A bit of Grace in the midst of March

Yesterday was one of those days.  The weather could not have been more perfect, 80 + degrees and no wind.  I, like many people, happened to be working.  I was determined to finish early and get outside.

I have always said, “it is sin against God not to ride your bike on a day with no wind in Kansas!”  The fact it was March 14, and no wind and beautiful in Kansas just motivated me.  I did the errands I had to do (with a trip to the Seafood Shop, will post more about that shortly) and got myself home.

Andrew already was pumping up the bike tires and had water bottles ready.

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So, off we went for a ride a little less than 9 miles.  It felt SO good.  Today, I am sore, but so glad to have been in the sun, riding down by the river, seeing many people out running, walking, and biking.  We stopped  by and saw our neighbors that it feels like we haven’t seen forever.

Upon returning home, it was time for dinner.  What a perfect evening.  March 14, 80+ degrees, no wind, in Kansas, we fired up the grill. Our neighbors Lee and Connie had pulled up carrots.  So I decided I would grill vegetables, salmon and have a tossed salad.  We would eat on the deck.

First, I had to clean some fresh carrots.

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Washed, I added brussels sprouts and purple potatoes

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I then peeled the carrots, quartered the potatoes and the brussels sprouts.  Put them in a bowl and added olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Now to prepare the salmon.  As I mentioned earlier, I ran by the Seafood Shop in order to have something tasty for dinner.  This time I chose the Steelhead Salmon.  It looked wonderful

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I started by drizzling olive oil, added salt and pepper.  I then went outside and cut some lemon thyme and to the front porch where I cut some Italian parsley.

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I pulled the lemon thyme off the stems and rough chopped the parsley and thyme together then sprinkled it over the salmon.  Lemon thyme is so fragrant. I squeezed some lemon juice and put lemon slices on top.

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I put the vegetables on the grill, about 400 degrees

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Then it was time to make the salad, before I put the salmon on.  The vegetables grilled about 6 minutes.

I went to the front porch.  I have been growing lettuce all winter.  I only have enough for salad every so often.  It was past time to cut the lettuce.

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After I cut the lettuce, I washed it, spun it dry, then tossed it with a basic balsamic vinaigrette. I placed it on the plates with sliced pear, Point Reyes blue cheese and some cranraisins for color.

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The salmon cooked about 10 minutes on the grill, the vegetables around 15 to 17 minutes.  Mostly they ended up okay, some were a little charred.  Will have to work on that.  We set the table and set out side on the back deck.

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This truly was a bit of grace in what has been a pretty cold, windy and dreary month.  The day helped me remember that spring is coming and as the days grow longer and warmer it is a time to be savored and enjoyed.  So often, I rush through my days, put whatever into my mouth in order to keep going.

On March 14, I slowed down enough to embrace this gift of grace and love.  Riding my bike, feeling the sun, getting home and savoring some beautiful fish, beautiful vegetables and salad that exploded with tart, sweet and crunch made me breathe deeply and say a prayer of thanks.

On a windless and warm March day, I once again embraced the beauty of creation, the love offered me by God and by my spouse.  At the table, I was reminded that grace abounds, that one can be fed body and soul and life is good.

Fresh Fish

I love fish.  I do not know how that happened living in Kansas.  It is not like there are very many likely sources for wonderful fresh fish.  The Arkansas River is polluted and there are usually yearly warnings about not eating anything you catch in the river.  

There are stocked ponds with walleye and bass and catfish.  I can remember eating fried catfish with my grandmother, caught just a little while before out of a farm pond, until I almost burst!  I have an even earlier memory of fried smelt in Minnesota, but most other early memories revolve around canned tuna and salmon.  You remember:

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It could have been Bumble Bee or Starkist, but this was what we ate more times than not, if you don’t include fish sticks.  Salmon patties, or tuna noodle casserole, tuna salad for sandwiches or tuna pasta salad were staples.  I still enjoy eating them.

I have no idea where my love of fish came from.  In the middle of “beef” country, I could easily eat fish three or more times a week if I could afford it and had the time to prepare it.  A few years ago, a fresh fish market opened in Wichita.  One can buy fish at the local grocery store.  Some have quite large “fish” markets, but most of the fish is “previously frozen.”  They are finally not stocking as much farmed salmon, but it takes some dedication to find out whether or not it is farmed or where the fish comes from.

The Seafood Shop opened in 2008 and I was in their door the second day they were open.  When I host a special dinner they will special order fish for me.  Their case is filled with fish flown in fresh.  The exception would be the shrimp, although occasionally fresh shrimp is in the case.  You can ask and find out how sustainable, country of origin, whether or not it is factory farmed (not ever in my experience) and “smell” any of the fish to check for freshness.  They have several types of fresh oysters, usually P.E.I. mussels, plus some entrees they have prepared to take home and cook.

Truthfully, the cost per pound is higher, but in my experience the flavor in unmatched.  My schedule doesn’t permit me to cook more than two or three times a week, so cooking good fresh fish once a week is worth every penny.  Since the serving size for my husband and I tend to be 4-5 ounces, I can enjoy wonderful fish without much guilt.

Each time I go in with an open mind, then decide what is for dinner by what is in the case. I can make roast some Irish salmon with braised brussels sprouts and roasted sweet potatoes, purple potatoes and onions.

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Or in the summer I can grill some Coho Salmon and serve it over a large green salad.

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Or  grill some Ahi Tuna, shrimp, red pepper and red onion and serve over Asian Green beans.

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I particularly love the summer months when I can go to the Farmer’s Market or my garden and find fresh vegetables to go with the fresh fish.  The colors, the scent, the taste makes each meal seem like a feast.

I have become more committed to finding the freshest ingredients.  Supporting a business like the Seafood Shop helps small and local businesses, plus the added benefit of getting exactly what I want.  I wish I lived in a place that had a Farmer’s Market open all year, but when our Markets are open, I shop there as much as possible.  My shopping becomes as much about the relationships I form with the business owners as about the food.

Living intentionally, shopping intentionally, cooking intentionally and eating intentionally is a deeply spiritual and religious exercise.  For me it means paying attention: mind, body and spirit.  Cooking and feeding myself, my spouse and others connects me to them.  The relationship I share with business owners connects me to to them.  Paying attention to the money I spend, the places I spend it and on what I spend it speaks to the values I wish to hold and long to live out.