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Treasure Islands

by Kate Calamusa


Within the pages of the award-wining Roche: A Culinary Journey Through San Juan Island’s Illustrious Harbor cookbook, esteemed chef and previous NWY “Galley Gourmet” columnist William “Bill” Shaw of Roche Harbor Resort (rocheharbor.com/dining/), along with James Beard Award winning author James O. Fraioli of Culinary Cookbook Creations (culinarybookcreations.com), takes readers on a mouthwatering tour, sharing the recipes behind tried-and-true favorites from the Resort, plus other delicious dishes that celebrate local island ingredients. And they’ve shared with us a sampling fit for a pleasure cruise: Three, easy-to-prep appetizers highlighting the bounty of the sea and starring the likes of sweet Dungeness crab and summer spot prawns. (The cookbook is currently available exclusively at the Resort; be sure to snap up a copy next time you’re by!)

Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze

Using a rosemary stem as a skewer gives this simple appetizer an impressive presentation and imparts a rosemary aroma into the fresh mozzarella.

Serves 8

1 pint fresh mozzarella, packed in water and crafted into ⅓-ounce balls
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 pinch sea salt
16 fresh rosemary stems
16 cherry tomatoes
4 ounces fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (available at most markets)

Drain the water from the fresh mozzarella container. To the container, add the oil, red chili flakes, salt, pepper, and stir to combine the flavors. Cover with the lid and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Starting at the tip of the rosemary, cut the rosemary stems into 4-inch lengths using a slight angle to create a sharp woody tip. Grasp the leafy tip of the rosemary 1½ inches from the tip and strip the lower leaves in a downward direction with your thumb and index finger from the woody stem leaving the top 1½ inches of leaves intact.

Wash the tomatoes, then slice off the stem end, creating a flat surface so the tomato can stand up straight. Remove all of the basil leaves from the stems and cut the larger leaves in half to make a total of 16 leaves measuring at least 1½ inches in length.

Remove the seasoned mozzarella balls from the refrigerator, then drain and discard the oil. Wrap each mozzarella ball with a basil leaf, then skewer with the woody end of the rosemary stem through the top of the uncut end of the cherry tomato. Adjust the skewered cheese and tomato to allow the skewer to stand on a serving platter with the sliced tomato end resting on the platter and the leafy end of the rosemary pointing upward. Repeat the procedure with the remaining rosemary skewers.

At this point, the caprese skewers can be held refrigerated until ready to serve. When ready to serve, drizzle a small amount of balsamic glaze over the cheese and tomato.

Dungeness Crab Quesadilla

From the moment the Dungeness Crab Quesadilla was first tossed onto a buttered grill, it was an immediate success at Roche Harbor Resort. The buttery-golden exterior of the flour tortilla surrounding the warm, creamy crab, artichoke, and melted cheese is to die for.

Serves 6

½ cup fresh Dungeness crab meat, drained
½ cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts (un-marinated)
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
¼ cup peeled and sliced paper-thin yellow onion
1 cup mayonnaise       
6 (6-inch) flour tortillas, Gordita style
⅔ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
1 teaspoon minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons butter
12 sprigs fresh cilantro
¾ cup salsa, of your liking

In a medium bowl, combine the Dungeness crab, artichoke hearts, ½ cup of the parmesan cheese, yellow onion, and mayonnaise, and mix well. Reserve in the refrigerator until the next step.

Spread the flour tortillas over a clean work surface, then place ⅓ cup of the crab mixture in the center of each tortilla. Spread the crab mixture evenly over the surface of the tortilla followed by 2 teaspoons of parmesan, 2 tablespoons of cheddar, and 2 tablespoons of chopped tomato. Fold each filled tortilla in half. Place in a shallow dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Melt the butter and place the crab-filled tortilla in the buttered grill or pan for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden-brown. Turn and repeat. Place the crab quesadillas on a cutting board and cut in fourths.

Arrange the quesadilla triangles on a serving platter and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Serve with a side dish of your favorite salsa.

Prawn and Avocado Margarita Cocktail with Dungeness Crab

Image Courtesy of Charity Burggraaf

In the San Juan Islands, local spot prawns are a delicacy. They are fun to catch and enjoyed throughout the summer in a variety of recipes, including this one. This savory cocktail also features another island favorite—fresh Dungeness crab.

Makes 4 Servings

½ cup chopped celery
½ cup peeled and chopped onion
¼ cup peeled and chopped carrot
2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh garlic
1 lemon, cut into quarters and juiced
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups water
Prawn shells from the peeled prawns
1½ pounds uncooked fresh spot prawns, peeled, deveined, and tail removed (reserve the shells)
3 medium-sized avocados
1½ cups Fireworks Cocktail Sauce, recipe follows
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges
4 jalapeños
½ pound fresh Dungeness crab meat
12 sprigs cilantro

Fill a large bowl with ice and water and place a colander or metal spaghetti strainer in the bowl. (This is going to be a quick cooling station for the cooked prawns.)

In a large stockpot, combine the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, lemon quarters, lemon juice, white wine, water, and the prawn shells. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes to release the flavors into the liquid. Drop the prawns into the simmering water, and slowly simmer until the prawns begin to curl. Pull a sample prawn out of the water and slice it in half. If the center of the prawn is opaque or white, the prawns are perfect! Note: Do not overcook the prawns; cooking slowly and removing from the heat just as they are turning opaque maintains their natural moisture and delicate texture. Take the pot of cooked prawns off the stovetop and pour into the metal colander or spaghetti strainer over an open sink. Once the prawns are drained, submerge the strainer into the iced water, and let the prawns quickly cool by moving the strainer up and down repeatedly in the water. Once the prawns are chilled, rinse the prawns and refrigerate immediately

Slice the avocados in half, remove the pit, and remove the avocado meat by scraping a soup spoon between the skin and the meat of the avocado. Gently slice the avocado meat into 3/4-inch bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Place the chopped avocado, chilled cooked prawns, and cocktail sauce in a medium-sized bowl and gently stir (without smashing the avocado) until the cocktail sauce evenly coats the ingredients.

Using a 12-ounce chilled martini glass, fill the bottom of each glass with 1/4 cup of chopped celery, followed by 2 tablespoons of cocktail sauce. Divide the prawn, avocado, and cocktail sauce mixture evenly between four martini glasses.

Garnish each glass with a lemon and lime wedge that has an angled slice through the fruit but not through the peel. Attach the lemon and lime on the glass edge through the sliced fruit. Make the same angled slice halfway through the whole jalapeños and hang one onto the edge of each glass. Top the prawn mixture with fresh Dungeness crab meat and a few sprigs of cilantro. Serve immediately.

Fireworks Cocktail Sauce

Makes 2 cups

1½ cups Heinz tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure prepared horseradish (not sauce)
¼ cup wasabi powder
¼ cup water

In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, lemon juice, and horseradish.

In a separate bowl, blend the wasabi powder and water together until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the wasabi mixture to the ketchup mixture and combine thoroughly. Place in a nonreactive container and refrigerate overnight before using. Note: the wasabi and water mixture should always be combined separately for the best result. The Fireworks Cocktail Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 10 days.

Recipes printed with permission from the publisher; Roche: A Culinary Journey Through San Juan Island’s Illustrious Harbor (Shaw, William. Culinary Book Creations; 2020).


Need the complete 411? The San Juan Islands: A Boater’s Guidebook – 2nd Edition (bluelatitudepress.com)by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer is dialed up for you. Recently updated for its second edition, the in-depth cruising guide is chock full of detailed itineraries, charts, maps, anchoring locations and marinas to visit, as well as recommendations for shoreside explorations, as well. This definitive guidebook is written for mariners by mariners, as the Anacortes-based authors have spent years sailing in and around the San Juans aboard their Westsail 32 Om Shanti sailboat with their dog, Salty. As such, they’ve found a few breathtaking, yet off-the-beaten-path bays for boaters to enjoy in (relative) peace; head for one of these top picks from the pair, and for more, snag that guidebook in area marine supply shops, such as Fisheries Supply or on the pair’s website listed above.

Griffin Bay, San Juan Island
Just six miles south of the hustle and bustle of Friday Harbor, this large bay is often empty, despite room for hundreds of boats. This is really the only anchorage that offers easy boat access to the American Camp half of the San Juan Island National Historical Park. Excellent protection from summer southerly winds is offered, as well as a few places to land a dinghy and hike the miles of well-maintained trails—enjoy the mile and a half long sandy South Beach and become educated on the Pig War from the American Camp perspective. 

Westcott Bay, San Juan Island
While Garrison Bay offers the best access to the English Camp portion of the San Juan Island National Historical Park, it’s more often than not crammed with boats during the summer cruising season. Just around the corner is the much larger Westcott Bay, which offers the same great protection and anchoring as Garrison Bay, as well as access to the trail system and the beautiful historical park at English Camp. (Added bonus: Our friends at Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. are also right there; take your dinghy into the dock to enjoy some fresh oysters and cold beer or wine while overlooking the bay.)

Watmough Bay, Lopez Island
A relatively short trip from Anacortes, tucked into the southeastern corner of Lopez Island is the fjord-like Watmough Bay. Surrounded by undeveloped preserve lands, the lack of houses dotting the hillsides give a real feeling of remoteness and solitude. For hikers, a leg burning hike to the top of 450-foot Chadwick Hill offers expansive views of the bay, San Juan de Fuca Strait, and surrounding mountains. For those more inclined to lounge, a sandy beach at the head of the bay makes a nice place to stretch your legs or picnic off of the boat. Several public mooring buoys have also been installed for the protection of the eelgrass bottom and it’s also a good strategic location to wait for a favorable tide when heading south toward Seattle or west out to the Strait.

Cover courtesy of the publisher; San Juan Islands: A Boater’s Guidebook – 2nd Edition (Breeding, Shawn and Bansmer, Heather Blue Latitude Press; 2021).

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