“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high…”
from the operetta Porgy and Bess, 1935
Charleston resident Dubs Heyward wrote the lyrics for the song “Summertime.” I imagine, like most seafood-loving South Carolinians, he would have preferred that the aerial acrobatics of jumping fish would land them right in the frying pan.
Fish and shellfish are local favorites for summer dining. What’s not to like? Seafood is nutritious, offering valuable protein without the calories and high levels of saturated fat of other meat sources. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend that we eat two servings of fish a week, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, halibut, albacore tuna, trout, Arctic char and sardines. The Mayo Clinic reports that eating one or two servings a week could reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by a third or more.
Choose seafood for a light, delicious meal. It is versatile and cooks quickly – a requirement for the easy living of summertime. It has little connective tissue and requires a short cooking time at a high temperature. Fish and shellfish can be steamed, poached, baked and fried. Some enjoy it raw: oysters on the half shell, citrus-marinated raw fish (ceviche) or sashimi.
The Asian kaleidoscope of seafood shapes, textures, aromas, colors and flavors inspired the recipe, Seafood Noodle Salad with Peanut-Sesame Sauce, shown in the photo. Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Mango Salsa also has Asian overtones. You will find a variety of quick-cooking seafood dishes here and the flavorful sauces that accompany can be prepared in advance. However you decide to prepare it, remember that fresh or quality fresh-frozen seafood is always best – and don’t overcook it.
Seafood Noodle Salad with Peanut-Sesame Sauce
Seafood alternatives: red or golden kingklip, lobster, smoked salmon, lump crabmeat, surimi crab, squid rings
Perfect for summer, this noodle dish features a nutty-tasting sauce with an explosion of flavor. Don’t overdress the noodles so as to preserve the seafood’s delicate flavor. In the photo, the Ka-me brand of thin, dried Chinese Misua wheat flour noodles from local markets were used. These quick-cooking noodles are popular at Chinese festivals and birthday celebrations. A similar type of Asian noodles or even spaghettini – a thin spaghetti – cooked to package directions can be substituted.
8 ounces dried, thin Chinese noodles
2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
1 medium scraped, trimmed carrot, cut in
matchstick julienne strips
1/2 each red and yellow bell pepper (or
1 whole bell pepper), cut in matchstick
4 ounces fresh snow peas or sugar snap
peas, cut in half on the diagonal
white portions of 4 green onions, thinly
sliced on the diagonal (trim remaining
green portions into thin shreds for
2 ounces small button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound large fresh shrimp, cooked,
6 to 8 ounces bay scallops, poached 2 to 3
1/2 pound fresh salmon fillet, cooked,
broken into bite-size pieces
16 fresh mussels, rinsed well, steamed in 1
cup dry white wine or water in a
covered pot 3 to 4 minutes until opened
Peanut-Sesame Sauce (recipe below)
Prepare Peanut-Sesame Sauce. Cook noodles about three minutes, according to package directions. Rinse in cold water then drain well; toss with safflower oil. Set aside lightly covered. Prepare vegetables and seafood as directed. Cook and shuck the mussels, keeping a few in the shells for garnish.
In a large bowl, toss noodles, vegetables and about 3/4 of the prepared seafood; place on a large serving platter. Arrange remaining seafood and any garnishes over the top. Serve with a large bowl of Peanut-Sesame Sauce and individual serving bowls or plates. Each diner should dress his own portion with the spicy sauce, to taste. Serves four.
Note: The peanut sauce, noodles, vegetables and seafood, except for mussels, can be prepared up to three hours ahead. Refrigerate vegetables and seafood until serving time. Noodles taste best at room temperature.
Peanut Sesame Sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons quality soy sauce
4 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
4 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
2 to 3 slices fresh, peeled ginger root
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice of 1 fresh lime
2 to 3 teaspoons Sriracha or chili garlic
hot sauce, to taste
dash black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Put all the ingredients, except sesame seeds, into the work bowl of a food processor. Using a steel blade, process until mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust flavor, as desired. Stir in sesame seeds. Use sauce at once or pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Use within three hours or refrigerate up to three days. Shake well before serving. Makes about two cups.
Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Mango Salsa
Seafood alternatives: black cod (sablefish), summer flounder, U.S. haddock, mahi-mahi, yellow tail snapper, U.S. Atlantic swordfish
For the most attractive salsa appearance, dice the mango, bell pepper and onion close to the same size.
2 medium-ripe juicy mangoes, peeled,
1 small roasted or fresh red bell pepper,
1/4 cup chopped red onion
juice of 1 fresh lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or basil leaves,
pinch salt and black pepper
2 pinches dried, crushed red peppers, or
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 6-ounce pieces Pacific halibut fillet
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh cilantro sprigs
1 fresh lime, cut in 4 wedges
In a medium bowl, combine mango, bell pepper, onion, lime juice and cilantro or basil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add crushed red pepper. Set aside for flavor to develop while fish cooks.
Add flour to a large zip-top plastic bag; season with salt and pepper. Put halibut pieces into the bag; shake to lightly dust with the mixture. Place fish on a plate. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil. Sear fish in hot oil four to five minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. The fish should be opaque inside and beginning to flake.
Place fish on individual serving plates; spoon a generous portion of mango salsa on top. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Serves four.
Sizzling BBQ Shrimp
This recipe was inspired by the classic New Orleans shrimp dish. Serve as a “finger-licking” good outdoor party appetizer or as an entree with Gouda grits and a green salad. Either way, include lemon wedges and warm, crusty French bread for sopping up the tasty sauce. Wild-caught American shrimp from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico or the South Atlantic are good seafood choices. Abita Amber Beer is a favorite in Louisiana for cooking and drinking; if unavailable, substitute a mild brown ale.
1 1/2 pounds fresh large shrimp, in their
4 ounces quality salted butter
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup sliced green onions
juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large minced garlic clove
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning, if desired
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
about 1/2 to 3/4 cup room temperature beer, dry white wine or shrimp stock, as
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With kitchen scissors, cut lengthwise through the shell of each shrimp along the back curve. Make an incision into each shrimp and remove the veins, leaving shells intact. Set aside. In a large cast iron skillet or other heavy baking pan add the remaining ingredients, except beer. Heat in the oven three to four minutes, stirring once, until mixture is sizzling-hot. Stir in shrimp and cook, uncovered, about five minutes, stirring often. Mix in beer and continue cooking five minutes or until shrimp are opaque and firm. Don’t overcook or shrimp will be tough. Pour shrimp and sauce into a serving platter; garnish with lemon wedges. Serves four.
Variation: For stovetop cooking, heat butter mixture in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook and stir eight to 10 minutes or until done. Sprinkle in beer, as desired.
Cold Poached Salmon with Cucumber-Mint Sauce
Seafood alternatives: black sea bass or striped bass, grouper, mahi-mahi, red or golden kingklip
This is a great summer do-ahead dish. Poached salmon can also be used in salads, chowders or sandwiches.
3 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 large shallot, thinly-sliced, or 2
tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 lemon, thinly-sliced
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh parsley
4 6- to 8-ounce center-cut salmon fillets
sea salt and ground white pepper
Cucumber-Mint Sauce (recipe below)
Prepare Cucumber-Mint Sauce. In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan or skillet, bring water, wine, shallot, lemon, bay leaf and parsley to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat slightly and simmer five minutes. Sprinkle salmon fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Gently lower salmon fillets, skin-side-up, into the barely simmering broth, which should just cover fish. Cover pan and poach fish about seven to eight minutes until it begins to flake yet is springy to the touch. Remove pan from heat and allow fish to stand in cooking broth three minutes more. Test for doneness. Use a skimmer to lift poached salmon fillets from the liquid to a plate; remove skin. Salmon can be served at once or refrigerated overnight in a covered container, sprinkled with a small amount of strained poaching liquid to keep it moist. Twenty minutes before serving, remove salmon from refrigerator container. Arrange fillets on serving plates and top each portion with some of the Cucumber-Mint Sauce. Serves four.
2 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 minced garlic clove
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
dash sea salt and black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Keeps well for two days.
Fried Catfish Dijon
Catfish has long been the star of that favorite Southern social institution, the fish-fry. I developed this tasty catfish recipe for the Columbia Junior League Cookbook, Down by the Water. This outstanding cookbook is filled with many more delicious seafood recipes.
4 4- to 6-ounce boneless catfish fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup safflower oil
lemon wedges, for garnish
Creole Tartar Sauce (recipe below)
Arrange the fillets in a nonreactive dish. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and lemon pepper in a bowl and mix well. Pour over the fish, turning to cover. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning occasionally; drain. Combine the cornmeal, salt and garlic powder in a shallow dish and mix well. Coat the fillets with the cornmeal mixture. Heat the safflower oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the fillets. Fry until crisp and brown on both sides, turning once or twice; drain. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and Creole Tartar Sauce. Serves four.
Creole Tartar Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dill pickle, chopped
1 tablespoon rinsed capers, chopped
1 tablespoon roasted red bell pepper,
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
3/4 of 1 green onion, minced (trim off
portion of green stem)
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Use at once or store covered in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Catfish Dijon Poor Boys
Seafood alternatives: flounder, tilapia, mahi-mahi
Small, thin catfish fillets fry up best for these sandwiches. Equal parts of cornmeal and corn flour make an excellent fish coating also, but with less texture. Super-fine corn flour is milled from the dried kernels of whole corn. (Mexican masa harina is corn flour ground from dried hominy.)
1 recipe Fried Catfish Dijon (with Creole
4 crusty 6-inch long French bread rolls or
a loaf of French bread cut in 4 pieces,
2 cups baby arugula leaves or shredded
2 medium garden-ripe tomatoes, thin
First prepare the Creole Tartar Sauce recipe, substituting fresh minced basil for the parsley. Then prepare the Fried Catfish Dijon; keep warm. Slice rolls in half lengthwise; spread cut sides with tartar sauce. Inside each roll, arrange a fried catfish fillet and 1/4 of the arugula. Top with sliced tomato. Serves four.
Orange Marinated Tuna
Seafood alternatives: striped bass, wild Pacific salmon, Pacific halibut, cobia, U.S. Atlantic swordfish
Marinating the tuna keeps it moist and adds flavor. Tuna is best served medium-rare – pink in the middle. You can adjust the cooking time to suit your personal taste. Any substitute fish may require a bit longer cooking time. Grate the zest from the orange first then squeeze it to obtain the fresh juice.
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing fish
1/4 cup quality soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 yellow-fin or albacore tuna steaks, about
1 inch thick
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
2 green onions, shredded into thin
1 seedless orange, thin sliced
Whisk together 1/4 cup oil, soy sauce, sherry, orange zest, orange juice, garlic and oregano in a shallow glass dish. Add tuna steaks, turning to coat in marinade. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, turning once or twice. Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking. Remove fish steaks from marinade; brush each side lightly with oil. Place on the grill, five to six inches above the hot coals. Cook four minutes on each side. Baste fish steaks with marinade as they cook. When done, transfer to a platter. Boil remaining marinade in a small saucepan; drizzle over fish. Garnish with sesame seeds, green onion shreds and orange slices. Serves four.
Arctic Char with Braised Kale
Seafood alternatives: wild Pacific salmon, black cod, U.S. Pacific or Atlantic cod, striped bass, grouper (HI), mahi-mahi
Farmed Arctic char is a delicious, mild-tasting fish produced in an ecologically responsible manner. Like salmon, it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and tastes similar. Kale is rich in calcium and Vitamins K, A and C. Small, tender, organic leaves are best for this recipe and available at your local farmers’ market. You can use Swiss chard, but adjust the cooking time accordingly. In this recipe, the fish is steamed on top of the greens, but it can be dusted with flour and cooked in a sizzling-hot pan with butter and oil. Umami-rich Asian glazes are especially delicious on top. Kikkoman offers several convenient varieties to choose from.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half then into
2 garlic cloves, minced
about 2 cups cooking liquid (half chicken
broth and half water)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds tender young kale,
well-rinsed, dried, stemmed and
sea salt and black pepper, as desired
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
or fresh lemon juice
4 5- to 6-ounce Arctic char fillets, skin
1 lemon, thinly sliced
homemade or top-quality purchased
tomato chutney, if desired
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent and soft, stirring often. Stir in garlic and cook one minute more. Add about 3/4 cup cooking liquid. When it simmers, add the kale in batches, stirring until wilted down. Season lightly with salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar. Cover pan and cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining stock; cover and cook five minutes more or until almost tender. Season char fillets with salt and pepper and arrange on top of the kale. Cover pan and cook six to seven minutes or until fish is cooked through. Serve each char fillet on a bed of the kale. Top with tomato chutney and garnish with a lemon slice. Serves four.
Spicy Tilapia with Avocado Salsa
Seafood alternatives: rainbow trout, mahi-mahi, yellowtail, snapper, U.S. Pacific flounder, mangrove (grey) snapper
Tilapia or “St. Peter’s fish,” is considered one of the top 10 seafoods in the U.S. The mild white fish is grown in environmentally friendly systems. References to tilapia were found in Egyptian tombs 4,000 years ago; some biblical scholars believe it was the fish Jesus multiplied to feed the masses at the Sea of Galilee. Good to know: The KidSafe Seafood program recommends U.S. farmed tilapia; it is low enough in mercury and PCBs to be served at least once a week to children age three and up.
4 6-ounce tilapia fillets
juice of 1 fresh lime
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, if desired
canola oil for frying
Avocado Salsa (recipe below)
Prepare Avocado Salsa; set aside up to one hour. Squeeze lime juice over fish fillets; drain off. Mix flour and the five spices in a large zip-top plastic bag. Put one tilapia fillet into the bag at a time; dust with the mixture. Place fillets on a plate. Put a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add enough oil to coat the bottom. (If necessary, cook fish in two batches.) Sear fish in hot oil three to four minutes on each side until slightly crisp and golden brown. Serve tilapia fillets with Avocado Salsa. Serves four.
4 garden-ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled,
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 serrano chile or jalapeño, seeded and
finely minced, or to taste
a big pinch salt and black pepper, to taste
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 firm-ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, cut in
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. If made ahead, add the avocado up to one hour before serving.
Blueprint for Tilapia Tacos
To begin, prepare a recipe of Cilantro Coleslaw by combining three cups finely-shredded red cabbage, one tablespoon brown sugar, pinch of salt, 1/4 cup each cilantro leaves and shredded green onion, one minced Serrano chile and three to four tablespoons sour cream. Squeeze one juicy lime into the mixture. Alternately, you can stir-fry a large bag of coleslaw mix until crisp-tender, adding seasonings to taste. Refrigerate until serving time.
Combine 1/2 cup low-calorie mayonnaise with one tablespoon chipotle adobo hot sauce. Refrigerate until serving time.
Make one recipe of the Spicy Tilapia with Avocado Salsa (above). Heat eight to 12 medium-size flour or corn tortillas on a hot griddle or between damp paper towels in the microwave. To serve, arrange fish on a large plate and carry to the table with the Avocado Salsa, Cilantro Coleslaw, flavored mayonnaise and warm tortillas. Each diner should spread a warm tortilla with some mayonnaise, a small portion of the fish, some coleslaw and salsa. Fold up the tacos and eat out of hand. Serves four.
Guidelines for Selecting and Cooking Fish
Purchase seafood from a retailer following proper food handling practices. Seafood displays should be properly iced/refrigerated. Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Fish fillets should display no drying, darkening or discoloration around the edges. Thaw frozen fish in refrigerator overnight or under cold running water.
Discard uncooked mussels, oysters and clams with cracked, broken shells. If open shells won’t close up when tapped, discard since they are probably dead. Discard any that are not open after cooking.
The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. A good rule to remember: cook fresh fish fillets eight to 10 minutes per inch of thickness at 400 to 450 degrees. (Measure fish at the thickest part.) Cook fish steaks 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Small whole fish require 10 to 14 minutes; larger whole fish 14 to 17 minutes. Check fish at the minimum time; if not done, check at two-minute intervals. Remember, fish continue to cook one to two minutes after being removed from the heat.
Fish is done when the center becomes opaque and it begins to flake. Some firm fish, like mahi-mahi, don’t flake easily. Cut into them with the tip of a small knife to check for doneness. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna taste better when cooked less – opaque outside with a slightly translucent center. Freshwater fish are more prone to parasites and should be cooked completely through.
Fish fillets up to one inch thick can be grilled directly over charcoal. Brush with oil before placing on the grill. Place whole fish to the side of the hot charcoal (indirect grilling) for even cooking and to prevent thin areas from drying out. Fillets with skin can be placed skin-side down and cooked without turning. Some cooks prefer to sear the fillets on the flesh side one minute, then flip and finish cooking on the skin side. Both methods work well.
Marinades can double as basting sauces. Reserve a small portion before the fish is added or bring marinade to a quick boil after the fish is cooked.
Pan-roasting is a great method for cooking thicker cuts of fish. Sear the fish quickly on both sides in an oven-proof pan for color, then place the pan of fish into a 350 degree oven 10 minutes or until done. Test with an oven-proof thermometer. Top each portion with herb butter and serve at once.
Certain people, especially babies and pregnant women, should be careful about the types and amounts of fish they eat from local waters. Too much consumption of fish with high levels of mercury is hazardous to their health. They should avoid king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tilefish and cobia. Harmful levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) have not been found in fish sold in the commercial marketplace, including farm-raised species. Check fish consumption advisories for information about local fish and shellfish safety.
Pesticides and toxins tend to concentrate in the fatty parts of fish so it might be best to discard the skin and fat deposits when cleaning fish. Or choose fish fillets instead.