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Appetizers and Drinks
Sunset celebrations are always a Keys event. Especially in clearer, cooler weather, they're picture-postcard perfect with their vivid shades of violet, orange, mauve and pink, framed by swaying palm trees.
Life seems to stop as everyone toasts the sunset accompanied by a few snacks and sometimes more substantial appetizers. Mallory Square in Key West is the site of one of the most popular sunset celebrations. It has become more of a circus than anything else, with flame throwers, high-wire acts, arts and crafts booths, and bands playing — to name a few of the attractions. The Keys are a boating paradise, and boaters and their friends often leave the docks to enjoy a sunset cruise. Whether from the deck of a boat, an outdoor terrace, or the patio of a restaurant, it's a special treat to celebrate the sun's descent into the sea.
The drinks in the Keys are delicious and are as pretty as the sunsets. Rum has been the drink ingredient of choice ever since the cultivation of sugarcane and the distillation of "aguardiente," or devil's water. Sugar has been part of Caribbean life since the first sugarcane shoots were brought from the Canaries and planted in Cuba. The rough, killer rum of the sixteenth century became a refined and popular Cuban drink by the middle of the nineteenth century. During Prohibition, according to Fortune magazine, "Havana became the unofficial United States' saloon." Airline advertisements read: "Fly to Cuba today and bathe in Bacardi rum." The wide array of rum-based drinks and the varied uses of rum in Keys cooking reflect the popularity of this ambrosia. Today, there are many flavors of rum, from coconut to lemon to orange and more. These flavored rums add a new depth to the drinks in this section.
The Keys appetizers featured in this book are fun, delightful recipes that include such local specialties as Hawks Cay Peel-and-Eat Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce, Margaritaville's Conch Fritters, and The Fish House's Smoked Fish Dip. More substantial appetizers include Hogfish Ceviche, Island Grill Tuna Nachos, and Square Grouper's Asian-Style Fried Cracked Conch.
Bring a touch of the tropics into your living room. Enjoy these Keys appetizers and drinks and picture the palm trees and sunset for which they were created.
Andrea's Hogfish Ceviche
You can tell the fish is really fresh when you walk into the Eaton Street Fresh Seafood Market in Key West. There's no fish smell. Andrea Morgan did what many lawyers probably wish they could do: retire at a very young age and move to Key West. She and her husband, Sean Santelli, quickly realized that there were very few fresh seafood markets, despite the fact that they were surrounded by bountiful seas filled with some of the best seafood in the world. In fact, they said, 90 percent of the fish caught here is trekked out of Key West. Sean started fishing on his boat, the Outcast, and Andrea started cooking.
Hogfish is a beautifully white firm fish caught in deep water. The texture and flavor, when fresh, are amazing. It's best to assemble the salad just before it is served. Use the freshest fish you can find.
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1 orange, freshly squeezed (about 1 cup)
12 limes, freshly squeezed (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 pound fresh hogfish (grouper or mahimahi can be used)
1 red bell pepper, diced (about 2 cups)
1 small red onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 plum tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
4 celery stalks, with leaves, diced (about 2 cups)
1 small jalapeño pepper, diced
¾ teaspoon ground white pepper
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped Tortillas or crackers for dipping
Juice the orange and enough limes to measure 3 cups. Add the salt and hot pepper sauce to the juice and set aside.
Cut the hogfish into small, bite-size pieces and let marinate in the citrus juice while chopping the red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, celery, and jalapeño pepper. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Spoon the hogfish and all its liquid into the bowl of vegetables. Serve after the hogfish and vegetables have marinated for 30 minutes. The hogfish should be opaque white. Just before serving, stir in the white and black pepper and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with tortillas or crackers.
Jean Pierre's Ceviche
Jean Pierre and Diane LeJeune retired from the celebrated Gourmet Diner in North Miami Beach and moved to Islamorada. Jean Pierre didn't retire from cooking, though. He built a large outdoor kitchen with a barbecue, stove, refrigerator, and sink all facing the bay with magnificent views. He still delights in sharing his cooking with friends and family.
His friend Captain Dixon brings him fresh mahimahi and grouper from his daily fishing trips. Jean Pierre says these deepwater, firm, white fish are excellent for ceviche, and he finds that his ceviche is best the next day.
* * *
1 pound mahimahi or grouper
1 red bell pepper
1 sweet onion (Vidalia, red onion), finely sliced
2 medium jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cups key lime juice Large pinch fleur de sel
1 bunch cilantro, chopped leaves only
2 drops Scotch bonnet pepper sauce
Cut the mahimahi into bite-size pieces. Peel the red bell pepper with a potato peeler and cut into julienne strips about 2 inches long and Y inch thick.
Place the fish, red bell pepper, and remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix well. Refrigerate for 8 hours before serving.
Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip
Andrea Morgan and Sean Santelli, from the Eaton Street Fish Market, take advantage of the local fresh seafood in preparing their dishes. Florida stone crabs are world famous and a favorite of tourists flocking to the area. Andrea lovingly warmed this dip and served it to us.
This dip can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. It's best served heated. Also, it makes a great stuffing for fish.
* * *
¾ cup drained canned artichoke hearts, diced
¾ cup lightly sautéed spinach, well drained and chopped (from 10 cups fresh spinach)
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ pound freshly picked stone crab meat (from approximately 2 pounds stone crabs in their shell)*
¾ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Stir together the artichoke hearts, chopped fresh spinach, and mayonnaise. Add the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses. Gently stir in the stone crab meat, breaking up any large chunks. Add the salt and pepper. Place in a shallow, oven-proof dish. Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano cheese on top. Place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until warm throughout and slightly bubbly. Serve with water crackers.
The Fish House Smoked Fish Dip
Doug Prew, part owner with CJ Berwick of The Fish House in Key Largo, smokes his own fish very slowly for many hours over buttonwood chips. This wood is very hard and ideal for smoking because it burns slowly and releases generous quantities of heat. His smoked fish has become so popular that people now bring him their fresh-caught fish to smoke. Here's his smoked fish dip.
* * *
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
½ cup softened cream cheese Several drops Worcestershire sauce Several drops hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons seeded, finely chopped jalapeño pepper
4 ounces smoked fish
3 tablespoons sour cream
Mix the onion, celery, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, jalapeño pepper, and smoked fish together, breaking up the fish as you stir. Add half the sour cream and taste. Add more sour cream if needed.
Gilbert's Smoked Fish Spread
Gilbert's Resort and Marina and their Tiki Bar have been part of the Key Largo scene since 1903. Guy Gilbert paid twenty-five dollars for a piece of waterfront property and set up a fishing camp. It's grown into a laid-back resort where they say shoes are optional. Reinhard and Karina Schaupp came from Germany to the Keys to work and decided to buy the resort in 1999. They convinced German restaurateurs Susi and Georg Schu to join them. Georg is the chef and Susi runs the front of the house.
Georg smokes his own fish over hickory chips and juniper berries. He uses mahimahi. You can use any type of smoked fish, except salmon, for this recipe.
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2 bacon rashers
2 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons capers, drained
½ cup diced onion
½ pound smoked mahimahi Crackers or chips for dipping
Cook the bacon until it is crisp. Crumble and add it to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until it resembles a smooth pâté. Serve with crackers or chips.
Seafood and Spinach Dip
Bentley's Restaurant in Islamorada is a family-friendly spot. It's casual but stylish, and the food and service are worth a stop. Chef/owner John Malocsay gave me his favorite seafood dip from the menu. It's a perfect way to start a meal.
It can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before placing in the oven. Sprinkle the fried onions on just before serving.
* * *
2 tablespoons butter, divided use
½ tablespoon flour
½ cup half-and-half
¾ cup thawed, frozen, chopped spinach, drained
¾ cup marinated artichokes, rinsed and drained
½ cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ pound peeled shrimp, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon mayonnaise Several drops hot pepper sauce
¼ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
½ cup canned fried onions Tortilla chips for dipping
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. When melted, add the flour and stir to combine. Add the half-and-half and cook until the sauce is thickened. Make sure the spinach is well drained, and add it to the sauce with the artichoke hearts. Cook to heat through. Set aside.
Heat the second tablespoon of butter in a second skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for another minute. Add the lemon juice and the salt and pepper to taste. Add the Old Bay seasoning and stir to combine the flavors. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach mixture. Add the mayonnaise and hot pepper sauce. Place in an oven-proof dish. (Can be made ahead to this point.) Sprinkle the cheese on top. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the dip in the oven and heat until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle the fried onions on top and serve.
Senor Frijoles Salsa
Senor Frijoles has been serving Mexican food in Key Largo since 1979. A margarita made with fresh lime juice, tortilla chips, and their homemade salsa are perfect companions for enjoying a spectacular Keys sunset at their restaurant facing the Gulf of Mexico.
Senor Frijoles uses giardiniera, an Italian condiment of mixed pickled vegetables. You can find it bottled in some supermarkets. Look for pickled vegetables containing cauliflower florets, celery, red bell pepper, olives, and carrots, or a combination of firm pickled vegetables.
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1 ½ cups drained giardiniera vegetables, liquid reserved ¼ cup chopped onion ½ cup diced tomato 2 tablespoons seeded and chopped jalapeño pepper 2 tablespoons key lime juice Tortilla chips for dipping
Coarsely chop the giardiniera vegetables and place in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of reserved pickling liquid, the chopped onion, diced tomato, jalapeño pepper, and key lime juice. Mix well. Serve with tortilla chips.
Alma's Jumbo Scallop Escabeche
Juicy jumbo scallops are sweet and perfect for this dish. They're quickly seared and then marinated in lime juice, white wine, and olive oil. Chef Tony Glitz from Alma Restaurant at Hawks Cay Resort shared his recipe. He told me that one of the reasons he was drawn to the Keys from his native Ontario, Canada, is the availability of fresh shellfish. He loves creating recipes inspired by the location of Hawks Cay in the midst of the best fishing grounds in the Keys, and this one is a palate pleaser.
Escabeche is cooked fish or sometimes meat that is marinated in an acidic sauce, whereas ceviche is raw fish marinated in an acidic sauce.
* * *
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
12 jumbo or large scallops
½ cup carrots, cut into julienne strips (about ¼ inch thick, 2 inches long)
1 cup red onion, cut into julienne strips (about ¼ inch thick, 2 inches long)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add the scallops and sear for 1 minute. Turn and sear the second side for 1 minute. Add the carrots, onion, thyme, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine, lime juice, vinegar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove from the heat and place in a small bowl, making sure the scallops are covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
To serve, stand the scallops on end and slice them as thinly as possible to create thin rounds. Place in a circle on 4 plates and spoon a little marinade over them. Place the carrots and onion in the center of the scallop circles and serve.
Ask any of the locals their favorite spots and they often mention small hole-in-the-wall cafés. That's how I found the City Hall Café. It's tucked into a row of buildings near the Islamorada City Hall. Owner John Bedell gave me one of his most popular dishes.
* * *
½ cup flour
1 pound peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 tablespoon milk
¾ cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
1/3 cup melted butter
½ cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce or any wing sauce Canola oil for frying
4 celery sticks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup blue cheese dressing
Place the flour in a bowl and add the shrimp. Using a fork to move them, coat the shrimp with the flour. Lightly beat the egg and milk together in a second bowl. Dip the shrimp in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumbs, having placed them in a third bowl, making sure all sides of the shrimp are coated with the bread crumbs. Mix the butter and hot sauce together in a large bowl.
Pour the canola oil into a large saucepan or deep fryer. Heat to 365ºF. Add the shrimp and fry for about 2 to 3 minutes or until they are golden. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Add them to the butter sauce and toss well. Serve the shrimp with the celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.
Tom's Peel-and-Eat Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce
Charlotte Miller, the chef at Tom's Harbor House at Hawks Cay Resort, told me she loves to make her own cocktail sauce to go with the sweet, pink Keys shrimp. Her method makes this an easy dish. Have some friends over, cover your table with newspaper, and pile on the shrimp. Imagine you are sitting on the marina in back of Tom's Harbor House, watching the fishing boats as they come in. Charlotte's love of fresh seafood is enhanced by her relationship with the local fishing captains who fish out of the Hawks Cay Marina at her restaurant's doorstep.
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
* * *
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon chili paste (hot pepper sauce can be substituted)
4 teaspoons key lime juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
* * *
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 pound large shrimp
Fill the bottom of a steamer with water and add the Old Bay seasoning. Bring to a boil. Place a steaming basket over the water. The bottom of the basket should not touch the water. Rinse the shrimp and place them in the basket. Cover with a lid and steam for 5 minutes. Serve with the cocktail sauce.
Easy-Cook Shrimp with Tomato Key Lime Cocktail Sauce
Bill Gaiser, owner of the Carriage Trade Garden in Key West, taught me his secret to cooking perfect shrimp every time. I was delighted with the method and I have used it to boil shrimp ever since. Bill has now retired. Here's his fail-safe recipe for cooked shrimp and a simple sauce.
* * *
2 pounds peeled shrimp
1 tablespoon key lime or lemon juice
Rinse the shrimp and place them in a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with enough cold water to completely cover the shrimp. Add the key lime juice. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a simmer with bubbles just starting around the edge of the pot; the water will start to turn white. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit for 1 minute. Drain the shrimp and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. Drain.
Tomato Key Lime Cocktail Sauce
* * *
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon key lime or lemon juice
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and taste for seasoning, adding more Worcestershire or hot pepper sauce if desired. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with the shrimp. Makes about ½ cup sauce.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Flavors of the Florida Keys"
Copyright © 2010 Linda Gassenheimer.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Appetizers and Drinks,
Introduction to Appetizers and Drinks,
Introduction to Breakfast,
Introduction to Soups,
Meat and Poultry Introduction,
Types of Shellfish and Fish,
Hints on Cooking Fish,
Meat and Poultry,
Salads, Sandwiches, and Side Dishes,
Introduction to Salads, Sandwiches, and Side Dishes,
Key Lime Desserts,
Introduction to Key Lime Desserts,
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