We ended 2017 with a 15 hour drive from New Jersey to Illinois. We had spent Christmas with extended family on the East Coast, then on December 31st drove the long trek home along Route 80. (It’s supposed to take just over 12 hours, but with two toddlers, and infant, and snow along the way, 15 hours was pretty decent time.)
We didn’t get home with just our kids. We brought with us a bout of pinkeye and the flu. Despite my efforts at cleaning, hand washing, and doling out anything known for boosting the immune system, sickness was inevitable.
January 1 arrived, and I already felt like I started on the wrong foot. I cleaned up snot, held exhausted children, and made doctor’s appointments. It was simultaneously tiring and boring, wearying and quiet. Three sick kiddos made for long nights, but our days were more calm than normal. All my kids wanted to do was sit together in the big white chair wrapped in the fuzzy red blanket.
We were forced to rest.
Initially, I felt frustrated by our slow start to the year. I didn’t get much checked off my to-do list. For a while, I didn’t even get around to making the to-do list or resolutions or picking my word for the year. But our bodies have a way of making us stop, and nursing little ones back to health meant I had to slow down and simply be with them. I had to sit still, a practice I don’t often do.
Our culture tells us that January 1 is the time to get started. To do all the things. To exercise and read and work and hustle. But at least in the Northern Hemisphere, January 1 falls in the middle of winter, and winter is a time to slow down.
Nature knows how to do this. Plants are dormant, animals hibernate, and even the sun hides for most of the day. Evidences of life and productivity seem few, but they’re there - they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Sitting still. Being quiet. Silently preparing for spring. Resting.
How do you find rest when there are diapers to change, toys to pick up, laundry to throw in, mouths to feed, and deadlines to meet? I don’t always know what rest looks like at this stage in life, but it doesn’t look like worry, agitation, or frenzy. There’s a difference between a life that’s full and a life that’s frenetic, a mind that can be still when needed and one that races even during stillness.
It’s nearly February, and I finally feel like our family is coming out of the fog of holidays, travel, and sickness. I want to be careful I don’t forget the slow, silent growth that happened during these weeks. I wish we hadn’t been sick, but I don’t want to label this month as unproductive.
Our minds quieted and our bodies slowed down. And that’s not a bad way to start the year.
Speaking of a slow start to the year, I intended to post this recipe weeks ago but never got around to it until now. I still absolutely love this dish, though, because it's simple enough for a weeknight meal but makes a great date-night-in dinner, too - especially paired with a decent bottle of wine (I recommend Sauvignon Blanc or a buttery Chardonnay in this case).
Many of my favorite seafood recipes tend to be light and summery, but I'm always wanting something a bit more hearty during cold weather months. For this recipe, I roasted cremini mushrooms, which give the entire dish a rich, deep, earthy flavor. Pacific Cod gets a crunchy panko crust and then bakes alongside the mushrooms. Spinach sauteed with a few cloves of garlic rounds out the plate perfectly for a warm, filling, healthy, and flavorful meal.
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach
Yields 2 servings
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms
1 pound cremini mushrooms
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko crumbs
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 (8 ounce) cod fillets*
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the mushrooms in half, large ones in quarters. Add the mushrooms to a rimmed baking sheet, and toss with ¼ cup olive oil, the white wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
While the mushrooms roast, add the panko crumbs to a small bowl. Zest the lemon and add the zest to the panko, along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the parsley, a scant ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
After the mushrooms have roasted for 10 minutes, remove them from the oven. Push the mushrooms to the sides of the baking sheet to make room for the fish. Add the cod fillets to the baking sheet, and brush each with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Top evenly with the panko mixture. Return the baking sheet to the oven, and bake for another 10 minutes.
While the fish and mushrooms cook, cut the zested lemon into wedges, and reserve the wedges for serving. Make the sautéed spinach (recipe below).
When the fish and mushrooms are done (the fish should easily flake apart and the mushrooms should be tender), remove from the oven, and transfer to plates. Serve with the sautéed spinach. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish, and serve with extra lemon wedges if desired.
2 Tablespoons olive oil (take this to the next level by substituting white truffle oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Add the spinach, one handful at a time.(This will look like a lot of spinach but it shrinks down quite a bit.)
Cook the spinach until it’s wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the panko-crusted cod and roasted mushrooms.
*Especially for those of you living in the Midwest, I highly suggest checking out Sitka Salmon Shares! I have purchased their fish for a couple years now, and I absolutely love their mission and their product. This is not at all a sponsored post - I just love recommending good companies!