Have you ever been to Beach Haven, New Jersey? It is exactly what its name suggests: a skinny strip of summer cottage rentals, local-owned pancake houses, ice-cream parlors and surf shops sandwiched between long strips of beach and bay. I know this because only a few short hours ago I was there, taking it all in.
I went down to Long Beach Island to visit a good friend (who is also a professional dancer and actress), and to see her perform in what ended up being the singularly most enjoyable theatre production I have ever seen. (Truly, my face hurt from smiling so much at the end of the performance.) It was a spectacular show, and wonderful to spend time with her.
What little time I had with her, that is: between performing two shows a day and an additional four or five hours rehearsing and preparing for the upcoming production, my lovely and talented friend was quite the busy bee and did not have a whole lot of time to spend with me. So in the hours I wasn’t eating lunch with her and the rest of the cast between rehearsal blocks, I had plenty of time to myself.
I spent most of my solo hours at the beach, gladly reveling in the hazy ocean breeze, the relentless sunshine, the feel of white-hot sand underfoot and the gasping shock and slap of cold ocean when it all got to be too much to bear.
And let me tell you, there is little better than escaping this sticky cycle of sun-and-sea for an air-conditioned mid-day lunch break… only to go back out there and do it all over again.
Perhaps the only thing better is hanging up your towel at the end of the day, drinking down a few sweating glasses-full of ice-water, and sitting down to seafood for dinner.
I mean really, is there anything more perfectly satisfying than a plate of simply-grilled fish or a briny bowl of clams and mussels in butter after a day at the beach?
If there is, I haven’t found it. And if you think you have, please share… but be warned you’re going to have to come in with a good sell. I don’t see myself being easily persuaded on this one.
Anyhow, after spending all weekend at the beach surrounded by crab shacks and restaurants offering seafood specials, I would have loved to have whipped together some fresh seafood dish to share with you… but, well, it was HOT — 96 degrees at least — and more to the point I was having too much fun playing in the waves and collecting clam shells to do any cooking. Also, staying in a house full of actors and actresses who don’t have the time or energy to do much in the way of food preparation didn’t exactly lend itself to a well-stocked kitchen.
And so, until I am able to attempt the shrimp salad or the yogurt-baked fish fillet I’ve been rolling over in my head all day, now seems like the perfect time to share that recipe for the grilled Mako shark we served last weekend with the corn chowder.
Mako shark is a heartier fish, and can stand up to marinades and sauces with a little more zest and pep… which is a good thing, since I was making this shark with my brother as my co-chef, and my brother really likes garlic. A lot. Also soy sauce, both of which can be a little overwhelming for a lighter, flakier fish.
I like garlic and soy sauce too, but left to my own devices (especially in the summer) I will amost always gravitate towards something brighter: something like green herbs paired with citrus, or maybe a little white wine or dry sake.
Now most of the time when my brother and I are collaborating on a meal, our personal preferences will have to duke it out until we reach something that is a bit of a compromise on both fronts. But sometimes little compromise is required, and we somehow hit upon a sweet middle-ground that is greater than the sum of its parts: a meal in which the pairing of flavors is innovative yet harmonious; where everything is more complementary and well-paired than even we had planned.
We hit on just such a revelatory line-up last weekend with this Mako, which was first marinated in a combination of soy sauce, cilantro, scallions, garlic and brown sugar, then grilled and served with a toothsome dollop of cilantro-lime chimichurri.
Grilled Mako with Spicy* Cilantro-Lime Chimichurri
- 3 lbs Mako Shark steaks, skin left on (this would probably also work with tuna or swordfish if you can’t find)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup soy (my brother said he used just enough to cover the bottom of the marinade pan, and then poured some more on top after he put the shark in the pan)
- 3 cloves fresh chopped garlic
- a few turns of fresh cracked pepper
- a glug or two of olive oil
- 1 cup of chopped scallions (we used green onion tops)
- 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped (roughly 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- juice and zest from 1 lime + zest from 1 lemon
- a few good glugs of olive oil (scant 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed* and diced
- 3-5 pinches of coarse salt (1-2 teaspoons)
Combine the brown sugar, soy, garlic, pepper, olive oil, scallions and cilantro, and marinate Mako steaks for about an hour, basting or turning halfway through to make sure all surfaces of the fish are in contact with the marinade.
While the marinade is working its magic, make the cilantro chimichurri. Combine cilantro, garlic, lemon and lime zest and juice, olive oil, jalapeno and salt in a food processor or blender and process until everything is finely chopped and blended (You may need to do this a little longer than you think if there are some cilantro stems in there). Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more jalapeno, lime, lemon juice, salt or oil as needed. You can also thin this out with a little water if you want it more liquid and don’t want to add more oil.
Grill fish on medium-high heat, 5-8 minutes on each side (depending on how thick your steaks are and how rare you like them). Serve topped with a dolop of the spicy chimichurri alongside some simply grilled summer squash and white onions.
*You can leave the jalapeno out if you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, but I highly recommend including it. If you’re on the fence, use only a small piece of the jalapeno instead of half. Live dangerously: spice things up. You won’t regret it.
…Unless you rub your eyes after cutting the pepper. Don’t do that.
In fact, please use gloves or wash your hands three or four times carefully with soap after handling the spicy pepper. You want to add a little heat to your plate, your palate, maybe even your life… but not to your eyeballs.