Combining my family’s love of fishing with just the right techniques and ingredients ensures we enjoy a bounty of flavor the way nature intended.
My family shares a love of fresh food, especially when it means spending time together. And there is nothing myself, my husband and sons enjoy more than going fishing in the azure waters around the Florida Keys and in the Bahamas.
I tease my husband John by saying that when we first met, his extent of eating seafood was Mrs. Paul’s fried clam strips. But through my cooking, he has discovered the true joy of fresh fish prepared with seasonings that enhance the distinct flavor of the fish.
When I was a child, my family had a small cobia boat and we spent many days out on the water, including in the Keys. We’d also go to Cedar Key on the Gulf coast and fish on the banks. One of my most vivid memories was around the age of 8, when I caught 52 shellcrackers in one outing.
John and I purchased our first boat in 2003, which brought a resurgence of fishing and fun. We made a trip to the Keys, where we both fell in love with the variety of species you can catch, the people and atmosphere. We started vacationing there every year and are now blessed to own a home there, where we keep our boat right in our backyard. Four years ago, we started entering tournaments and I have earned top lady angler honors in two of those contests.
And, with all that fishing, I’ve developed numerous methods for preparing delicious entrées and side dishes. Along the way, I taught my sons John and Anthony to prepare fish and they do great job. Even though my son Vincent is not a cook, he loves eating the dishes we prepare.
Our family’s love for fishing is being passed down through my sons and two daughters to my seven grandchildren. My grandsons were on the boat when I caught my first sailfish, and one son and I took turns bringing up a 52-pound amberjack from a depth of 650 feet—which led to burning biceps, wrist and back muscles.
We only keep what we can eat and share the catch with neighbors and friends.
My favorite method of preparation is grilling, but you can also cook some amazing fish with a cast iron skillet. I love cooking any variety of snapper, as well as tilefish, which is a deep-water species that has super white meat and tastes almost like lobster.
I like to prepare mahi (bull dolphin) in the Bahamian style, in tin foil packets, with butter, lemon pepper seasoning, thinly sliced peppers, onion and baby red potatoes with fresh lemon squeezed all over. You fold up the packets and put them on the grill. It is like no other technique and is not at all messy.
With snapper, I like to make a mango salsa. This dish is super easy. It is fresh and lets the flavor of the snapper be the star. You do not want to overcook, because the fish will lose its natural flavor. You want the fish to flake, but it must still have a bit of sheen of moistness.
The key to the salsa is finding fresh mango that’s not underripe or overripe. You want to peel the mango and have nice, semi-firm, diced chunks. The same goes for the avocado. The other key is that you have this made up and marinating in the juices before you even begin to prep the fish.
There are so many ways you can make coleslaw, which can be a perfect side for so many dishes. I particularly love the one I make with broccoli and sunflower seeds because it’s the perfect blend of tangy, sweet and salty.
In putting together my grilled veggies, I always start with a variety of organics and clean them as soon as I come home from the market. I slice them to a nice size and, once they are skewered (in the same pattern, as I love for them to look uniform), I drizzle avocado oil over them and add Everglades All-Purpose Seasoning ®, garlic powder and a bit of Italian seasoning.
I often wind up with a large number of diners, so this meal is nice as a buffet. If the gathering is a special occasion, however, I will plate it so the presentation matches the beauty of the meal.
To bring it all together, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio or a nice Chardonnay, and a piece of my frozen Key lime pie.
My biggest compliment is when a guest takes that first bite, their face lights up and they say, “This is going to hurt,” meaning they are planning to overeat.
Red Snapper with Mango Avocado Salsa
For the fish:
4-6 ounce snapper filets
Optional seasonings- Everglades All-Purpose Seasoning, Trader Joe’s Chile Lime seasoning or salt and pepper
Avocado oil spray
For the salsa:
2 ripe mangoes, diced. Taste them to make sure you have good ones.
1 avocado, diced
4 tablespoons minced red onion
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Start by preparing the salsa. › Combine the mango (including the juices), red onion, pepper flakes, avocado and lime juice in a bowl. › Season with salt and pepper to taste. › Mix together and let it sit while you work on the fish, so the flavors can meld a bit. Take a couple of paper towels and dry the snapper filets really well. (Water is the enemy of a good brown sear, so soak up as much of it as you can.) › Season the snapper generously with your choice of salt and pepper, the chile lime seasoning or the Everglades seasoning. › Heat the grill to 400-450 degrees, for a medium-high heat. › Season the snapper filets then place them in a fish basket sprayed with avocado oil to prevent sticking. › Place the fish basket on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the filets. (Mine are typically 3/4 inch thick and go for 4 minutes a side.) Be careful not to overcook. › Remove the snapper and top with the mango avocado salsa.
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 package cole slaw mix
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup Ocean Spray craisins
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, craisins, sugar and vinegar. › Add broccoli and slaw mix and stir to coat. › Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to 24 hours. › Before serving, stir in sunflower seeds and bacon.
2 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 red onion, sliced in chunks
1 package baby portobello mushrooms, each sliced in half
1 large red pepper, cut in nice size pieces
1-2 tablespoons avocado oil (which can handle higher temps)
Salt and pepper
Clean and prep your veggies into nice size cuts that will withstand the skewers and the grill. (I like to assemble them in a repeated order for uniformity.) › Drizzle with a generous amount of avocado oil, followed by your choice of the seasonings. › Place on the grill away from the flame (I like to place mine on the second tier) and grill until the veggies have softened a bit.