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A Tropical Staycation: Blackened Grilled Walleye & Pineapple-Ginger Juice

When it's cold outside, I like to find retreat in my kitchen. The warmth of the oven, from spices and from just simply moving in the cuisine-creating space can really feel like a loving hug when I need one. Just this past November, I went on a yoga workshop week in Belize, it was fantastic (shocker I'm sure). Finding myself in mid-month January in Minnesota, although we have had a mild winter thus far, I think to myself that perhaps I jumped the gun on my tropical getaway. As I reminisce of the fresh catch-of-the-day crisp and warm off the grill and the warm sun on my skin as I lay in a hammock on the beach, I realize that a tropical fix may not be as far away as it may seem.

We are surrounded by great options to add a little heat into our frosty winter. Although the process of catching the walleye will include a fair amount of cold, ice fishing season is open right here in our home-state and walleye sure does count for catch-of-the-day...a delicious and most amazing local catch. Luckily, I had a handful of fillets from the most recent fishing trip last weekend. A creole influenced blackened and pan grilled walleye hit my menu immediately.

On my trip, there were many yummy things to write home about - including a Belizean outdoor market with fresh prepared fruit, sweet treats, tamales, a mango sorbet shop and one "Coconut" Leo. This local gem would climb to the tip top of a palm tree with his bare hands (and feet), machete in tow, to chop down any ready coconuts for us to eat and drink. Once at the top of the tree and the job complete, Leo would proceed to do handstands and other tricks for show. All of us yogis were on the ground thinking we may need to head back out onto the palapa and get practicing...just kidding, it's about the journey right?

Leo sure was entertaining, and who can argue with fresh coconut juice but there was another beverage that really held my attention. It was a delectable pineapple-ginger juice. They made it fresh a couple times a week at the resort and I could hardly wait to get my hands on a glass when I saw it in it's jug. While it may appear slightly counterintuitive to want to consume ginger in a warm climate since it packs a fair amount of heat, there was something so seamlessly smooth about the transition between the pineapple's sweet acidity and the ginger's softened robust punch. For my mission to create the tropics in my kitchen, it seems a perfect addition to my menu. I pulled out my high-speed blender in an attempt to duplicate.

We can't always escape to a tropical island in the dead of winter no matter how much we will it to be so, but I have been able to let my kitchen-prep island serve as a homey fix. Plus there are none of the long lines with cranky attendants, search wands or endless giant bug bites that go with a vacation to the tropics. Just the comfort of our own toasty homes. 

*****

Blackened Grilled Walleye with Avocado-Grapefruit Salad

- 4 medium walleye fillets
- safflower oil
- 1/4 cup ghee or organic unsweetened butter
- 1 T paprika
- 1/2 t pink Hawaiian sea salt
- 1/2 t sea salt, Maldon is nice
- 3/4 t fresh ground black pepper
- 3/4 t ground white pepper
- 1 1/2 t garlic powder
- 1/2 t cayenne, more depending on desired level of heat
- 1 t dried thyme
- 1 t dried oregano
- 1/4 t chopped dill

- 1 grapefruit, diced
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
- 1 T chopped cilantro
- 1 t fresh lime juice
- drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Pull walleye out of fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. Mix all spice ingredients (paprika through dill) in a small bowl, sprinkle mixture onto plate for coating and set aside. Warm ghee or butter until melted. Pat fillets dry and dip into ghee/butter then onto spice plate, gently patting both sides until fillet is covered. Repeat with remaining fish, set aside.

  Mix diced grapefruit and avocado with chopped cilantro, lime juice and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

Heat 1 T safflower oil (add more oil if desired) on grill pan over medium heat. Grill each fillet until slightly charred in appearance on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and dish up onto individual plates. Top with grapefruit-avocado salad.

Note: Sour cream or creme fraiche can be added on the side if desired.

*****

Frothy Pineapple-Ginger Juice

- 1 pineapple, skin removed and cut into chucks
- 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated with peeler
- 1 t agave nectar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened rice milk

Toss all ingredients into a high power blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Reserve small amount of pineapple for garnish, if desired.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to drink.


´╗┐Rachel Huntzicker is a writer and yogi. Rachel has a big love for cooking and recipe development with an emphasis on the food-to-mood connection. Rachel is the executive assistant to the editor in chief at Experience Life magazine. She is an honors graduate of the University of Minnesota, School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Rachel currently resides in Saint Paul with her two dogs, Mango and Maple and is a proud member-owner of the Seward co-op. You can find more from Rachel on her blog Minneapple Pie.´╗┐ Her last article for SGT was Venison and Mash.