Saturday, August 27, 2011

Divers Down!

Tonight for dinner we enjoyed scallops we gathered from our annual scalloping trip to Dekle Beach with the Hornsbys.  I must admit, the scallops were divine!
Just last month we traveled to the grassy flats of Florida’s Big Bend to go scalloping.  Since 2006, we spend a few days with the Hornsbys gathering the bivalve mollusks.  Scallops seem to like the shallow (4-10 feet) seagrass beds common to the Big Bend area, particularly preferring the area where the sand/mud bottom meets the edge of the grasses.  Amazing that with a swim mask, a snorkel, and a small mesh bag, one can gather and collect these tasty, sweet jewels of the sea! 

Ben and Benjamin scalloping in 2006.

Even after five years of scalloping, the experience still excites me yet makes me a little nervous.  Just under the sea, it is a quiet other-world.  Creatures move and swim in a silent style.  (It is the sharks I cannot help but consider; will someone play that “Jaws” theme song as they approach!?!!)  Searching and finding the scallops with their many neon blue eyes is fun for both children and adults. 
If you have never scalloped, give it a try!  Scalloping season lasts an extra two weeks this year, closing on September 25, 2011.  Divers down!   

In 2007, Georgia-Lee shows two scallops.

More About Dekle Beach
Dekle Beach, in Taylor County, Florida, is a popular scalloping destination.  With very little development, striking views, and an old world Florida feel, it is easy to see why.  However, the small community with beautiful views hides a deeply-felt tragedy   The No Name Storm of 1993 struck Dekle without warning.  Hurricane-force wind gusts and 12’ storm surges followed by low temperatures and inches of unusual snow claimed the lives of ten people in Dekle.  This Storm of the Century forever changed Dekle.  Even now, even among the beauty and peacefulness, there is something slightly sad about the community.  

Three years ago, a resident told me about a lady that clung to a palm tree with her baby for hours throughout the night, gripping tightly as wild waves crashed beneath her.  During the early morning hours, it started to snow.  As morning broke, the lady could hold on no more and fell to her death.  In my morning runs, there is one spot where I can nearly picture the woman clinging to the palm; it has an especially melancholy feel. 

Crabby Creek at sunset

In spite of its tragic past, Dekle pulls and tugs on one's coastal heartstrings.  Ben loves the area, the fishing, the views; I think he actually relaxes at Dekle.  Benjamin spends hours exploring Crabby Creek, the canals, and the long dock with Gus.  Georgia-Lee follows Hannah, just happy to be there.  

I could have eaten another plateful of rice and scallops – mmm!

Ben’s Favorite Rice with Scallops
1/3 cup butter
2 T chopped green onions
¼ t garlic powder
2 T lemon juice
2 T dry white wine
1/8 t dried dillweed
4 dashes hot sauce
1 pound fresh bay scallops
Crawford rice or white rice
Lemon slices

Melt butter in a large skillet; add onions, stirring until tender.  Add garlic powder, lemon juice, wine, dillweekd, and hot sauce; heat until bubbly.  Reduce heat to medium; add scallops.  Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes or until scallops turn white.  Serve over hot rice or Crawford rice.  Garnish with lemon slices. 

2011 Scallopers

In 2006, scallopers take a break to read a few books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Savoring Summer

Summer is still here, even if school has started!  I wrote this post about summer on July 25, 2011, but forgot to post!    

Swinging back and forth in the hammock, I soaked in summer.  Just after , I picked the garden.  As the summer garden ages, plant yields change.  I gathered a basket full of tomatoes, a few cucumbers, okra, a couple of squash, and banana peppers. 

I LOVE picking the garden!  Ben plants it; I reap what he sowed! 

After picking, I wasn’t quite ready to go inside.  I wanted to stay outside, linger just a little longer.  With eyes closed, I heard sounds of summer.  Crickets chirped, singing in harmony as night fell.  Mosquitoes trilled in my ears.  From across the yard, the hammer beat, beat, beat and the saw occasionally buzzed as Ben and Benjamin worked to finish the chicken coop.  They listened to the radio; occasionally, a familiar line or two from a country song drifted my way.  Georgia-Lee chatted and played dolls, pretending and making her Loving Family come to life with the unused boards and other building materials near the coop.  It had been a good day, starting with Sunday school and church, followed by lunch.  Early afternoon consisted of visiting grandma and cousins and later repotting plants.  A summer dinner of fish tacos and fresh homemade salsa while the sun went down allowed us time to go back outside.  Since the sun dipped below the horizon, temperatures were comfortable, even if the Alabama humidity was not.  Wanting to remember the contented feeling I felt, I savored summer for a few stolen moments in our hammock hidden in the trees.

Fresh Summer Salsa

1 c chopped Vidalia onion
3 c chopped fresh tomatoes, peeled
1 c chopped green bell peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t salt
½ t black pepper
1/3 c chopped cilantro
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir to blend.  Keep refrigerated. 

This recipe comes from the 1993 Cooking on the Plains cookbook by my sorority at Auburn University, Kappa Alpha Theta.  We served fresh summer salsa over fish tacos – yum!

Too funny not to share!  Meet Squishy Squash (right), Cutie Cucumber (back left), and Gordy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Snapper of the Season

A couple of weeks ago, we squeezed in a quick trip to the Forgotten Coast to fish and enjoy the un-crowded beaches.  I could seriously entertain thoughts of moving to that part of Florida.  From Mexico Beach to Port St. Joe, Indian Pass to Apalachicola, something about that area really pulls on me!  Surely, part of that stems from the fact that my dad and granddad loved fishing the Forgotten Coast.  (Daddy liked Bay City Lodge in Apalachicola; his brother Brownie Parkman runs a guide service out of Bay City.  Their daddy fished the Dead Lakes of Wewahitchka.)    

We found all the supplies we needed at Mexico Beach Marina before heading out the pass.  We mostly trolled and fished public reefs just off Mexico Beach.  The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association actively places new reefs in the gulf waters in addition to maintaining the existing ones; they do a great job promoting sport fishing opportunities.  Everyone caught fish – either snapper or king mackerel.  On Saturday, we swam in the waters off St. Joe Beach; Sunday we swam at Mexico Beach.  The raw oysters at Regan’s Oyster Bar tasted delicious.  A fast trip but still so wonderful to enjoy hours on the coast!       

Daily limit for snapper are two per person per day.  Good thing we all like to fish! 

Gulf Red Snapper season closed July 18, 2011.  Since it is federally monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, the season closed on the same date in all Gulf of Mexico waters.  We didn’t know it, but the last snapper we caught during our weekend jaunt would also be our last snapper of the season! 

Benjamin sure was pleased with his catch!  It just happened to be the last snapper we caught during the 2011 Gulf Red Snapper Season!

Snapper can be cooked A LOT of different ways.  We cook it in fish tacos, fried, baked, grilled, and stuffed.  Since we have been eating it at least three times a week lately, our snapper recipes run the gamut! 

We enjoyed “fancy” stuffed red snapper last week along with several garden fresh sides.  Georgia-Lee and Benjamin prepared a beautiful outdoor table setting under the oak tree for dinner. 

Our official menu (Benjamin fixed a menu board!) included stuffed red snapper, fried okra, sautéed squash, sliced tomatoes, and bread.  Cool cucumber water was our drink.  (I read how delicious it was supposed to be; we all drank it but thought it tasted like watery pickle juice!) 

Pumpkin and Max joined us too – they were hopeful for any crumbs that might come their way!  We lapped up our dessert of vanilla ice cream with fresh Fort Valley, Georgia, peaches from Uncle J.B. Bush.      

    Love those Georgia peaches!

Stuffed Red Snapper

4-6 Red Snapper fillets
3 parts breadcrumbs
1 part parmesan cheese, grated
Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning

In a bowl, stir together equal breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and enough mayonnaise to make a thick paste.  Cut fillets in half.  Place half of fillets in greased glass baking dish.  Season and stuff with breadcrumb mixture.  Place thin pat of butter on top of stuffing; cover with remaining fish fillet halves.  Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes.  Just before serving, squeeze fresh lemon over fillets.