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From the sea to your grill

Barbecue seafood for tasty sandwich and pizza
Smoky, prosciutto-wrapped scallops are cooked on cedar planks on the barbecue and then served with an appealing pesto-flavoured mayo.

I love shellfish and I love my barbecue. Last week, I combined the two to cook up three inviting recipes. B.C. spot prawns, now available, are so succulent I cannot resist them.

Sometimes, I grill them whole, shell-on, brushed with a little olive oil, and peel and eat them topped with lemon juice and hot sauce. Other times, I'm a little more inventive, as in today's recipe, a variation of a Po' Boy sandwich.

Benny and Clovis Martin, owners of Martin Brothers Grocery in New Orleans, can lay claim to naming the sandwich in the 1920s. The story goes that they were sympathetic to striking streetcar workers and offered them free - or almost free - sandwiches.

Someone had to feed these "poor boys," they thought.

According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, a Po' Boy sandwich is typically made from French bread halved and filled with ingredients such as meat - often beef - and seafood, including oysters, shrimp and crawfish. The sandwich is dressed with items such as lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and, when made with beef, gravy.

In New Orleans, if seafood is used, it's often deep-fried, but I decided to grill the peeled, Cajunspiced spot prawns. They and my fillings were then stuffed in a crustyontheoutside, soft-in-the-middle bun. Very tasty!

I like to cook pizza on the barbecue, too, and did that in my second recipe.

Rather than make dough, I cheated and used Greekstyle pita - a pocketless variety that makes a great base for a thin-crust pizza.

For the topping, I was inspired by a pizza I had on the East Coast that featured fresh clams and cream sauce. That might sound odd to someone who hasn't tried it, but if you love clams, you'll love this pizza.

To make it, steam fresh clams in a little wine and garlic until just opened. Remove the meat from the shells and coarsely chop.

The liquid the clams were cooked in is reduced, whipping cream is added and that gets reduced, creating a sauce for the pizza.

The pitas are then grilled on one side, which is then topped with the sauce, clams, crisp bits of bacon and parmesan cheese before the pizza is finished off on the barbecue. Just before slicing and serving, the pizza is topped with fresh basil.

My last recipe is West Coast and Italian-inspired: cedar plank prosciutto-wrapped scallops with pesto mayonnaise.

Wrapping scallops in prosciutto offers a more intriguing taste and is a less-fatty alternative to bacon. Cooking scallops on a cedar plank adds a pleasing smoky taste prosciutto does not have. The pesto mayonnaise is easy to make and makes a delicious dip for the scallops, which, like the clam pizza above, could be served as an appetizer or main course.

Note: I asked Times Colonist beverage writer Garth Eichel what wine he would suggest serving with shellfish in the summe. He chose Averill Creek Pinot Gris 2009, produced in the Cowichan Valley.

"This Vancouver Island Pinot Gris has lots of bright tropical fruit flavour, stony minerality and refreshing acidity, which makes it an excellent match for local seafood," Eichel said, noting that it's available at most private liquor stores in Victoria for about $20.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 2-4 minutes Makes: 4 servings

For the remoulade sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 Tbsp finely chopped sweet mixed pickles

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard

1 small garlic, minced

? hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp Cajun spice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

For the prawns and sandwich

20 large (as you can get) spot prawns, or large shrimp

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 to 1 tsp Cajun spice, or to taste (see Note)

4 leaves of leaf lettuce

8 tomatoes slices

8 red onion slices

4 large crusty-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle buns, split and warmed

Carefully peel each prawn. Use a small paring knife to make a lengthwise slit along the back of each prawn. Pull out, or rinse out with cold water, any dark vein material. Pat prawns dry and set in a bowl.

Preheat your barbecue to medium-high. Toss the prawns with the oil and Cajun spice.

Set the prawns directly on the grill. Grill 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until just cooked through.

Spread the buns generously with the remoulade. Top bottom buns with lettuce, tomato and onion. Set on the prawns and top buns and serve.

Note: Cajun spice is sold in the bottled spice and herb aisle of most supermarkets. It often contains salt, which is why no salt was sprinkled on the prawns before cooking.


This clam-rich pizza is accented with a creamy sauce, bacon and cheese. If serving as a main course, pair it with a green or caesar salad.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: About 18 minutes

Makes: 6 servings as appetizer; 3 to 4 servings as main course

1 1/2 lbs fresh manila or other clams

1/3 cup white wine

1 medium garlic clove, minced

3 Greek-style (pocketless) pita bread (see Note)

? olive oil

1 cup whipping cream

4 thick strips bacon, diced, cooked crisply, and then drained well

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not the dried powdered stuff)

? freshly ground black pepper to taste

24 to 32 fresh basil leaves, torn if large

Rinse clams in cold water. Discard any that do not tightly shut when tapped, a sign they are dead and should not be eaten.

In a medium pot, bring the wine and garlic to a simmer. Add clams, cover, and cook until they just open.

Lift clams out of the pot and onto a plate. Cool clams to room temperature.

While clams cool, bring the clam-cooking liquid to a simmer and reduce to about 3 Tbsp. Add the whipping cream, return to a simmer, and reduce by about half, until a thickened sauce forms. Remove sauce from the heat and set aside.

Remove clam meat from the shells. Coarsely chop the meat and set in a bowl.

Preheat barbecue to medium-high. Brush pita bread very lightly with olive oil. Grill until lightly charred on one side. Transfer pita to a work surface, setting it grilled side up.

Turn the heat on the barbecue to medium-low.

Spread the grilled side of each pita with the cream sauce. Divide and top the sauce with clams and bacon; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Slide the pizzas back onto to the barbecue. Close the lid and cook 5 minutes, or until the bottoms of the pizzas are nicely coloured and the toppings heated thorough. Just before slicing, top the pizzas with fresh basil.

Note: Greek-style pita, often called souvlaki pita, is available in the deli section of most supermarkets.


This is a variation of a recipe that appears in my book, Everyone Can Cook Seafood. In that recipe, the scallops are baked in the oven. In this version, they are cooked on a cedar plank on the barbecue.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus plank soaking time

Cooking time: About 12 minutes

Makes: 4 servings as appetizer; 2 as main course

For the mayonnaise

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp pesto (homemade or store-bought)

? salt, white pepper and lemon juice to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

For the scallops

12 Qualicum Beach or other large sea scallops, patted dry

6 paper-thin slices proscuitto, each cut in half lengthwise

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

? splash hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

1 cedar plank, soaked in cold water at least an hour

? lemon slices, for garnish

Wrap a half piece of prosciutto around each scallop and set on a plate. Combine the oil, lemon juice and hot sauce in a small bowl.

Preheat barbecue to medium-high. Set the plank on the barbecue. Close the lid and heat the plank 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully set the scallops on the plank. Brush each wrapped scallop with the olive oil mixture.

Turn the heat underneath the scallops to medium-low.

Leave the other side set to medium high. Close the lid and cook scallops 6 to 8 minutes, or until just cooked through. (The scallops should feel slightly firm, not soft, a sign they are not cooked, and not very firm, a sign they are overcooked.) Serve scallops from the plank with the bowl of the pesto mayonnaise nearby for dipping or spooning onto plates.


My article last week on cream pie prompted Victoria reader Gisele Relitz to send me a note. In the story, I reminisce about Betty's Pies, a place in Minnesota I visited that serves awesome cream pie. Relitz said if I didn't feel like making it myself, I didn't have to go all the way to Minnesota to get a slice.

"I would bring your attention to the fact that you can get the best coconut cream pie right here in Victoria," Relitz wrote in an email.

That place is Esquimalt's Princess Mary Café, 453 Head St. There, Relitz said, you'll find pie-maker extraordinaire Marlene Davis, who for years worked at the Princess Mary Restaurant, which closed when the Dockside Green area was developed.

"She makes the best coconut pie and [her] other legendary pies there, both lemon and, now that summer is upon us, strawberry," Relitz said.

I'll have to give them a try!

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Eric Akis is the author of the bestselling Everyone Can Cook series of cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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