Sunday, May 19, 2013

Another winning cookbook - Seasonal Florida

Seasonal Florida, A Taste of Life in North Florida, is a real delight, not only to read, but for the recipes.  Having been born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, it brought back a lot of memories from my childhood.  History buffs will enjoy the pages of “back in the old days!”

The story of how the book came into existence is remarkable.  The author, Jo Manning, a fifth generation Floridian, and her five sisters bought the S. Knox Gillis House in DeFuniak Springs.  It had been vacant and in decaying condition for years when they bought it in 1989.  Like any other major renovation project, restoring the house took longer and much more money than originally expected.  They wanted to use it for a holiday gathering place for their large family and possibly later on turn it into a bed and breakfast.

After they exhausted all their resources, it was suggested that they publish a cookbook.  The rest is history.  The recipes were gathered from family, going back generations.

The one line in her Forward that I found amusing, “In less than two years, we had spent almost as much on the outside of the house as we had initially paid for the house and lots.  Estimates keep coming in.  And the inside – have you ever tried to get six sisters to agree on anything?”

I grew up eating seafood that was so fresh it slept in the Gulf last night!  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of crabbing along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico or the inland waters, or gigging flounder at night in shallow water.  And there is nothing to compare to Gulf shrimp.  I rarely eat seafood up here in the North because I was so accustomed to “real” fresh fish, that nothing here, that has been shipped in and sitting in a store display case can even come close to the flavor of fish from Florida.  When I hear people here say, "I don't like seafood," I tell them to go to Florida and eat the "real thing."

The Shrimp Creole recipe on page 181 of the book is much like I remember eating decades ago.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2  16 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons Creole seasoning (recipe to follow)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
2 pounds medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
4 green onions, chopped

Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly until mixture is a peanut butter color roux.  Stir in the onions, bell pepper and garlic.  Cook, stirring until onions are transparent, about 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their liquid, lemon juice, Creole seasoning and bay leaves.  Stir and bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes.  Remove cover if sauce needs thickening.  Stir in the Worcestershire and shrimp and cook 5 minutes more or until shrimp just turns pink.  Remove bay leaves and stire in the parsley and green onion.  Serve over rice.

Creole seasoning:

4 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil, crumbled
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons  paprika
3 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons onion powder

Place all ingredients in a pint jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until evenly distributed.

Note the recipe calls for using a cast iron skillet.  Cast iron cookware is found in the kitchen of every good Southern cook.  My own kitchen is filled with several sizes of cast iron skillets and I use them daily.

I hope you are enjoying touring my cookbook collection as much as I enjoy them myself.  A neighbor who reads my posts said once, "I'd love to come go through your collection sometime."  Cooking and serving an inviting, healthy meal is one of life's simple pleasures.

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