By Ann Cipperly
The arrival of June brings thoughts of carefree summer days and enjoying time relaxing at the beach with seafood meals. While we may have a limited time of keeping our toes in the sand at the beach, we can savor delectable seafood from the Gulf at home all summer.
Local grocery stores carry a variety of fresh and frozen fish and seafood. Many recipes are easy since you just want to cook the seafood simply and preserve its taste. Sauces are generally light and lemon-scented.
Our family has been fortunate to have enjoyed many beach days, as we have had close family members living at the beach or nearby. From Pensacola to West Palm Beach, Florida, both sides of our family have an affinity for being near white sand and rolling blue waters.
Years ago, my husband’s parents left New York for the sunny shores of Clearwater and Largo, Florida. We visited often when our children were growing up. Our youngest son, Robert, enjoyed it so much that when he grew up, he and his wife, AJ, moved to the Suncoast.
At one time, they lived at Sand Key on Clearwater Beach. It was wonderful to spend lazy days at the beach. I especially enjoyed walks on the beach where the gentle rhythm of waves rolling onto the sand was restful and peaceful, providing a feeling of nearness to God.
I would collect an array of shells to place in jars when we returned home. Our son always wanted me to throw out the ones that were not perfect. I felt that when I arranged the shells that I could have the best side showing. It seemed to be a reminder that none of us are perfect, and that God will place us where our best side shines.
There are many excellent restaurants in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Pete and along the Suncoast. We especially enjoyed the ones serving fish and seafood.
While we have many favorite restaurants in that area, we would always go to Frenchy’s in Clearwater for their grouper sandwich. There are several Frenchy’s restaurants, and the owners have their own fishing boats to catch fresh grouper. The grouper is available fried and grilled, but we thought the fried was better.
Since Robert and AJ both work, they found the traffic on Clearwater Beach was too slow trying to get to their jobs. They later moved to downtown Tampa, which we also enjoyed visiting.
Sunsets are legendary along the Suncoast from Tampa stretching to the beach at St. Pete and Clearwater. A watercolor palette of pinks, oranges and lavender would glow across the sky among the towering buildings in Tampa at sunset, and soon melded into fiery reds as the sun disappeared behind the buildings on the horizon.
Getting around in Tampa is easy with the Downtowner, which provides free lifts around downtown aboard eco-friendly, electric vehicles. Taking a day boat cruise is also a good way to view the city. One of the stops is at a favorite restaurant, Ulele.
Ulele is the newest in the Columbia restaurant group. Perched at the bend in the Hillsborough River, the two-story restaurant and brewery is housed in the 1906 Water Works building. It is an ideal spot to watch sunsets.
The restaurant is named for Indian Princess Ulele. A sculpture of Ulele is at the entrance of the restaurant. Two of our favorite fish dishes are the Gouda grouper in a smoked Gouda béchamel sauce and Juan’s snapper with Spanish aioli and garlic spinach. Desserts are yummy, especially the signature house-made coconut ice cream in a coconut shell.
Columbia is the most famous Spanish restaurant in the area and also the oldest. Columbia restaurant first opened in Ybor City in Tampa in 1905 as a corner café for cigar workers. There are now several Columbia restaurants in the area and throughout Florida.
Among the varied menu, we would start with the 1905 salad prepared tableside. The salad was voted in the top 10 in the country by USA Today.
For a special evening out, the choice was always Bern’s Steak House, which is considered one of the best in the country. It is also an attractive restaurant with each room decorated differently.
The restaurant uses fresh vegetables from their own farm. Every dish was superb, from the seafood to the chateaubriand. Each were served in courses, starting with onion soup followed by a green salad.
At every visit, we never passed on a chance to tour the kitchen and wine cellar. The wine cellar is incredible with 500,000 bottles in-house and 750,000 in the warehouse across the street, which is the largest privately held collection in the world.
After the tour, we would go to the dessert room, which was built using redwood wine casks to create 48 private rooms. Like everything else at the restaurant, the desserts are also made from scratch. Favorites included sublime banana cream pie, macadamia nut sundae and a decadent peanut butter and chocolate torte.
A couple of years ago, Robert and AJ moved to downtown West Palm Beach. We have enjoyed lingering over morning coffee on the balcony of the high rise overlooking the downtown area with glimpses of the beach in the distance.
The setting for West Palm and Palm Beach are different from the Suncoast area. With the area being the winter home of billionaires, most of the restaurants are upscale and some do not list their prices.
Robert and AJ found many wonderful places to dine before we arrived. Fish and seafood abound and is always a favorite to order. The area also offers several unique food markets and delis serving outstanding gourmet dishes.
We enjoy exploring food markets. Carmine’s Gourmet Market offers an assortment of pasta dishes to take home to cook, as well as their own sauces in jars. The market includes a bakery, fresh meats and gourmet packaged foods.
After shopping, we enjoyed a tasty lunch at the Trattoria, with pasta in a vodka sauce and eggplant Parmesan. Coal Fired Pizza Ristorante adjoins the Trattoria.
Among our favorite restaurants are The Meat Market with an elegant setting, RH Rooftop serving a delicious lobster roll in a relaxing garden setting and Aioli Café, with long stemmed artichokes, upscale sandwiches and salads.
While we plan our next trip to visit family near the beach, we will serve seafood at home, as it brings back memories of carefree days at the beach against a backdrop of glorious sunsets.
Cipperly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia Restaurant’s Original “1905” Salad
½ head iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
½ cup thin strips Swiss cheese
½ cup thin strips ham or turkey
¼ cup pitted green Spanish olives
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, ham and olives. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Gradually whisk in olive oil, continually beating to form an emulsion. Stir in vinegar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour dressing to taste over salad and toss well. Add pecorino, toss and serve. Serves two. Easy to double.
Don’s Pan-Seared Grouper with Lemon Garlic Butter
1¼ lb. grouper fillets
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. or more lemon garlic butter, (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and allow to heat. Season fish simply with salt and pepper and add fillets, flesh side down, to the pan. Allow to cook until a golden-brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes.
Turn fish, allowing to sear on the other side for a couple of minutes. Dot fish with butter and move to oven to finish cooking, approximately 10 minutes or until cooked. Add a squeeze of lemon before serving.
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
Baked Grouper with Wild Mushrooms
4 Tbsp. plus 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ lb. each chanterelle, Portobello and oyster mushrooms, each in ¼-inch slices
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
4 (5-oz.) pieces grouper fillet
Salt and pepper
1½ cups dry white wine
¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a 12 to 14-inch ovenproof sauté pan, heat 4 Tbsp. oil until smoking. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and thyme, and continue to cook 5 minutes. Remove the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Season the fish well with salt and pepper. Heat remaining oil in the same pan and add fish. Sauté until deep golden brown on the first side. Carefully turn the fish, add wine, and return the mushroom mixture to the pan.
Put the pan in the oven and cook for 4 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Remove from oven, sprinkle parsley over top and serve. Makes four servings.
Classic Shrimp Cocktail
2 lb. fresh shrimp with shells
3 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, optional
1 lemon, halved
Fill a large pot with water until a little more than halfway full. Stir in Old Bay, if using. Bring water to a boil. When the water comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat. Squeeze the lemon juice into the water. Add shrimp and simmer until they just start to turn pink. Shrimp cook in 3 minutes. Do not overcook.
Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and place them on ice to stop cooking process. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
3/4 cup chili sauce
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish, drained (more or less to taste)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
7-8 dashes Tabasco sauce
Coarse salt and white pepper
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Prepared, jarred horseradish is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
Easy Shrimp Supper
This is so easy and so good if you’re a shrimp lover. It’s also a fun dish for company. Be sure and tell your guests to wear casual clothing and cover your table with a plastic cloth or, even better, newspapers which can easily be tossed in the trash. It’s messy .but good! Add a big green salad and some bread, and you’ve got it made.
5 – 6 lbs. large fresh shrimp
1 large bottle Wishbone Italian dressing
1 lb. butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
Put shrimp in a large baking pan (and I suggest lining it well with foil to help with clean-up).
Pour dressing over shrimp; cut butter into small chunks and scatter over shrimp.
Sprinkle a little Worcestershire, Tabasco and garlic salt on top. Bake at 300 degrees for about an hour, turning the shrimp 3 or 4 times while they’re cooking.
This will serve about six people.
Don’t forget some big empty bowls on the table to hold shrimp peels! You can also serve cocktail sauce or some drawn butter to go with this, but they’re really good just like they are.
Easy Fresh Fish
Any fresh fish such as red snapper, grouper
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Season fish with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. In a black iron skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil; when hot add butter. Cook 4 minutes; turn over and continue cooking about 4 minutes. For grouper, do the same but cook 8 minutes longer in the oven.
Bang Bang Shrimp
1/2 lb. medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp. Sriracha (or any chili sauce)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp. salt
Add mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce and Sriracha to a bowl and mix together.
Clean and devein shrimp, removing tails. Add soy sauce and egg to shrimp and combine thoroughly.
Put flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl and mix together.
Dredge shrimp in batter a few at a time, coating generously. Remove dredged shrimp to a platter, shaking off excess batter.
Fry shrimp at 350 degrees for 2 to 4 minutes, turning if necessary. Place fried shrimp in a bowl and gradually add sauce. Mix to ensure even coating. Garnish with green onion, if desired. Serve immediately.
Jennifer’s Crab Stuffed Potatoes
4 large Idaho potatoes
1 stick butter
½ cup half and half
1 Tbsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tsp. finely grated onion
1 cup grated sharp yellow cheese
6 ½ oz. fresh crab meat (or canned)
½ tsp. paprika
Set oven at 325 degrees for slow baking. Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake until soft. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out, saving the skins. Mix in butter, half and half, salt, pepper, onion and cheese until smooth. Pick crab if using fresh crab. Gently fold crabmeat into potato mixture with a fork; then stuff the halves. Sprinkle tops with paprika. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Can double recipe.
Can wrap well before baking and freeze until needed. Thaw slightly and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot.
Shrimp and Dill Salad
2 lbs. steamed shrimp
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. red, seedless grapes
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
Mix ingredients and chill well before serving. Shrimp and grapes may be cut into smaller pieces.
Grilled or Baked Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 salmon fillets, 6 oz. each
On the side burner, melt brown sugar, honey and butter in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; whisk in mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and ginger. Let cool.
Preheat grill to medium heat. Brush salmon with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place salmon skin side down on grill. Coat flesh of salmon fillets with brown sugar mixture. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes to medium doneness, turning once after 5 to 6 minutes. Salmon can also be baked. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot.