Maggie’s Seafood has been a community staple for nearly two decades, as a vendor at various local farmers’ markets and as a direct purveyor of high-quality, wild-caught products. Owners Maggie and Capt. Gary Balch offer everything from individual fish to dishes such as salmon patties, bisques, chowders and spreads, all of which are prepared by chef Doug Vogel.
Q: Have you been interested in food your whole life?
A: Growing up in northeastern New York, I have great memories of picking fresh berries in my backyard and apples from the orchard. My father used to bring home paper sacks full of fresh produce, and I would often wake up on Sunday mornings to the smells of local butter and wild mushrooms. I worked at a small Italian eatery at age 15, where I washed dishes and offered help where it was needed. I made my way to Florida in 2000 and started working at the Alley Cat Café, where honed my skills as a cook. I also worked at the Helmsley Sandcastle, Mattison’s and Canvas Café. In 2009, I became a chef instructor for Aprons Cooking School at Publix, which I still do.
Q: What are some of your main culinary inspirations?
A: I’m inspired by individuals who craft their own brands, whether at breweries, bakeries or pizzerias; those are the people who keep America going strong. I was given a book by Tom Colicchio called Think Like a Chef early in my career, and he has been a big inspiration of mine. I was lucky enough to work with Tom on two occasions with the Aprons program and have that book signed by him. I will never forget that.
Q: Why is high-quality seafood so important to you?
A: I’m a big proponent of local fishing, but with that in mind, I like fish from many regions of the world, as long as they are fished properly and cost-effective. There is no way I will pay $28 a pound for halibut from the Pacific when I can have wonderful cobia for $15 a pound that is locally caught in our waters.
Q: What is one of the most rewarding aspects of your career?
A: To see the faces and hear the stories of people I cook for or teach, and to help them be better cooks. I was blessed to be put on this earth to make people happy and feed their souls.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: I cook! But I also enjoy spending time with my partner. We both like to travel and are always on the lookout for interesting food stops along the way. I bike, swim, go to the beach and relax, but I never really stop thinking about food.
CORIANDER-DUSTED FAROE ISLAND SALMON WITH SALAD (serves four)
1½ pounds Maggie’s wild Faroe Island salmon
3 tablespoons ground coriander
Kosher salt, as needed
Grape seed oil
3 ripe seasonal market peaches, skinned and diced
1 large fennel fronds, julienned
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup granulated sugar
For candied peppercorn pistachios:
1 ounce unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup shelled pistachios
2 teaspoons cracked peppercorn mix
Cut the salmon into four filets and dust the top of each one with ground coriander and kosher salt. Cover the bottom of a sauté or cast-iron pan with grape seed oil. Place the filets in the pan with the seasoned side down, and cook on medium-high heat until a crust forms. Cook the salmon until it is medium-rare to medium, and set aside. For the salad, toss the tomatoes, fennel and peaches together into a bowl, and set aside. Pour vinegar and sugar in a small heavy gauge pot, and reduce to a fourth of the starting amount before cooling it down and setting it aside. For the candied pistachio peppercorns, place butter in a nonstick pan, and when it begins to melt, add the powdered sugar and stir it with a spatula. When the mixture browns and caramelizes, turn off the heat. Toss the pistachios and peppercorns with a pinch of salt, and lay the mixture on parchment paper until they cool. Then, chop them into small pieces. To assemble the dish, place the salmon on a plate, top with the salad, and drizzle with vinegar and candied peppercorn pistachios.
Maggie’s Seafood is at Sarasota Farmers’ Market, Venice Farmers’ Market, Englewood Farmers’ Market and Phillippi Farmhouse Market. 1-866-908-0002; maggiesseafood.com.