I glanced out at him. Sitting there on the back deck. So calmly. iPad in one hand. Tazo lightly sweetened iced tea in the other. And I thought to myself, “What is it about guys and grilling? Is it primal?” On any other night, should he be asked to come up with dinner, my sweetie will ask for the phone and call 1-800-Got-Pizza but give him something to grill and….Wow! Furthermore, he could go for weeks, months, years even, without grilling but you call him back to his rightful position and he’s whipping out “4-star” salmon, New York steaks and halibut like he’s been doing it everyday. And so it was this particular summer evening as he patiently attended our halibut steaks.
I fear I must confess to you that I tend to be a bit bossy. Some of you may have already figured this out. Others of you may have been the victim of my bossiness. (Sorry dear brother and sister, but I was and still am the eldest.) It’s not that I have a need to control everything as much as I need my life to have a certain order to it. I have a particular threshold for chaos, noise, clutter and non-premeditated events and once we go past that threshold, well…I become the “Boss Lady” as my sweetie refers to me when I’m in that state of mind. And the same applies to cooking. I am constantly thinking about the order in which each dish needs to be prepared. When this dish needs to come off the stove. Or the fish off the grill. Or the drinks poured. Or the salad dressed so that everything, more or less, is ready at the same time.
A few years back, when my big kids were little and the chaos was at its peak, my sweetie and I became disjointed in our efforts to get his grilled dish and my non-grilled dishes on the table at the same time. So one night, in a “Boss Lady” fit, I said, “Just let me do it from now on.” And being the wise, patient man that he is, he stepped aside knowing, “And this too…shall pass.”
Which brings us up to this particular summer evening. Maybe it’s that the chaos is not so great now that the children are getting older. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe I’m just plumb tired and I’m loosing my “Boss Lady” edge. Or perhaps, down deep, I’ve realized that while I can grill, I don’t really love it. Not like my guy. But whatever it is, I’m learning…a little bit…to Let Go and embrace some of the chaos, noise and unscheduled events.
Seeing my daughter already in the kitchen making cupcakes, I was struck by the unprecedented notion to call the boys in and give them each a job as well. Which I did. And while they were all working away…my daughter folding berries and mint chocolate chips into her buttercream frosting and me not saying a thing. Nope. Not one word about that combination of ingredients. The 10-year old chop, chop, chopping up the veggies for our salsa with chopping bits flying here and there and me not making one comment about the little bits creating a colorful pattern on the floor. And the 5-year old dipping his fingers into the guacamole, licking it off and dipping again to make sure it tasted just right and me not saying anything about germs or the green streaks appearing on his shirt which he was using as a napkin…yes, while all of this was going on, I was overcome by the feeling that despite the mess, I was truly delighted that we were all in there. There was something so, so…comforting about it. And then, not wanting him to feel left out, I went over to where my handsome man was relaxing and said, “Hey sweetie, I’d really appreciate it if you could grill the halibut. The last time I did it, we ended up with blackened fish bits all over the place.” He looked up at me and without questioning the request said, “Sure.”
And so it was that he was reinstated to his rightful position as “Grill Master.” (Although, we never can be too sure what might happen the next time “Boss Lady” shows up but for now…) And what’s more, when it was all said and done, thanks to the extra help, I was left with an unscheduled half hour. A non-premeditated half hour. I faltered for a minute not knowing what to do with myself this was so unheard of…but then, I picked up my camera and headed outside and walked to where the sun was just slipping behind the hills. Without that bit of unencumbered time, I would have missed….
The last bits of light before the sun slipped behind the hills.
Our own coastal range putting forth its best, yet humble, effort to embody the spirit of the original Blue Ridge mountains.
Caribbean Halibut with Tropical Salsa
Adapted from Weber’s On the Grill
This is a recipe my sweetie found, purchased all of the ingredients for and declared we should have it for dinner. Perhaps he realized, subconsciously that he had been patient long enough and the time had come for him to take the “Grill Master” position back over from the “Boss Lady.” Whatever it was, I’m so glad he did because this dish is amazing. So fresh. So easy. So “summery.” The most time consuming part is chopping up the ingredients for the salsa but if you happen to have an offspring handy that is obsessed with weaponry, hand him a Chef’s knife and tell him to have at it. And truly, if you were completely short on time, but still wanted to try this out, you could skip marinating the fish and just season it with some olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling. But don’t skip the salsa. It “completes” the dish.
4 halibut fillets, about 6 oz each
1 c orange juice
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 c finely diced ripe pineapple
1/2 c finely diced ripe banana
1/2 c finely diced cucumber
1/4 c finely chopped red bell pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Start by whisking all the of the ingredients for the marinade together in a medium bowl. Add your halibut and turn to coat them evenly. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap, put them in the fridge and let them marinate for 1 hour, turning once or twice.
Meanwhile, make your salsa by simply combining all of the salsa ingredients above in a medium bowl and setting aside.
Once the fish is ready, prepare your grill for cooking over medium to medium-high heat. (350-450 degrees.) Remove your halibut from the bowl and discard the marinade. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and then brush both sides with canola oil. Make sure your grates are clean and then grill the halibut for 8-10 minutes, turning once or until the halibut just begins to flake when you poke it with the tip of a knife.
Slide your heavenly fish onto a plate. Top with the salsa and perhaps a side of rice and some tossed greens and enjoy. You can almost feel the Caribbean calling as you bite into this medley of tropical flavors. Now where’s my umbrella drink??
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010