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G Force

Cooking up a shore thing

(Steve Sullivan/File)
By Glenn Yoder
Globe Staff / June 29, 2011

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Q. Can shore food, which is often about the experience as much as the meal, be effectively made at home?

A. Oh yeah. Because what it’s really about is simplicity. It’s about the ingredients. Even when I was in fine dining, my cooking was ingredients-driven. The book itself, I call it “The Joy of Cooking for the Beach.’’ The idea is, go shopping and buy what’s best, whether it’s seafood or produce or whatever, and I’ll show you how to cook it and how to do it simply.

Q. What’s your ideal summer meal?

A. The epitome of summer to me is corn on the cob and grilled fish or grilled steak. Pretty much when you have great ingredients and it’s a hot summer day and you’re being casual, the job really is to not screw it up, to let the ingredients shine, to enjoy the food as it is, like nature made it.

Q. What’s the key to finding the right ingredients?

A. It’s sniffing it out, having a source. Not sitting at home, making a list, saying, “Oh, tonight we’re going to have swordfish,’’ and then going out and buying swordfish. It’s like, “Tonight we’re going to grill,’’ and then go to the fish market and pick what’s best. Ask the guy behind the counter what just came in and if it’s swordfish, I’ll show you a recipe for it. If it’s striped bass, I’ll do the same thing. That’s really the key, the shopping.

Q. Where should I shop for the best seafood?

A. Farm stands, docks if you’re near the beach – there’s all kinds of places other than the supermarket. If you’re in the city, there’s farmers’ markets all season long. Go to the fish market and talk to the guys, get to know them. Say, “Hey, what’s good today?’’ You know, if you’re in the city of Boston, it’s the seafood mecca of the United States in terms of what’s available.

Q. You’ve cooked and eaten all over the world. How does shore food differ from culture to culture?

A. For the most part, when you go up and down the East Coast, the spices change. New England is like hardly any spice, and then you get down to the mid-Atlantic and they’re starting to use Old Bay [seasoning] and a little more assertive spices to the plain seafood. You get to the Caribbean and you use things like jerk and sauces and brighter, bolder, spicier flavors. But really, the idea of how the food is cooked is pretty much the same. It’s what’s available that day. Just because you’re in New England doesn’t mean you don’t have to season your food.

Q. What simple recipe would you recommend?

A. A lot of the stuff I did for summer were simple cold sauces like the cucumber sauce and Brazilian relish that just take a little dicing and putting some ingredients together. They’re delicious, they’re refreshing, they go great with all kinds of grilled fish. There’s about six fish I’d recommend you use with cucumber sauce, and the recipe would take you about 20 minutes to make and it’s outstandingly delicious.

Q. Are there any recipes for more experienced cooks?

A. I do have some advanced recipes. I have bouillabaisse and one section is “Flash in the Pan,’’ where you’re roasting whole fish and they require a little more attention. For the most part, the recipes kind of go with the whole genre of “don’t mess it up.’’ Our job is to make it taste the way it is supposed to taste. Just take a few simple ingredients and you’ve got a great dinner. Don’t stay up all night worrying about what you’re cooking the next day. It’s easy to make great food if you don’t over-think it.

Interview was edited and condensed. Glenn Yoder can be reached at gyoder@boston.com.

WHO
Jasper White
WHAT
The chef-entrepreneur spent over 25 years in fine dining before returning to his New Jersey shore roots with his Summer Shack restaurants. “In fine dining, I built my reputation doing kind of upscale American, New England food. After a while, I felt like I was really pushing hard to make these great dishes, when really you just need to roll up your sleeves,’’ he says. In May, with simple recipes in mind, White published his fourth book, “The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food.’’