Summer Seafood

summer seafood

Nothing says, “Here’s to Eating Local”, better than Summer Seafood on the grill! But, where to shop for seafood? I am glad you asked….

Take it from me, you won’t find a greater seafood resource, in the Charlotte area than my friends at Inland Seafood. And, this seems like the perfect time to remind you, that Inland, the Good Food People, now offer home delivery, Monday thru Friday. Just order online by noon the day before.

If you are reading this on Thursday July 2 or Friday July 3, check this out! THIS WEEK, if you place your order online by Noon on Friday July 3, you can enjoy Home Delivery on Saturday July 4, 2020! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Inland carries seafood ( and lots of other proteins) from across the country; but I particularly love their portfolio of local North Carolina Products. From Carolina Coast fish and shellfish, to local pork, chicken, beef and cheese – they are a valuable go-to in Charlotte. Shop like a chef, and give them a call!

How to Grill ( or Bake or Poach) a Whole Fish

While you can certainly order fish fillets or steaks cut to order from Inland; this summer, challenge yourself, and order a whole fish to put on the grill. And its super easy. The fish will come to you gutted and scaled, so no worries there. The main concern may be the size of the fish vs the size of the grill; but generally you can make it work. Simply rinse the fish with cold water and pat dry. For this summer seafood dish and its spectacular presentation, you want to leave the head and tail in tact. They will keep the flavors sealed inside, so don’t be tempted to cut them off to make them fit.

Summer Seafood

Let’s Get Grilling!

Brush or spray the grill rack with oil – do this when the grill is off of the flame. Similarly, brush or spray both side of the fish with oil. Use any oil you like, but spray or brush the fish lightly, its just to help prevent any sticking. In this case, I used lots of sliced citrus which I also coated lightly with oil. I arranged a layer of the citrus on the grill grid first. The fish went on top. Then I stuffed additional citrus slices and a mix of fresh herbs from my garden into the cavity of the fish.

Allow the grill to heat to about 400 degrees. Same goes if you decide to roast the fish in the oven. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Turn the whole fish over halfway through the cooking time. To turn, use a long, wide, spatula or a pair of specially designed grilling gloves. You might want to find a friend to help. You can safely social distance on either side of the grill.

Once the grilling is done…

summer seafood

Take the fish off the grill and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Arrange the fish on a presentation platter, lined with a bit of garnish. Here I used a selection of the same herbs I cooked with, some local lettuce and an assortment of local tomatoes, cut into slices and wedges. Use a paring knife and your fingers to carefully peel of the top layer of skin, starting just behind the head and going all the way down to the tail. This will expose the top fillet of the fish, ready to cut and serve.

To easily serve: cut down to the bones and lift off the fillet. Once the top fillet is completely gone, you’ll be able to remove the back bone and rib bones pretty much all in one piece to expose the bottom fillet.

A side of sauce with that…

While I like to cook with the local harvest all year round, this time of year I particularly like to feature local produce in my sauces. With fish, I love a beurre blanc or a browned butter sauce. The addition of local tomatoes or fresh berries or peaches in place of or in addition to the capers makes either of these recipes even better.

summer seafood

1 stick butter or an equivalent amount of Ghee ( you can often buy Ghee locally in Charlotte from Coldwater Creek Farms at the Saturday SouthEnd Market at Atherton.)
3 Tbsp. your favorite Olive Crate balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. your favorite local honey ( lots of choices here, but my go-to are Dancing Bees, Cloister Honey or Coddle Creek Farms)
1 Tbsp. your favorite whole grain mustard ( I love using Lusty Monk from Asheville, NC or Peggy Rose’s Champagne Mustard from Johnston County, NC)

4 of your favorite seafood fillets or steaks; or one whole fish, grilled, baked or poached – all from Inland Seafood

Sea Salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend ( This is a mix I make for 4 different peppercorns sourced from the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd. Use equal amounts of all 4 ( three different black peppercorns, pink peppercorns and an equal amount of coriander seed.)

Olive Crate Kores Estate, Extra Virgin Olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. drained capers

Here is what to do…

You can make your butter sauce, during the last 5 minutes or so that the fish is on the grill.

If you are doing seafood steaks or fillets and have decided to pan saute them rather than grill, you can make the sauce as soon as the seafood goes down into the pan. Sprinkle seafood on both sides with salt and pepper. Sauté in olive oil about 10 minutes per inch.

For the sauce: Simmer butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until deep golden brown, swirling pan occasionally, about 6 minutes. If you are adding in tomatoes, berries or peaches,, add them in about a minute in and let them cook with the butter for 5 minutes or so.

A squeeze of grill seared orange, adds a nice little punch to your butter sauce, particularly with tomatoes or peaches.

Often, I will add in a squeeze of the grilled orange I had on the grill with the fish for a delicious burst of flavor.

Remove the pan from heat. Whisk in vinegar, honey and mustard. Add capers. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Variations:  For a Piccata sauce substitute ¼ cup lemon juice for the vinegar and honey.

Fish Fillets and Steaks

Ok, so I do get it. Cooking a whole fish – large or small – may not be for everyone. Fillets and steaks are definitely easier to negotiate. The team at Inland gets in whole fish from the coast daily, but they are happy to cut whatever you would like to order. You order is delivered portioned and vaccum sealed for the freshest product possible.

We have throughly enjoyed fresh tuna. swordfish, halibut and catfish from Inland over the past several months since their home delivery program began.

summer seafood

This week, since I got two whole tile fish, I grilled one and filleted the other. I cooked the fillets in our next recipe – another favorite of mine for summertime eating. I made the same recipe a week or so ago with Inland’s delicious halibut fillets. So good, that we ate it all before I had time to snap a photo for this post!


For the succotash:
1 1/2 pounds baby lima beans, shelled, ( until fresh ones are available at local markets I go with a frozen organic brand)
2 large ears corn, kernels cut from cob (about 2 cups) 
1 large tomato, seeded, diced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Sea Salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend to taste
For the fish: 
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 
4 (6 to 8-ounce) pieces NC halibut, tilefish, catfish or flounder 

 Cook the limas for the succotash until tender in a saucepan of boiling salted water, about 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook 1 minute more. Drain. Mix in tomato, Italian parsley and extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (May be prepared ahead and then reheated.)

Pat fish fillets dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a saute pan over high heat and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add fillets to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per side ( depending on the thickness.) Remember the 10 minutes rule.

To serve: Saute local yellow squash and zucchini and line the plate with the squash. Set the fillets on top of the squash. Then finish with a generous spoonful of succotash over all. Enjoy!

We’ll Save the Bones for Henry Jones….

Despite the ease of a fresh cut boneless fillet, when smaller whole fish are available, you’ll want the bones to use for stocks and sauces. For fabulous homemade fish broth, use the bones, head and tail from the whole fish you cooked on the grill. You can do the same with shrimp shells, heads and tails if you have them. Sometimes I’ll freeze small batches of spent shrimp shells till I have enough to make a broth.

Add in a combination of fresh chopped vegetables – I like carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes, and a bit of citrus, in addition to an array of fresh herbs. Freeze the finished stock in small containers and use for soups and sauces. Or, order an array of shell fish from Inland and use the whole batch of stock to make this great summer seafood chowder.

summer seafood
Sort of looks like a painting; but this is the roasted carcass or the tile fish I filleted for the fish I used in the succotash recipe. Use the roasted or grilled bones, head and tail of your whole fish on the grill for the start of a fabulous homemade seafood stock! Use it as the broth in this popular recipe of mine for Seafood Pot Pie!


Cooking the fish on the grill; then adding them to this flavorful broth, keeps the stovetop cooking time for this summer time soup to a minimum…

16-20 clams, well scrubbed, steamed open

1 lb. whole NC shrimp, peeled and grilled or pan roasted

2 lbs. mixed meaty white fish, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled or pan roasted

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. flour

grind or two of nutmeg

dash of cayenne pepper

1 local yellow onion, chopped

2 cups seafood broth

5-6 large, local firm but ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend to taste

In a stock pot, melt the butter and sauté onion seasoned with cayenne until limp. Stir in flour and nutmeg and stir cook to make a roux.

Stir in one cup of seafood broth, and the chopped tomatoes, water and cream. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, add seafood, toss well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Leftover Fish?

summer seafood

Not enough left over to make a repeat performance of your favorite seafood entree? No problem, just add it to a warm tortilla stuffed with lettuce, salsa, avocado, crispy cucumbers; and perhaps some beans and rice, and call it Taco Tuesday!

But what if you are feeling crabby?

There is nothing like fresh picked North Carolina crab. The coast of North Carolina is a huge source for blue crab. When I heard that Inland had fresh crab from Quality Crab in Elizabeth City this week, I just had to go for the gold.

In my opinion, unless you have whole crabs, or perhaps softies in season, crab should not be cooked on the grill. The texture and flavor is too delicate. But, it should certainly be enjoyed all summer long, and if you can include it in your next order with Inland, all the better!

summer seafood

Let’s start with a wonderful crabmeat appetizer. This one, served with a poached artichoke for dipping, is so good, you’ll never go back to that same old – same old artichoke dip again. It is in fact, the same recipe I use for my crab cakes.

When I am using great local crabmeat, like this local product from Quality Seafood in Elizabeth City, NC, I don’t like to add in a lot of “extra”. To me that includes mustard, mayo and Old Bay. I just want the cakes or the dip to taste like the sweet local crab from which they are made.

To that end, my ingredient list in this recipe is short – local crab, local eggs, local ricotta and local parsley. For the dip perhaps an additional bit of a firm grated cheese, like Chapel Hill Creamery’s Calvander; or Looking Glass Creamery’s Bear Wallow.

summer seafood

Simply toss the crab with the egg, ricotta, and fresh minced parsley. To 1 lb. of Quality Seafood crabmeat, mix in 1/2 cup Uno Alla Volta Ricotta, 3 local eggs, a quarter cup of fresh minced parsley and the juice of one fresh lemon. The mix is a bit runny, but that’s ok. If you feel like you need a bit of a binder ( I often don’t) ; add in about 1/4 cup organic steel cup oats. Forget the bread or cracker crumbs, they make it way to heavy; and you don’t want to gummy it up.

How to cook the crab dip

For the artichoke dip. Trim the stem and leaves of one whole large artichoke. Place in a pot of heavily salted boiling water. Bring back to the boil; cover; lower the heat and allow to cook until tender. The beauty of this dish is that it can be done several days ahead.

When you are ready, gently open the artichoke so that all of the leaves spill out into a circle in the center of a lightly oiled, 8-9 inch, cast iron skillet. Remove the inner most leaves to expose the “choke” and gently remove this inedible part of the plant with a teaspoon.

summer seafood

Top the artichoke bottom with a hefty cupful portion of the crabmeat mix mixed with about 1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice. Place in a preheated 350 oven and bake for 30 minutes or so. Serve warm or cold.

For the Crabcake Sammie (or crabcake on a salad or as the main course)

Heat a couple of tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet. Add a teaspoon or so of coarse sea salt to the butter. You will need a large metal ring ( aka biscuit cutter) for each crabcake. Spray the rings with a bit of spray cooking oil. Place them in the pan in the hot butter and fill each one with the crabmeat and egg mixture.

summer seafood

You can do the crabcakes “freeform” without the rings, if you would like, but you will get a fatter crabcake if you use the rings. Cook on medium high heat until the bottom of the cakes begins to brown ( this take about 3-4 minutes). Use a thin spatula to flip the cakes, ring and all, and cook the other side. Cover the pan and continue to cook over medium heat about 4 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat. Lift each crabcake, ring and all onto a plate and gently push the cake down and out of the ring to unmold. Serve on a toasted bun with lettuce, fresh parsley and tomato. Sink your teeth in and enjoy!

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