Shipshape Eats

We are blessed here with a myriad of waterways. Between the Bay, rivers, lakes and Gulf, our area is a veritable boater’s paradise. Summer days and sunny weekends are filled with fishing, sailing and skiing.

That often means feeding your famished crew while afloat. It takes effort and imagination aplenty to provide sustenance for your folks while ashore, so it’s certainly an added challenge to serve up something spectacular while rocking about on your chosen craft. Although it’s true that eating and entertaining on board is a bit more complicated, it needn’t mean resorting to the old standard standby of sodas, sandwiches and chips.

With some culinary creativity, chic eats can be served up in even the most cramped of conditions, or if at anchor, toted to the beach and set up picnic style. All it really requires is a bit of planning and preparation to dish up a marvelous, movable feast!

Tips for serving at sea

  • Ditch those disposables as they are likely to get blown overboard and aren’t nearly as nice as sturdy, reusable plates, cutlery, napkins and drinkware that can be stored in a picnic basket.
  • Dishing up food in wooden trays or in small baskets helps keep things tidy, festive and best of all break-free.
  • It's ideal to make sturdy foods that travel well, hold up in a cooler and can be prepared in advance.

Pasta Insalata Caprese

This rendition of the classic Italian capri salad, below top, is a glorious marriage of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Pasta rounds it out.

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1 pound bow-tie or penne pasta
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 – 1 cup fresh basil leaves,  julienned
1 pound fresh mozzarella, chopped (I like to use the mozzarella pearls.)

1. Cook pasta for about 11 minutes in a big pot of lightly salted boiling water.
2. Meanwhile, smash garlic and salt together in a large bowl.
3. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil and whisk together until blended.
4. Drain pasta and add to vinaigrette in bowl. Stir to coat. Chill in refrigerator.
5. Add tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese. Toss to coat.
6. Refrigerate until close to serving time.
7. Serve at shade cooler than room temperature. (Adjust seasoning, if need be, by adding a splash more of the balsamic vinegar or a sprinkle of garlic salt or salt
before serving.) Serves 8 – 10.

Shrimp, Artichoke and Quinoa Salad

This salad, above far right, is a splendid combination of textures and tastes. It has a lovely, fresh, Mediterranean flavor.

1 pound shrimp, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup artichoke hearts, quartered
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper (Use a generous amount to taste.)

1. Cook shrimp in boiling water until just cooked, about 1 minute. Drain.
2. Combine olive oil, lemon juice,  artichokes and capers. Add cooked shrimp. Let marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.  
3. Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package instructions.
4. Combine drained and fluffed quinoa with shrimp mixture. Toss with parsley and season. Serves 4 – 6. 

Chicken, Asparagus, Walnut and Pesto Pasta Salad

Here's a chic salad, above far left, that holds up well in a cooler.

1 (20-ounce) package frozen three-cheese tortellini
1 (7-ounce) container prepared refrigerator pesto
4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 bundle fresh asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut into approximately 1-inch segments
1 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese or freshly grated, divided
1/2 – 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Prepare pasta according to package.
2. Drain, toss with pesto. Cool.
3. Add chicken, asparagus and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan.
4. Stir in walnuts, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Before serving, bring to room temperature (leave out 20 – 30 minutes) and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Serves 8 – 10.

Frozen Iced Tea

This family friendly libation is a frosty version of the Southern staple. Freeze it in large Ziploc bags or a plastic container, and use it to chill your cooler while it slowly melts to slushy consistency.

3 lemons
2 oranges
9 family-sized tea bags
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
fresh mint, for garnish
maraschino cherries, for garnish

1. Squeeze lemons and oranges.
2. Chill juices and reserve the lemon hulls.
3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a good boil; remove from heat.
4. Add tea bags, mint leaves and lemon hulls. Let mixture steep for 30 minutes.
5. Strain. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
6. When tea is thoroughly cooled, add lemon, orange and cherry juices, plus 1 1/2 quarts more cold water.
7. Stir well and freeze. When serving, garnish with fresh mint leaves and cherries. Makes 1 gallon.

Blueberry Pie Bars

Try a totable version of an old-fashioned summer favorite.

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt butter and beat with sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Add in flour, salt and almond extract, beating until well combined.
4. Spread batter evenly in a greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.
5. Sprinkle berries on top, pressing lightly into batter. Bake 40 minutes until golden.
6. Place pan on a rack to cool completely. When cool, cut into squares. Makes approximately 16.

Toffee Fudgy Brownies

These toffee-laden chocolaty treats are crowd-pleasers.

1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups toffee bits, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan on the stove over low heat or in a microwaveable bowl. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly.
3. Stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Mix until just blended.
4. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup toffee bits until well combined.
5. Spread batter in a greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Sprinkle top with remaining toffee bits, pressing them down slightly into hot brownies. Place pan on rack to cool completely, then cut into squares. Makes approximately 16.

text by Sallye Irvine • photos by Ashley Rowe

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