Wonderful pairings abound in the food world. Fruit and cheese. Chocolate and, well, fruit or cheese. Wine and pretty much everything. But what about seafood and vegetables? It sounds like a no-brainer, but when you take a piece of the freshest, right-off-the-boat fish and prepare it with colorful, seasonal vegetables, it’s incredibly easy to create culinary bliss.
But what if you need a little more cooking inspiration than that? Then just look to the seasons. Spring inspires visions of delicate asparagus paired with sweet crab. In summer, juicy tomatoes can accompany the hearty flakiness of cod. During fall, try sweet butternut squash with salty shrimp. Each pairing strikes the perfect balance of flavors while still bringing a unique charm to your seasonal table.
The pairing possibilities are limitless. Let’s explore our favorite seafood and vegetable pairings that come together in perfect harmony.
Crab + Asparagus
Create a wonderfully fresh dish that embodies the essence of spring by combining tender and grassy asparagus with the subtle richness of freshly shucked crab. Roasting or grilling the vegetable concentrates its natural sweetness. At the same time, the crabmeat adds complexity: mix sliced and blanched asparagus with shucked crab meat, lemon zest, and your favorite pasta for a light dinner.
Are you looking for appetizer ideas instead? Then combine Alaskan snow crab leg meat with blanched asparagus or place a dollop of Dungeness crab meat atop the velvety cream of asparagus soup that can be eaten warm or chilled.
Wine pairing: Asparagus poses a challenge in wine pairing due to its distinctive flavors, but with its fuller body and slightly oily texture as compared to many other white wines, pinot gris can stand up to them. However, pinot gris still offers dry and crisp flavors that harmonize well with the crab.
Cod + Tomatoes
When it comes to cooking fish and seafood, tomatoes are incredibly versatile and pair beautifully with all kinds of ingredients. However, tomatoes’ bright acidity and vibrant flavor make them an outstanding complement to cod’s mild and flaky texture. Picture a meaty piece of cod poached in a light tomato sauce infused with sautéed garlic, onions, and fresh herbs, or add some crumbled feta cheese and a splash of Ouzo to achieve the Greek-inspired flavors of Cod Baked in a Tomato and Feta Sauce. Or go Italian with an even simpler dish of Cod with Cherry Tomatoes and Pine Nuts that features a cod fillet on a bed of blistered cherry tomatoes that provide a flavorful base, finished with a sprinkling of slivered basil and pine nuts.
Wine pairing: Rosé blends the robustness of red wine with the vibrancy of white wine to complement a wide range of flavors. The wine’s citrus notes complement the mild flavors of the cod. Plus, the wine’s high acidity level matches the same quality as the tomatoes, ensuring a vibrant, well-rounded pairing that doesn’t fall flat.
Salmon + Spinach
The buttery flavor of salmon pairs naturally with spinach’s earthy and slightly bitter taste. A successful combination is as simple as pan-seared or grilled salmon fillets with spinach sautéed in garlic and olive oil or poached salmon with a side of spinach. Add freshly cooked or smoked salmon to a pot of orzo, spinach, and feta for another Greek-inspired idea. But if you’re looking for something lighter, consider adding a few thinly sliced pieces of smoked salmon to a spinach and goat cheese salad for a refreshing, nutritious, and satisfying lunch.
Wine pairing: In recent years, pinot noir has become an iconic pairing with salmon. The wine’s delicate red fruit and earthy flavors harmonize with the rich and slightly sweet taste of salmon. The moderate tannins also add depth to the pairing and blend with the herbaceous notes of spinach.
Scallops + Brussels Sprouts
Plump and meaty scallops are an underrated gem of weeknight meals. They cook quickly, and their sweet flavor balances Brussels sprouts’ slightly bitter flavors. But the two ingredients are similar in that cooking them at high heat brings out their natural nuttiness. Unite them in one cohesive dish by incorporating some bacon, a natural salty and savory partner of both ingredients, and then finish with a squeeze of lemon. You could, for example, sear the scallops until golden brown and then place them on a bed of Brussels sprouts sautéed in crispy bacon.
Wine pairing: With their earthy and sulfur notes, Brussels sprouts can pose a challenge in wine pairing. However, the acidity of chardonnay provides a refreshing contrast to the richness and slight bitterness of the vegetables. At the same time, the wine’s buttery and creamy characteristics match the tender quality of the scallops.
Sea Bass + Summer Squash
Are you on the hunt for the ultimate fast summer meal? Then grab some summer squash and Chilean sea bass and experience an extraordinary synergy when their mild flavors and tender textures come together on your plate. Sea bass fillets cook up incredibly fast, especially when using the foolproof fish en papillote cooking method. And throwing in some other summer vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and herbs like thyme or oregano, creates a side dish reminiscent of ratatouille. Or go simpler still and coat both ingredients in olive oil, throw them on the grill, and then finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Wine pairing: Sauvignon blanc is an excellent pairing for dishes featuring sea bass and zucchini due to its aromatic profile, good acidity, and clean finish. The wine’s high citrus notes make it a natural match for the mild flavor of both sea bass and fresh zucchini. Plus, sauvignon blanc can stand up to various preparations, from creamy sauces to simple pan-seared dishes.
Tuna + Avocado
Meaty tuna in all its many forms — including fresh and canned in olive oil or water — partners great with avocado’s creamy, buttery texture. Of course, it’s a classic sushi combination, and you can also add some sliced avocado to a poke bowl. Or stuff avocado halves with tuna salad, go non-traditional and toss some cubes in a Niçoise salad, or combine diced avocado with seared tuna, cherry tomatoes, and a citrus dressing.
Avocado on its own makes for a simple appetizer. Simply halve and pit them, then trickle olive oil and balsamic vinegar where the pit was.
Wine pairing: Sparkling wine all the way! Its effervescence both cleanses the palate and provides a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors. The wine enlivens the meaty, umami notes of tuna and complements avocado’s creamy, buttery qualities. The wine also prevents the flavors from overpowering the palate.
Shrimp + Winter Squash
There’s a reason shrimp is often the protein of choice in a Thai-style pumpkin curry. The sweet and nutty flavors of winter squash pair wonderfully with shrimp because the crustaceans lean sweet but have an extra element of saltiness. Add some winter squash puree to a shrimp bisque and observe how the squash’s sweetness balances the shrimp’s salty notes. Roasting cubes of winter squash improves the vegetable’s texture while also further enhancing its sweetness. Combine them with sautéed wild blue artisan shrimp, garlic, and fresh herbs for a flavorful and comforting pasta dish, or elevate your next butternut squash risotto with some tiny wild Oregon pink shrimp added and warmed through just before serving.
Wine pairing: The brown-sugar sweetness of butternut squash goes well with the caramel-like qualities of an oak-aged chardonnay, and the bright citrus notes perfectly complement the shrimp. The wine’s body and mouthfeel, reminiscent of butter, also pairs well both ingredients.