Category Archives: Seafood

Hearty Country Vegetable Soup with Ravioli

It’s a working vegetarian’s dream!

Oh, and it’s just about the easiest soup you could make; I made it the other night, start to finish, in just about 15 minutes, with minimal prep, little more than just stirring the pot, and a little seasoning.

This soup–I hesitate to call it a soup, because with just a few minor alterations it could be a wonderful vegetarian or seafood stew. It’s hearty, flavorful and, made with fresh vegetables, just about perfect.

If you’ve followed this space at all, you know that what I am all about is simple; both of us work, and often supper comes down to what is easiest. Well let me tell you, this is easier than defrosting something you made last Sunday while watching the football games.

The recipe I post here is for a vegetarian version, but let me suggest to you that a simple addition of about three quarters of a pound of shrimp or a nice white fish like cod or haddock–or both–would make this a dream come true.


A couple of preparation notes: this would work really well with a bag of chopped onions and peppers from the freezer aisle of the grocery store–in fact the original recipe called for just that–but don’t. Use a fresh onion and a bell pepper or two (I used mini peppers–red, orange, and yellow), and fresh garlic cloves. The recipe calls for two 15-oz. cans of diced tomatoes. I suggest Muir Glen Fire-Roasted tomatoes–find them at a store near you–we found them at Target–they’re worth the difference. It might be even better if you have tomatoes from your garden that you put up over the summer–I do, and I fire-roasted them, but these canned tomatoes are fabulous. Try them. You’ll be glad you did.

So here’s the roadmap:

Vegetable Soup with Ravioli


1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped onions and bell peppers–about half of each

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (don’t skip this!)

2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is best)

3 cups vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 tsp. dried marjoram (or basil if you prefer)

9 oz. fresh or frozen cheese (or meat, if you must) ravioli

2 cups zucchini, small dice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Over medium heat add the oil in a heavy enamel or stainless-steel soup pot (not aluminum–tomatoes and aluminum don’t play well together). Add onions, peppers, garlic, and pepper flakes and saute. stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Don’t overcook here–you want the veggies to feel like they’re still fresh.
  2. Add the tomatoes, stock, water, and dried herbs, plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper; stir well and bring to a rolling boil.
  3. Add the ravioli, give it a stir, bring the soup back to a boil and cook, stirring, just until the ravioli begin to float, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, stir, and return to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini are just getting tender–3 to 4 minutes. NO MORE!
  4. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

NOTE: You can turn this into a bangin’ seafood soup by adding about 3/4 pound of 26-31 shrimp and/or white cod or haddock at the same time as the zucchini and cook just until the fish is turning from translucent to opaque. Want a stew: After cooking the onions and peppers for a minute, add 2 TBSP olive oil and 2 TBSP all-purpose flour, and stir well to combine, until there is no more white flour showing. Stir another minute, until the mixture begins to brown and the oil and butter are well incorporated. Then proceed to step 2, adding the tomatoes and the stock, but don’t add the extra cup of water. For an extra jolt of goodness, add a teaspoon or two of Cajun seasoning.

TIP: You can make this ahead and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days–it gets better. but if you do and want the seafood variety, don’t add the fish until you’re ready to heat and serve.

Original Source: Nancy Baggett for EatingWell

Pan-Seared Scallops and Risotto with Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Pan Sauce

Red wine and scallops? Heresy!

Or not.

This one deserves a try, because A) it’s so damn simple; and B) because at the beach house it’s all I had on hand. What surprised me was just how quick and simple it was to make.

Confession: we didn’t really make risotto–that’s way too fussy for beach cooking–rather in this case it was brown rice cooked a bit too long, then steeped off the stove for a while until it got mushy and gluey. But the pan sauce loosened it up a bit. At home I’d make a real Parmesan risotto with some shredded zucchini and fresh tomatoes (

But the scallops are fresh and local here in Chincoteague, and the dish was perfect.

Here’s the plan:


1 pound fresh sea scallops (about 18)

2 teaspoons Meyer lemon-infused olive oil (available at most good gourmet shops)

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons premium Balsamic vinegar

Old Bay seasoning

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh chives or green onion


1. Rinse well and pat dry the scallops–make sure they’re VERY DRY. Season with salt, pepper, and a very light dusting of Old Bay seasoning.

2. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, then add half the olive oil and count to ten. Gently place half the scallops in the pan and sear three minutes without moving them; flip and sear the other side for two additional minutes. Remove to a plate and keep them in a warm oven. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and scallops.

3. Turn the heat under the pan down to medium and add the wine and vinegar, stirring constantly to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the pan into the liquid–that’s where the magic happens. Reduce the pan sauce by half.

Serve the scallops over the rice or risotto and drizzle with the pan sauce. Garnish with chopped chives.

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Summer season.  Grilling.  pacific-rim-cedar-plank-salmon-ssDon’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than is necessary.  So, when company is coming to town and dinner for ten is in order, and half of the guests don’t eat meat (but will eat fish), what’s the imperative?

Why grilled salmon, of course!

Have you ever grilled a big piece of salmon on a cedar plank?  No?  You haven’t lived.  Juicy, smoky, crispy, full of flavor, and just rocking with Omega 3s (I just point that out because at my age I have to be careful just what I put in my body (LOL).

The reality is, I don’t much like fish, any fish.  Can’t say why; I never did like seafood beyond shellfish, but over the years I have learned to like salmon enough to find recipes that I can make and like.  Like my friend Jim Coleman’s Mustard-crusted salmon with shallots and white wine.  And wild salmon gently poached in white wine, pickling spices and black pepper with dill-yogurt sauce.

And now, after experimenting with recipes and techniques, I’ve finally come up with a version of Seattle’s famous cedar-planked grilled salmon that I can say is worthy of my posting here (thanks, of course, to Cooks’ Illustrated, which, if you’ve read this space, know is my bible of cooking technique).

Cedar-plank grilled salmon on the barbecue. I think it has changed my mind about fish.  This is the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten, and I’m happy to report that I actually made it myself.  It’s slightly Asian in its feel, and it goes incredibly well with quick-sauteed spinach and garlic and a Thai version of my legendary (according to me) cold sesame noodle salad.

So here is my latest adaptation of a published recipe, from Cooks Illustrated to my kitchen to yours.


Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon


1 2½-foot x 6-inch unfinished cedar plank (courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement)

2 cups white wine

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar (buy from an Asian market, not the grocery store)

1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame seed oil (also from the Asian market)

½ teaspoon hot chili oil

1/3 cup light soy sauce

¼ cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from the root)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2½ – 3-pound salmon fillet (one piece, head end is best–I got mine at Costco)


  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour in room-temperature water and 2 cups white wine. Fully submerge the plank in the water; weight down if necessary.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oils, soy sauce, chives, ginger, and garlic in a 1-gallon zipper-close bag. Roll the salmon fillet small enough to fit into the bag. Zip the bag, turn it over a few times to mix and coat the salmon, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to but no more than an hour.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the plank on the grates. The plank is ready when it starts to smoke.
  4. Place the salmon fillet in the plank and discard the bag and marinade. Close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is done (when you can flake it with a fork).
  5. Remove the salmon from the grill, cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes, then cut into serving-size portions and serve immediately.

You can make an extra half-batch of the marinade, set aside, and serve in small dipping bowls with the salmon. It is loaded with flavor.

If you want the Thai version of the Sesame Noodles, search on this site for that recipe, then add 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce to the sauce recipe, and julienne broccoli stems, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Thai basil is best), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to the noodles before adding the sauce.  It’s a nice change of pace, and will win raves.

Incredible Shrinking Seafood Lasagna

It’s Ellen’s birthday tomorrow (Monday, July 28).  It’s also Jen Groff’s birthday (Friday, July 25).  It’s a celebration.  This auspicious occasion calls for something special.  I need to produce a masterpiece.  On several occasions E has suggested that her dream meal would be a seafood lasagna, and I have yet to produce such a dish.

Tonight’s the night.

Jen’s here, and the rents (E’s parents) are here, the girls are here, and something special is required, and I’ve got just the ticket.

I found this recipe at Cooking Light.  As I am wont to do, I can’t leave well enough alone, because I think I know better.  In this case, I think I’ve improved the on the original without upsetting the karma produced by it.  It’s still light, following the dictum of Cooking light, but it tastes rich and creamy WITHOUT THE ADDITION OF BUTTER!

That’s right…no butter in this dish, and if you follow the ingredients list carefully you will find that it is all that it ought to be without the butter.  I’ve got to say, it looks incredible, and we will be tasting it in about an hour.  I expect that I have hit the mark.  I can usually tell if I’ve got it right, and I think I did so here.

Try this recipe for yourself.  Even though there will be several pots and bowls to wash, it’s relatively simple, and the aroma in the kitchen right now is absolutely off hook. Can’t wait to try this.  I’d be interested to hear if any of you try this one, and how it came out for you.  Mine looks like a home run.   And as to the “shrinking” moniker? Just wait until you see how it shrinks in the pan as your guests ask for seconds.


Here’s the rundown:


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 cups finely chopped mushrooms (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 12-16 ounces lump crabmeat (how much crabmeat do you wish?)
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp
  • 1 8-0z bottle clam juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Old Bay or other seafood seasoning, to taste.
  • Spanish paprika to sprinkle


Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, thyme, and 2 garlic cloves and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine, bring to a boil; cook over low heat until the liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in the crabmeat, and set aside.

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving shells. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise; cover and refrigerate.  Combine reserved shrimp shells, the clam juice and water, celery salt, and fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (about 15 minutes). Strain stock through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids and set aside.

Combine the feta or goat cheese, cottage cheese, basil, lemon juice, and 1 garlic clove; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Place flour in a small saucepan; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Stir in shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles, slightly overlapping, over sauce; top with one-third goat cheese mixture, one-third crab mixture, one-third shrimp, 2/3 cup sauce, and 2/3 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers twice, ending with mozzarella.   Sprinkle the top with as much seafood seasoning as you like and a light dusting of paprika.  Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

Salmon Cakes Like You’ve NEVER Tasted!

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this:salmon_cakes_from_a_dollar_store_gourmet

I’ve just had the absolute best salmon cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.

“Salmon cake?” you say.

Salmon cake, I say.

But wait…this isn’t just any salmon cake.  I’ll compare this to any crab cake I’ve ever had (I lived in Crabcake County, Maryland and vacation near the Chesapeake every summer), and I’ll stack this up against the best crab cake anyone has to offer.

I’m telling you, put this baby between pieces of crusty Kaiser roll with fresh Boston Bibb, a thick slab of Jersey tomato, (maybe a thin slice of red onion?) and your favorite sauce (Tartar?  Remoulade? Cocktail? Tzatziki?, take your pick—this time I went with a real horseradishy cocktail sauce, but I can’t wait to try it with a good Remoulade), and you may never go back to that pricey jumbo-lump again.  It’s spicy, tangy, and wonderful, extremely accessible, and gluten-free to boot.  It works almost as well with a good can of salmon as it would with a piece of poached salmon from Costco.

As Ken Hoffman would boringly say, “Here’s the blueprint…

South-Beach-Friendly Salmon Cakes


12 ounces fresh salmon, poached 10 minutes in water, white wine, black pepper corns, and a bay leaf


1 good 14-oz can of salmon

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon almond meal (almonds crushed to the consistency of corn meal—available at health-food stores, better grocery stores, or do it yourself with a food processor)

4 finely chopped green onions

1 tablespoon drained capers, finely chopped

Lemon-fennel sea salt (recipe to follow)

Freshly ground pepper to taste (I used a lot!)

2 eggs

4 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons butter


Place the poached salmon or the drained canned salmon in a large bowl. Stir in green onions, capers, almond meal, Lemon-fennel sea salt, and black pepper; toss to mix well, breaking up the salmon into small pieces.  Beat two eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the salmon and toss well.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet.  When the oil/butter is hot, shape the salmon into flat patties about 4 inches in diameter and ¾ inches thick, and place in the hot oil.  Cook 7 minutes on the first side over medium heat without touching the patties, until they are lightly browned and starting to get firm.

Add the remaining olive oil and butter, then turn the patties and cook on the second side until they are firm and browned on the second side, about 6 minutes untouched.

Turn off the heat, prepare your roll with lettuce, tomato, and the sauce of your choice, and place the hot salmon cake on top. Cap the salmon cake with a bit more sauce, complete the sandwich, and serve with your favorite slaw and a cold beer.  Or a cold glass of white.

Full Disclosure:  this recipe was adapted from one on the South-Beach recipe site Kalyn’s Kitchen (, but it is better than that, but just as “South Beachy,” and I know South Beach just about as well as anyone.

Lemon-Fennel Salt

Combine ¼ cup coarse sea salt with 2 tablespoons toasted fennel seeds and 1 tablespoon dried lemon zest (Penzey’s, Spice Islands, or make your own).  Keep in a pretty, airtight jar in your spice cupboard and use liberally on seafood or chicken.P1100122

Cheffzilla’s Choice: Seafood Risotto

I had a plate of seafood risotto the other night at a restaurant that I had been avoiding for years.  And it was memorable.


Why had I been avoiding it?  Location, looks from the outside, lack of vision, obstinance, who knows?  It just didn’t feel right where it was.  An Asian-fusion restaurant at the confluence of two major roads in Lancaster, PA, and the fact that the building looks like it hadn’t had the outside washed in years (the amount of car traffic passing by every day doesn’t help), plus my wife’s flat refusal to try the place.

If there was ever a perfect example of “looks can be deceiving,” this place is it.

Blue Pacific Sushi and Grill, at the confluence of Oregon Pike and Lititz Pike, in Manheim Township, Lancaster County.

Surprisingly good.

So I decided to try to either replicate the dish or make my own even better.  But the idea of  seafood risotto really rings happy in my ears, so I had to try one of my own.  Here’s the result.  Not exactly the same as Blue Pacific’s entree, but I’ll stand mine up against theirs (and anyone else’s) any day.  It’s worth a try.



6 cups seafood stock (8 cups water, shells from 1-2 dozen medium shrimp, 1 teaspoon celery salt, tops from 1 bunch of celery, and 1 bay leaf, simmered uncovered for 30 minutes)

1 16-ounce bottle clam juice

1-2 dozen medium (26-31-count)  shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 dozen sea scallops, washed

1 cup lump crabmeat

1/4 cup salted butter

1 large sweet onion

2 cups Arborio rice

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine

2 teaspoons Old Bay (or Creole) seasoning, or more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Spanish paprika for garnish


1.  Peel the shrimp, place the shells, the celery salt, a bay leaf, the celery leaves and the clam juice in water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain the solids out, put the stock back in the pot, cover, and keep warm.

2.  Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot, add the onions and saute over medium heat until transparent, about 10 minutes.  Do not brown.  Add the rice and saute, stirring constantly, until it is transparent, 3-5 minutes.  Don’t allow the rice to brown.  Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is competely evaporated.  Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add the thyme and saffron and another 1/2 cup stock, stir until it is mostly evaporated, and repeat, adding 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the rice is almost al dente, 20-30 minutes.

3.  Add the seafood and 1/2 cup stock and stir until the shrimp and scallops are firm. and the stock has evaporated. Season with Old Bay or other Creole or seafood seasoning until you can taste it but the taste is not overpowering.  Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

4.  Add 1/2 cup stock to the pot, stir rapidly for 30 seconds, then ladle the risotto into oven-proof bowls, sprinkle lightly with Gruyere cheese, and place under the broiler just until the top and edges begin to brown.  Remove from the oven, garnish with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Roasted Salmon with Wasabi Cream

We made this recipe for a catered supper that we offered up at the Manheim Township Public Library silent auction.  The winner got a dinner for ten catered by us here at Jeff’s Kitchen.  The invaluable cheffing was provided by Ellen, Jen, and Morgan, along with Cheffzilla, who watched over the event while the real MVPs did all the work.  Here is the main course, presented with pride:


2 pounds wild salmon fillets

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6  teaspoons wasabi powder

1 up sour cream


Preheat the oven to 30 degrees.  Sprinkle a large roasting pan with olive oil.  Lay the salmon fillets in the pan with the skin side down.  Spray the top side of the salmon with olive oil and season with salt.  Roast until just cooked through, 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Dissolve the wasabi powder in 8 teaspoons water.  Whisk into the sour cream and season to taste with salt.  Add more wasabi if desired for flavor.

Serve the salmon topped with wasabi sauce and garnished with chopped chives.

Chinese-Style Scallops At the Beach — Lancaster Online

By JEFF THAL, Talking Fresh

 We’ve been driving all day to the beach in Virginia. It’s hot down here — 100 degrees some places on the mainland, and a relatively cool 92 degrees out at the beach. It’s too hot to spend a lot of time slaving over a hot stove, and besides, kids are chomping for some beachy takeout.

Because most of the takeout here consists of deep-fried seafoods, I figure we need to find another alternative on our first day at the beach.

“Chinese!” says one. “Yeah,” hollers the other. “Chinese!”

“At the beach?” I ask. “Really?”

I’m sort of relieved to discover that there is only one Chinese takeout place in this quiet little beach village, and we’ve learned that it isn’t particularly good.

But wait! I have another idea: How about if I whip up something yummy out of what we find here in town?

The idea is met with some skepticism.

Undaunted, I head out to the seafood market down the street from our little rental cottage to see what I can find, and what luck! Big, beautiful sea scallops, the size of ping-pong balls, which were brought in on a boat that day. Both kids really like scallops, which we often broil or sauté with browned butter, lemon juice and garlic.

But the kids wanted Chinese, so I think I’ll give them what they want. I pick up a couple of Asian ingredients from the local market, a piece of fresh ginger and some scallions and voila! It’s a tasty, sweet and spicy Chinese takeout dish, General Tso’s scallops, made with fresh, locally caught sea scallops and some locally grown broccoli.

Sea scallops are a tasty, different kind of seafood, and if you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend you do so. Mr. Bill’s Fresh Seafood on Harrisburg Pike carries some of the nicest, freshest sea scallops around, and the proprietor, Tim Glatfelter, or a member of the staff there will gladly provide you with some terrific tips and advice on cooking them in various delicious ways.

You can also make this dish with shrimp, chicken or beef, but you need to try it.


1 pound sea scallops, washed, drained and dried

1/2 cup rice wine, separated into two 1/4-cup measures

4 teaspoons oyster sauce

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon Chinese chili-garlic sauce

4 teaspoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, finely grated

2 scallions, chopped

2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine scallops, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce and 3 teaspoons cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl; toss to coat. Combine vinegar, sugar, chili-garlic sauce and remaining rice wine from the first 1/4-cup measure, oyster sauce and cornstarch in a separate bowl.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium heat until smoking. Add half of the scallops and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a warm plate. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining scallops.

Wipe the skillet with paper towels and return to heat. Add remaining oil and the ginger and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the second 1/4 cup of wine and the broccoli florets to the skillet; reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the cooked scallops and the ingredients from the second bowl back to the skillet and stir-fry, cooking and stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and the scallops are cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately beside a 1/2 cup of white steamed rice.

And if you want to spice it up a bit, add two or three Asian dried red chilies just before you add the ginger and the scallions, and stir-fry them until they turn black, then proceed as directed.

Email Jeff Thal at or visit his blog,

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