Grilled Mahi Mahi and Memories

Mustard and Vines in Napa Valley

Maybe some of you wonder why I'm always pining for California. To that end, here is a diary-esque post from my prior blog circa January 2009. Maybe it will explain a bit...Oh and by the way, you're going to soon see I have an obsession with Chef Suzanne Goin. I mentioned her restaurant A.O.C. in my last two posts and besides the dark-days-of-winter brightening Grilled Mahi Mahi recipe below (keep reading to get it), I will be posting at least one or two more of her recipes soon.

Janary 12, 2009

Not everyday is a great day, right? Some days are simply survived. Today was one of those days. I hate that. My heart screams at me to never survive another day. Why can't I live in the moment and enjoy everyday? Whimper, whimper, whine, whine.

This past Saturday, however was a great day. My husband was off from his job at the winery and after a few cold, pajama-clad weeks of playing games and watching movies over the cold Christmas break, the day was gloriously sunny and warm. It was time to spend a family day outside of the house. So began the choices of what to do. Our "day-out" choices are copious--dozens of beaches, wineries numbering in the hundreds, foodie locations--so the drill begins when we step out of bed at 8am...what should we do today?

Somewhere around 10 we get in the car with picnic packed and our final two choices in mind--Berkeley Marina or the Carneros region for wineries. As we took off down highway 29 enjoying the sparse but beautiful rows of grapevines flanked with mustard plants, we watched the fog descending the valley back into the bay and made our decision. Carneros, specifically Ceja Vineyards was calling our name. The Latino owned vineyard has been calling our name since we visited the downtown Napa tasting lounge back in the fall and tasted the wines for the first time. Javier, our wine consultant on each visit, is so informative, and himself being a Mexican immigrant within the last decade, very passionate about the wines, the family and the traditional Mexican foods that pair well with their wines. He was the one to convince us to visit the vineyard in the Carneros region and we were so happy we finally listened.

It is a beautiful property complete with bocce court, patio tables for picnicking, a soothing landscape of rolling hills and bay breezes. After getting our kids settled with a Wine Country Dogs book on a leather couch in the homey tasting room, we relaxingly worked our way through from white to reds (Vino de Casa being a favorite). But the surprise of the day was an illogical final tasting of rose which would have normally kicked off the tasting. Ceja's Carneros Coast Bella Rosa, unique in my tasting of many California roses, did not taste primarily of summer berries, but more of tart berries, watermelon and citrus; precisely the reason Javier recommended it to go with my dinner plans of Grilled Mahi Mahi with Meyer Lemon and Olive Salsa (see below).

Ceja was the starting point to our newest winery route discovery. Within a mile, there are at least 5 major wineries--Bouchaine, Etude and Domaine Carneros among them, but sticking to our "2 a day" limit, we only did a quick tasting at Bouchaine on our way out to Sonoma.

A Perigree Moon in Napa

Our perfect day continued with a stop in Sonoma Plaza to answer our future oenophiles screams for ice cream and playtime in the park. "After all, Mom and Dad had had their treats, we get ours now!" The final serendipity came on our drive home when the beautiful perigree moon took our breath away as it lit up, like God's spotlight, what would normally be another inky night in Napa Valley .

So here's to your perfect day, but even if you can't have the perfect day, enjoy featuring grilled mahi mahi with a Meyer lemon olive sauce that tastes of sunlight. If you can't get your hands on Ceja's rose, try a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Grille Mahi Mahi with Meyer Lemon Olive Salsa


Christi Flaherty


  • Salsa
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 small meyer lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed well
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Quinoa
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes (or roasted red peppers)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Grilled Mahi Mahi
  • 4 Mahi Mahi filets
  • olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning


  1. Chop shallots and place in a bowl with the vinegar, a good pinch of sea salt and the honey. Let that stand while you continue with salsa. Cut the lemons lengthwise in half. Keeping the peel on, cut into 1/8" vertical slices then chop into 1/4" pieces. Slice the olives. Toss the lemon pieces, parsley and olives with the shallot mixture. Slowly mix in the olive oil, then set aside to marinate.
  2. For the quinoa, rinse it well unless you know it was pre-rinsed before packaging (such as Trader Joe's brand). Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and quinoa. Cook until quinoa is slightly browned then add sun-dried tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until quinoa absorbs stock. Stir to fluff.
  3. Heat grill. Brush fish with olive oil and season liberally with sea salt and pepper. Grill for 4-5 minutes per side. Serve over quinoa and topped with the salsa.


I adapted the salsa recipe from Suzanne Goin's recipe.[br]Sadly, all I had in the house were Manzanilla olives (the grocery store pimiento stuffed variety) so I used those. Sicilian green olives or picholine would be a much more flavorful choice if you can find them.