The Edgy Veggie

Local harvest: New cookbooks put Florida on the plate


The Sunshine State is on a plate in 2 new cookbooks

Main Dish

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

This is one of the recipes Teena Borek of Teena’s Pride shares with her Miami-Dade CSA members. The rustic salad makes a great vegetarian lunch.

Panzanella Croutons

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic

6 cups crustless day-old bread, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Tomato Salad

2 pounds assorted ripe heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

1/4 cup minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups trimmed arugula

Fresh Parmesan, for garnish

To make the croutons: Drain tomatoes in a colander while preparing rest of ingredients. Place a large sheet pan in the oven and heat to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until it foams. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add bread cubes and toss to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer cubes to the heated baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese and toss again to melt cheese. Bake, shaking the pan occasionally, about 10 minutes, until croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft on the inside.

To make the salad: Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, tarragon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add croutons and toss. Divide among 4 plates. Top each serving with arugula. With a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan over the salad. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans” (Florida, $28).

Per serving: 562 calories (67 percent from fat), 43 g fat (13 g saturated, 24 g monounsaturated), 37 mg cholesterol, 9.4 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 4.3 g fiber, 984 mg sodium.


Caramelized Plantain Soup with Smoked Ham & Sour Cream

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 very ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

Pinch each salt, sugar and cayenne

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and finely diced

1 large carrot, trimmed, peeled and finely diced

1 sweet onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced

1 cup fresh orange juice

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup cooked ham, diced or shredded

1/2 cup sour cream

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium high. Add the plantains, season with the pinches of salt, sugar and cayenne, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the turmeric, leeks, carrot, onion, garlic and chile pepper. Cook until the vegetables are nicely caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the orange juice and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a high simmer and cook the soup for about 12 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the cream, turn up the heat and reduce the soup for about 5 minutes, until it reaches a creamy consistency. Remove from the heat, and puree with a hand blender. Season to taste. Stir in the ham. Serve garnished with sour cream. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from “My Key West Kitchen: Recipe and Stories” (Kyle, $29.95).

Per serving: 905 calories (68 percent from fat), 70 g fat (37 g saturated, 25 g monounsaturated), 210 mg cholesterol, 15.8 g protein, 59 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 702 mg sodium.

More information

Main Dish

Whole Roasted Snapper with Anchovy Butter

The Van Akens write that this dish was inspired by one served by Philip Mascia, chef-owner of the Port of Call.

2-pound whole snapper, gutted and scaled

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup white wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 5 fresh thyme sprigs

2 to 3 bay leaves

1 lemon, sliced

1 medium red onion, sliced

1 small bulb fennel, cored and sliced

Anchovy Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for at least 30 minutes

6 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil (preferably wild-caught), rinsed well and chopped into a near paste

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large pan with a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the fish.

Place the fish on the foil. With a sharp knife, make slashes in the flesh 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart, almost to the bones. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and pour the wine around it. Drizzle some of the olive oil on the fish and the rest into the wine. Scatter the thyme and bay leaves around the fish and add a few lemon slices (save the rest for garnish), the onion and fennel.

Fold up the foil and seal the edges to create a packet. Roast the packet of fish in the pan for 30 to 35 minutes, until cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, combine the softened butter, anchovies, pepper and lemon juice; mash together thoroughly with the back of a fork.

Unwrap the fish at the table and serve with anchovy butter on the side. Makes 2 servings.

Source: Adapted from “My Key West Kitchen: Recipe and Stories” (Kyle, $29.95).

Per serving: 663 calories (71 percent from fat), 52 g fat (30 g saturated, 14 g monounsaturated), 206 mg cholesterol, 46 g protein, 0.4 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 153 mg sodium.


Cajun-Style Boiled Peanuts

2 1/2 pounds green peanuts

1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half

1 green bell pepper, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon cayenne

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, fresh or pickled

2 tablespoons rock salt

2 tablespoons spicy crab boil (such as Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s)

1 lemon, sliced

Combine peanuts, onion, bell pepper, garlic, pepper flakes, cayenne, jalapeños, rock salt, crab boil and lemon in a large stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a vigorous simmer.

Simmer for 3 hours, or until peanuts are soft. Cool completely in liquid. Rewarm before serving, if desired. Makes 2 1/2 pounds.

Source: Adapted from “Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans” (Florida, $28).

Per 1-ounce serving: 90 calories (60 percent from fat), 6 g fat (1 g saturated, 3 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 4 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 210 mg sodium.

Meet the authors

“Field to Feast” authors Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson speak about their book at 8 p.m. Friday at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. The free program is co-sponsored by Slow Food Miami; 305-442-4408.

Our growing season is just beginning, but two new books are already serving up a delicious Florida harvest.

In Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans, Pam Brandon and Katie Farmand, the mother-daughter team behind Edible Orlando, Heather McPherson, food editor of The Orlando Sentinel, road-trip the state in pursuit of Florida flavors. In My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories, father-son chefs Norman and Justin Van Aken take the regional concept literally to the end of the road.

Not only did these family projects lovingly capture the state’s culinary riches, they also produced a crop of baby girls: 6-month-old Hazel, daughter of Katie and her husband, Jason, and 6-week-old Audrey Quinn, daughter of Justin and his wife, Lourdes.

Brandon, Farmand and McPherson took a divide-and-conquer approach to their 50,000-square-mile home state.

“We each took a region to get to know really well,” says Farmand, who was responsible for North Florida.

The co-authors did extensive research, but as with any road trip, much of the book’s pleasure comes from discoveries made along the way.

“I never think of Florida being a peanut producer, but old farms have been doing it for a long time,” says Farmand.

“Boiled peanuts — that was a home run,” says Brandon. “I found them fresh at the market and they’re my new favorite party food.”

Along with the simple, spicy recipe for Cajun-Style Boiled Peanuts, Field to Feast gives you a back story about peanut-producing Holland Farms, a farm-fresh photograph by Gary Bogdon and a locator map. Each farmer, chef and artisan — 25 per region — gets the same treatment.

South Floridians will find familiar names like Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, Redland Mediterranean Organics’ Hani Khouri, Robert Moehling of Robert is Here and Teena Borek of Teena’s Pride.

They’ll also discover new friends like North Florida’s Smith Family Farm “in Hastings, the potato capital of Florida,” where the Smiths “have been on the same land for six generations.”

To eat your way through Florida and Field to Feast, Farmand suggests dedicating a little bit of your weekly food bill to “something locally grown — kohlrabi, callaloo — new things you’ve never tried before.”

A lot of miles, a lot of crops and a lot of heart went into the book. The experience, says Brandon, “made us appreciate the labor and the love and the intelligence you have to have to be a farmer.”

‘My Key West Kitchen’

You may know Norman Van Aken, executive chef at the Miami Culinary Institute’s elegant Tuyo, as a James Beard Award winner who helped put South Florida on the culinary map. But in 1971, he was a 19-year-old kid from Illinois who landed in Key West after a 26-hour road trip, blasting Eric Clapton all the way.

This was before Jimmy Buffett, before all the T-shirt shops. “There was no traffic, no noise,” recalls Van Aken. The island’s Caribbean, Cuban and Southern influences, “their histories and their food cultures were still there and completely visible.”

And edible. “The taste of caramelized plantains — so good!”

Van Aken earned his culinary stripes cooking at “honest mom-and-pop places” as well as upscale Louie’s Backyard. It was there in 1987, he says, that he became obsessed with “how to put Florida on the plate.”

Combining the disparate cultures Key West had to offer and the culinary influences he had embraced — “Escoffier, Troisgros, Paul Prudhomme, Alice Waters, James Beard and Maida Heater” — that plate soon held fresh grilled snapper prepared with coconut, Key lime and habanero peppers.

All those influences and flavors dance off the pages of My Key West Kitchen, along with recollections of all-night parties, local dives and inspiring eats. Van Aken’s recipes and Penny de los Santos’ photos let you taste the tropics.

“You can cook this,” Van Aken says “It’s everyday cooking, without artifice.”

“It’s real flavor, tied to place,” adds son Justin.

Though the island is only four miles long, it retains distinct areas. It was the younger Van Aken’s idea to organize the book by neighborhood.

The family moved from Key West when Justin was 9. “When I lost it, I was too young too understand it,” he says. “I felt displaced for a long time.” He has made Key West home again, for himself and his young family.

For both father and son, Key West offers great sunsets and great food, but it is also, says Norman, “where we can be our most authentic selves.”

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