Summer Seafood Recipes From Chef Kathy Gunst

Jun 26, 2014

It’s officially summer. For many people, including Here & Now’s resident chef Kathy Gunst, that means fish. And not just any fish — summer fish, including lobsters, clams and summer flounder.

As she tells host Jeremy Hobson, she’s also always thinking about sustainable fish — “seafood caught or farmed in ways that ensure a supply of seafood long into the future.” (More info on making sustainable seafood choices here.)

Kathy shares tips for cooking fish and four of her favorite summer seafood recipes:

Summer Clams with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Basil

(View/print a PDF of all of the seafood recipes)

Kathy’s Note: Clams are roasted with spicy chorizo sausage with onions, tomatoes, basil, garlic and white wine. If it’s very hot, you can finish off the fish on a grill (placing all the ingredients in a thick piece of foil) instead of heating up the oven in your hot summer kitchen. Serve with crusty bread or on top of or alongside pasta.

Serves 2 to 4


1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

16 littleneck or cherrystone clams

1 large ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips

1 cup dry white wine


Preheat oven to 450 degrees or heat the grill to 400 degrees.

In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the chorizo and onion and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the clams and stir to coat them with the onions and chorizo. Remove from heat.  Scatter the tomatoes, garlic and basil on top and pour the wine over everything stirring to mix.

If using an outdoor grill place the mixture in several layers of foil and seal tightly. Place the clams in the oven (or on the grill) and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring them once or twice, or until the clam shells are open. Serve hot.

Lobster Roll

Kathy’s Note: Keep it simple. That’s my motto when it comes to lobster and particularly lobster rolls. Sure you can add buttery lettuce leaves to this sandwich, but it’s all about that sweet, summery lobster meat.

Makes 2 generous sandwiches


About 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon minced scallion, optional

3 tablespoon chopped fresh celery (optional) and leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cooked lobster meat (from about two 1-pound lobsters)

1 tablespoon butter

Two hot dog rolls or 3-inch piece brushy baguette


In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, scallions, celery and pepper. Fold in the lobster meat.

In a skillet melt the butter over moderately-low heat. When the butter begins to sizzle add the hot dog rolls (or baguette crust side up) and cook 2 minutes and then flip to give the roll a nice golden brown color. Spoon the lobster salad into the roll and serve.

Sautéed Summer Sole or Flounder

Kathy’s Note: This is a very simple recipe that you can use with virtually any mild, flaky white fish.

Serves 2 to 4


1/2 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound wild local filet of sole, lemon sole, flounder or other mild white fish

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 lemon, washed and cut into paper thin slices with the seeds removed

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/4 cup fresh summer parsley, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place the flour on a plate and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Very lightly dredge the fish filets in the seasoned flour.

In a large, heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil and the butter over high heat. When the butter is almost sizzling, add a few filets of fish (being careful not to crowd the skillet) and sauté 3 minutes. Carefully flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove and place on a plate and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining fish, adding more oil as needed.

Add the lemon slices and capers to the skillet and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes, or until the lemon begins to turn a pale golden. Pour over the fish and sprinkle with the parsley.

Tuna Tacos with Avocado Cream

Kathy’s Note: In Mexico, fresh fish is often grilled with lime juice, peppers, and cilantro and served on warm flour or corn tortillas, accompanied by fresh salsa, and avocado slices or guacamole. You can use virtually any type of fish for these tacos, but a thick fish like tuna or bluefish is ideal. Shrimp and lobster are also popular throughout the Baja Peninsula; you can substitute 1 pound cooked lobster or shrimp.

If you prepare the salsa and avocado cream ahead, you can put these tacos together in no time. This is a great dish for a summer barbecue or any outdoor event.

Serves 8


For the fresh summer salsa:

1 cup finely chopped sweet green pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 large or 2 small limes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, or splash of hot pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

A few grindings of black pepper

For the avocado cream:

3 just-ripe avocados, pitted

9 tablespoons heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Generous grinding of black pepper

For the fish and tortillas:

Two 1-pound fresh tuna steaks, about 3/4-inch thick*

2 teaspoons olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

A generous grinding of black pepper

8 fresh large flour tortillas (7 inches wide) or 8 to 16 fresh small corn tortillas (about 4 ½ inches wide)

8 romaine lettuce leaves, whole or coarsely chopped

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes

About ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

*Or two 1-pound filets of bluefish, or large shrimp, peeled and deveined


To make the salsa, gently mix all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning; add more salt, pepper, and jalapeno if needed. (The salsa should be made no more than 2 hours before serving. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.)

To make the avocado cream, place the avocados in the container of a food processor or blender and blend. Add the cream, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth. (The avocado cream should be made no more than 2 hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.)

To prepare the fish, preheat a gas or charcoal grill until red hot, about 300 to 350 degrees. Alternately, preheat the oven broiler with a rack set about 4 inches from the heat.

Place the tuna in a non-reactive bowl and add oil, lime juice, and a generous sprinkling of coarse pepper to coat all sides. Don’t let the tuna sit around with the lime juice on it for more than 15 minutes or the citrus will cause it to “cook.”

Grill or broil the tuna for 3 minutes. Turn the tuna over and grill for another 3 to 4 minutes, until medium-rare, and still pinkish inside. (If you like tuna well-done, grill it for a total of 9 to 10 minutes.)  Remove from heat. Add tortillas to the hot grill and grill for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until hot.

Slice the tuna and place on a serving plate. Serve with the warm tortillas, and bowls of the avocado cream, the salsa, lime wedges, lettuce leaves, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro leaves and let everyone roll their own tortillas. (Alternately, spread the warm tortillas with avocado cream and a spoonful of salsa. Add the lettuce leaves. Top with tuna slices, cilantro, chopped tomato, and the juice of a lime wedge on top. Roll the tortillas and serve.)


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It's HERE AND NOW. And if you're not hungry right now, you probably will be as soon as this segment is over because our resident chef Kathy Gunst is back with us in the studio. And we're talking fish today. Kathy, great to see you.

KATHY GUNST: Hi Jeremy great to see it - not just fish.

HOBSON: Not just fish?

GUNST: Summer fish.

HOBSON: What's the difference?

GUNST: Well, it's interesting. You don't tend to think of something like fish and seafood as being seasonal. But, in fact, it very much is. You know how in the spring we have shad roe and soft-shell crabs - those are fish that are only available in the spring? Well, in the summer, there are certain fish that are absolutely only here in the summer. For example, on the East Coast, we have something so fabulous called summer flounder. It's actually fluke. It's extremely delicate. It is such a wonderful fish. You only really get it during the summer months. And so therefore, it becomes a fish that you associate with summer. Lobsters we get year-round, but they are really plentiful in the summer. And prices are going down because the weather's good and fishermen can have easier access to it. So there's all kinds of fish that really we have access to during these wonderful summer months, when we're outdoors, we're at the beach and we want to be eating this kind of food.

HOBSON: And by the way, when you mentioned lobsters being low-priced - you live in Maine, we should say, where you could...

GUNST: This is true.

HOBSON: Probably get them for what - $2 a pound?

GUNST: Well, close - like $3 a pound. But, you know, in the winter, the prices for lobster are so high because conditions are just so tough. So much of fish and seafood, right now, has to do with what's available and what we ask for. So here's the story. People, you hear the word sustainability a lot.


GUNST: And sustainable fish, so I wrote to Sheila Bowman at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She's in charge of something called Seafood Watch. I said, Sheila, what defines a sustainable fish? And this is what she told me. She said it's seafood caught or farmed in ways that ensure a supply of seafood long into the future.

HOBSON: OK, so give us an example.

GUNST: Well, I asked, as well. She immediately said lobster. And she didn't know I lived in Maine, OK? Certainly flounder - things like mackerel are becoming very big, sardines, mullet, certain types of tuna, skipjack tuna, something called wreckfish. There's all kinds of new fish that we're seeing in the markets now. And it's not because these are species that are brand-new. It's because we have overfished cod. We have overfished haddock. We have overfished the kind of fish that our parents grew up with and that we took for granted and assumed would be around forever. Well, guess what? Nothing lasts forever. So a lot of chefs now are cooking and having special festivals for what they call trash fish.

HOBSON: Trash fish?

GUNST: And unfortunate name, I think. This is the fish that everybody used to throw back into the ocean because it was considered trash. So I asked two chefs I know, tell me about the trash fish. Evan Mallett, who's the chef of the Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire - he is just crazed over this, absolutely loved it - went on and on about pollock and something called spiny dogfish, which sounded really scary. And he said fishermen hate it because they get stuck in their gillnets and its dorsal spine can rip open the brawniest forearm like it was made of crepe paper. And he said chefs don't know what to do with it. But marinated and grilled, its fabulous. So we have to kind of expand our horizons of what kind of fish we want and forget about the name. No one used to eat monkfish because it was ugly. But then Julia Child let us know that monkfish was the poor man's lobster.

HOBSON: Well, and Chilean sea bass - that's what we call it. But, in fact, it used to be the Patagonian toothfish.

GUNST: It's all in a name. It's all in a name. If the name sounds bad, it's probably sustainable and good for you.

HOBSON: OK, what have you got here for me though? This is what I want to know.

GUNST: OK, so for me, a New Englander - I grew up on the East Coast - clams are summer. This is a very simple - and you're looking at it probably thinking that doesn't look that simple, but it is. It's a seafood stew. It's got chorizo, which is a Spanish, slightly-spicy sausage, a little bit of onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes from the garden, fresh basil and then clams and white wine. And you just cook it on the stovetop and there's a big crusty bread there for you dunk into those juices.

HOBSON: Oh, OK. All right but first I'm, actually, going to just have...

GUNST: Go for it.

HOBSON: I just dipped into the sauce little bit.

GUNST: Literally, it takes you about 10 or 15 minutes to cook this. And it's right in one pan. I have it in my cast-iron pan. You could cook it on the grill if you did not heat up your kitchen in the summer. This is a terrific dish. Clams are abundant in the summer. A lot of...

HOBSON: What do you do? You just throw the clams in there, whole and then they open up?

GUNST: Yeah and you put the white wine on and you crank the heat and you just cook it until the clams open up and release their clam juice. And they intermingle with the white wine and the garlic and the onions and that fabulous chorizo. That was the clam shell.

HOBSON: That was a clamshell falling. I'm thinking my friends back at home in Illinois are saying clams - where am I supposed to get those right now (laughter)?

GUNST: Yeah, right. You know, most people want to eat fried clams in the summer. But I think this'll give fried clams a good go.

HOBSON: OK, I'm just going - so other people beautiful can get a full flavor for what we have right here in front of us. I just - I'm going to - I'm pulling off a little piece of baguette here that Kathy has brought in.

GUNST: Crusty, warm baguette. He's dipping it in the juice.

HOBSON: I'm just going to dip it into the sauce here.

GUNST: And you could put that over pasta. But for a summer meal, it's just perfect on its own. And as tomatoes come in, there's a ton of basil in the garden just starting. I threw a lot of that in. You can really have fun with this. You could add bits of tuna to that. You could add farmed mussels, another sustainable fish to that. You could really create a very complex fish stew. But this is super simple. And a 10 minute dinner for the summer sounding good?

HOBSON: Ten minutes you think? You could do this in 10?

GUNST: Ten minutes. I don't think, I know. I just made it for you. Depends how long you want to let the onions go. But it is a super quick stew. Very complex flavors for a quick stew.

HOBSON: OK, what are some of your other favorite summer dishes?

GUNST: All right. So well, the classic - I'm going back to lobster - is lobster roll. My motto is when it comes to lobster - keep it simple. So a little mayonnaise, and you don't have to make your own, fresh lemon juice mixed into the mayonnaise is going to make it taste homemade. A little bit of fresh chives, maybe a chopped scallion, celery maybe, maybe not - you like the crunch. But celery leaves, you know, the top part you throw away, fabulous in lobster salad, fabulous. And then of course it has to be on a hot dog roll. You must toast it...

HOBSON: A real hot dog roll, or one of those New England Fenway hot dog rolls that look like a piece of bread that you folded in half?

GUNST: Is there really a difference?


HOBSON: Yes there is.

GUNST: Really?

HOBSON: Yes, yes.

GUNST: Explain it to me. It's white dough. Anyway, you toast the roll - whatever version you have - or you can do it on a baguette and get fancy. That's it. Let me tell you about another one.


GUNST: That summer flounder or summer soul, filet of soul. One of my absolute favorites, very delicate. I like to do it almost like a piccata style, like a chicken piccata. Drench it very lightly in a seasoned flour, heat olive oil - going to get really hot - three minutes on each side, cut a lemon paper thin, throw that in, throw in some capers, done.

HOBSON: Well, see now three minutes on each side - when you say that, I think the trick to not screwing up fish is don't overcook it, right?

GUNST: Not only don't overcook it, but don't play with it. Put it in the pan three minutes - I'm not talking about oh, let's check it. Oh, is it done? Is it a little brown? Not, you know, leave it alone. Three minutes, flip it. Let it get really brown on that side because flounder and soul are fairly thin. Summer flounder, which is fluke as we just learned, is a bit thicker. But three minutes, perfect cooking. When you're grilling, a lot of people do tend to overcook it. If your fish is starting to fall apart on the grill, you're overdoing it.

HOBSON: Take it off.

GUNST: Take it off. When it's undercooked - and you can always put it back on. Take it off when it's overcooked and you have to get some fancy sauces.

HOBSON: And what about the absolute simplicity of putting a piece of swordfish with just some olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon maybe on the grill?

GUNST: I'm with you, I'm with you. A lot of people fish all summer. Whole fish are really wonderful on the grill. You want to gut it and scale it and then you can lay paper thin lemon slices and fresh herbs in there and salt and olive oil and throw that on the grill for about 15 minutes. And boy, a whole fresh caught summer fish, heaven. You know, nobody wants to be in the kitchen. And you want to be eating fresh fish. You want to be eating fish that's from where you are. So find out what's in your fish markets. Find out what's sustainable. You can go on to the Monterey Bay aquarium website. We can give you a link where you can learn more about sustainability and what it means and how to find sustainable fish in your area.

HOBSON: Kathy Gunst, HERE AND NOW's resident chef. Thanks as always for coming in.

GUNST: Thanks, Jeremy.

HOBSON: And in addition to those links, we've also got recipes. That's the most important thing and photos at our website Check them out. HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Jeremy Hobson.


I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.