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Archive for March, 2009

blueheaven

Heaven is in the backyard at the wonderful restaurant Blue Heaven on the corner of Petronia and Thomas Streets in Key West, F.L.  Dining outside on the patio by candlelight, beneath an umbrella of trees and within earshot of the live reggae music, is delightful.  And the food is local, fresh and delicious.

blueheavenoutsideAs you walk around the house to the entrance in back, take a look inside the windows at the chefs working in the street-level kitchen, pan-frying fish and preparing slices of cornbread. The restaurant is known for its beurre blanc sauce, and boy is it good!  Both entrees we tried —  the Florida lobster tail and a pan-fried fillet of snapper — were topped with the sauce. I recommend both.

lobster

snapper

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Grilled swordfish

Grilled swordfish

“Eat it raw!” That’s the slogan at Half Shell Raw Bar in Key West, where raw is “in” and the clams and oysters are fresh as can be. The wooden seaside shack at the end of Margaret Street is open-air, overlooking the marina and out to the Gulf. It’s a very laid back atmosphere with Jimmy Buffet playing overhead. To start, enjoy a cold beer or rum runner with a bucket of beer-steamed mussels or shrimp or a platter of oysters on the half-shell.  Then, go for a basket of fried or stuffed Key West shrimp or a grilled fillet of snapper, grouper or swordfish, fresh off the boat. No frills here, just incredibly delicious.

Stuffed shrimp

Stuffed shrimp

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lasagna

I’ve sampled many a slice of lasagna in my day, from mom’s kitchen to fine Italian restaurants and church potlucks. The best have been moist and flavorful, not over-baked; firm and well-set; and made with incredibly fresh ingredients of cheese and sauce.

This rendition of the Italian classic (Bon Appetit, March 1999) ranks right up there with the best, and the homemade spicy tomato sauce is what makes it special. I love the rich poultry flavor from the sausage with chopped spinach and cracked red pepper. So tasty!  In the preparation, I substituted mozzarella cheese for the provolone and used fresh, homemade riccotta. I also added one more layer of lasagna noodles than was called for.  It was a hit all-around.

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oatcoconutcookie

Quick: what do you do with a leftover box of cereal that you don’t like to eat for breakfast?  Grind it up and make cookies! That’s what I did with some Kellogg’s Product 19 sitting in my cabinet. I had bought the cereal on sale, but it never really caught my fancy. Crushed and mixed with sweet coconut and oats, however, the flakes of corn, rice and wheat redeem themselves: they add a unique crunchy and tasty element to these delicious cookies.

cereal

Oatmeal Coconut Cornflake Cookies

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup crushed flaky cereal

1 cup quick oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups coconut

(1) Cream butter and sugars in large bowl until smooth. Blend in egg and vanilla.

(2) Sift together dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir into the creamed mixture.

(3) Drop teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.

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shakeshackbanner.jpg

shakeburger

If you judged a burger on hype alone, Shake Shack’s would win by a landslide. Since moving to the city last summer, I have not stopped hearing about their fresh, juicy burgers, high-quality toppings, crispy hand-cut fries, and thick creamy  milkshakes — all at reasonable prices, by New York standards.

The rumors are all true: these are amazing hamburgers and shakes.  The meaty and perfectly-seasoned beef patties are modest in size – slightly larger than a slider – so if you have a big appetite, go for two. The fresh buns are toasted, buttery, and eggy; the plum tomatoes are ripe and sweet; and the melted American cheese is gooey goodness on top.

For dessert, you must get a hand-spun shake made from the Shack’s thick frozen custard. I recommend the “black and white.” Incredible.

A little history… The original shop opened in Madison Square Park in 2004; they opened an Upper West Side location (77th and Columbus) in the fall of 2008. Both locations are immensely popular at all times of day with lines out the door.

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bbqshrimp1

There’s truly no cuisine like New Orleans cuisine. And if you ever watch Emeril — or saw this season of Top Chef — you know that it holds a special place in American culture. In honor of Mardi Gras last week and to satiate a craving, my dad prepared the spicy and savory Louisiana classic: Barbecue Shrimp over white rice.  The butter sauce is rich and flavorful — a blend of garlic, southern beer, worcestershire sauce, thyme, lemon juice, black pepper, and, of course, red Louisiana hot pepper sauce.

hotsauce3

Served over white rice and a hunk of crusty French bread, this is definitely a filling meal.  We also enjoyed these potato pancakes on the side — perfect with an extra dash of hot sauce or a dunk in the barbecue shirmp juices.

potatopancakes

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keylimecoconutcake

I don’t know about you, but this time of year I always start craving the tropics — sun, surf, and sweet coconut flavors and smells. Spring Break is quickly approaching!  And in celebration of that fact, this key lime coconut cake. (Can you guess where I’m headed for a getaway??)

This cake is dense, moist and citrusy. A sweet lime glaze is poured on top after baking, and it seeps down through the cake adding to the tang. Toasted coconut flakes provide a slightly crunchy texture on the outside and complement the tropical key lime flavor.

Recipe found in Gourmet, March 2009.

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