By Ann Cipperly
June has always been one of my favorite months. Growing up in Opelika, June was a time to pick blackberries and plums on dusty country roads, to chase June bugs, gather eggs at the chicken house and help shell peas under the shade of a Chinaberry tree. Food was always best with fried chicken and garden-fresh vegetables with thick slices of tomatoes. At the end of June, we visited family in Pensacola, Florida, where we dined on fresh red snapper and hushpuppies at my grandparents’ home.
For most of my life, June has been a time to go to Florida and enjoy fresh seafood. After Don and I married and had children, we went to the Clearwater, St. Pete and Tampa area to visit his parents after they left New York. Our kids could hardly wait for school to be out and go spend lazy days at the beach.
While visiting one June, we decided to go to Sanibel for a week to enjoy time exploring the island. The kids’ time at the beach ended in the middle of the week when heavy rain arrived that quickly turned into a tropical storm. As evening approached, the storm was expected to become a hurricane.
We were staying on the beach, and as the skies darkened, wind pounded the windows, and we lost electricity. As we were trying to decide if we should leave or stay, Don ran to the car to listen to the news on the radio. He learned the three-mile bridge connecting Sanibel to the mainland was underwater. We were stuck at the condo.
Since we had been dining out on seafood, there wasn’t anything in the refrigerator except milk for the kids and cold sodas. We had plenty of snacks and cereal, which became our supper.
We didn’t sleep much, and the next morning we were amazed to see how rough the waves were and the piers and items that floated by. Once the wind subsided, we drove to Captiva to find the curve in the road had completely changed. Sanibel and Captiva are often called shell island, and after the storm beautiful shells covered the beaches.
The storm moved quickly up the coast causing damage, and someone lost their life near Madeira Beach. The storm was referred to as the “no name hurricane.”
We were fortunate all the years we went to Florida in June that we only had experience with one hurricane. We had never seen a tropical storm form so quickly.
While we still enjoy seafood at favorite restaurants in Florida, we have been savoring more seafood at home in the past couple of years. Many local grocery stores now have a seafood market, and we are also finding wild-caught grouper and mahi in the freezer section. They have been excellent and easy to cook quickly.
We pull the amount needed and place in the refrigerator to thaw the day before cooking. Don has taken an interest in cooking seafood. He lived for years on the Chesapeake Bay where he fished and trapped crab.
Don will also cook scallops to go with the fish. He recommends buying dry pack scallops. He will pull a few from the bag and thaw them in cold water. The scallops are then patted dry with paper towels. The scallops need to be completely dry in order to brown nicely in butter.
Fish, scallops and shrimp have always been favorites to order at restaurants, but now we are enjoying them more at home. Generally, we have fish once a week since we have found it locally. The frozen packs of seafood are great for cooking for two.
My longtime friend Anne Carpenter recently requested ideas for singles and cooking for two. These packs of fish that are individually wrapped are great to keep on hand since you just thaw the amount you need to serve with a salad and crusty bread.
Anne knows a great deal about cooking herself, as she was the Lee County Extension agent for many years. We became friends when I was an editor and she dropped her column off once a week. Her husband Bill had the first restaurant in the Haynie’s building in downtown Opelika where Café 123 is currently located.
After Bill passed away, Anne helped take care of her twin sister Carolyn. A few years ago, they moved to Gadsden to be near Carolyn’s son. Now, Carolyn is in an assisted living, and Anne is cooking for one, which can be boring. It often means cutting a recipe in half and sometimes halving it again.
With the packs of frozen fish, scallops and shrimp, you can thaw enough for one or as many as you need. They also create a scrumptious meal that is a pleasant change. Hope Anne will be able to find them in Gadsden.
If you mostly enjoy seafood at the beach, try cooking it at home this summer. Look over the recipes to enliven mealtime this coming week.
Pan Seared Scallops
Per serving, depending on remainder of meal:
2-4 dry pack sea scallops, dried thoroughly
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
Thaw scallops and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Coat scallops in olive oil. Salt and pepper the scallops.
Heat a pan to medium-high to high heat.
When the pan is hot, add scallops and cook them for 1 ½ minutes. Flip the scallops and cook for an additional minute, basting with butter the final 30 seconds.
Cocktail Shrimp with Tomato Chive Salsa
Chef Eron Bass
1 1/2 lb. Gulf white shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cook shrimp in salted water for around 2 minutes until pink. Immediately chill in an ice bath. Refrigerate.
2 cups finely diced fresh tomato without juice or seeds
3 Tbsp. finely sliced fresh chives
2 minced scallions, white part only
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Toss tomatoes, chives, scallions and olive oil together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let salsa sit for 20 minutes for flavors to meld.
Serve in chilled martini glasses and garnish with cilantro.
Shrimp and Corn Salsa
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cilantro
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. crushed pepper
1 lb. shrimp, cooked, peeled, chopped
15 oz. can corn, drained or fresh corn, cooked
¾ cup chopped red onion
Combine all ingredients; let set in refrigerator 2-3 hours or overnight. Salsa is easy to double for a crowd. Serve with tortilla chips.
Crab Cakes with Mustard Sauce
After trying several recipes, I decided to make my own. This is a family favorite.
2 slices sourdough bread
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. Duke mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. lump crabmeat
In a bowl, crumble sour dough bread; add mayonnaise and mix well. Add beaten egg, mustard and Old Bay seasoning; mix until well combined.
Carefully fold in crabmeat, being careful not to break up lumps.
Make crab cakes by placing mixture into one-third measuring cup, then drop into hand to shape. Can be prepared ahead and kept in refrigerator.
When ready to cook, heat oil in skillet on medium or low-medium until hot.
Roll crab cakes in breadcrumbs and cook for about three minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with Mustard Sauce.
Note: Breadcrumbs can be made by crumbling sourdough bread and placing on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until dry.
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 heaping Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
½ tsp. or more minced garlic
Combine ingredients. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon
¼ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 (6-oz.) pieces salmon fillet, skin removed
In a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, lime juice, water and mustard. In a small non-stick skillet, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook salmon 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden and just cooked through.
Transfer salmon to 4 plates. Add honey mixture to skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a glaze-like consistency. Pour the glaze over salmon.
Dijon Crusted Fish
3 Tbsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. horseradish
4 fish fillets (5 oz. each)
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp. butter, melted
Combine mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, mustard and horseradish in a small bowl. Place fish on a greased baking sheet. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over fish.
In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, butter and 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over the fish fillets.
Bake at 425 in a preheated oven for 13 – 18 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Grouper with Lemon Garlic Butter
1¼ lb. grouper fillets
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. or more lemon garlic butter, cut into quarters
Lemon Garlic Butter:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2-3 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced or ½ tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. salt, optional
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and allow to heat up. Season fish with salt and pepper and add fillets, flesh side down, to the pan. Allow to cook until a nice golden-brown crust has formed, 3-4 minutes. Turn fish, allowing to sear on the other side for a couple of minutes.
Dot fish with lemon garlic butter and move to oven to finish cooking, approximately 10 minutes or so.
Add a squeeze of lemon before serving. Reserve and heat some of the garlic butter for plating.
Red Snapper Louisiana
2 onions, minced
2 green peppers
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. salad oil
6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. parsley
½ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
3-4 lb. red snapper
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook onions, peppers and garlic in oil for a few minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley, thyme and bay leaf; cook slowly for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
Salt and pepper fish. Place in slightly greased baking dish. Add sauce over fish. Bake 30 minutes at 360 (correct temperature).
Pine Nut Crusted Fish
½ cup pine nuts (finely chopped or ground)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. dill weed
¼ tsp. lemon pepper
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
4 (6 oz. each) skinned fillets (any mild fish works well)
2 Tbsp. butter
More honey (optional)
In a shallow bowl, combine pine nuts, flour, dill and lemon pepper. In another shallow bowl combine egg, lemon juice and honey. Dip fillets in the egg mixture then coat with nut mixture.
In a large non-stick skillet (we use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet), cook fillets in butter over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Drizzle with additional honey, if desired.
Mary Samford’s Crabmeat Sea Shells
3 Tbsp. butter
3 green onions, chopped
1½ stalks celery, finely chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup evaporated milk, undiluted
2 Tbsp. sherry
1 lb. lump crabmeat
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in pan; sauté onions and celery until tender. Stir in seasonings, mayonnaise, milk and sherry. Add crabmeat and pour into six individual seafood shells or ramekins. Combine remaining butter with garlic and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over seafood. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
4 dozen large fresh shrimp
¼ cup olive oil
4 oz. Gourmet Garden Parsley or ¼ cup fresh parsley
1½ – 2 tsp. minced garlic
¾ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
½ tsp. pepper
¾ cup butter, melted
½ cup Progresso Italian-Style breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Peel shrimp. Place in 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Combine parsley, garlic, red pepper and pepper; stir into shrimp. Cover with foil and bake in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and drizzle butter over shrimp. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese.
Bake, uncovered 5-10 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and tender. (If cooked too long, shrimp will get tough.) Serve over rice with a salad and toasted French bread.
Easy Summer Shrimp Pasta
1 or 2 cups large chunks of yellow summer squash
1 or 2 cups large chunks of zucchini squash
1 or 2 cups large chunks of Portobello mushrooms
¼ to ½ stick butter
1 tsp. garlic salt
Pinch or two of dried basil
1 cup broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pkg. small light Buitoni four-cheese ravioli
3/4 or whole jar creamy Alfredo sauce (not cheesy Alfredo)
20-25 jumbo shrimp (I used already cooked and peeled frozen jumbo shrimp, defrosted, with tails removed.)
Bring water to boil in large pot; add olive oil.
Put shrimp in bowl of cold water to defrost if using frozen. When defrosted, remove tails, if necessary.
Melt butter in large skillet. Sauté squash and mushrooms in butter, add garlic salt and basil; stir. Cover and let simmer on low for about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth to vegetables, cover, let simmer about 3 to 5 more minutes.
When water is boiling in pot, add ravioli. Boil gently, stirring often, about 8 or 9 minutes. Taste for doneness; drain.
Return drained ravioli to pot, cover with creamy Alfredo sauce and stir. Pour defrosted, cooked shrimp over creamy ravioli and stir. Pour vegetables and broth juices over everything; stir. Serve immediately. Serves about 4.
Ann “Snookie” Renfro’s Shrimp Creole
Ann Renfro Smith
1/3 cup oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
¾ bell pepper, finely chopped
¾ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. plain flour
¼ cup chili sauce
½ cup ketchup
2 cups tomatoes
2 cups cooked shrimp
3 cups cooked rice
Heat oil. Add onions, celery and bell pepper. Cook until tender, but not brown. Add seasonings, flour, chili sauce and ketchup. Then add tomatoes and cook until thick. Add shrimp ½ hour before serving. Serve on top of rice.