Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Try a Whole New World of Flavors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Try a Whole New World of Flavors

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Macdonald, Times-Union food editor

If cooking isn't a rewarding experience for you, the reason could be flavor -- the lack of it.

For many, flavor is found in tomato sauces, some extra garlic or a few dashes of hot sauce. All are fine ingredients. But after a while, the taste buds become bored. If you try to revive them with even more hot sauce, well, the resulting burning tongue and tearing eyes are your problem.

In recent months, I've been going in another flavor direction -- citrus. Chefs always are talking about using fresh, native ingredients. What's more native to Florida than oranges, lemons and limes?

The other night, I simply pan-seared a thick grouper fillet (lightly seasoning one side with salt, pepper, lemon pepper and the smallest bit of cayenne). After turning it over, I then squeezed the juice of half each of an orange, lime and lemon on it. (Keep an eye on this because it will smoke. I did this outdoors.) The result was a fish with a golden outside and a sweet, tangy flavor pop.

The fish was served on an arrangement of paper-thin orange, lime and lemon slices. It was garnished with a touch of New World Mojito sauce we picked up at A1A Ale Works in St. Augustine. Add a little dab of back beans and yellow rice on the side, and there was a meal packed with flavor that took all of 20 minutes to prepare.

My inspiration for this dinner came from a conversation with Norman Van Aken, the South Florida chef credited with developing New World Cuisine. His is a mixture of the ingredients from the Caribbean and South and Central America.

"What I did hadn't been done before. No one embraced the rustic Caribbean and Latin cuisines and brought them to a white tablecloth restaurant," Van Aken said during a telephone conversation from his restaurant, Norman's, in Coral Gables.

Just as Alice Waters has come to define California cuisine and Paul Prudhomme, New Orleans food, Van Aken has come to represent a style of cooking native to Florida and the tropics. …

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