Chef and North Carolina native Ricky Moore shares easy recipes for cooking fresh, local seafood—plus seasonal sides to complement them.
by Addie Ladner
“Keep it simple,” says chef Ricky Moore. “Fresh fish doesn’t need much to elevate the flavor of the sea that’s already there.” Here are some of his recipes to create a fish-forward summer spread at home.
Chilled Peach & Cantaloupe Soup
“This is such an easy refreshing chilled soup that captures the flavors of the summer market.”
2 ripe cantaloupes peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
4-5 medium-sized ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
5 ounces thick yogurt
6 ounces white grape juice
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Honey, to taste
Salt, to taste
Blackberries, strawberries and blueberries for garnish
Using a food processor or blender, puree peaches, cantaloupe, yogurt, grape juice, lime and grated ginger until smooth and pour into a large mixing bowl.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, taste the soup. Add honey and a pinch of salt as needed.
Stir soup thoroughly one last time and ladle into shallow bowls. Garnish each bowl with berries. Serve immediately.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
12 ounces lima beans, cooked tender
12 ounces purple hull peas, cooked tender
Kernels from 6 ears of corn (about 5 cups)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumbers, small diced, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup (combined) parsley, chives, tarragon and dill
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and a small pinch of salt and cook, stirring over medium heat until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.
Lower the heat, add the beans and corn and stir over medium-low heat for about 1 minute, until tender but still crisp.
Transfer cooked ingredients to a large bowl and toss with the tomatoes, cucumbers and lemon juice.
Let the mixture cool, then top with the herbs, salt and black pepper.
Summer Squash Gratin
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until limp and golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium-low if they are browning too quickly.) Add the garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Spread the onions and garlic evenly in the bottom of an oiled 2-quart gratin dish. Let cool. While the onion mixture cools, place the tomato slices on a shallow plate to drain for a few minutes, then discard the collected juices.
In a bowl, toss the zucchini and squash slices with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
Reserve half of the cheese for the top of the gratin.
To assemble the gratin: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thyme over the onions in the dish. Starting at one end of the dish, lay a row of slightly overlapping tomato slices across the width of the dish, then sprinkle with cheese.
Next, lay a row of zucchini, overlapping the tomatoes by two-thirds, and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat a row of squash, and then repeat rows of tomato, zucchini, and squash, sprinkling each with cheese, until the dish is full.
Season lightly with pepper and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Drizzle the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil over the dish. Combine the reserved cheese with the remaining 1 tablespoon of thyme, then sprinkle over the whole dish.
Cook until well-browned all over and the juices have bubbled for a while and reduced considerably, 65 to 70 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Whole Broiled N.C. Red Porgy
1 two-pound whole fish, like Red Porgy, scaled and gutted
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bulb of garlic, halved
1 lemon, halved
Handful of fresh herbs (such as rosemary and thyme)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
4 to 5 sticks of celery
Sea salt, freshly-cracked black pepper and garlic powder
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a 2-inch baking pan, add 4 to 5 sticks of celery, some thick sliced onion, halved garlic and halved lemon. Pour in some stock, making sure that the vegetables are not completely submerged.
Once you’re ready to cook, give your fish one final good rinse, then lightly pat it dry with paper towels. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the top of the fish in diagonal lines, about 1 inch apart.
Brush the fish generously on both sides with the oil. Then brush the inner cavity with oil. Slice half of the lemon into slices, and stuff those, as well as the garlic and herbs, into the cavity of the fish. Make sure that the garlic is completely tucked in and not exposed. Season the outside of the fish generously with sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
Switch oven to broiler. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and broil on high for 18-20 minutes, or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and flakes easily with a fork. (Cooking time will vary depending on the size/variety of your fish.)
Remove from the oven, and finish with fresh olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice. Serve warm, and enjoy!
Local Clams with Spicy N.C. Sausage and Pickled Okra
2 dozen N.C. clams
3/4 pound of spicy N.C. air dried sausage, sliced into coins
7 ounces clam juice
5 large garlic cloves, shaved or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
8 ounces celery, diced
Splash of white wine
Bunch of parsley
Knob of butter
12 spears of pickled okra, cut lengthwise
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
In a heavy bottomed pot or skillet with high sides, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the sausage on medium high heat. Cook until you see no more pink, then remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, drizzle a little more olive oil into the pan then add in the garlic, onions and celery and sauté until soft but not caramelized.
Add the clams, tossing them a few times into the garlic and onions. Add the white wine to deglaze and let it cook down a couple of minutes, tossing the clams. Add the sausage back in, along with the okra, stirring until well distributed, then cover the pan so the clams can steam in the liquid and open up gently.
When clams have all opened up, stir in a knob of butter and chopped parsley for garnish, maybe a quick drizzle of olive oil, too. If a clam didn’t open when the rest did, discard. Serve immediately.
N.C. BBQ Shrimp
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper
1 tablespoon Texas Pete
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Pepsi Cola
1 tablespoon Carolina Treet Cooking Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon, sliced
1½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds medium to large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Salt and black pepper to taste
First make the sauce. In a bowl, combine the bay leaves, paprika, pepper, Texas Pete,Worcestershire, Pepsi, Carolina Treat Cooking Sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and lemon slices. Using a whisk, stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once melted and sizzling, take the pan off the flame and add garlic. Gently let the heat from the pan cook the garlic.
Place the pan back on the flame, add shrimp and sauté for 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and simmer for 7 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. Take the shrimp out of the pan and place on a warm platter.
Reduce the sauce that is left in the pan until it has a glaze consistency. Pour sauce over the shrimp and serve.
Chef Ricky’s Pickled Okra
Yields 3 pint jars worth
1½ pounds fresh okra
3 dried red chile peppers
3 teaspoons dried dill
2 cups water
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
Divide the fresh okra evenly between 3 sterile 1-pint jars. Place one dried chile and one teaspoon of dill into each jar.
In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Pour over the ingredients in the jars, and seal in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Refrigerate jars after opening.