I’m finally catching my breath after the first hectic work week following our tranquil vacation on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Before I get caught up any further in the chaos of our family’s routine, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about our experience visiting the lovely Golden Isles.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the area, the Golden Isles include four barrier islands located about halfway between Savannah, GA. and Jacksonville, FL: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island.
I’ve visited the isles since I was a little girl, when my grandparents rented a cottage every summer at Sea Island. Later as a college student, my friends and I piled into my cousin’s big antique Ford Fairline convertible and headed to the more happening beach at St. Simons every chance we got. These days my little family rents a vacation home on Jekyll, home of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and a paradise for bike riding, shell seeking, and boogie boarding.
Though Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, isn’t part of the Golden Isles, it’s well worth the hour-long drive from Jekyll south to St. Mary’s to catch the ferry to Cumberland. Cumberland is a world apart – I love its bands of wild horses, wide, deserted beaches, wandering paths lined by gnarled live oaks and palmetto bushes, and the ruins of the once great mansion Dungeness. I love sharing the magic of the place with my children – my youngest called Cumberland a “kingdom of trees.” Check out the photo essay below to find out why.
Back in our Jekyll Island vacation rental, I stumbled upon a recipe in a magazine for a Brazilian seafood soup called Moqueca. A thick stew made with shrimp, crab, squid, or a mix of all three, Moqueca traditionally contains an African palm oil called dende oil. Though the kitchen in our rented house was surprisingly well equipped, I certainly didn’t have any dende oil, or many of the other ingredients the recipe called for. What I did have was wild Georgia shrimp, some fresh vegetables, and a cajun spice rub that was a gift from my cousin, Connor Rankin, a chef at St. Simon’s Half Shell restaurant and master of Cider Brined Pork Loin.
After tinkering with the recipe, I was able to put something on the table that certainly wasn’t Moqueca but was pure Georgia instead. Because the deep orange tint of the cajun-spiced broth reminded me of the fiery sunsets over the marsh at Jekyll Creek, I decide to call this one Golden Isles Shrimp Stew. Enjoy!
- 2 Tablespoons Georgia Olive Farms or other good extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-2 Tablespoons Crankin Spice Rubs cajun mix, or other good cajun rub
- 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- 3 cups of tomatoes (two medium tomatoes diced, or about 30 cherry tomatoes, quartered)
- 32 oz. carton seafood stock (I like Kitchen Basics, or if you're feeling ambitious, make your own)
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 lbs medium wild Georgia shrimp shelled, peeled, and deveined
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cups of chopped parsley
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add the seasoning, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and seafood stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook, about 10 minutes.
- Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and parsley.