Two themes run through the food-centric events and titles at the Miami Book Fair International this weekend: Cooking as redemption, and cooking as connection.
▪ Jesse Schenker, Iron Chef winner, James Beard nominee and owner of acclaimed Recette, in New York’s West Village, once used spoons mostly to cook cocaine and heroin.
A high school dropout from upscale Parkland in Broward County who used to cook at Big City Tavern, in All or Nothing: One Chef’s Appetite for the Extreme he writes of addiction and alienation, of lying, stealing and being nearly beaten to death before he was arrested. Forced to get clean, he discovered the passion for cooking that saved him in a South Florida jail, where he worked in the kitchen.
Schenker is on a panel with novelist Kate Christensen, who chronicles in Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites, how she turned to cooking when life got cruel, beginning when her parent’s marriage descended into vitriol and continuing through her adult life.
▪ If you’ve spent time in Cuban Miami, or in any expatriate community, you know food not as mere nourishment, but as a link to a place and a time and simmering memories. That connection is celebrated in Ana Quincoces’ and Nicole Valls’ Versailles Restaurant Cookbook, which not only includes recipes for so many specialties of this Little Havana institution, but wonderful reminiscences.
▪ Miami native Ana Sofia Pelaez’s The Cuban Table not only is a comprehensive cookbook but a celebration of the nuances contributed to the cuisine by those who called the island home, ladling Spanish, African, Chinese and Caribbean cultures onto native ingredients.
▪ While applauding the farm-to-table movement for linking consumers to what they are eating, Michael Love, specialty chef at Epicure Market, wants Americans to be more mindful of what we throw away: In The Salvage Chef cookbook, he is on a mission to reduce the tons of usable food scraped into garbage bins every day with creative recipes that incorporate leftovers, trimmings and past prime vegetables and herbs. With Thanksgiving looming, there are some innovative ways to use up excess bounty, such as croquettes made with mashed sweet potatoes and ham or waffles made with leftover stuffing amped up with apples and cranberries.
▪ In Good Catch: Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida’s Waters, authors Heather McPherson, Pam Brandon and Katie Farmand took to the back roads and byways to gather stories and recipes. By linking our waters and fisherfolk and generations of Floridians’ symbiotic relationship to the sea with what appears on our tables they create a cookbook as much for reading as for consulting recipes.
The Lobster Creole recipe below, for example, is from Garcia’s Seafood on the Miami River downtown. Eleven brothers from a fishing family left Cuba in 1964 and started over here with nothing and now the family businesses include a fishing fleet, processing plant and the Seafood Grille and Market.
▪ Dana Cowin, longtime editor of Food & Wine magazine, is not a great cook. She confesses to a lot of flubs in Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes. Cowin appreciates amazing food but knows the average person is not going to have the expertise or inclination to make complicated dishes. That’s what makes the cookbook so much fun to read and foolproof to cook from.
The recipe below for spicy spiced nuts originated with Wente Vineyards. “We published the recipe more than 10 years ago, and it remains a staff favorite for holiday gifts and parties,” Cowin writes. “Their universal popularity, the short ingredient list and simple instructions gave me the confidence that I could make the nuts without any mistakes.” To put her own stamp on the recipe, she upped the cayenne and added pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika).
Linda Cicero is a former Miami Herald food editor and longtime Cook’s Corner columnist.
If you go
What: Miami Book Fair International “In the Kitchen.”
Where: Wine Theatre at Miami Culinary Institute, MDC Wolfson Campus (415 NE Second Ave., 3rd Floor) for demonstrations. Talks are at MDC Wolfson Campus Room 8202 (Building 8, 2nd Floor)
When: Saturday and Sunday – see miamibookfair.com for specific events.
Cost: Tickets for cooking demonstrations are $15 and available at miamibookfair.com. Seating for demos is limited. Admission to author talks are free. Books will be available for sale at all events.
1 p.m. Saturday: Epicure Chef Michael Love, “The Salvage Chef Cookbook.”
3 p.m. Saturday: Ellen Jaffe Jones, “Paleo Vegan.”
2 p.m. Sunday: Fabio Viviani, “Fabio’s American Home Kitchen.”
4 p.m. Sunday: Ana Sofia Peláez, “The Cuban Table.”
11 a.m. Saturday: Viviani and Peláez.
12:30 p.m. Saturday: Heather McPherson, “Good Catch,” Jen Karetnick, “Mango” and Mark DeNote, “The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide.”
2 p.m. Saturday: Adrian Miller, “Soul Food,” Libby O’Connell, “The American Plate” and Mark Kurlansky, “International Night.”
Noon Sunday: Steve Martorano, “It Ain’t Sauce, It’s Gravy,” Ana Quincoces and Nicole Valls, “The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook” and Love.
1 p.m. Sunday: Kate Christensen, “Blue Plate Special” and Jesse Schenker, “All or Nothing.”
1:30 p.m. Sunday: Dana Cowin, “Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.”
3 p.m. Sunday: Linda Gassenheimer, “Simply Smoothies” and “No-Fuss Diabetes Desserts.”
Thursday at the Fair
All events take place at Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.
5-9 p.m. at The Swamp: Miami Poetry Collective, launch party for “15 Views of Miami,” A Night with Buika.
6 p.m.: “An Evening With Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana with Robert Weil,” Chapman Conference Center; $15.
8 p.m.: “An Evening With Joyce Carol Oates,” Chapman; $15.
Spicy Spiced Nuts
1⁄4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3⁄4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Dulce Pimentón de la Vera suggested)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups mixed raw nuts, such as pecans, almonds, cashews and walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir together the maple syrup, olive oil, rosemary, cayenne, pimento and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the nuts, making sure each one is well coated.
Spread the nuts on the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring after 10 minutes, until they smell roasted and look browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the nuts to cool completely (they will crisp as they cool). Makes 6 cups.
Note: If you prefer even spicier nuts, you can increase the cayenne.
Source: “Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen” by Dana Cowin.
Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market Lobster Creole
1 spiny Florida lobster tail, shell on
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 cup chopped fresh tomato with juice
2 tablespoons Sazon seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse salt to taste
Cooked yellow rice, for serving
Cut lobster tail into 4 pieces with shell intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium. Add lobster pieces and saute 5 minutes, or until mostly cooked through. Remove lobster and keep warm.
In the same pan, add remaining olive oil and saute peppers and onion over high heat for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, Sazon and hot sauce and bring to a simmer. Add lobster and heat through. Remove pan from heat and stir in cilantro. Season with salt. Serve hot over yellow rice. Makes 1 serving; recipe can be multiplied.
Source: “Good Catch” by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson.