Add flavor to fish with locally grown produce

Intro By Pam George | Photograph by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the September 2019 issue


When Clay Nelson was growing up in coastal Sussex County, fresh produce was abundant at this time of year. Just about everyone he knew had a garden. The Cape Henlopen High School graduate summered with his paternal grandparents in Oxford, Md., and he and his brother helped their grandmother in the kitchen, where she made a ratatouille with vegetables from her garden to serve with locally caught fish.

Today, Nelson takes a refined approach to the recipe at Eden, where he is the executive chef. “It’s a nice, light dish,” he says. “It sells well, and we serve it with halibut, a really popular fish — but any fish will work.”



As a teenager working at Fins Fish House & Raw Bar and Henlopen City Oyster House, Nelson got a crash course in seafood. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he joined Eden as a line cook.

For presentation purposes, the chef tops the ratatouille with microgreens. Dust the dish with your favorite herb if you want to impress guests. Or leave it unadorned. “There’s so much freshness in it that you don’t need a garnish,” he says.

Nelson likes to quickly sear fish filets over high heat, flip them and then finish cooking in a 450-degree oven. However, use your favorite preparation method: sear, grill or bake. Feel free to get creative. This take on ratatouille is also tasty with grilled chicken.


(serves 4)

4      yellow squash, cut into quarter-inch half-moon slices
4      zucchini, cut into quarter-inch half-moon slices
4      tomatoes, diced
6      cloves of garlic, minced
2      yellow onions, cut into quarter-inch half-moon slices
Salt and pepper to taste
¼     cup of olive oil
4      tablespoons of tomato paste
4      tablespoons of honey
3      tablespoons of sherry vinaigrette (recipe at right)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the first seven ingredients and roast for 10 minutes. Check to make sure the vegetables aren’t getting too mushy — unless you like them that way. Whisk together the tomato paste, honey and sherry vinaigrette. Add to the vegetables and roast for five minutes. Serve with the fish of your choice.

For the sherry vinaigrette

1      cup of finely chopped parsley
1      cup of finely chopped basil
¼     cup of thyme leaves
2      cups of sherry vinegar
4      cups of sunflower or vegetable oil
1      shallot, diced fine
2      cloves of garlic, minced
4      tablespoons of honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and shake well or blend. Keep any reserved vinaigrette in the fridge for use on salads or vegetables.