Thursday, May 19, 2016

Greats for the Grate - what to grill from the sea

My rule of thumb for fish on the grill is firm fish that can easily be turned without falling apart. The ones I do most often: salmon, halibut, mahi mahi, ono, tuna, swordfish and marlin. Or kebabs - shrimp kebabs are a family favorite, especially done in the garlic basil marinade found on our web site. I generally add a marinade or grilling sauce, but not always. I also like to rub the fish with olive oil and a spicy rub - just enough to add flavor without overpowering the fish or my taste buds. I love to top the fish with one of our fresh pestos or salsas.
     The pesto I generally add to the top of the fish during the last minute of cooking, the salsas I add to the plated fish. I take the salsa out of the fridge when I start cooking, so it can come to room temperature - you don't want to put ice cold salsa on hot fish.
     Our recommended cooking method is the same, regardless of the type of fish - 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measuring the fish at the thickest point, cooked over medium high heat.
     We switched from a charcoal grill to a gas grill two years ago, and I couldn't be more glad. Charcoal is messy,  and I think less healthy than cooking over gas. It's easier to control the heat, the clean-up is simple, and so far the fish has been amazing. And our dog loves it -- when I cook salmon on the grill, I do flesh side first, then turn to skin side down. When I take it off the grill, I can slip the spatula between the flesh and the skin, leaving the skin on the grill. I turn off the fire, and as soon as it's cool enough, Archie gets to eat the skin. He LOVES it, his omega 3s for the day.
     This Saturday, from 11 - 2, our chef Jaime Castilan will be doing a grilling demo in front of our Hinsdale store, offering free advice and free samples to all who come by. He used to do this in Glenview, he had quite a fan club, now he's doing it in Hinsdale for the first time this Saturday. We hope he draws a crowd!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother's Days Past

This is the first year when I am the oldest mom in the family. My dear mother-in-law was with us until this past December, 101 years young. For decades, she was the one we feted on Mother's Day, though my kids and husband always made a pretty good fuss over me as well.
     Until about two years ago, we would bring Grandma over to our house for brunch, which generally involved scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and chives, a glass of sparkling wine and orange juice, and her favorite croissants from a neighborhood bakery. This was an easy meal for my husband and kids to prepare, so I could enjoy myself as well.
     Then the past two years, it became easier for us to go to her, enjoying a meal at her senior living facility.  Her face would light up up when she saw us, she could never get enough of her family. And because she was always a ray of sunshine in our lives, we were always happy to oblige.
     I learned so much from my mother-in-law - about how much better it is for those around you if you don't complain all the time -- I came from a family of complainers, and frequently have to bite my tongue.  She made us feel her gratitude for every minute we spent with her.
     And, of course, I learned a lot about cooking fish from her - Grandma's recipe for Scalloped Oysters was the hit of Christmas dinner last year, we had it in her memory, and not one scrap was left. She knew how to poach, grill or bake just about anything from the sea - if I ever have the time, I'd love to put together a cookbook from her recipe file.
     I treasure every memory I have of my mother as well, who suffered from Alzheimer's and sadly left us mentally a few years before she died, in 1996.  I want very much to remember her before she got sick, all the years when she would drive over to see us, bring us gladiolas from Hepner's, and provide free and frequent babysitting services. My mother was also a great cook, though she featured a lot more meat than fish in her menus when I was young, more fish after her eldest married a Burhop.
     My mother and my husband's mother were friends and volunteers together, doing good works through their church, for the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society, and working at Bargains Unlimited in Chicago, now gone due to a lack of available helpers. Theirs was a generation when wives did good works in the community to get out of the house and make a difference - now most women have jobs, so volunteers are harder to find. I learned early on, from my mother and then from my mother-in-law, that there's always time to volunteer, even when you work full time, and I've always found the time to give back, like they did.
     So thank you to my moms, for all you did for me and for my family for so many years - I miss you both so much. Make every day Mother's Day for your mom while she's still here!