Summer Sunday Dinner

After a weekend of landscaping - well, a weekend of mostly providing snacks, lemonade, and advice while Hubby did some landscaping - I thought I should treat the man with a good dinner. Steak was too obvious. Then I remembered that our old summer ritual has been neglected since the girls arrived. Time to bring out the lobster.

Back story:

Hubby and I met 15 years ago. We started dating once I finished undergrad a year later. He came to visit me in Halifax. See, I was going to keep working at my organic vegetarian bakery cafe job and save money to go to Europe. Then he decided to visit. After spending a week driving around Nova Scotia, eating lobster along the way, I knew there was no way I would get to Europe. 

So, a few days after he left and more than a few boxes of Kleenex later I booked myself a plane ticket West, packed up all my University belongings, and called him. We chatted for a bit, then I asked him what he was doing the next night. When he replied that he had nothing going on I suggested me might want to pick me up at the airport. Like a good man he asked why I was coming to Edmonton. And like a brave, slightly stupid 21 year old I simply answered, "You."

One plane ride, a short soap opera, 14 years, and 2 kids later I still say it was the dumbest and best thing I ever did.

And every summer since we've treated ourselves to a lobster dinner. Indeed, this is more of an anniversary than our actual wedding anniversary. Tonight we brought the girls into our tradition.

That may have been a very, very bad idea. The Monster was all excited to buy the lobsters with me, happily carrying them and showing them off to Daddy. The girls are quite fascinated with the lobsters at the market and are wickedly curious about them. This fact alone could not prepare me for the abject terror Smilosaurus had when actually face to face with a lobster.

I should have been sympathetic to her tears, but I was only reminded of her Dad, on that first trip to Nova Scotia. The last night of his visit we decided to buy lobsters and cook them at home. I pulled them out of the box and held them out for Hubby to inspect. The guy seriously jumped and ran away, screaming, "Get it away! Get it away!" I, being the little snot that I am, then chased him with the lobsters while he threw anything available in my direction. And that was the week I discovered about the only thing Hubby is afraid of - live lobsters (he blames his mother). All I could do was giggle with memory as my baby girl cried and cowered in fear.

Yes, I'm still a little snot.

We thought everything would be fine once the lobsters were cooked. I steamed them (do not ever boil your lobsters) for about 12 minutes. The same amount of time the corn was on the grill. I made a salad of green and baby beets from our CSA delivery, with some peaches, basil, and toasted pecans. We sat down to eat and the terror re-emerged. She couldn't stop screaming. Even when we told her she didn't have to have any and that the lobsters were dead. Terrified was the word of dinner. 

Rather than have her tears destroy what should have been a fantastic dinner we put her in her bed and let her read books while the rest of us ate a very lovely, yummy meal. She joined us for a bit of corn and salad. Lucky girl, because then it meant she was allowed dessert. And that was worth setting the fear aside. Ice cream sandwiches made with this lime ice cream and Digestive biscuits. 

Oh, I guess I should clarify that Hubby is no longer afraid of live lobsters, but he would still prefer I don't hold them anywhere near him.


Well, this was no leisurely Sunday dinner. When Hubby got out of bed this morning he suggested a little day trip to Banff. His aching bones and sore neck were calling for a soak in the Hot Springs. And his tummy was calling for his favourite eggs benny at Bison. So I put my massive Sunday to do list aside and we loaded up.

Just one quick stop at the market for my special order Tonka Beans from Silk Road Spice Merchants! Oh, and mango lassi for the girls and coffee for him.

We had a great time! Brunch on the upstairs patio, a walk along the Bow River (and partially in it), and a not very leisurely soak in the pool. Hmm, the girls don't quite get the soak concept yet. It was a great day and certainly worth the frantic evening upon our return.

Thankfully, I did think ahead and took out some fish to defrost before we left the house. We picked up a box of fish from Dor-Bel Fine Foods when we went to the inaugural Kingsland Farmers Market. They sell all Ocean Wise fish from the West Coast. I didn't have a clue what Hubby actually took out this morning, so it was all a surprise. As we drove into town I took a mental inventory of the remaining groceries in the house to come up with something.

Hubby told me that it didn't have to be fancy. In my world this doesn't qualify because it took about 10 minutes, but it sure sounds fancy.  

Roasted Sablefish with Cherry Tomatoes.

Chop a clove of garlic, pick some oregano from the garden. Turn on oven to broil. Take a hot pan. Add a bit of olive oil. When the oil is hot add your fish, flesh side down. Leave it for a minute or two until it is sealed and you can easily flip it without sticking. Toss in the garlic, add the dregs of a bottle of white wine. Once that has reduced a bit toss in a pint of cherry tomatoes, the oregano, and season. Place it in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Serve with linguini.

Oh, and the rest of the family had some fresh peas with feta and mint, but I did not touch those. We know how I feel about peas.

Lollipops, Wine, and Mexico

Taking advantage of the sale at our favourite liquor store led to Sunday dinner this week. One could also argue that the near constant desire for a lollipop by The Monster and her knowledge that they have them at the same liquor store also led to Sunday dinner. Regardless.  We shopped, we cooked, we ate.

Tasting a lovely wine yesterday (Walter Hansel Cahill lane Vineyard Chardonnay 2007) I was instantly brought back to our trip to Mexico. It wasn't that the wine reminded me of the cheap imports we got at the supermercado, rather, it was the instant pairing that popped in my head. I immediately though fish, peppers, and a bit of spice. 

Sadly it was too late to get some fish for dinner last night, so we picked some up at the market today. And peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and some lime.  Sadly I forgot the cilantro.  Oh well, it still worked. I finely chopped sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic and tossed them with a splash of olive oil, tequila, and a half a lime, juiced.

We served it with a quickly seared Opah. A bit of chili powder and cumin to season, and a few minutes per side. It would have been better grilled, as we did in Mexico (although it wasn't Sierra Mackerel), but my grill is currently inaccessible. On the side some sliced cukes, basmati, and sweet potatoes roasted with cumin and lime.

And in case you were wondering, I did not enjoy it with the wine.  One, it is an expensive wine, and two, I'm home alone with the girls so the last thing I need is a full bottle of wine to myself. Or maybe that's exactly what I need!

Baja Adventures - Mexican Sushi

“Which one is my fish?”

So rang the constant tune of my nephew for three days in Baja. This is what happens when you take a 6 year old deep sea fishing and he actually catches something. As long as we were eating fresh the rest of us didn’t care whose was whose, but this was vitally important information for a 6 year old boy. Puts a whole new meaning to the adage that if your kids help you cook they will be more likely to eat what comes to the table.

It’s not surprising that we ate a whole lot of fish in Baja. If Hubby or my dad had their way it would have been every single day that we ate seafood. Between meals out and our own fishing adventures we captured almost half the days.

There were the shrimp tacos at beachfront palapas restaurants that were so sweet you thought it was miniature lobsters inside the tortilla. When you risk your rental car and the wrath of a two year old who is sick of bumpy roads to check out the next beach and see the shrimp boats right there you have full confidence in the freshness of that shrimp.

There was the grilled sierra mackerel, dorado, and tuna that you caught that day. Okay, so the boat broke down and Hubby had to drive the boat by literally holding the motor in a straight position. At least you had your fish. Although, that was iffy when the boat and the truck brought down to haul it got stuck in the sand once you finally made it back to the launch beach – and the fish was still on board. The antics of many locals and one wiry American with a winch on his truck just for this purpose finally got things sorted out and we were on our way home with our fish. After a quick blitz of garlic, lime, and tequila we grilled filets of all three. My brother made a fantastic salsa with sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, lime, garlic, and tequila. Halfway through dinner we had to throw more fish on the grill because between 11 people the fish was quickly disappearing. That’s okay, it meant I had leftovers to make an improvised fish taco for breakfast the next day. Can I just say that sierra mackerel is my new favourite fish? Light but full-flavoured, oily but just a bit fishy to allow you taste the ocean in every bite.

Oh, and there was the fish that Hubby caught on his two day adventure to spear fish in the rocks right in front of our place. It wasn’t the big one that almost got away, but was grabbed by a moray eel before Hubby could spear it again. Yes, I said moray eel. He was spear fishing and I was snorkeling, I saw it all. We let the eel have it. Instead, we had to settle for the 8 inch grunt that he first caught. My dad set to cleaning it for him and we grilled it whole. Tasty, but barely enough for more than a bite by the adults in our group. Not bad for two whole mornings spent with the spear... We won't discuss the attempts at surf-casting.

And then there was the Mexican sushi. Hubby and I went out for dinner by ourselves one night and decided to go to the palapas that had sushi. A risky venture, no doubt. There was no Japanese master behind the cooler of fresh fish, but there was wasabi. The rolls were on par with cheap ones we can get at home – fine, but not great. The sashimi of snapper, tuna, and dorado (all local) was fantastic. The fusion of the fresh fish, decently cut, with a cilantro sauce was spicy, clean, and new. With some of our remaining catch I tried to recreate the dish back at the beach house. I didn’t quite capture it, but my brother said my version was even better.
Serve this sauce with a fresh, sushi quality fish. Preferably you will cut it with a proper knife and not some crappy serrated blade that is all you can find in the rental house. Do not, however, let the fish sit in the sauce for long. There is a lot of lime in it and this will effectively cook the fish like a ceviche. We were also going to try it on some grilled fish, but it didn’t last through the raw stuff. Even my nephew was eating it. Of course, his reaction was only meh after he found out it wasn’t with the fish he caught.

Cilantro Sauce for Fish

1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and ribbed

1. Blitz the ingredients together in a blender.
2. Pour on to a platter, lay freshly sliced sushi quality fish on top, and serve.