I thought we had two sorts of eaters in my family’s younger sector. One tries most anything once and says she loves to eat. The other eats maybe one good meal out of six and consistently says — before she’s tried something — “I don’t like that.” In other words, I thought we had a picky eater.
And then we had a guest for dinner — a friend of one of my daughters whom we consider extended family. This friend hadn’t eaten at our house recently, and I’d forgotten how sparingly and choosily she eats.
As both of our daughters passed food, took seconds, asked what was in the dishes and how did I make that mustard and those pickled onions, I realized our guest had eaten bread and butter. And that was it. And that it had been like this for years.
And while our daughters had shifted and grown in their food choices, this child had not.
I was struck in that moment by how a family, the leaders of that family and most specifically the cook in that family, can support our healthy or unhealthy choices. That, as parents, we can allow activities that head toward beneficial or detrimental when it comes to habits like eating.
It does require a firm effort. Dinners at our table have not always been serene. The gentle but firm response, “This is what’s for dinner,” to “I won’t eat this,” has not always been received well.
And yet, in the above moment, I had the clear feeling that all of the consistency, the loving but firm offering of healthy choices in the eating department, had just paid off. Carry on, healthy cooks!
SKILLET GRILLED ZUCCHINI AND SUMMER SQUASH WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
The veggies take more time than the rest of this menu, so begin with them and add the halibut to the grill later. Even if you have to take the veggies off to give more room for the fish, they will keep just fine until the fish is complete.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced onions, a little less than 1 large onion
10 ounce zucchini, 1 or 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch half rounds
10 ounce summer squash, 1 or 2 summer squash, sliced into 1/4-inch half rounds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 t. for onions and 1/4 t. for squash)
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
Heat a large cast-iron skillet or other grilling plate over a medium-hot grill. Add the olive oil and then the onions. Grill for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft and a deep golden brown. If they begin to scorch, move them to a less hot section of the grill. Add the zucchini and summer squash and grill for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash has softened but is still firm. Remove from heat when the squash is somewhat tender but still very bright in color. Transfer to a platter. It will continue to cook while the halibut grills.
AVOCADO AND TOMATO SALSA
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon lime juice
Pinch of salt
1 or 2 grinds of black pepper
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve within 15 minutes.
Makes a little less than 2 cups.
SOY AND ORANGE MARINATED HALIBUT
2 pounds halibut steaks, 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice, about 1 orange
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
Combine all ingredients in a flat bowl or sided platter. Marinate the halibut for 10 to 30 minutes. Grill uncovered on medium to medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until the fish is almost cooked through the center, but not quite. It will finish cooking the rest of the way while you get it to the table.
POTATO SPINACH SALAD WITH LEMON AND MUSTARD
11/2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold or other yellow, creamy potato
1 ounce spinach or 2 cups lightly packed
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with salted water and boil until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Drain and spread onto a baking sheet to cool. The potatoes will look a little flaky. No worries. When they are cool enough to touch, break them into 1-inch (or so) pieces. This is a rustic dish, so the pieces don’t all have to be the same size.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Combine the potatoes with the onions, spinach and dressing in a large serving bowl or platter.
Serves 4 to 6.
Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org