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Grilled Grouper

One of the things I most love about vacationing at the Swamp House with family is the diversity in food. Sure, some nights we go out to our favorite (or hopeful new favorite) restaurants, but most nights the guests cook in, taking turns to come up with and serve meals for the group. It’s a tradition that is both cherished and practical- each guest bears the creative and financial burden of hosting once, which gives the opportunity to show off in the kitchen and then, after your turn is over, play the happy customer. I love being on both sides of the table- as the person cooking and serving, and as the hungry vacationer scooching my chair closer to that long wooden table. Over the years we’ve had some incredible meals at that table, seafood boils and banana pudding and more pickled okra than you can imagine. For some reason food just tastes better sitting there surrounded by the glory of a simple fisherman’s cottage.

photo by dan

This year Dan and I had the pleasure of cooking for the Capt’n, my brother Ryan, and his girlfriend Erin. After a fair amount of stress on my part we decided on an old favorite, grilled grouper and vegetables with creamy grits. There’s something so simple and perfectly delicious about grilled fish, marinated in olive oil and spices, and charred vegetables, especially paired with a smoky, creamy, spicy plate of cheese grits. It was swamp house dining at its best.

Our week at the beach was wonderful, grouper and grits included. We dove, we swam in the creek, we went kayaking in the marsh, we ate, we listened to music, we explored Beaufort, we saw great friends and family. We took a day trip down to Wilmington, a place we could easily see ourselves hanging our hats. We took in the Beaufort Pirate Invasion, drank and read and played guitar on the porch, laid in the hammock for hours. It was everything we needed, and more. That magical place always delivers.

Sitting there on the porch with my dad and brother joking about grandbabies (the Capt’n’s favorite subject), I couldn’t help but imagine all the dinners we’ll cook for our family in that kitchen, all the meals we’ll serve at that table. As siblings get married, families grow, it’s nice knowing that the Swamp House will always be there for us, ready for another round.

photo by dan

Grilled Grouper

feeds four

2 lbs grouper, cubed

3 bell peppers, red & green

1 red onion

2 jalapeños

1 eggplant

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp chipotle

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 lemon

In one bowl toss the grouper in half of the oil and spices. Set aside. Chop and seed vegetables (split jalapeños in half and seed them) and toss in remaining oil and spices. Arrange on skewers. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side, until grouper is cooked through. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

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Bloody Mary

I love Bloody Marys. They’re hearty, delicious, complex, and the perfect cocktail for both sunrise and sunset. There is pretty much nothing I enjoy more than sitting on the back porch of the Swamp House drinking a bloody mary and watching the marsh life. Which is something I did plenty of last week. There’s just something about a cocktail that’s also a full serving of vegetables that makes my heart sing.

For a good bloody mary you need a fair amount of ingredients. Each one is important, and each one plays a particular role. However, this is also a recipe you can play with- adding more of what you like and leaving out what you don’t care for.

First, lemon & horseradish. The lemon adds a necessary cut in the heavy tomato flavor, and the horseradish adds spice and complexity.

Next, pickled okra. This is totally optional and a far cry from the usual celery, but completely delicious. See also: anything pickled, bacon, celery, other vegetables, etc.

Follow with pickled green beans (or carrots or beets) and a finger’s worth of pickle brine. Olive brine also works.

Then comes the vodka. This is to your taste, and also optional. A virgin bloody mary is completely delicious and just as refreshing, though you might want some ice to thin the mix out.

Bloody mary mix, recipe below. Add ice/tomato juice to to make the drink your desired thickness/strength, and mix. And enjoy.

Crock Pot Bloody Mary Mix

5-7 tomatoes, medium size

4 carrots

1 green pepper

1 onion

2 tbsp horseradish

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Old Bay (or another season-all)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp celery seed

1 tsp mustard seeds

5 garlic cloves

1 tbsp hot sauce

Juice of 2 lemons

Peel and chop all ingredients and combine in a crock pot. Fill 1/3 of the way with water. Cook over low heat for 1-3 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Using a blender or an immersion blender, mix to your desired chunkiness.  If you’d like, strain or cut with additional tomato juice. Chill. Mix as instructed above and serve.

 

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