There are seafood events happening all over the country this month, from right here in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, all the way down to the Big Easy.
This weekend I will be a judge in the 5th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off, held in New Orleans, LA. The cook off features one entrant per state and I’ll be tasting their creations and casting my vote for the talented chef who will take the crown. Day one will be action packed with all the chefs on stage as well as cooking demonstrations from guest chefs. For the five finalists, day two holds another set of challenges as mystery ingredients are introduced and cook times are reduced as the chefs prepare a dish that the home cook can easily recreate. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the winning chef and recipe!
The following weekend you can head to Ballard and “Get Your Viking On.” Celebrate 35 years of sun, seafood and Scandinavian-ness at the Northwest’s favorite neighborhood summer festival, Ballard Seafood Fest. It’s a time for salmon to sizzle, fire hoses to spray, beer and wine gardens to sooth, and entertainment to scintillate. And as always, it’s a moment for Ballardians to pay homage to their culture and history, as well as to celebrate today’s history makers. An event that began in 1974 as a one-day salmon BBQ, has at age 35, grown to encompass nearly all of downtown Ballard. It now hosts scores of quality arts & crafts, a plethora of seafood vendors, a kid’s fun center, both a beer and wine garden, goofy trademark contests such as the lutefisk eating competition, and finally, three entertainment stages featuring the best of the Northwest and beyond. So set aside Saturday & Sunday, July 25 & 26 and come to Ballard to join in the festivities.
And for those that are heading out to summer beach cottages I’ve included my favorite recipe for all your shore booty – crab, mussels, clams and more in Beachfront Seafood Stew. Whether you make this stew for a dinner party or make the base ahead to take along to the beach to enjoy after a day of clamming and mussel-gathering, the dish calls our for a bottle crisp white wine such as a crisp Covey Run Pinot Grigio or if your a red wine drinker, a bottle of Columbia Syrah.
Beachfront Seafood Stew
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (about 5 ounces)
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups clam juice
3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes or diced canned plum tomatoes with juice
Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Fresh-cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces littleneck clams in the shell
8 ounces mussels, scrubbed and debearded
8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces sea scallops, halved
8 ounces boneless, skinless firm-fleshed fish, such as salmon, cod, or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 large or 6 small cooked red potatoes, quartered or halved, depending on size
1/4 cup Pernod liqueur (optional)
Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnishing
To prepare the base, heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, mushrooms, fennel, and orange zest. Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender.
Add the wine, clam juice, tomatoes, saffron, salt, Tabasco, rosemary, thyme, and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If not using immediately, cool and refrigerate until needed. Reheat before proceeding.
To finish the stew, heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the seafood. Lightly sauté for 30 seconds, turning the fish and scallop pieces as necessary. Add the potatoes and Pernod and cook 30 seconds more, then add the hot stew base.
Cover the pot and cook until the clams and mussels just open. (Take care not to overcook the seafood.) Immediately remove from the heat. Discard any clams or mussels that have not opened. Divide the fish and shellfish among individual large bowls, then ladle in the broth and vegetables. Serve immediately, garnished with rosemary sprigs.
Chef’s Note: Serve this with thick slices of crusty French bread for soaking up the juices.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Casey.