RECIPES: Beach buffet

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…

Read MoreRECIPES: Beach buffet