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Tag: cooking

Grouper All’Amatriciana—A Simple and Special Recipe

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food


Summer’s over. And what a summer it’s been—at least in terms of tomatoes. Produce counters overflowed with rich-tasting Burpee’s Big Boys as well as plump Romas. As a result, prices were so reasonable that sliced tomatoes were an everyday option on many Floridians’ supper tables. Just a simple splash of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper were all that was needed for this southern favorite. But there is an option to fresh tomatoes, and that’s especially true in Italian cooking, even at the height of the summertime “bumper crop”.


That option, canned tomatoes, span a range from watery and bland to rich and luscious. The best ones come from Italy’s Samo Valley, and they are distinctly (and legally) labeled “San Marzano”.   Open a can, take a whiff and you’ll know why they’re favored, year-round, over fresh tomatoes in many cooked Italian recipes.


Sugo all’amatriciana is a staple of Italian cooking. A combination of tomatoes, basil, garlic and cured pork, it’s an easy dish to prepare and can be served over pasta or, in the case of this recipe, as a sauce for your favorite firm white fish.


Grouper All’Amatriciana


1- 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, whole and peeled

4-ounces cured pork (pancetta), finely chopped

4-cloves garlic, chopped

1/2-teaspoon crushed red pepper

4-tbs. fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil

4-6oz. portions grouper (or other firm-fleshed fish)

peanut oil

Zatarain’s “Wonderful” seafood breading mix


While you’re crisping the chopped pork in the olive oil in a saucepan, drain the tomatoes in a wire-mesh strainer while crushing them with a fork. When the bacon’s cooked, add the tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and stir. Cook about 5 minutes over low heat, taking care not to dry out the sauce. If it gets too dry, a shot of good red wine will help thin it out. Finally, add the fresh basil to the sauce.

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Thoughts Regarding Table Value of Smoothback Pufferfish

by on May.27, 2016, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST

Smoothback Puffer Lagocephalus inermis, Family:Tetrodontidae

                               Smoothback Puffer Lagocephalus inermis, Family:Tetrodontidae

Since the spring of 2015, there’s been an “outbreak” of smoothback puffers along Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Tampa Bay to Pensacola.  Likely a deepwater species, I’d never seen one until I caught 4 off Steinhatchee on Florida’s Big Bend last year.  These are NOT the small porcupine blowfish that usually cut chunks from soft plastic baits and steal live shrimp.  So far, many specimens over 20-inches have been caught.  And they’re not coming from offshore waters.   Catches have been reported in less than 3 feet of water, over close to shore rock piles and oyster beds.  I’d never seen one in my 60-plus years of fishing in Florida, and many anglers and marine scientists are also baffled.

Many of my readers have asked about the edibility of these fish, having heard about some pufferfish that are poisonous, but still popular as food in Asia.  These puffers are not the same as fugu, often listed as one of the most dangerous foods, there is some concern that anglers might contaminate the flesh during the cleaning process.

At a recent meeting of marine scientists, I had the opportunity to ask one who is probably one of the leading experts on seafood safety about smoothback pufferfish.  His thought, “I wouldn’t eat one!”.

That’s good enough for me.  I’ll stick to catching them (they really fight well!) and practicing catch and release!

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In The Mood For “Mexican”? Try This Fish Taco Recipe

by on Sep.27, 2013, under Recipes and Food

From my Florida Sportsman Sportsman’s Kitchen column, May 2012

I had an awful dream the other night.  I was at a classy seaside Mexican joint and was served fish tacos.  What made the dream a nightmare was that they were made with frozen fish sticks and dressed with ketchup!

Making fish tacos isn’t rocket science.  The most difficult part of the process is deciding what sort of fish to feature—and what to use for garnishes.  For me, the fish decision is easy, especially when my friends at Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood call and say they’ve just unloaded a boatload of grouper.  Whole grouper mean lots of things to lots of people, but to me it’s ‘cheeks’.  Grouper cheeks are the most delicate part of the fish and are often discarded by anglers at the cleaning table.  That’s not so for fish houses and retailers who handle whole fish.  Often, though, the easily harvested cheeks rarely make it to customers’ tables.  Unless you ask.

It takes a certain size fish to get significant cheek meat.  ‘Keeper’ grouper will provide two small medallions, each weighing only an ounce or two—twenty pounders will provide enough for a sandwich.  Excising the meat is easy.  Using a very sharp, flexible blade, fillet knife, simply cut the cheek away from the head.  If you leave the cheek attached by a slight tab of skin, you can then remove the entire skin in just one additional move of the knife.   For fish tacos, allow three or four small cheeks each.    And don’t forget, while you’re working on the fish’s head, that there’s also some good meat to be found in the throat.  Like cheeks, throats are sometimes overlooked or ignored, but they also provide a nice piece of tender meat that’s also good for tacos.

I’m a firm believer that tacos should “crunch”.  That means hard-shell corn tacos, crisp veggies and fried fish.  For breading, I prefer using equal amounts of crushed Saltines and all-purpose flour, seasoned with a bit of Cajun spice and some salt and black pepper.  If you heat your oil (canola or peanut) to about 375-degrees and don’t crowd the pan, you’ll get perfectly fried fish in just a few minutes.  As soon as the cheeks are golden-brown and drained on paper towels, it’s time to assemble your tacos.  Start with a layer of spicy salsa—my favorite is made with avocadoes, tomatillos, onions and cilantro.  Then, add some slaw and the fried fish.  A topping of sour cream is optional and something I usually leave up to my guests.  I’ve also found that while my Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa works well as the base layer for these fish cheek tacos (We call them “Cheek-Os”!), that it’s also a popular stand-alone appetizer, served with salty tortilla chips.

As is the case with many recipes, mine for fish cheek tacos should serve as a basis for creating your own version of this tasty entrée.  Try soft tacos, grilled fish, and vary the toppings, depending on what’s available locally or seasonally.  But no matter what your do, prepare just a few more than what you think your guests might eat.  I’ll bet they eat them all!

Cilantro Slaw

1 package (or 1.5 cups) shredded cabbage

1/2 –cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

3/4 -cup sour cream

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

juice of one lime (Key lime if available)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa

6 tomatillos

1 medium white onion

4 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes

1-cup cilantro leaves

2 ripe Florida avocados

1/4-cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Remove husks from tomatillos and chop, with the onion, in a food processor.  Remove to mixing bowl.  Repeat with tomatoes and cilantro.  Then chop avocado in food processor, taking care not to puree.  Add to contents of mixing bowl, adding the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper as you fold ingredients together with a spatula.

Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer or as a dressing for fish tacos.

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Shrimp and Grits–A Southern Favorite Featured by Bon Appetit Magazine


Take a look at the latest BA (Bon Appetit) Blog and see my daughter’s recipe for Shrimp and Grits.  Also, if you’re interested, take a look at her food blog, Mod Meals on Mendenhall. I’m wondering how a version featuring fresh gulf scallops might taste??

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits is a classic southern dish. What about Scallops and Grits???

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