It is that time of year! Sports and more sports. We love to invite friends over to watch some of our favorite teams and small bite appetizers are the best foods to have on hand. Folks love them. Here are a few of our big hits.
To make this ahead: cook the meatballs and prepare the sauce separately. Refrigerate separately until serving time. Then reheat the sauce, add the meatballs and cook until the meatballs are hot. Pour into a serving bowl.
For the Meatballs
1 lb organic ground chicken or pork
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup almond flour
For the Sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
4 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon Gochujang (red chili paste)
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
To make the meatballs:
Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Using a cookie scoop form into 21-22 one inch balls and saute in peanut oil over medium heat until cooked through and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
To make the sauce:
Combine the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces, chili paste, water, sugar and arrowroot in a small saucepan. Reserve the scallions.
Whisk until combined and bring to a boil.
Simmer for five minutes until thickened.
Add the cooked meatballs and scallions to the thickened sauce and stir to coat. Heat for a few minutes. Pour into a shallow serving dish.
Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and bake before serving.
15 large mushrooms cleaned and stems removed
1 scallion, minced
1 small garlic, grated
1 pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Hollow out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stems for another use.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a glass baking dish and put the dish in the oven while the oven preheats.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stuff the caps with the filling and place in the hot prepared pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.Place on a serving platter.
If the Mushrooms have been in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature for an hour before cooking.
They may need to be baked a little longer.
Mini Crab Puffs with Remoulade Sauce
The crab puffs can be baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated just before game time.
1/2 pound fresh crab meat
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crab seasoning (recommended Old Bay)
2 tablespoons almond flour or all purpose flour
Combine all the ingredients except the crab in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then fold in the crab meat.
Cover the bowl and chill the mixture until ready to bake.
Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a cookie scoop, fill 15 openings to the top of the muffin cup with the crab mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden brown.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to a serving platter.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a serving dish. Whisk until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Some of the US’s best blue crab is hand-picked here along the Gulf Coast, mostly gathered from the Bayou La Batre vicinity. With the volume of crab needed to supply our local seafood markets, multiple small crab pickers along the coast are used when gathering the freshest crab meat. Crabs are readily available along the Gulf coast as soon as the water is warm, so the season usually runs from March to November.
Over fishing has made blue crab difficult to come by in many areas of the US.
According to the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation, some rivers, estuaries and parts of upper Mobile Bay near the delta are closed to the use of crab traps. These spots serve as a nursery, giving small crabs a chance to grow before they move out into Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound, where they can be harvested. Other areas are closed to crabbing to protect the diamondback terrapin–turtles with concentric, diamond-shaped markings–which can get caught in the crab traps and drown.
Established in 2012, G.U.L.F. is the sustainable seafood program under the Audubon Nature Institute. G.U.L.F. works with the seafood supply chain, from harvesters to retailers, fishery management agencies, and consumers to ensure that fisheries in our region thrive for the benefit of future generations. Through education and outreach, restaurant engagement, fishery improvement projects, and third-party assessment and certification, G.U.L.F. pledges to promote sustainable practices, foster a community invested in Gulf fisheries, and create a more stable and confident fishing industry. The G.U.L.F. Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification is a regionalized model measuring the responsible practices for the sustainable harvest of our vibrant Gulf of Mexico seafood. The Louisiana blue crab fishery was the first to go through the process and receive the G.U.L.F. RFM certification. Global Trust, an independent assessment body specializing in the certification of fisheries, carried out the evaluation and awarded the certification.
Fisheries certified under the umbrella of G.U.L.F. will gain credibility in a marketplace with ever-increasing demands for sustainability verification. In recent years, large retailers, such as Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Winn-Dixie and Publix have developed strict sourcing policies that require sustainability assurances before purchasing seafood. This certification demonstrates that Louisiana blue crab is responsibly harvested for sustainable use, thereby safeguarding both the seafood itself and the industry that relies on it.
I think crab cakes should taste like crab and not bread. So, I only use breadcrumbs on the outside of the cakes to give them a coating and not in the filling. Of course, this makes them more fragile, so I bake them instead of frying them – which is so much more healthy for us.
1 pound fresh lump crab
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Old Bay (seafood) seasoning
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Remove any cartilage from the crabmeat. Do not break up the lumps.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce, dry mustard and salt.
Add the diced bell pepper, celery and onion. Mix gently. Fold in the crab meat.
Chill the mixture, covered, for several hours in the refrigerator.
To make the remoulade sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients, cover and store the sauce in the refrigerator until serving time.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the crab cakes:
Spread about 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs on a large sheet of waxed paper.
Divide the crab mixture into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball with your hands and place on the breadcrumbs.
Press down gently on each ball to form a cake and cover the entire surface with breadcrumbs. Add more breadcrumbs as needed.
Lightly oil the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the breaded crab cakes on the baking sheet.
Put the cookie sheet into the oven and bake until the crab cakes are golden brown on each side, about 20 minutes.
Turn the crab cakes over half way through. Use a wide spatula and turn the cakes gently since they are fragile/
Serve with the Remoulade Sauce.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn the crab cakes over, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until nicely browned.
The following salads go well with crab cakes.
Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad
2 large plum (Roma) tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Alternate the tomato and cucumber slices on a serving, Sprinkle the feta, shallots and oregano together.
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Southwestern Corn Salad
Make this salad a day ahead so the ingredients can marinate.
6 ears fresh corn on the cob
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano peppers, chopped
Remove the corn from the cobs and place into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well.
Cover and chill overnight. Stir well before serving.
I live in a climate that is hot about nine months out of the year, so winter time, especially January, is a great time of the year to bake. I can get some extra baking in and save the baked goods in the freezer for when it gets hotter. The recipe for one of our favorite breakfast scones is below.
Soup is another favorite and while tomatoes are not in season, Roma Tomatoes are plentiful and are great for cooking. Salads are hearty at this time of year and chicken salad is a great option. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat entrees are very comforting when there is a chill in the air. Try some of the recipes below to warm you up.
Makes 8 scones
2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
One 7 oz tube almond paste
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half (cream and milk)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut the almond paste and the butter into the dry ingredients until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the almonds.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg and almond extract and add to the flour mixture. With a fork gradually stir the dough until the mixture comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar.
Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1 inch apart.
Bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.
Roasted Red Pepper and Egg Wrap
1 large, jarred roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 medium tortilla wraps
Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.
In a measuring cup beat the eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Add the peppers and mix.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir and cook until the eggs are set.
Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Divide the cheese in half and sprinkle over each tortilla. Divide the egg mixture in half and place on top of the cheese. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
Roll up each tortilla tightly, cut in half and serve.
Winter Tomato Soup
If you don’t like peeling tomatoes as much as I do, here is a technique I use to get around it. I usually purchase fresh Roma tomatoes for cooking and put them in the freezer when I get home from shopping. One day before I am going to cook with them, I place the amount I need in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, the skins slip right off and are ready for the pot.
6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups organic broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: add ½ cup half & half to make a creamy version
Basil for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, cover and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the the fresh and canned tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper to taste and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes with the cover ajar. Remove the pot from the heat.
With an immersion blender or in a processor, puree the soup. If adding cream, add it here and warm the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve hot garnished with basil.
Open-Faced Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Slow-poaching the chicken breasts keeps them extra moist.
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ of a green bell pepper finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, lightly toasted
In a large saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water. Bring to a very slow simmer and cook over low heat until white throughout, about 18-20 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice.
In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and chicken until evenly coated.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Spread some of the chicken salad onto the toasted bread slices and top with tomato slices to serve.
This is a hearty entree and only needs one vegetable as a side. flounder comes in large sizes here on the gulf and mine weighed 14 oz. Substitute an equal amount of smaller fillets.
1 tablespoon each of minced onion, celery and bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1/2 pound lump crab meat
12-14 oz flounder fillet or fillets
Chopped fresh parsley
In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the crab. Then, gently fold in the crab. Place the flounder in a baking dish coated with olive oil.
Spoon the crab mixture evenly over the fillet or fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.
Bake at 400°F for 20-24 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
Southwest Stuffed Peppers
January is a good time to try different ethnic cuisines. They can spice up some typical winter produce. While I find an occasional taco or quesadilla tasty, I am generally not a fan of Southwest recipes. This recipe turned out quite well, though, and is a nice change from regular stuffed peppers. It is also good served with a green salad with ranch dressing.
1 large green bell pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 scallion, chopped
½ cup of corn kernels
¼ cup salsa
½ cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves in a small baking dish.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the ground beef until brown.
Turn off the heat and add the scallion, corn and salsa; stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pepper shells. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Drain the water from the baking dish. Sprinkle the peppers evenly with the shredded cheese. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts.
Stuffing fish or shrimp with crabmeat has always been one of my favorite combinations. Having fresh seafood is crucial to the success of the dish. You can add any number of ingredients to the stuffing but I like to keep it simple so the taste of the crab comes through.
Creamed spinach is also a favorite but it often is heavy in calories. My lightened up version has all the taste of the original but is much better for you. And, what is more natural than pasta to go with the shrimp. Rice is also a good option. Orzo gives you both.
Crab Stuffed Shrimp
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the baking dish
- 1 large shallot, minced
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Two drops hot sauce
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 lb. backfin crabmeat, drained and picked over for shells
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.), butterflied
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Make the stuffing:
In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes (don’t brown).
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, panko breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
Stir in the cooled shallot mixture. Add the crab and mix gently but thoroughly.
Stuff the shrimp:
Arrange the butterflied shrimp in the baking dish and mound a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture onto each shrimp.
Bake until the shrimp are cooked through, the crabmeat is hot, and the top of the stuffing is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- 2-10 oz pkgs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 lbs. fresh spinach
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in small saucepan and add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach and heat.
Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cheese.
Heat and stir until the cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup red onion, chopped
- Pinch red chili flakes
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat orzo pasta
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/1/2 cups chicken broth
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and chili flakes and cook until the onions soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the orzo and white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste and 1 cup water and bring to a simmer.
Cook, stirring often, until the orzo is tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the Parmesan, butter and parsley.
Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.
Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery
- 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
- 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
- 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
- 1 teaspoon grated onion
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch salt
- Pinch ground cayenne pepper
- Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths
Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.
Scrape into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.
Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls
- 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed
- ½ cup shelled, fresh lump crab meat
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
- 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
- ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the stuffing
Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.
For the salmon rolls
Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.
Refrigerate until time to grill.
Preheat the grill to medium hot.
Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.
Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.
To cook indoors
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..
Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce
- 4 oz spaghetti
- 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh ground black pepper
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.
Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.
Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad
- 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
- 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
- 2 scallions, finely diced
- 2 cups arugula
- Italian vinaigrette
Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately
Peach Frozen Yogurt
Makes about 4 1/2 cups
- 1 pound peaches, peeled
- 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Garnish with chopped mint leaves
Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.
(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.
Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.
A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets, gingerbread architecture, water sports, and for “the” freshest locally caught fish. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but to a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the streets are lit with vibrant sidewalk cafes that lure in passersby’s with the delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviable temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful sea backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.
As a guide to the restaurant and seafood landscape, Paul Menta can tell you all there is to know about the area. A professional chef, community advocate, and pro kite surfer, Paul is the perfect person to tell you about the best secret dining spots in Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all that Key West has to offer.
His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish, is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home cooks, have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, oysters, and lobster that come to the docks each day. As Paul describes it,” the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant”. Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety, thus avoiding over fishing a specific species.
Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. The fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem. “Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants,” says Paul.
If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, Paul suggests visiting The Stone Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, but they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. Housed in a resort built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, home to The Stone Crab, which has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood that the restaurant catches themselves. Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stone Crab!
For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Paul recommends Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, to take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around. Whether you are an avid deep-sea fisherman or fisher-woman or this is your first time, Captain Moe will take you on a great adventure, not just a boat ride. From sailfish to tuna to grouper, they will lead you to the right spot.
To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where Paul himself will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood. “Being a chef and commercial fisherman I can tell you there is no better teacher of how to use, care for, store, cook and eat a product than a fishermen. They have ideas and techniques that most chefs would die for….but they have to ask…..so we spread the word to them,” says Paul.
When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get at home. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and, as of late, the Lion Fish. Paul’s favorite? The Hogfish. This fish is caught by spear fishing, which is a fun challenge to try. Speared by yourself or someone else, Paul suggests serving the fish whole and he affectionately calls it the “Key West Turkey”, because it can be stuffed with lobster, onions, and herbs.
While you may have heard of Key West’s conch fritters, which is fried conch meat that is actually native to the Caribbean, Paul prefers to make grouper fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty. Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions, carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning made by the Key West Spice Company and it contains celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is a simple preparation, but fresh grouper doesn’t need overpowering flavors. Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them in a sandwich or as an appetizer sitting by the beautiful water. You will find his recipe below:
- 1 pound grouper
- 1/2 cup onions
- 1/2 cup carrots
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons Key Lime juice
- 1/2 cup flour
- Coconut oil, for frying
Finely dice the onions and carrots and mix with the grouper.
Add the Key West seafood seasoning.
In a medium bowl mix together the egg yolk and the key lime juice.
Add the flour and mix until a batter forms.
Use a tablespoon to make balls and fry the grouper balls in coconut oil or bake them in the oven on a sheet tray until brown. Serve with your favorite dip or sauce.
To make the grouper mixture into a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, form the mixture into larger patties or rounds and cook as described above.
Key West Inspired: Strawberry Salad with Coconut Milk Dressing
Since it is strawberry season in Florida now, I decided to make a Key West inspired strawberry salad to add to this post. I think the recipe I created is a great example of the type of local flavors, ingredients and good eating that you will find in Key West. This salad is also a great accompaniment to some wonderful grilled Key West Pink Shrimp.
- One head Butter or Bibb Lettuce
- 1 pint of fresh strawberries
- 1 ripe avocado
- Half of a large or one small cucumber, unpeeled
- Lime juice
- 3/4 cup regular coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons coconut flavored Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
To make the dressing:
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the salad.
For the salad:
Wash and dry the lettuce. Place the lettuce cups on a serving plate. Leave space on the serving plate for a small bowl that can hold the dressing.
Remove the strawberry leaves, wash the strawberries and place them on paper towels to dry.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and cut each half into one inch pieces.
Cut the peeled avocado into one inch chunks and squeeze lime juice over them to prevent browning while you make the salad.
Arrange the strawberries, cucumber pieces and avocado attractively in the lettuce cups. Pour the Coconut dressing into the bowl on the serving plate.
Guests can help themselves to a lettuce cup and drizzle some of the dressing over the salad.
Fall is the time when we feel we can get back to spending some time cooking. Luckily, the cooler weather also brings a whole new group of seasonal produce to cook with, from apples and pears to hearty greens, root vegetables and squash. Make the most of what you find at the markets this autumn and try some new recipes to get you excited again about cooking.
Nothing says autumn more than a sweet tart apple. Apples can be used in dishes that are both sweet and savory. From stuffed turkey and pork to salads to applesauce and apple pie.
Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples
Serve with a spinach salad.
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced, peeled or unpeeled apples
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup apple cider or white wine
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Cut pork tenderloin into 8 slices and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
Combine the spice ingredients and sprinkle the mixture evenly over all sides of the pork slices. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the pork slices to the pan; cook 4 minutes on each side. Remove pork from the pan to a platter and keep warm. If all the pork does not fit in the pan at one time, you will need to brown the pork in two batches.
Melt the remaining butter in the pan; swirl to coat. Add the apple slices, shallots, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 4 minutes or until the apples start to brown. Add apple cider or wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the apples are crisp-tender. Stir in thyme leaves. Serve.
Pears are great for adding a touch of sweetness to savory dishes. Try serving a roasted pork roast or leg of lamb with caramelized pears. Not only does it add flavor, but the enzymes in the pears actually tenderize the meat.
Roasted Pears and Red Onions
Excellent as a side dish for roasted pork or turkey.
- 4 semi-ripe medium pears, quartered and cored
- 1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary, plus extra leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss pears and onion with butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange pears and onion in a single layer (they should fit snugly in the dish) and top with rosemary.
Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until the pears begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the pears are golden brown on the bottom and tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes more. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves before serving.
Hard-skinned squash varieties are usually yellow to deep-orange, with a flesh that turns creamy and sweet when cooked. Out of the hundreds of varieties, each has its own unique flavor and ideal uses. Dark green and orange-skinned acorn squash has a tender golden interior that makes a sweet, creamy purée; butternut squash makes a great filling for pasta; delicata, with its thin, edible skin, is delicious sliced and sautéed in a little butter and roasted spaghetti squash has a light flavor and texture that’s perfect topped with pesto.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 2 medium acorn squashes (about 2 pounds), halved and seeded
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef or turkey
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup bulgur wheat
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
Heat oil in a 4-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl using a slotted spoon, keeping as much cooking liquid in the pot as possible.
Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining salt and the bulgur and stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and stir in the reserved beef, the raisins, parsley and pine nuts.
Scrape out the baked squashes, forming 1/4-inch-thick bowls and fold flesh into the bulgur mixture. Divide mixture among squash halves and return to the oven. Bake until warmed through and tops are browned, 12 to 14 minutes.
Parsnips and Carrots
Carrots and parsnips are earthy root vegetables. They’re especially good for roasting, but they also have a place in salads and soups. While similar in taste parsnips are sweeter than carrots, especially when roasted. Heirloom carrots come in a rainbow of colors, from white to yellow to purple. They are delicious grated raw with a honey dressing, roasted with orange zest and maple syrup or shredded and baked into cakes and breads.
Root Vegetable Gratin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
- 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound red potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and cayenne.
In another bowl, combine cheese and garlic.
Layer half the butternut squash in the baking dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Layer parsnips and carrots over the squash and season with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese, followed by the onion and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese. Top with potatoes, remaining butternut squash and seasoning mix.
Pour chicken broth over top. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Combine panko and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 45 seconds or until lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Fennel seed is perhaps best known for its licorice-scented seeds, used to flavor Italian sausage. But the crunchy vegetable bulb itself has a delicious, delicate anise flavor and the feathery fronds add flavor to salads and soups. It is delicious roasted and blends well with root vegetables and potatoes.
Italian Crab and Fennel Stew
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 large bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups fish or chicken stock
- 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
- 2 lbs. pre-cooked king or snow crab legs, defrosted if frozen and cut into 3″ pieces
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
- 2 bunches roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
- Italian Country bread, for serving
Heat oil in an 8 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, shallots, fennel, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 1–2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, paprika and bay leaves; cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes.
Add stock and tomatoes; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 15–20 minutes.
Stir in crab; cook until shells are bright red and the crab meat is tender, 2–3 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Stir in basil and parsley and serve with the bread.