Notes From the Island Fishmonger: April

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Healthy fish and the sensational citrus sidekicks

By Scott Dolan

Florida is famous for its fresh fish, and rightly so, but many outstanding fruits and vegetables also have the spotlight here.

Obviously, that includes oranges, lemons, limes, papaya mangos, and strawberries – which are all in season. I always plan my weekend fish dinners by picking out my fruits and veggies such as garlic, avocados, carrots, cabbage, corn on the cob, and spinach from the Phillippi Estate farmers market every Wednesday.

Brown’s Grove Citrus and Produce has the goods.

While you’re there, make sure you get some organic brown eggs. Best eggs ever!

Listed below are some wonderful fresh, healthy, fish-fruit-and-vegetable combinations to cook with at home. I never talk exact recipes because everyone has their own likes and dislikes, which provides many recipe options, unlike when you go out to a restaurant. You will usually be served a set-menu recipe.

At home, I like to be creative and I encourage the same for you.

For this reason, I have been writing a cookbook for two years now. Look for a Big Water Fish Market cookbook, with no exact recipes, coming to Siesta Key soon.

SNAPPER & ASPARAGUS, TOPPED WITH CITRUS SAUCE

There are 17 types of snappers harvested off Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts. American red snapper, mangroves, and yellow-tail snappers are most common found in Florida markets.

Red snappers are best known and are easily distinguished by their rosy red skin and bright eyes.

Yellow-tails are a local favorite from here to Key West. They have a distinguishing yellow stripe running from nose to tail and are found in warm waters all summer long. 

My snapper is usually served with steamed asparagus and a simple citrus sauce. Lightly salt and pepper snapper. Cook snapper filets in a cast-iron skillet for around 3 minutes on each side. Steam or boil asparagus for 3 minutes, leaving slightly crisp. Then, in a small pot, combine 1 cup orange juice and 2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce. Cook over medium heat to reduce by half. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Plate your fish and asparagus, then pour your citrus sauce on top. Squeeze a lemon and enjoy.

GROUPER MASHED & SPINACH

When plated with a homemade garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, it is my favorite combination. Surprisingly, mashed potatoes are not just for meat but pair extremely well with fish and sautéed spinach with butter and dust as the topping on the cake.

Spinach is an extremely nutrient-rich vegetable including vitamin A, C, B6, B9, E, iron and calcium. Combined with a high-protein, low-calorie fish like grouper, of course we get our carbs from the almighty buttered potatoes.

This is also a great combination to serve with a thick-cut whitefish like halibut or Chilean sea bass.

BLACKENED MAHI-MAHI WITH MANGO CORN SALSA

Swordfish and amberjack are both bold fish that like to be blackened. You simply oil and season your fish with a blackening spice and cook at medium to high heat on a grill or cast-iron skillet.

Anytime is a perfect time for homemade salsas that can consist of many main summer ingredients such as pineapple, mango, or a traditional tomato Pico de Gallo. My summer favorite is a fresh cherry-tomato-based salsa with corn, pickled jalapenos, mango, onion, canned black beans, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, dust, and then tossed in a good unfiltered olive oil. I can’t give you an exact recipe because this one comes out differently every time, but it’s always good.

SCALLOPS & BACON

It’s like peanut and jelly, man. Who doesn’t like bacon-wrapped scallops? The key is to use large- or jumbo-size scallops and pre-cook the bacon in the oven before you wrap the scallop and put on the grill.

Grill some fresh seedless jalapenos and top with a spicy mayo (made of mayo, tabasco, dust lemon juice) and then just serve with a salad and beer.

SALMON & BROCCOLI

Even though imported, it is Alaskan organic salmon season. No fish market is complete without fresh salmon on the shelf, as this is one of the heathiest foods on the planet.

Packed with omega-3 fatty acid and combined with the nutrient star of the vibrant green vegetable, broccoli and salmon is one healthy and delicious combination. 

Broccoli is available all year long and is a nutrition powerhouse, loaded with vitamin A, C, and iron.

This plate is one that superheroes eat.

HOG FISH WITH MARINATED CABBAGE

Hog fish is a delicate, mild, white fish and indigenous only in this area.

I pan-cook my hog fish in butter for approximately 3 minutes per side. Plate with lemon capers and thyme. Serve with a marinated cabbage that can be easily done by purchasing a slaw mix, marinated with S&P oil, white vinegar, celery seed, then chill. This can be turned into slaw by adding mayo or Maria’s slaw dressing.

Cold cabbage served with hot fish is a refreshing sunset dish.

WAHOO CEVICHE

Cubed and thick-cut raw wahoo is an excellent sashimi-grade fish and I often wonder why I rarely see it at sushi restaurants.

Marinate with fresh-squeezed lemon, lime, and orange juice. The citrus acids will cook the fish.

Mix-in chopped peppers, red onions, pickled jalapenos and rough-cut cilantro, then chill for 2 hours. Serve atop sautéed zucchini noodles with a last squeeze of lemon juice, garnished with fresh tomato, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped fresh scallions from the garden.

Easy-peasy, without the peas.

Scott Dolan
Author: Scott Dolan

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