Top chef Brooke Williamson shares tips for summer seafood recipes

Chef Brooke Williamson shares tips for cooking summer seafood.  (Photos: Brooke Williamson)

Chef Brooke Williamson shares tips for cooking summer seafood. (Photos: Brooke Williamson)

It’s the time of year to hold on tight, hoping to squeeze out every last moment of summer. From lazy days and sandy afternoons to a cornucopia of seasonal delights — nothing matches the season better than seafood. From buttery Maine lobster rolls to Chilean sea bass, the reason for the summer season may be the delicious and light flavored seafood.

The one catch (no pun intended)? It can be intimidating to cook seafood in your own kitchen and expensive to order when dining out. But chef Brooke Williamson, star of the new Food Network series Beach brawl says there’s no reason to avoid seafood.

Williamson’s latest competition show pits teams of chefs in the ultimate West Coast vs. East Coast “brawl” to crown which coast deserves to serve up the best beachside meals. Born in Los Angeles, California, Top cook The alum co-owns Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey and hospitality group Company for Dinner with her chef husband Nick Roberts.

Her favorite fish of the season? “Wild Alaskan seafood is the perfect protein for summer, as it complements many seasonal and fresh ingredients while keeping the dish light,” Williamson tells Yahoo Life. “I love working with produce at the peak of the season to pair with seafood. Using seasonal produce allows deliciousness in simplicity and allows the seafood to shine.”

Williamson, who spoke with Yahoo Life as part of her work promoting Alaska seafood, says making fresh and light seafood dishes in your own kitchen doesn’t have to be difficult.

In summer, she says it’s best to avoid heavy stews and creamy textures that are better suited to the colder months. Warm weather is all about meals that are light and bright, but still packed with flavor—and home cooks will be happy to know that it doesn’t have to be complicated. No laundry list of ingredients here, just minimal effort and maximum satisfaction.

“There’s a wide variety of frozen, fresh and canned seafood options that can be simply sautéed or grilled and paired with bright vegetables,” says Williamson. “A dish I created recently that is perfect for summer is a cod with asparagus and peas. The cod is lightly grilled and then topped with an anchovy butter sauce and vegetables.”

Williamson combines cod with peas and asparagus to make this summer dish.  (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

Williamson combines cod with peas and asparagus to make this summer dish. (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

Williamson especially loves cooking with wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, the season for which starts in May and runs through September. He says it’s different from the typical salmon many are familiar with and has a richer, more vibrant color and flavor profile. “With salmon, I make a tomato and fennel sofrito with tahini sauce and dukkha pine nuts,” shares Williamson. “It’s deeply spiced with coriander, cumin and dukkha sesame, but a light base of tomatoes, piquillo peppers, fennel and onion.”

Williamson says this salmon, made with tomato and fennel sofrito, tahini sauce and pine nut dukkah, is a perfect summer fish recipe.  (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

Williamson says this salmon, made with tomato and fennel sofrito, tahini sauce and pine nut dukkah, is a perfect summer fish recipe. (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

In her kitchen arsenal, Williamson has found the rice cooker to be an invaluable tool, using it to make fresh sushi rice. He says that those who are short on time but still want to satisfy their appetite can simply cook a piece of salmon and serve it over rice with whatever vegetables are available and some miso dressing.

Beginners also can never go wrong with a basic appetizer, he adds Top cook Season 14 winner. “I’m a slob for a simple seafood cocktail,” he says. “Many people don’t think of finfish when they think of a seafood cocktail, but most fish can simply be poached and frozen and served with a remoulade or horseradish cocktail sauce.”

He cites rockfish as one of the best fish for seafood cocktails, explaining that it’s delicious and a perfect warm-weather pairing. Alaskan Rockfish also represents one of her favorite dishes she serves at Playa Provision. There, rockfish is served over crispy rice with a green bean vinaigrette. The meaty fish is mild and pairs well with a vinaigrette flavored with Fresno chili, ginger, onion, chives and green beans. “It has very clean flavors, just the way I like to eat in the summer,” she says.

One of Williamson's favorite dishes is this Alaskan snapper with crispy rice and green bean vinaigrette and fish sauce.  (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

One of Williamson’s favorite dishes is this Alaskan snapper with crispy rice and green bean vinaigrette and fish sauce. (Photo: Brooke Williamson)

Ready to try summer fish recipes in your own kitchen? Williamson shares tips for the home cook.

Start with high quality seafood

“When I’m shopping for seafood, I always check the provenance of where it’s coming from and look for Alaska-sourced fish because all seafood out of state is guaranteed to be wild-caught and sustainably caught,” he says. “Sustainable fishing is written into the state constitution.”

“This includes salmon, halibut, cod, rock, crab, pollock and more,” he adds. “Not only is Alaskan seafood sustainable, but the natural environment produces seafood that is lean and flavorful.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Williamson says it’s okay to ask questions at your local seafood stand. “At the grocery store or market, your fishmonger can tell you where your fish comes from to help ensure you’re making a sustainable choice,” he says. “Your fishmonger is also the most knowledgeable person to ask about freshness and quality.”

Be adventurous

“Don’t be afraid to try new types of fish,” he adds. “Many may be more familiar with salmon, but other species such as halibut, cod and rockfish are just as tasty and easy to cook.”

“These items are also so versatile,” she continues, “and can be served hot or cold or turned into cakes or used in stews and soups.”

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