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RECIPES: Spicy fish, shrimp cocktail and a fruit smoothie make for a spring break-themed meal

Beach buffet by JeanMarie Brownson, The Daily Meal (TNS) | March 24, 2021 at 2:25 a.m.
Spicy Fish and Slaw Sandwiches (TNS/Chicago Tribune/Abel Uribe)

Spring break is upon us, but a year into the covid-19 pandemic, we know that it will not — should not — look like it has in years past. But we need bright spots and sunshine now more than ever. So this spring, we'll travel by way of our imaginations — and taste buds.

Let's picture spring breaks of warm weather, beach and sand that are peppered with memories of delicious meals: The Florida Keys, Laguna Beach, Playa del Carmen, Lima. Let's channel those seafood meals, ceviches on the beach, tropical fruit cocktails and roadside treats.

One of the best parts of vacation, beyond relaxing, sightseeing and swimming, is eating outdoors, on a porch, sea breeze blowing through your hair. While you may not get that salty ocean air in your kitchen, you can still re-create those beachy vibes at home with a seafood shack classic, the spicy fish sandwich.

To cook this at home, start by looking for fish options in the local market's freezer case. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch app can help you select fish that has been caught (or farmed and harvested) sustainably. Choose from haddock or scrod, U.S. tilapia, Pacific cod or U.S farmed bass. After thawing in the refrigerator, season the filets with a spicy rub and then broil to golden and tender before tucking into a toasted bun with a pile of spicy slaw.

Sweet potato fries make the perfect accompaniment to spicy fish sandwiches. For oven fries, simply peel large sweet potatoes, slice them ½-inch thick and then cut the slices into ¼-inch wide sticks. Put on a baking sheet with a nice coating of sunflower or safflower oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake at 375 degrees on convection (if you have the option) or 400 degrees in a regular oven, stirring often, until crispy, about 20 minutes. A sprinkle of the seafood seasoning that follows perks them up into a worthy side.

Shrimp cocktail, served with avocado and lime in tall glasses, conjure thoughts of beach snacks in Cabo after a day in the sunshine.

Finally, let a tropical fruit smoothie transport you to a tiki bar, consumed perhaps after a beachside yoga class. Later in the day, the same smoothie deserves a hit of golden rum and a paper umbrella.

Spring break fare to remember. Sand and sun optional, but certainly welcome.

Spicy Fish and Slaw Sandwiches

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, plus more for buns
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 ½ to 3 cups finely shredded cabbage (half of a 14-ounce bag)
  • 1 large carrot, trimmed, peeled, finely shaved or shredded
  • 2 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 4 haddock, tilapia or cod filets, each at least 1-inch thick (about 1 ½ pounds total)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 brioche or whole grain burger buns, split (or other bread as desired)
  • Favorite spicy barbecue sauce

Make Seafood rub: In a small dish, mix the sweet paprika, salt, garlic powder, thyme, black pepper, cayenne and ground allspice. The seafood rub can be made ahead and stored in a covered container up to several weeks.

In the bottom of a medium bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of the seafood rub with 1/3 cup mayonnaise and the lime juice. Stir in the finely shredded cabbage, carrot and green onions. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

Pat fish dry. Sprinkle generously on all sides with the remaining seafood rub. Place on the perforated top of a broiler pan or on an ovensafe rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet. If desired, let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes or refrigerate, loosely covered, for several hours.

Heat broiler to high. Drizzle a little olive oil over each fish filet. Broil, 6 inches from heat source, without turning, until fish almost flakes easily in the thickest portion, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove coleslaw from the refrigerator. Toast the 4 split burger buns. Spread the bottoms of the buns with a thin coating of barbecue sauce. If desired, spread tops of buns or other 4 slices of bread with a thin coating of mayonnaise. Place on serving plates.

Carefully transfer one piece of fish to each of the bottom buns. Top with a mound of coleslaw and position the top bun in place. Serve right away.

Makes 4 servings.

Shrimp Cocktail Salad (TNS/Chicago Tribune/Abel Uribe)
Shrimp Cocktail Salad (TNS/Chicago Tribune/Abel Uribe)

Look for shrimp farmed in the U.S. or Canada, also known as Pacific white shrimp for their good sustainable methods. If possible, avoid farmed shrimp that does not have a sustainable designation.

Shrimp Cocktail Salad

  • 12 ounces peeled, deveined medium-size shrimp (51 to 60 count), thawed
  • 2 limes, divided use
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon pureed chipotle in adobo or Mexican red pepper hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ roasted red bell pepper, diced (jarred is fine here)
  • ¼ cup drained, thinly sliced green olives
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion, well rinsed (see note)
  • ½ large avocado, halved, pitted, flesh diced
  • 2 to 3 cups mixed salad greens or 4 to 6 large Boston or leaf lettuce leaves
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Saltines or other crackers

Put the shrimp into a large saucepan with just enough water to cover. Squeeze juice of 1 lime into a cup. Set the juice aside. Put the lime rinds in the pan with the shrimp. Heat to a gentle simmer; stir well and remove from the heat. Let stand until all shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Drain well. (You can save the cooking liquid for use in seafood soups; freeze up to 1 month.)

Mix the ketchup, pureed chipotle (or hot sauce) and salt in a large bowl. Add reserved lime juice to taste. Gently stir in cooked, drained shrimp, the diced roasted red pepper, sliced olives and red onion. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate, covered, up to several hours

Gently stir avocado into shrimp mixture. Arrange 1 cup mixed salad greens or 2 lettuce leaves on each serving plate. Gently pile the shrimp mixture over the lettuce leaves. Cut the remaining lime into wedges. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Serve with crackers.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Rinsing the raw onion helps remove some of its bite.

Tropical Fruit Smoothie (TNS/Chicago Tribune/Abel Uribe)
Tropical Fruit Smoothie (TNS/Chicago Tribune/Abel Uribe)

Serve this drink topped with a scoop of mango or blood orange sorbet if desired. Skip the rum and add a scoop or 2 of vanilla protein powder for a post-workout refresher.

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup diced fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 1 large ripe mango, pitted, peeled, roughly chopped OR 1 ½ cups frozen diced
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut cream OR ¼ cup cream of coconut
  • ½ cup gold rum, optional
  • ¼ cup seedless fresh or frozen passion fruit puree (or undiluted orange juice concentrate) (see note)
  • 1 or 2 scoops vanilla protein powder, optional
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Several drops pure vanilla extract
  • Skewers of fresh fruit, for garnish
  • Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Put everything except garnishes into a large blender (or blend half at a time). Process until smooth and frothy.

Serve in chilled glasses. Garnish with skewers of fruit and fresh mint sprigs.

Makes 2 to 3 drinks.

Notes: Look for passion fruit puree in the freezer section of international grocery stores; some stores sell bite-size passion fruit pieces, which would work as well. If you can't find either, substitute mango puree or undiluted orange juice concentrate.

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