Whenever we want to escape the cold, of course we think of warmer climes. The Caribbean used to be our first choice until traveling became such a hassle. Now we enjoy different destinations in Florida where some of the best fish can be found in the world. Gulf shrimp there is fresh, not frozen and fresh caught fish is abundant. We recently traveled to Marco Island where upon arrival we immediately ordered steamed shrimp. Served on a bed of seaweed with hot sauce alongside a Cuervo Gold tequila and Grand Marnier liqueur margarita was not a bad way to start lunch and our feeding frenzy.
My favorite fish has to be fresh grouper. Whether simply blackened or flash fried to perfection with pub chips, you can’t beat it. The simpler the preparation, the better. Before we departed on our mini-vacay, I had seared red snapper (couldn’t get grouper) in a cast iron pan. The idea is to get the oil hot to the smoking point to flash sear the fish. Sadly, the house smelled of burnt oil for days and it made a huge mess so now I will cook it outside on a small propane burner/stove.
Mangoes are the perfect accompaniment to fish. They originated in southern Asia and were brought to California in the late 1800’s. They are now cultivated in most frost-free tropical and sub-tropical climates. Mangoes are everywhere in Florida and perfectly ripe in the grocery stores which gave me the incentive to prepare my flash seared fish on the outdoor stove and top it with my mango salsa.
Ali’s Fresh Mango Salsa
- 1 fresh mango, chopped
- 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
- ¼ c. red onion, diced
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, minced and seeded if desired
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 T. olive oil
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ c. cilantro, chopped
- Salt to taste*
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve over blackened fish.
*Remember, if you are serving with blackened fish, you will want to be careful with the salt content in the salsa.
Once we returned to our own nirvana, we still craved fish. The Barefoot Contessa/Ina Garten has a recipe in her new cookbook for shrimp and swordfish curry. I made it my own and it fulfilled the craving for shrimp AND fish!
Ali’s Curried Shrimp and Swordfish Stew
- 1 T. curry powder*
- 1 t. fresh ground coriander**
- 1 t. ground cumin
- ¼ t. ground turmeric
- 1/8 t. ground cayenne pepper
- 1/8 t. ground cloves
- 4 T. butter
- 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 sweet onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T. fresh ginger, minced
- 1 T. red pepper flakes***
- 1 pint Ali’s canned plum tomatoes, diced with juice
- 2 c. clam juice
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 lb. fresh swordfish, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined of course
- Juice of 1 lime
- Combine the spices in a bowl, set aside.
- Heat butter and oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Cook over medium heat until soft.
- Stir in spices, cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add tomatoes and juice, clam juice, salt and pepper and simmer 10 minutes.****
- Add the fish and shrimp, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes. DO NOT overcook the fish.
- Stir in lime juice and serve.
*Increase curry powder for your taste buds. Remember your house will retain the odor for a day or two. No problem here.
**Any fresh ground spice will increase intensity of flavor, adjust accordingly.
***Add as much or as little red pepper for the heat factor. You could use any fresh hot peppers if adventurous.
****At this point, you could cool down the stew and refrigerate until the next day. The stew will be more flavorful; after reheating the liquid, cook the fish the same amount of time.
I love mussels as well. Mussels are a bivalve mollusk readily available from Prince Edward Island in Canada. The industry is the top producer and exporter in Canada ~ the ocean climate in this area is conducive to their growth where they attach themselves to rocks in intertidal zones. When you find a favorite recipe, continually tweak it by playing around with different ingredients~ say a type of flour or seasoning. I have done this for mussels by creating a new creamy white wine sauce. Be sure to write it down!
Ali’s Creamy Moules Mariniere
- I onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 T. butter
- 2 lbs. fresh mussels
- 1 c. white wine
- ½ c. heavy cream
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ lb. linguini, cooked as directed
- Sauté onion and garlic in butter over medium heat; set aside.
- Debeard* mussels and steam in white wine until open, approximately 5 minutes.
- Remove mussels from pan and add cream and seasonings. Simmer until thickened.
- Add onion mixture to pan and return mussels to pan to warm.
- Serve over pasta.
*Protruding between the two shells is a bristle, also called a beard by which the mussel attaches itself to a rock. Rinse sand from the outside of the shell under running cold water then remove the beard by pulling hard on it near the base or simply use a small dull knife and snap off the beard prior to cooking.
Striped bass/rockfish season is close and locally we won’t have to rely on shipped fish in the seafood market. Can’t wait ~ welcome spring!