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As I mentioned already, we went to the beach on Sunday! The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the sunshine, blue skies and sounds of the ocean revived our cold, tired spirits.
I am rarely happier than when I’m near the sea. I grew up going to the beach regularly, both in California and in the Philippines. In the US, beach food was potato chips, sandwiches, hot dogs and s’mores– not super memorable for me, but there were other parts that stood out– like having my grandpa bring a shovel and dig us a really deep hole to spend half of the day in.
In the Philippines, we didn’t usually dig holes, but there were other thrills– like snorkeling (or getting stung by a jellyfish– very memorable.) And the food. I loved eating at the beach. We often brought some coconut charcoal, and cooked there– chicken or pork kebabs, and often fresh fish. I miss that. All the time. (To clarify, it wasn’t usually my family doing the cooking– it was our helpers, women who lived with us and cooked for us and introduced us to all of this wonderful food, and ways of cooking and eating that I would have never otherwise experienced.)So, when the sun came out this weekend I stopped by our fish monger at the market, and picked up two whole sea bass and some small squid. I thought I might have been pushing my luck, trying to cook and eat seafood at the beach (too many pleasures at once!) but was willing to try. I made pouches out of foil to cook them in, with a combination of aromatic herbs and vegetables. This is, as usual, less of a recipe, and more of a guide to what you could do with seafood, veggies and some fire.
Here’s my fish and some favorite ingredients. Definitely have your fishmonger scale and gut for you– just give it a thorough rinse at home.
In the fish bellies, I put onions, thyme, salt, ginger and garlic.More of the same goes on the outside, with the addition of lemon slices, and a drizzle of olive oil.For the second fish, I added sweet red peppers, which I highly recommend. Fold the foil over the fish and veggies, and crimp tightly shut a couple of times.I love squid. It does not have to be rubbery, at all! These ones were small-ish, and I had to do a little prep to get them ready. I cut off the tentacles, and pulled the heads out of the caps, and threw that bit out. I sliced up the caps, and put those rings and the tentacles in the foil.I tossed the squid with tomatoes, parsley, red peppers, onions, garlic, lemon and olive oil. (Salt and pepper, too– that almost always applies, but I sometimes forget to mention it!)We picked up a little disposable grill for $3 on our way to the beach. I had never used one before, but it was seriously awesome! It lit quickly, and got hot fast. The coals burned nicely for over an hour, and was absolutely perfect for this kind of cooking. We cooked the pouches for probably 8-10 minutes on each side.Everything came out beautifully.It could not have been any easier! The flavor profiles were a bit different from what I ate in the Philippines, but eating that fish with my fingers took me right back to the warm beaches, ravenously eating perfectly grilled fish after a day of swimming and snorkeling. The vegetables were cooked through, slightly caramelized and soft, but the fish had not been overdone. The calamari could not have been more tender and delicately flavored.
Next time, we may even take things a step further, bringing the foil and chopped seasonings with us, then buying the seafood right on the beach to cook there. Not only was it comforting to me to be eating food from my childhood, in a place that felt like home in some way… But it was significant for me to introduce the experience to my husband and daughter. They both loved the meal, and hadn’t eaten quite like that before. I am looking forward to cooking them more meals that remind me of what I ate in the Philippines.
Do you have special beach food memories? What did your family eat?