Slow-Cooked Halibut with Warm & Cold Salad (Paleo, AIP/Whole30-Adaptable) and Ostfriesland
I mention my Grandma and Grandpa Meyer quite a lot here on the blog.
My memories of both are utterly tied up in my love of food and cooking, as well as for big family gatherings. Their home in Clara City, Minnesota, was a fun, delicious, and steady anchor in a sometimes tumultuous childhood, and even though they had no idea who or what I was talking about most of the time (friends they’d never met, classes they’d never taken), they always listened to what I had to say.
I’m not sure exactly what special sauce my grandparents dished up to keep us all returning to their home for family gatherings, but my dad and his four sisters and their husbands, my stepmom, and eventually all of my siblings and cousins used to travel from all over the US to sleep on sofas and floors and spend holidays together.
As the oldest grandchild, I loved every minute of it, both spending time with the adults and my younger cousins.
The joy in gathering has continued on, even though my grandparents are no longer alive. I adore my aunts, uncles, and cousins, so when an idea started floating around a few years ago for us to all take a trip to Germany together, to learn about where Grandma and Grandpa – and my uncles’ families as well – were from, I couldn’t wait to go.
The trip finally happened a few weeks ago, in the middle of July. My dad and stepmom Susanna, my brother David, my sister Etta, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bruce, my Aunt Jean and Uncle Del, my Aunt Marge and Uncle Jim (pictured above), and my cousin Craig and his wife Kara – 13 of us in all – together visited a part of Germany called Ostfriesland, or East Frisia, which borders the Netherlands and the North Sea in Northern Germany.
It’s a beautiful place – dotted with charming and tidy red-brick villages, over-flowing with gorgeous flower gardens – founded by hard-working laborers who made their livings reclaiming land from the sea.
Our entourage made the local paper!
Our amazing guide was Lin Strong of the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America – which happens to be based right here in the Twin Cities. My dad called the society a few months ago to inquire about finding a guide to the villages he was researching. He chatted with Lin and discovered that her family is also from the Clara City area and that in fact we are related! Lin signed on to guide and plan our trip and brought a wealth of knowledge to our experience.
My sister Etta taking a turn at stacking peat
We began by learning about our ancestors’ trades: primarily peat cutting, dike building, and blacksmithing, as well as learning about the never-ending task of water management and how arable land was painstakingly created from the sea.
Over the course of five days, we toured an old-fashioned, still-functioning windmill, a lighthouse, and visited the villages and churches where Meyer, Karsjens, and Grussing ancestors were born and baptized.
We spent quite a bit of time in Reformed and Lutheran churches, in fact, and learned to quickly identify them by the weathervane atop the church – a rooster for Reformed churches, a swan for Lutheran.
We had wonderful food wherever we went – but the star was fried fish. No surprise, given proximity to the sea, but I was smitten with every version of fish simply fried in butter that we tried.
Think sole meuniere to get an idea of how delicate, buttery, and delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it. Every meal included potatoes, sometimes multiple preparations, and of course cabbage, also multiple preparations. Thanks to Lin, I had no trouble at all enjoying gluten-free food wherever we went.
Oh wait, the second star was the Ostfriesland tea service we enjoyed one afternoon. Tea is a huge part of Ostfriesen society and we were treated to such a delightful presentation. I couldn’t eat the very glutenful pastries – waaaah because they were homemade, stunning, and everyone raved – but I loved learning about the tradition of rock sugar candy in your cup, followed by tea, and then a slow infusion of cream with a special little ladle to create a blooming effect (flip through these pics to see it in action).
Speaking of cream…I played pretty fast and loose with my diet and felt great. What’s fast and loose for me? Eggs, a TON of dairy (cheese, cream, ice cream, butter, bring it), wine (every day), and dessert (every day). I steered clear of caffeine, thank heavens, because I had trouble being too awake, actually.
Our immediate family – Dad, Susanna, David, Etta, and I – began our trip with a weekend in Amsterdam and ended with a few days in Gascony, France.
You guys, I think I’m going to save those raves for another post because otherwise this is going to be the longest blog post ever. I adore Amsterdam and this trip did not disappoint. And Gascony, ohhhhhhhhh what a (very hot) dream. (As in temperature, this was a decidedly Rated G family trip, ha.)
So I’ll stop there and just say a heartfelt thank you to Lin Strong and to the people of Ostfriesland for their warm and generous hospitality and for bringing to life the history of our Clara City ancestors. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.
And huge thanks to my parents, my brother David, and my Uncle Del who set the wheels in motion to make it all happen. The travel experiences we have shared as a family have been so special and created stories and memories that we reflect on all the time.
Now that I’m finally past jet lag (there’s just no rushing that re-entry!), I recorded this video this past week, naming my Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Food Substitutions. I felt GREAT while I was away, but by the end of the trip I was starting to feel the effects of plenty of flour, sugar, and alcohol and I’ve gotten back into my feel-good groove. Here’s how I did it – deprivation-free, of course, I am all about deliciousness – and how you can too. (Catch it on YouTube right here.)
I leave with you a recipe I first shared years ago, so you might not have seen it before: Slow-Cooked Halibut with Warm & Cold Salad. I felt inspired to share a fish dish with you after all of the beautiful fish I ate in Ostfriesland. This dish is so light and luscious, if you haven’t made it before, you must. Click through to the original post as well, I also shared a chicken salad with grapes that uses the same dressing as below and it would be PERFECT for right exactly now.
I realize that original post is yet another rave about how much I enjoy getting together with my family. Well…theme. What can I say? How fitting to choose this recipe then. My Grandpa Meyer would have turned 104 years old this past week – Happy Birthday Grandpa.
Slow-Cooked Halibut with Warm & Cold Salad (Paleo, AIP-Adaptable)
Two 4-6 ounce skinned halibut filets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (perhaps more)
3 cups (or handfuls) thinly sliced leafy greens (kale, beet greens, swiss chard, and/or other quick-cooking greens)
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup (or small handful) freshly picked herb leaves (a combination of your choice of basil, chervil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint, thyme…)
1 preserved lemon, rind and flesh thinly sliced (seeds discarded)
Jamie Oliver’s yogurt jam jar dressing (recipe below; for AIP/Whole30, substitute olive oil vinaigrette or make dressing with coconut yogurt)
Pat the halibut filets dry with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with a bit of salt.
Heat a 12-inch cast iron or other heavy skillet over very low heat. Cooktops vary widely in power, so it’s best to start with the very lowest heat setting. The goal is to cook the fish as slowly as possible, with absolutely no sizzling at all.
When the pan is warmed, add the oil, and after a minute or two, add the fish to the pan. Does it sizzle? The pan is too hot – slide it off heat until the sizzling stops. Cook the fish very gently for 3 minutes or so, then turn over with a spatula. Continue cooking for another few minutes and then make a small cut in the thickest part of one of the filets and check – if it’s mostly cooked through with just a hint of translucence at the center, it’s done. Transfer the fish immediately to a plate and set aside.
Return the pan to the burner and turn flame to medium heat. When pan is hot, add greens and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring a few times, until greens begin to wilt. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes more, until greens are just tender. Transfer greens to a bowl.
Return pan to medium heat one last time and add a tablespoon of olive oil if the pan is dry. When the pan is hot, add the preserved lemon and saute, stirring frequently, until the lemon is crispy in spots. Remove from heat.
To finish the dish, set out two shallow serving bowls. Toss greens with herbs and divide between the bowls. Gently break halibut into large pieces and divide between the bowls, nestling fish alongside the greens and herbs. Top halibut with preserved lemon. Lightly drizzle the salad and halibut with yogurt dressing. Finish with a final sprinkle of sea salt to taste (the crunch of Maldon salt is lovely here).
Jamie Oliver’s Jam Jar Yogurt Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup grass fed, whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Generous pinch of sea salt
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
Combine ingredients in a jar, cover, and shake to combine. Adjust seasoning. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.