Just back from a wonderful visit to the South Carolina Lowcountry! We cruised on down to Hilton Head Island and Bluffton stopping in at several farm stands and farmers markets during our stay. We ate like kings via the bounty of the sea and the land: softshell crabs sautéed in butter and lemon after being soaked in sweet milk; fresh local, organic blackberries served with a swirl of local honey; homemade coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine) prepared by my sister using local poultry and herbs from her garden; and calabash-style shrimp hand-breaded by my Mom. This last dish is a tradition in my family and no beach vacation would ever be complete without hot fried shrimp piled high, served family style with hushpuppies, crispy coleslaw and sweet iced tea, out on the screened porch.
Oh and we also caught a pot full of magnificent blue crabs – steamed them up, threw them out onto the newspaper-covered table, melted some butter and voilà crab-fest was on! It took about 5 seconds for my 3-year-old to realize that the Cerulean blue crabs we caught on the dock a couple of hours earlier were now fire-engine red and our dinner. It took her about 2 more seconds to get her Dad picking out her crab and then 1 additional second to plead for more – a Lowcountry girl through and through.
As a foodie and a native South Carolinian, I am thrilled that I can now pass along some of what make the Lowcountry so wonderful along to my daughter. I am tickled that we could catch blue crabs ourselves and that we could not only buy local produce and products but that at many Hilton Head Island restaurants, we know the chefs and proprietors care about the ingredient choices and sources. Chef Nick Unangst of Skull Creek Boathouse and I commiserated not only on the outstanding quality of the local seafood found in the waters surrounding the Island but also on the struggle of protecting local fisheries. I was happy to learn that Skull Creek Boathouse holds a wholesale license so while they buy seafood directly from local fishermen, they also are keenly educated and aware of the regulations and restrictions imposed to safeguard the fisheries and seafood industry.
Chef Nick added, “Consistent supply of certain products is a challenge. We strive to keep our menu realistic according to ingredients that are in-season, particularly with seafood. He added, “We purchase from local sources as much as possible and with summer coming we are looking forward to the SC crop of tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peaches and other berries, fruits and produce. We will keep our commitment to the SC Growers Association and our customers to serve in-season and local as often as possible.” By the way, Skull Creek Boathouse is member of the Fresh on the Menu Program.
Chef Nick and I discussed which outstanding recipe he would share and while the Boathouse specializes in seafood (and now you know it’s in-season and local too!), Chef Nick made a departure from the obvious recommending a flavor-tastic recipe for Greek-style roasted vegetables; placing the spotlight on soon-to-be ready SC grown produce like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onions and herbs. From where I’m standing (and I wish it was dockside in Hilton Head!) I say, shine on Chef Nick – shine on!
Roasted Greek Vegetables – Skull Creek Boathouse
- 1 lb. green beans cleaned and stemmed (left whole)
- 1 medium eggplant
- 3 medium to zucchini
- 3 medium yellow squash
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 small onion
- 6 large tomatoes
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbl.garlic fresh minced
- 3/4 tbl. oregano dried (double if using fresh)
- 1 tbl. mint chopped fresh (optional)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper, fresh cracked
Method: Cut all the vegetables except green beans into 1″ dice. Toss vegetables with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and/or mint, season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place vegetables on baking sheet (2 if necessary) in a shallow layer. Bake for 35 – 40 min. stirring occasionally until they are light brown and caramelized. Serve with any grilled meat, poultry, or seafood.