SEA Food: Treasures from Florida’s Northwest Coast

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, August 2013 • Photos provided by Tracey Newton


Scalloping season is underway! The tiny treasures from the bays around Florida’s northwest coast are fun to harvest and delicious to eat.

An armada has filled the waters around Homosassa, Crystal River, Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, Port St. Joe, and Cape San Blas on Florida’s northwest coast since July 1st when Florida’s bay scalloping season officially opened.

Vessels of all sizes, from kayaks to fishing boats and pontoons, are the first thing I remember seeing on my first scalloping trip a few years ago. I knew the small fan-shaped mollusks were a Florida delicacy, but I had no idea harvesting them could be so much fun. Donning snorkeling gear and diving into the sea grass near the mouth of the Homosassa River to catch my dinner was yet another way to experience “old” Florida. After all, Native Americans and early settlers enjoyed these bay scallops hundreds of years before Sunshine State chefs put them on menus.

As we cruised along the river and into the bay, another aspect of old Florida was apparent. Scalloping areas are often near remote, secluded places untouched by developers. Only the Gulf waters extending from the Pasco-Hernando County line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County are open to scallop harvesting. And if you do go scalloping, make sure you bring your harvest ashore in one of these designated areas; otherwise, you could be fined.

For those who don’t have access to a private boat, several charter boat companies in Homosassa and Crystal River offer scalloping adventures for both individuals and groups. Recreational harvesters need a Florida Saltwater Fishing License, even if scalloping from shore. Snorkeling equipment comes in handy, and many rental boats provide everything needed for an enjoyable day on the water. Be aware that reservations fill up fast with the rental companies.

There are limits to how many scallops you can harvest per trip. Each person is limited to two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shells, or one pint of scallop meat. I thought this was an abysmally small amount until my friends and I had to clean them. And it was definitely enough for my favorite dish: sautéed scallops tossed with angel hair pasta, fresh parsley, a clove of garlic, and Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese.

If your palate is more adventurous, you may want to try this Scallop Slider recipe, courtesy of Tracey Newton at The Scallop Hunter.

A FLORIDA RECIPE:

 

0813-scallopslider

Scallop Slider

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds fresh bay scallops
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 Dinner Rolls, lightley toasted
  • Cilantro Mayo, recipe follows

Directions:

  1. In a small skillet, sauté onion in butter over medium heat until translucent. Cool.
  2. Place scallops in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, or chop by hand.
  3. Transfer to large bowl and add remaining ingredients, except vegetable oil. Add in the cooled onions. Cook’s note: Mixture should not be too loose. If necessary, add a bit more flour or another egg.
  4. Shape the mixture into small burgers, approximately two inches in diameter.
  5. Place on a waxed paper lined sheet tray, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  6. Heat two tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  7. Add scallop sliders and cook until browned and cooked through. About four to five minutes.
  8. Place on small soft dinner rolls and top with a bit of cilantro mayo. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cilantro-Lime Mayo

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in food processor except mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Process until cilantro is fine.
  2. Add mayonnaise and process just until blended.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe courtesy of: scallophunter.com/scallop-recipes/

But hurry to catch these little gems. Scalloping season ends Sept. 24th! For more information about scalloping, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/.


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