn't sit in a distribution center somewhere, it comes from our suppliers on both coasts, gets picked up at the airport and put in our cases the same day.
     To offer the quality that we offer, we have to pay our suppliers more. Yes, you can get cheaper fish at the supermarket. But don't you care what it tastes like?? Saving a few bucks on fish nobody wants to eat is not good economics.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stick it On a Stick - Simple Seafood Kebabs

Kebabs are one of my favorite things to make when we're entertaining in the summer - they're visually appealing, easy to make in advance, and they cook quickly on the grill. When we had a wedding party for our daughter last summer, we served several kinds of kebabs which were marinated and ready to cook when dinner time arrived.
     We had salmon kebabs, marinated in Burhop's Herb Garden Marinade, swordfish kebabs marinated in Burhop's Tahitian Marinade, tuna kebabs marinated in our Shoyu Oriental Marinade, and shrimp kebabs in my own garlic basil marinade, recipe below. We also had a few chicken kebabs for non-fish eaters, just in case.
     All the ingredients were pre-cut, the fish by Burhop's staff, the veggies by my raft of helpers, even the bride. We used green, red and yellow peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms with the fish (and chicken) kebabs, the shrimp were on their own. We soaked the wooden kebab sticks in water for an hour before the party started, and my two catering lady helpers assembled the kebabs when they arrived, and put them in the various marinades while guests downed a lot of appetizers. We had large containers from the store to hold the fish, which were great for marinating - we just took them back after the party. Then Jaime came from work and grilled everything to perfection - he is absolutely great at parties, let us know if you want to hire him for yours!
     Of course, you can also just get all the kebabs ready made from Burhop's - we happily do them to order.
     My other favorite kebabs, which we didn't do for the wedding party but we do for smaller parties at home are our Scallop Kebabs. I don't know why, but bacon tastes amazing with scallops. Here are the scallop and shrimp recipes:

Nancy's Sea Scallop Kebabs
Ingredients:
3 or 4 sea scallops (dry pack) per kebab, 1 kebab per person
2 squares of pre-cooked bacon per scallop
red onion cut into 2-layer square chunks
green pepper cut into squares
olive oil
Lemon Dill Sauce
Directions:
Cut bacon strips into squares and saute until partially cooked. Don't let it get too crisp, or it will break when you try to put on the skewers. (Remember bacon will shrink when cooked). Build kebabs starting with a square of pepper, a chunk of onion, a piece of bacon, a scallop, another piece of bacon. Repeat, ending with a piece of green pepper to hold everything together. If you are doing 4 kebabs with 3 scallops each, you will need 24 squares of bacon.
     Brush with olive oil and grill (or broil) for a total of about 5 minutes over medium high heat, turning once. Serve with a drizzle of Lemon Dill, some wild rice or Herb Roasted Potatoes and an heirloom tomato and basil salad.

And here's my favorite grilled shrimp kebab recipe.
 
GARLIC BASIL SHRIMP
Preparation time: 15 minutes   Serves 4 as appetizer, 2 as main course
Ingredients:
1 lb. E-Z peel shrimp, peeled & rinsed
Marinade:          
1 bunch fresh basil, ¼ cup
3 large cloves garlic peeled, slightly chopped
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbs. red balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. tomato sauce (ketchup works)
Red chili flakes to taste
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Directions: Mix the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor until it looks well combined. Add chili flakes as desired for how much “heat” you prefer. Mix marinade with shrimp in a glass or ceramic bowl and refrigerate for up to an hour. Put shrimp on skewers (I used 2 skewers for the kebabs in the photo - it makes them easier to turn) and grill over medium high fire or broil for about 5 minutes total, watching and turning as needed. Serve with a chilled glass of rose or Sauvignon Blanc .

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Favorite Summer Seafood Salad - from Nice

Every summer, when the farmer's market starts having most of the fresh ingredients for my favorite Salad Nicoise, I make a big one, and we have it for dinner and then lunch the next day. It's great for entertaining, because you can make the whole thing before your guests arrive and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.
     This is a layered salad, not a tossed salad - all of the ingredients should be visible. With a nice bottle of wine and some crusty bread, you can close your eyes and picture yourself on the French Riviera. Only the French could make potato salad this scrumptious.

Here's how I do it:

TUNA SALALD NICOISE
This is an easy French-inspired summertime meal that has something for everyone, and uses loads of fresh market ingredients.
Total Time: About 30 mins      Makes: 4 - 6 servings
INGREDIENTS
For the dressing:
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 large chopped shallot
French Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, or chives
For the salad:
8 - 10 ounces new potatoes, white, red & purple
French Sea Salt
6 ounces fillet green beans
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
8 ounces fresh ahi or albacore tuna, seared & baked or grilled & chilled
8 ounces yellow cherry  tomatoes or sliced large tomatoes
10 ounces Bibb or butter lettuce (about 1 head), washed, dried, and torn into
bite-sized pieces
8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup black olives, such as ni├žoise or kalamata 

INSTRUCTIONS
For the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper in a medium, glass or non-metallic bowl until combined.  Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in the herbs, taste, and season with more salt and pepper as needed; set aside.
For the salad:
Sear and bake the fresh ahi or albacore tuna so that it is still a little pink on the inside. A 1” thick piece of  tuna will require 1 minute of searing each side, then another 3-4 minutes in a 425° oven. Or grill for 2 minutes per side. Set aside. (Fish will continue cooking, so err to the rare). 
Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently boil until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a cutting board until cool enough to handle but still warm. (Do not let the potatoes cool completely.) Meanwhile, return the water to a boil over high heat. Add a little salt, then add the green beans and 
blanch until tender but still crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water until cool. Spread the beans on paper towels and let them sit until dry. When the potatoes are ready, slice them in half.  Place in a small bowl and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat.
     Taste, adding more dressing, salt, and pepper as needed; set aside.Slice each egg lengthwise into quarters and set aside. Place the green beans,  
tuna, and tomatoes in separate small bowls. Toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Taste, adding more dressing, salt, and pepper  as needed; set aside. Arrange the lettuce in a large wooden or ceramic salad bowl. Place the potatoes in the center of the lettuce, then the tomatoes, crumbled tuna and green beans over the potatoes. Top with the anchovy fillets, egg quarters and olives. Serve immediately and, if you choose, with remaining dressing on the side.
     Add a chilled bottle of Pouilly Fume and some crusty bread and you have a meal fit for a Roi! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Door County in your own backyard

For years when our kids were little, we would spend a couple of weeks in Door County, Wisconsin, at a wonderful little cottage we owned with the fish husband's family.  Our kids loved going to Al Johnson's and seeing the goats on the roof, having dinner and bowling at the Sister Bay Bowl, getting ice cream at Wilson's, and going to a fish boil or two.
     Our favorite was at the White Gull Inn, where they provided hot dogs for all the kids who didn't eat fish  (our kids never touched the hot dogs). After a hard day of playing on the beach, hiking and biking, our son Greg would chow down on an enormous helping of fish and potatoes, then happily go to sleep with his head on the table.
     We decided to try doing a fish boil at home (minus the flame off at the end) and here's the recipe we came up with:

Burhop's Midwest Fish Boil
Prep time: 45 minutes    Serves 10-12

INGREDIENTS:
1/2-3/4 lb. fish per person, fillets or steaks of whitefish, lake trout or pike
(halibut works, but not authentic)
12 quart kettle with removable basket (pasta cooker)
12 medium onions
24 medium new potatoes
2 Burhop's spice bags
2 sticks melted butter
1/2 cup salt
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS
Peel onions. Clean potatoes (DON'T PEEL) and cut small circle off ends.
Remove the basket from the kettle, and place potatoes and 8 qts. of water in pot. Bring to a boil and add spice bags, salt and onions. Cook for 15 minutes at a steady, rolling boil, with the top of the kettle vented or partly covered. Stack fish in basket and add to the kettle when potatoes are almost done. Be careful about overflow - you may have to ladle out a little water. Cook fish for 12 minutes, with pot partially covered. Take pot to sink and drain fish.

Serve family style on big platters for a back yard party, or serve directly onto plates, as you prefer. Top the fish, potatoes and onions with a couple of tablespoons of hot melted butter and some chopped parsley, and serve with lemon wedges and Burhop's Cole Slaw.

The reason why they do a flame off at the end up in Door County is because of the quantity of fish. (For those of you who have't seen one, the fish boil is cooked outside over a fire, and at the end of the cooking, an accelerant is thrown on the fire, causing it to flare up and the cooking water to overflow onto the fire). The purpose of the flame off is to get rid of the oil etc. that floats to the surface when you have 30 or 40 lbs. of fish. With this amount of fish, draining it works just as well, and it's a lot safer. Not as spectacular, but safer.

We haven't done one of these in years, but remembering how delicious it is, I think it's time we did it again. This time of year, there are many great farmers markets, where you can get wonderful fresh onions and potatoes for the boil. Invite some friends over and have a Door County Fish Boil party!


Monday, June 22, 2015

Dealing with John Q

I am spending more time in the stores these days, and for the most part, we have great customers. The unfortunate thing is that the occasional bad customer is the one that really sticks with you. Here are just a few examples of what our staff - and I - have experienced in the last couple of years.
1) The Grinch: Late on Christmas eve two years ago, I was doing my usual in Glenview, giving out samples and helping people with items in the freezer, answering questions about how to cook lobster tails etc. A car pulled up into the patio area outside the store - not a parking spot - and the driver came in and walked directly to the lobster tail freezer next to me. He pulled it open, looked at the prices and started swearing. I asked him if he would like me to suggest some alternatives, and he snapped "yes." I asked if they were doing "surf and turf," he said yes, and I made some suggesting for less expensive items he could substitute for the lobster, or as they were also serving beef, they could divide the lobsters in half. His response to my suggestions? He turned on me, and said if I didn't "shut up," he would walk out without buying anything. I was stunned. He obviously didn't realize that I was the boss's wife, and felt quite comfortable treating "the help" as he assumed I was, like dirt. On Christmas Eve. He bought a couple of lobster tails and left, and I hope I never see him again.
2) The Good Wife: Our credit card machines went down in Glenview, something that happens rarely, and something over which we have no control. A woman came in and chose some fish, but when she got to the check out, she had no cash or checks. The clerk suggested two solutions: she could go to the ATM in the parking lot and get some cash, or she could give him her credit card number, and he would enter the information manually when the machines were back up. (This is how people pay for party trays on the phone all the time.) Her response: "Give me the fish and I'll pay you the next time I come in." She was not a regular customer, and she said we should trust her to pay for the fish eventually, but she would not trust us with her credit card info. The clerk told her he couldn't do that because he might lose his job. She stormed out of the store, and had her husband send me an irate email, about how we didn't trust his wife. Never mind that she didn't trust us. I responded politely to the husband that his wife had put our clerk in a very difficult position, that he had tried to come up with a solution, but the only thing that she would accept was us giving her the fish for free. Had this happened in Macy's, for example, would she have expected them to let her leave with the merchandise without paying?
3) Forgetful: A young professional woman, probably early 30s, nicely dressed, came into the store with an unopened package of fish that had been purchased the day before on her lunch hour (one of the staff remembered waiting on her). She wanted a refund, because the fish was "off." It was July, and it was obvious to everyone that she had forgotten to take the fish into her office and refrigerate it, hence the rather smelly package. She had ruined her fish, but wanted us to give her money back, which we did. It was another customer waiting to pay who said after she left that "you shouldn't have given her her money back, she obviously left the fish in her car." But we didn't want an unhappy customer. When someone does this to us, we can't go back to our supplier for a refund, we eat the loss.  Her screw-up became our problem.
4) Lobster Lady: Just recently, a woman called our Glenview store claiming that she had bought 4 lobster tails from us, and two of them were "bad." When asked if she had her receipt, a copy of her credit card bill, the packaging or the product, she said no. She was offered a store credit, even though we have no proof she ever bought anything from us. She came in when the manager was out, demanding cash. The clerk gave her a credit for over $50, but she just wanted the money. No receipt, no product, only an occasional customer.
     We buy only restaurant quality lobster tails, which are shipped frozen, and we individually package them, so we can easily see if a tail looks like it's not good quality, and we return them to the shipper if they don't meet our standards. As far as we know, this woman never bought lobster tails from us - maybe she did, maybe she didn't, and yet we tried to make her happy. If she had bad tails, she probably got them somewhere else.
5) Crazy Like a Fox: Several years ago, we had a woman who would come in every Friday, and loudly complain to the staff (with other customers in the store) that we'd "sold her bad fish" and that she wanted a store credit. She had her receipt, but never brought back any of the fish. She did this 4 or 5 times, until the manager told her no more refunds unless she brought back the product. She showed up the next Friday with the same routine, so they got the Fish Husband, who gently lead her to the door, and told her that we would be unable to serve her any more, since obviously, we couldn't meet her quality standards. Of course we all knew that she'd eaten all the fish. She was stunned that she'd been fired as a customer. She actually came back in periodically and bought fish, but never again tried to get it for free.
     Perhaps because we are a small business, some people feel that we should be more willing to give them their money back or put up with abuse. My experiences have been few in number compared to our staff who deal with the public every day. That horrible man telling me to "shut up" on Christmas Eve still sticks with me.  It made me very aware of what a hard job it is dealing with the public, and I make an extra effort to be nice to sales staff wherever I shop.
     I also now see that Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" was on to something - rude customers never bothered him, he made all the rules, no exceptions. If we were in New York, I'd say "stop being so nice to people who are being rude/dishonest with us." But we're not.  I wish I knew what the solution was.
Suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seafood for Guys

The more time I spend in the fish stores, the more I realize that we have a lot of male customers, a lot more than you see in the grocery store. They seem to gravitate towards the fish that they can grill in the summer time, which is a lot of it. According to staff, the guys zero in on the meatier, more flavorful fish,like salmon, halibut, swordfish, marlin, mahi mahi, and the wild Gulf shrimp. They're going to cook it on the grill, so they want to get what they want to eat. (They also like to tell us about their last fishing trip in Florida or Canada or Scotland or Chile - guys will go a long way to catch a good fish).
     This year for Father's Day, the Fish Husband is getting shrimp kebabs and salmon, grilled by the Fish Son out on our deck. He'll top the salmon with some fresh Burhop's pesto, and serve it with whatever I get at the farmer's market on Saturday morning.
     Eating seafood in the summer time is the best, because you can get your guy to grill the main course, and you can get all kinds of wonderful fresh vegetables, at the farmer's market, or from Burhop's in an already prepared state - less work is good, right ladies?
     But for Father's Day, of course, Mom and the kids do all the work - so we always go for something simple. Both our kids are good cooks, so thankfully the onus is off Mom these days.
     One of the secrets to making your guy happy with your fish choice - ask him. If you know absolutely positively that he loves sockeye, that's what your should get - but maybe he's really dreaming about that last mahi he caught and would love some of that. I never assume that I'll know what the Fish Husband wants from the fish store - and he likes it all!  Like the guy on the TV commercial, some guys hate surprises.
     Just ask him what he fancies! Besides you!!
   

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We are a hockey family...

I fell in love with hockey in college, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison - I was dating a player, so went to all the games my sophomore year, not so many after we broke up. But still loved the game.
     Fast forward 15 years, and I married a hockey player, the Fish Husband. He started as a boy in his back yard, flooded by his dad each winter, so the kids could play hockey, and mom and dad could practice their ice dancing. He played all through high school and college, and went on to become a hockey coach in Wilmette for many years. Being a coach entitled him to play in a coach's game on Sunday mornings, something he continued for decades.
     Our son played hockey as well, from Peewee, Squirt and on up. He changed to tennis in high school, and I must admit I'm very glad, especially with what I know now.
     Hockey is a beautiful, exciting game, but it's also a violent game. Checking is violent, and the fighting is violent. The refs have the ability to stop the players from fighting - if players would get thrown out of games, they would stop fighting. Why then, you might ask, do they let the fighting go on? Because the pro hockey team owners think it sells tickets.
     The Fish Husband gave up hockey when he was 50, not because he wanted to, but because he started having headaches after he played that were so severe, he could do nothing but go to bed. It seemed like a sign that perhaps he should hang up his skates, and he did. But it may have been too late.  Even no check hockey takes its toll.
     Last year, he was diagnosed with memory loss. The doctors can't definitively tell us what the cause is, but certainly the banging around his brain took during all those years of hockey didn't help. In the early days, getting your "bell rung" was a common occurrence - the coach would let you sit on the bench a little longer, then back out you'd go. The equipment is better now, back when he started over 60 years ago, the kids didn't even have to wear helmets.
     This is why he retired rather abruptly last year from the fish business. It's been a rough time, for all of us. We still love watching hockey, but I cringe whenever a player gets smashed into the boards, or they pull off their gloves and start pounding each other.
     We will be cheering on the Hawks Monday night, with friends and family and lots of Burhop's shrimp - and hoping that no one gets hurt. Everyone is talking about the brain injuries in football, maybe they need to look at how to make hockey safer as well.
     Just read in the Chicago Tribune this morning about Stan Mikita and his memory loss - I'm guessing that even if he knew what could happen to his memory, he still would have played hockey. My husband would go out and play today if he could - it's a wonderful game, I just wish that they could make it safer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why does fresh wild Alaskan fish cost so much?

Even we get sticker shock at some of the current wild fish prices - our suppliers are having trouble just getting some of the fish, much less selling it cheaply. So far this year, prices on Alaskan salmon and halibut have stayed high, and the Copper River sockeye "season" was 16 hours long.
     What's changed?
     Many things:

  • It costs more to run a fishing boat, because the fuel is more expensive, labor is more expensive. And it's dangerous. Fishermen probably have a hard time getting life insurance.
  • Competition for the resource is growing - once it was mainly the Japanese who were buying vast quantities of Alaskan seafood, now the Chinese are buying it up as well. And there are billions of them, many more with money to spend than a few years ago. Asia is gobbling up our Alaskan fish.
  • Climate change is warming the oceans - fish that rely on cold water and full rivers to spawn are finding warmer oceans and rivers that have shrunk due to lack of rain and not enough snow in the winter. 
  • In order to preserve the resource, regulators are monitoring the salmon migration. If there aren't enough salmon laying their eggs ups stream, there won't be enough salmon in future years, so they shut down the first opening on the Copper River after only 16 hours. There should be more openings, but they may be short as well. 
     If you are seeing sockeye at a cheap price, it's thawed out from last year - there just isn't any cheap, fresh wild salmon. Even if you went to Alaska to get it, it wouldn't be cheap.    
     This is one of the reasons we've researched top quality suppliers of ocean raised salmon - we get it from two pristine operations, one off the east coast of Canada, the other off the west coast of Scotland. This is good, sustainably raised fish, no chemicals or antibiotics. While there are some fish farming operators who have over crowded pens and poor environmental practices, we don't do business with them.
     We wish that wild salmon was cheaper as well - we love wild salmon, too. We'll keep our fingers crossed that the next opening on the Copper River is days, not hours - we'll keep you posted!