Photos and text by VANDA LEWIS
After 30 years of service with North Carolina Sea Grant, it’s time to say farewell. I am moving on to retirement life along with my husband, James. Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with the very finest group of people, whom I will greatly miss.
Contributing photography and recipes to Coastwatch magazine and the Mariner’s Menu blog has been a rewarding part of my work at Sea Grant. I owe many thanks to E-Ching Lee, former managing editor, Barry Nash, seafood technologist, and Jack Thigpen, Sea Grant extension director. They gave me the opportunity and encouragement to pursue this work.
I have enjoyed every aspect of learning the techniques of food photography, from choosing the correct lens and planning the presentation of each dish I have prepared, to waiting for the best light to come through my office window.
For my last Mariner’s Menu contribution, I have chosen three recipes I hope you will try and like as much as I do.
Italian fish stew combines chunks of firm fish with littleneck or cherrystone clams that are cooked in a tasty mild tomato broth. Round out this meal with a salad, and soak up the juices with soft bread.
Flaked fish casserole au gratin is one pan of goodness that should delight everyone. This recipe is versatile, calling for a flaked fish of your choice. The casserole alternates layers of fish and cheese sauce. Bake with a cracker-crumb topping for added crunch.
Snapper fillets sautéed with mushrooms is a basic recipe that makes for a quick dinner.
If you don’t have snapper, swap in another firm, white-fleshed fish. Dredge the fillets lightly in flour and cook on each side until golden-brown. Top with sautéed mushrooms, and a sprinkle of lime juice and parsley for brightness.
ITALIAN FISH STEW
- 1 pound each of two species of firm fish, skinless and cut in 2-inch pieces
- 3 dozen littleneck or cherrystone clams, in shells
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon pressed garlic
- 3/4 cup sliced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot and parsley and sauté lightly. Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper and basil.
Lightly season fish with salt and pepper, then place on top of vegetables. Cover pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Add clams hinge- side down. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Pour wine over fish and blend with sauce, leaving the fish and clams on top. Turn heat up and cook, basting occasionally, until fish is done and clams are open, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If fish is done and most of the clams are open, place them in serving bowls and return unopened clams in the pan until they open.) Discard any clams that do not open. Serves 10 to 12.
FLAKED FISH CASSEROLE AU GRATIN
- 4 cups cooked flaked fish
- 1/4 cup margarine or butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup grated medium cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
In medium saucepan, melt 1/4 cup margarine.
Add flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in milk gradually and cook until thick. Add cheese and stir until melted. In greased 1 1/2-quart casserole dish, place a layer of flaked fish, then a layer of sauce. Continue alternating layers, ending with sauce. Combine crumbs with melted margarine and sprinkle over top. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serves 8 to 10.
SNAPPER FILLETS SAUTÉED WITH MUSHROOMS
- 6 small snapper fillets
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons margarine or butter
- 1 cup thinly sliced small mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in large skillet. Add 3 tablespoons margarine and heat. Sauté fish until golden brown on one side, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and repeat on other side. Transfer to warm platter.
In same pan, melt 1 tablespoon margarine over high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until liquid is gone and mushrooms are browned. Arrange over fillets and sprinkle with lime juice and parsley. Serves 6.