Friday, July 17, 2015

Redroots Outdoor Kitchen - Wood Smoked Bonito

I am a firm believer in making lemons from lemonade, literally and figuratively. I apply this waste-not-want-not approach to just about everything, including fishing. As a responsible fisherman or hunter its your duty to take care of the resource, use what you catch and return what you don't, it's pretty simple. 

I'd love to say that this frugality is based on solely on conservation, its not entirely so. It's also driven by my desire to use off-the-beaten-path ingredients. In this case the much maligned Atlantic Bonito (and yes its Bonito, not Bonita as some people say) Its name means "beautiful" in Spanish and this little hunk of fishy goodness really is a looker. Silver with dark whimsical scrawl marking on its flanks. These little guys are plentiful, eager to bite and will give you a run for your money on light tackle. I love them for all those reasons, but most people don't, that's because they have very dark flesh and are a little gamier than most people care to eat. Europe is a different story, people love them over there and use them fresh, canned and every which way you can imagine. 

Atlantic Bonito; sarda sarda
Ruby red Atlantic Bonito fillets. Photo credit: blog

So when we ran into a nice Bonito bite a few miles off the coast of Ft.Pierce I decided I would make good use of these delicious little footballs. My approach was to fight fire with fire. Their flesh is bold and robust, so my approach was to season it the same way...and smoke it! 

First order of business, break it down! I butterflied this one for ease of smoking. Basically cut off the head, remove innards, cut all the way to the tail and "crack" in half, exposing the ribs and spine, remove them with a sharp fillet knife. And then, the most important part of the prep...remove the bloodline. This dark piece of flesh runs the length of the fillet and is responsible for 90% of the "fishiness" associated with Bonito. Thankfully it's easy to remove. Just make a "V" cut along each side of the fillet and pull out, done. 

Since I was treating it like game, I gave it a good soak in flavored brine overnight. For this I used:
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 Cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • the peel from a large lemon 
  • 3 garlic cloves
The next day I dried the fillet thoroughly and gave it light brush with some canola oil and a good rub with a variation of my rib rub, minus a few ingredients. Here is what I used (you'll have some leftover):

1/4 cup turbinado sugar 

1/8 cup kosher salt
2 Tbs Garlic salt
1 Tbs Onion powder
1 1/2 tsp Celery salt
1/4 cup Smoked Paprika
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried Sage
1/2 tsp ground Allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
The finished product: Pecan smoked Bonito!

Once the prep is done you'll want to fire up your smoker. I used pecan wood for this particular recipe but you could also use applewood or cherry to good effect. Be sure to put a pan of water in the smoker to moisten the fish and give the grill a spray with some non-stick spray. Total smoke time was about 3 1/2 hours, low and slow, you'll know it's ready when the flesh flakes off. Enjoy sliced with lemon juice, on a cracker, or in fish dip.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Redroots Kitchen - Easy Weeknight Meals

Oven baked fish fillets in Creole Sauce

Here at Redroots we believe food should be crafted with care but not overly fussy. Our sweet spot lands somewhere at the intersection of simple and delicious. This particular recipe is definitely simple AND delicious so it certainly meets our stringent gustatory requirements! Not to mention that it features many ingredients you most likely have on hand, making it a great choice for a weeknight meal.

A seasons worth of deliciousness
Having already eaten all of the fish I’ve hooked, speared or otherwise convinced to jump into my cooler over the course of the previous summer, I went ahead and used some Alaskan cod that I had left in the deep freeze. However, any firm fleshed fish would do, (think grouper, tilefish, hogfish, mahi and any of their delicious ilk). If for some inexplicable reason you have tilapia in your fridge you can use that too. The sauce is a riff on your basic Creole sauce give or take a few ingredients. Honestly this sauce is good enough to make old flip-flops delicious so feel free to get creative.

Clockwise from top left:  sliced yellow peppers, basil, stuffed olives and  white onion

Before you go about chopping:
-        Grease a baking dish that is large enough to hold the number of fillets you’re making, set aside
 -    Preheat oven to 425°F (Kitchen tip: if you have a large enough toaster over you can use that instead of your conventional oven)

For the fish:
3 - 4  Firm white fish fillets (Grouper, Tilefish, Hogfish, Mahi, Cod etc.)
Season liberally with Salt + pepper and sweet paprika to taste, set aside

For the sauce:
½ Lg. yellow onion, sliced thin
1 yellow, red or green bell pepper, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves – minced
1 16oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
bunch basil leaves, chopped
½ cup green olives
¼ cup capers
½ cup water or stock
1 Tsp. Sweet paprika
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt + pepper to taste
Oilve oil

-  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, let it get hot.
-  Once it comes to heat, add your olive oil, enough to generously coat the     
   bottom of the skillet. Wait until oil heats up.
-  add in peppers and onions, season with salt and cook until translucent.
-  add minced garlic and basil, stir and toss until well coated.
- add in the tomatoes, olives, capers, a few good dashes Worcestershire sauce and stock.    - Taste and season with S+P as needed and wait until it starts to bubble. Taste again, if its   
   missing anything trust your palate and go for it!
- Set aside.

The set up
-        Ladle ½ of the sauce into the greased baking dish
-        Lay the seasoned fillets on top and cover with remaining sauce
-        Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until fish is done. Fillet should be white in its thickest part, not translucent. If it needs more cooking add another 5 minutes in the oven. 
-        Serve with rice, quinoa or parsley potatoes (recipe below)

Parsley Potatoes

6 red potatoes peeled
Olive oil
Minced garlic
Bunch flat leaf parsley chopped
Kosher salt + pepper

- Steam or boil your potatoes in lightly salted water for 20 – 30 mins till done
- Combine Olive Oil, garlic, parsley and salt & pepper in a bowl. Stir and make a paste
- drain off potatoes, place in a bowl and toss with parsley mixture, serve. 

Smothered beneath that rich sauce are some delicious fillets

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oxtail and Barley "Risotto" or Reason #247 to own a slow-cooker

Five years ago Mrs.Redroots and I got a slow cooker as a wedding present. For four years the stainless and ceramic apparatus sat quietly in our cupboard waiting to be unleashed. I must confess, before this year I was never a fan of these behemoths. I always saw slow cookers as oversized uni-taskers that took up space and could never produce real flavor since there was no caramelization to add depth. Oh how wrong I was.
The thing with slow cookers is that you need to do a little bit of flavor building prior to putting everything in the cooker. That means browning meats and sautéing veggies till they loosen up and begin to release flavor. After that it’s a waiting game as low & slow heat coaxes out the flavors stored deep within. The best part is that once everything is in, it’s a hands-off operation. It basically cooks itself while you’re at work, asleep or doing chores around the house. You can definitely do this on the stove top but I guarantee it won’t be this easy. Here’s a recipe I prepared recently that is sure to make you a slow-cooker convert.
Oxtail and Barley “Risotto” with Florida Grown Vegetables

Into the slow-cooker:
2-3 lbs of Oxtail
1 ½ cups hull-less barley (Bob’s Red Mill)
4 cups beef broth
¼ cup sherry or red wine (optional)
1 lg zucchini
1 lg summer squash
1 red pepper
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 leek
2 cloves garlic
6 yellow new potatoes
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked Pepper
Olive oil (extra virgin…the ONLY kind there is as far as I’m concerned)

Finish with:
2 tbs fresh grated Parmesan
Juice from ½ lemon
Chopped parsley

Season your oxtail generously with kosher salt and pepper and brown in a heavy skillet over Med-Hi heat with a bit of olive oil. Once browned toss oxtail pieces into slow cooker. Dice all your fresh from Florida vegetables and quickly sauté in the same pan till onions are just transparent. Add to cooker. Pour in the beef broth set on high for 8 hours or until barley is tender to the tooth. It should give with a soft “pop” when you bite into it.
Once the barley is ready stir in the parmesan and lemon juice into the “risotto” and serve with a bit of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. Voila, you’re done. Now dig in and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Babies in the Tomatoes! A book review and high praise for locally grown fruit

Photo of La Tomatina festival in Spain -  AP Photo - Alberto Saiz
“In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon
fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
  What peaches and what penumbras!  Whole families shopping at 
night!  Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?”
“A Supermarket in California” from the book “Howl” by Allan Ginsberg, Berkeley, CA 1955
Full poem read by A.Ginsberg here:
Redland grown heirloom tomatoes. Beautiful, scars and all.   
 Chances are if you read this blog, you’ve had a really good tomato at some point in your life, more than likely you’ve probably had several memorable ones. All it takes is one bite to convince you that THIS was the best tomato you’ve had. You may have grown it, bought it at a farmers market or maybe it was a gift from a friend with a bumper crop of garden tomatoes. At some point this past winter you probably sliced one open, sprinkled it with a little sea salt and quietly indulged it its freshness.  My guess is that it was probably tart and sweet with a savory touch. The more you ate, the more you realized how big the flavor really was. However it ended up in your mouth I’m sure it was one hell of a tomato. It was so good that you are probably drooling a little bit right now as you think about it. Well I’m here to tell you that you are not weird for doing so, and no, you are not alone. A good tomato is a thing of wonder that shouldn’t be as hard to find as it seems sometimes. 

Albacore salad with mini-heirlooms and homemade Greek-style yogurt
So what’s with the babies in the tomatoes and the literary types loitering amongst the melons? Well, that’s easy. It's one of my favorite poems, so why not. I love the imagery; the setting of it is interesting. If you click the link, you can hear Allan Ginsberg read it himself, he sounds like a super smart robot hippie (it’s dead on, uncanny really).
“Babies in the Tomatoes!” is such a funny mental picture, every time I see a big gleaming pile of those uniform, red, unblemished tomatoes you get at big box stores. I see them and I remember Ginsberg’s babies chilling in big pile of them. If they come from the Sunshine state they are probably the “Florida Round” variety and with a name like that you are probably expecting a straightforward and un-fussed with tomato. I've been burned by so many of these perfect looking beauty pageant tomatoes that I’ve come to expect nothing but disappointment from them. They look great! All sun ripened and fresh looking. Simple, red, and round. But as soon as you take one bite you realize the lights are on but no one is home, they are completely lacking soul. You might as well be eating a red water balloon; it’s a big grainy mouthful and it tastes like it was made in a lab. What’s going on?
You say "tomato," I say "crap"
What hides behind the Pantone perfect hues? What lurks under the glaring fluorescents and dripping misters? (and what IS Garcia Lorca doing over by those watermelons?)...Do we know the road that this food traveled to get here? The hands that picked it, the backs that stooped to bring us the season’s bounty? What do they put on these things to make them look so good anyway? We may know part of the story, but the truth is there is a lot going on behind that bright and flawless exterior. There are things we don’t know about going down in the humid farmlands of the western edge of the Everglades…until now.

That is the topic of Barry Estabrooks' new book Tomatoland – How modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit. last Wednesday Mr. Estabrook stopped by Books & Books in the Gables, it’s a great venue, and as he well noted “theres a bar!” His delivery was approachable, intense and light hearted at the same time, a feat only possible by people well versed in what they write about. Sometimes you go to a book signing and well, your mind can start to wander. This one on the other hand was entertaining. He struck me as a person who is passionate about what he does and lives the life he writes about and so I am looking forward to reading his book. I bought myself a copy and plan on making it next on my summer reading list, (I can't believe I’m almost done with Superfudge already!) 

Abe Froman - Sausage King of Chicago

Dude, he said tomato! DRINK!
The turnout at the event was good; Emissaries from the hinterlands beyond South Miami were there. Amongst the attendees were moms, hipsters, hipster- activists (think Sally Jesse Raphael glasses and an ironic Save Ferris t-shirt), foodies, foodies with tattoos about food, garden gurus, women of the earth, crotchety old men, elves, chichi-mamas, patchouli-hounds, some tomato growers, and a few regular people just getting into the whole “what’s in my food?” thing. There was interest in the topic and that’s a nice thing to see. They have these events often and it’s a nice chance to meet authors and grab a coffee…or a drink. THERES A BAR! No drinking games though. But it’s nice to kick back with a beer or a glass of vino and listen to people speak about something they are passionate about.

It’s hard to review a book you haven’t read. So I’ll talk about the chat and the overall subject matter as it was discussed. This book seemingly peels back the layers of a world unknown to many but one that influences all of us and the communities in which we live.  As well said by Mr. Estabrooks, it is a complicated and delicate topic; covering topics beyond just the greatness that is the tomato, or should be. Tomatoland digs deeper into the path tomatoes take from field to table. There are elements of modern day slavery, labor abuse and rampant pesticide use. It’s not a pretty story but one that is worthy of discussion and one which we should be made aware of. We eat tomatoes probably a few times a week, so we should probably know as much as we can about it in order to make good decisions about what we consume. 

A nice haul from a winter market trip. Where did it come from? The Redland!
Some reviews have said it’s in the vein of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” so I’m sure it’ll be a good read. And apparently it’s not all doom and gloom, as Mr. Estabrook mentioned at the close of the chat: the book offers some answers and solutions to what can be done to bring back a tasty tomato. It's a simple idea with many working parts. Tomatoes…who knew they could be so damn complicated!  Some of you may know Barry Estabrook for his food related writings in The Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic, Saveur, and Men’s Health as well as his role as contributing editor to the now defunct Gourmet magazine. In which he won a James Beard award for his article on tomato pickers in Florida (the genesis of this book). I enjoy reading his articles as well as his blog; Politics of the Plate. If you haven’t read his work, I urge you to click on the above links and Google away till you find some of his articles, its good stuff!     

In case anyone missed it, this is the Presidents birth certificate, can we take a look at the economy now?
You ever notice that whenever immigration and labor are discussed things tend to get a little tense? It’s a difficult topic to address. Tempers flare, opinions are brandished, blast-shields go up and once that rabbit is out of the hat, words like “socialist” and “long form birth certificate” start getting tossed around and it becomes a “no fun zone” rather quickly. That’s why I tend to avoid those conversations and keep politics to myself but in the case of Tomatoland, these topics are tightly woven into the fabric of this story, it’s an essential part of the story. But regardless of personal politics I like to think we can all agree on humanity and in doing what’s right for people, or at least it’s nice to believe that we do.  

Whats not to miss about this! Another delicious haul of winter local goodness

I have to be honest with you, recently I had my head stuck deep in the clouds no thanks to what I am calling “post harvest season slump”...(Pfizer is working on a pill to combat PHSS as we speak, it renders your taste buds useless but it helps) It was weird, I was really bummed out at the end of the growing season, all the fresh greens and nice weather, it’s kind of one of the reasons you live here. But thanks to my wife saying that she missed the blog (nice to have a personal cheerleader) combined with the syrupy sweet smell of the summers first mangos and lychees, I can honestly say I’m back on the horse. A quick thanks my friend, Kristen Jayd from the Homestead Farmers Market, for cluing me into the event.  
Redland raised heirlooms!
But back to tomatoes…what’s the big deal anyway? Well…As a species it seems we are obsessed with them, in 2008 the world production of tomatoes was 129 million tons! The entire multi-million dollar industry of Florida winter tomatoes is possible because of the Eastern seaboards lust for this fruit. People up north pined for that sweet, tangy summertime delicacy deep into the winter of their discontent. Those red winter tomatoes were a ray of sunlight to cleave their slushy, shivering misery in twain (ok maybe that’s a bit much, but they did want tomatoes pretty badly). And so, an empire was born in the Sunshine state (natural requirements of the tomato plant be damned!). Mankind (and cheap labor, petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides) would find a way to grow dry-loving plants in soggy swampland, and so they did, and here we are today in the winter tomato capital of the world. Not too bad for a little fruit from the dry lands of Latin America. But what we eat today bares only a passing resemblance to the fruit that the conquistador Hernan Cortez brought back to the Spanish court.    
Truth is modern-day tomatoes are a shadow of their former selves. That’s why I am so partial to heirloom varieties. It’s only with heirloom varieties that we can taste what one day was the norm, 90% of the time you can count on an heirloom to deliver the goods. Why? Because long ago, before modern agriculture went off and spent that summer backpacking in Europe and then came back listening to techno, smoking cloves and looking all industrialized and revolutionized, someone way back then, ate a great-great grand pappy tomato and said “WOW! That’s worth saving!” Heirlooms are super tasty and grow well in most gardens, especially if it’s a local heirloom, since they can be more forgiving about pests and fluctuations in temperature and water. The result is a hardier plant more used to growing in those conditions (the genius!) I’ve heard stories of a summer fruiting “Everglades cherry tomato” that is supposed to be really good; I’m still looking for one to put in my yard and in my salad. 
heir·loom (âr l m ) n.
1. A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.
2. An article of personal property included in an inherited estate.
3. A cultivar of a vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated and is not grown widely for commercial purposes. An heirloom often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavor or unusual coloration.
Heirlooms of all types are a labor of love, selected, cared for and preserved for future generations to enjoy by individuals who understood the importance of saving and perpetuating these flavors, every bite is a testament to their dedication and we owe these people a “cheers” next time we open a worthy beverage, “To Flavor!” This may be a highly romanticized version of events, but I like the thought of it. That people long ago also cared about the food they ate and how it tasted. That like people, heirlooms each carry their own distinguishing characteristics; they are varied and different to the point of seeming flawed but the guts are true to the core. Simply put, they got soul baby! And you can taste it!

To put it in pop culture terms, let’s just say Heirlooms are the John Coltrane of tomatoes (sans the little heroin problem). They are just solid, unadulterated soul-beasts, oozing flavor from every pore; they can’t help but be so smooth! In contrast, commercially grown tomatoes can be more like Kenny G…sure its music, but it all kind of has that same bland flavor, you know what I’m talking’s a tomato, but without the stuff that makes it a tomato…you dig?

A box of conventionally grown heirlooom tomatoes from Teenas Pride

Green Zebras - look green, taste ripe!
“So where can you get these marvelous tomatoes you keep talking about?!” That part is also easy, at least in the winter, just head to your local farmers market. Chances are there will be at least one grower with some solid tomatoes. I already have my “delicious tomato people” identified, my favorite come from Margie at Bee Heaven Farm. (check out the new farm store!) Certified organic and always bursting with flavor, always tasting as good as they look. Her busy tent is a fixture at lots of markets in South Dade. I also have gotten some tasty beauties from Teenas Pride in the Redland, and from Worden Farm out in Punta Gorda. It’s easy to find good lcal tomatoes in winter, it gets a bit tougher in the summer though, I think the variety goes down a bit, You can get some good ones that come from Central & North Florida this time of year. The main thing to do is talk to the vendors and find out where their stuff comes from, most will be happy to tell you, and if they don't then maybe consider buying from someone who can tell you about what they sell, the good ones always do. My main market stops are Pinecrest Farmers Market and Homestead Farmers Markets as well as the South Miami Green Market, all of them are great places to find local and close to local tomatoes and produce. 

One of the things said in closing at the Tomatoland reading was that tomatoes “are only as good as what you put in them”, something true of just about anything, including people. This struck a chord with me that night for some reason. Well, who am I kidding I know the exact reason this caught my attention and that’s because Mrs. Redroots and I are expecting a little sprout this coming December, our first, so I find myself thinking about babies a lot more often than I used to. It’s a notable responsibility shift for us; a big dog is one thing…babies…are a whole other ballgame. (That is easily the understatement of the year I realize that). But game changers are good, or so it says in the other book I’m reading; Spending Money, Peace of Mind & Me Time: 100 Things Fathers-to-Be Can Say Goodbye To. I’m joking of course, Today we found out that we will be having a son, and I can't wait to meeting him and show him the world in which we live. I'm going to be someones
Undoubtedly as soon as you hear the news that you will be someone's parental unit, the thoughts of what one must do to raise an upstanding citizen run through your mind. It’s your responsibility to make sure they are safe and loved and fed. To make sure they learn right from wrong, have solid common sense (this is a huge one) to speak correctly and openly. To be kind and fair, know how to cook and always remember their table manners. Bread on the left, drinks to the right. To know that the only permissible utensils for eating ribs are your hands. To know how to eat crawfish properly. You know…simple stuff, dreams we ALL have…except for maybe some of that really specific food related stuff… But there will be time enough for all that once he's born; right now we’re enjoying our little sprout as he grows every day, feeding him summers flavors, getting him used to enjoying local food and making sure he’s healthy, what an amazing time. So who knows what adventures await us in the coming season?! What foods, what feasts will come. Only time and fortune will tell. I’ll be sure to post some of the good stuff we come across this summer. Until then keep it as local as your cravings will allow and thanks for reading.
High five-ing my sons Godfather; the Skunk Ape
in Ochopee, Big Cypress


Friday, March 4, 2011

Adventures in BBQ, Secret Recipies & the Joys of Eating Local - Pt.1

Its been a busy couple of weeks for Redroots and that suits me just fine! We've explored BBQ joints in Liberty city, eaten amazing local produce including lucious Loquats, catered a meal for 18 using local ingredients and been a guest on a radio show TWICE! This post weaves all that together with the added bonus of my special rib rub recipe, I've never shared it before, so here it goes. Sit back, relax and enjoy the local goodness...

Here's some of that amazing BBQ we ate at Mama Lucy's in Liberty city
As I mentioned, Redroots was invited to be a guest on a local radio show to talk about the joys of BBQ. While I am NOT a professional cook or BBQ expert I understand the deep roots and nuance of this style of cooking and can hold my own at the 'cue, but more importantly I know how to EAT it like a pro. My weak spot is baby back ribs and pulled pork...although I can confidently say NOTHING bad ever came off a barbecue grill. Simply put, BBQ is food for the soul, its smokey, delicious and satisfying to the core. If someone says they don't like BBQ...they are to be highly suspected...because lets be honest, that's just not normal.

The show I was asked to be on is called Listen305, it offers a fresh and down to earth take on a diverse spectrum of topics relevant to our community. It airs Mondays at 7pm on 880AM & live online at You can find a link to the enticing BBQ episode on the Listen305 website as well as on the Redroots-LocalGoodness Facebook page.

A few weeks ago I did my first Listen305 show (titled Eat305-Listen with your mouth full). I got a call from Kristin Jayd, friend & founder of the Homestead Farmers Market. She asked me if I'd like to join her on a radio show all about local food, our challenge was to prepare a meal for a group of people using ingredients from the market. We had a week to plan, source and execute and they would be recording the show LIVE as we cooked...say no more, that's my kind of challenge! We had a blast rustling up the ingredients, calling the farmers, cooking up a storm and extolling the joys of eating fresh & local! Below is the menu for the night, once you see the amazing line up you'll quickly realize eating local can be easy & delicious! The food, the company the conversation, it was all perfect. I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I've had in a while. You can listen to THAT show on the Listen305 site as well.  

Before we dive into the menu, I really want to stress the point that neither Kristin nor I are professional chefs. We're just two people who share in the common joy of preparing & eating good food with fresh, local ingredients. Please know that any one of these dishes can be easily prepared with basic tools and kitchen skills.

The fact that they look delicious is directly related the freshness of the ingredients combined with the imagination of the cooks that prepared them...doesn't take much more than that to put a great meal on the table. Think about it, these foods were in the ground, growing on trees (or swimming in the ocean in the case of the shrimp) a few days or hours before we prepared them. They can't help but be beautiful and fresh. And it didn't take any major effort or increased cost to get them. Just a  single trip to the farmers market and our imaginations is all we needed. So as you will see, eating local & buying local pays off in spades. Now on with the menu....  

Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche by Redroots

Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche served on Organic Avocado halves - featuring veggies, avo's and citrus from Bee Heaven Farm and finished with some AMAZING local sea salt from Midge at Florida Keys Sea Salt, you may think salt is salt...but boy are you mistaken! We served this up with some freshly fried corn tortilla chips from Morenos Tortilla Shop in Homestead, WOW.

Local Organic Greens Salad with Edible Flowers & FL Grapefruit Vinaigrette by Kristin Jayd

Organic Mixed Greens Salad with Edible Flowers & Grapefruit Vinaigrette - all ingredients sourced from Bee Heaven Farm. Light, crisp and oh so fresh. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Heirloom Tomato & basil Salad by Redroots

Fresh Heirloom Tomato & Basil Salad - Ingredients sourced from Teenas Pride and again, that amazing sea salt from the Florida Keys! It just punches up the flavor like you wouldn't believe!

Roast Root Veggie Soup & Red Pepper Drizzle by Kristin Jayd

Roast Potato, Turnip & Cauliflower Soup served with Roasted Red Pepper Drizzle - ingredients sourced from local conventional growers, Sam Accursio & Sons. This pureed soup was rich, creamy and very flavorful. The red pepper drizzle really opened up the flavors and gave it an awesome contrast. A simple dish that packs a big punch. 

Candied Kumquats by Redroots / Cheescake by Mrs. Redroots - Eugenia

Florida Orange & Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats - Local kumquats, candied in local mango/lychee honey & spices served atop my wife's famous goat cheese cheesecake. Silky, sweet and with a hint of citrus,it was simple and amazing . The cheese came from Hani Khouri at Redland Mediterranean Organics.

Local Strawberry Sorbet by Kristin Jayd
Fresh Redland Strawberry Sorbet & Chocolate Goats milk Ice cream with Cocoa Nibs - Strawberries for the sorbet sourced from Acursio & Sons, honey from Bee Haven Farm and the chocolate ice cream was made by Hani Khouri at Redland Mediterranean Organics. The combo of fresh strawberries and rich chocolate went off like a firecracker.

Croqueta Tubbs - keepin' it real in pastel
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in Miami knows that food is most definitely a "relevant topic" as it plays a major role in our daily lives. From the "cafecito" & butter drenched cuban tostadas at your local "ventanita" to sweet & briny stone crabs, crispy yet tender conch fritters and everything in between. Miami is hooked on food.

How much does Miami love its food? Here's a little known fact, Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett was originally named "Sonny Croqueta", after the city's deliciously famous Cuban import. His signature piece of wardrobe was to be a croqueta smeared wife beater & guayabera, but unfortunately the look & name didn't test well with focus groups outside of the 305...He was to be played by Steven Bauer or "Joecito" form Que Pasa USA. Fresh from Scarface success, "Joecito" was distraught upon hearing the news of the character shift, he was never the same again...this is of course ALL fiction, except for the part about Miamians loving food.

As usual, I digress...Miami is unequivocally a town built on guilty pleasures...of all sorts. And if the 80's taught us anything its that as long as there is a steady stream of illicit drugs and money being funneled through your city and all you have between you and the bad guys is a duo of hard-ass vice cops with pet gators, living on sail boats and driving million dollar cars on a civil servants salary, then you just cant keep a good thing down. 

And BBQ is most definitely a good thing and a stand out in the Magic City...particularly because GOOD barbecue is a relatively scarcity in these parts (see how we just brought it all back on track, its like this train never went of the rails...thank you for your patience)

Recently we headed out to Liberty City on a Sunday to find us some good 'cue, and we found it. Sitting there on NW 22nd Ave & 119th, looking somewhat weary and worn by age was Mama Lucy's. The Formica counters, the decal on the window that read "Where the SOSS is the BOSS" and the four drum style grills belching sweet oak wood smoke gave me a clear indication that this place was an institution. 

Ten minutes later, upon my first bite of SOSS soaked ribs I would confirm that to be true...I have to tell you, I know we're trying to stay local owe it to yourself to make the drive. Another place worth a trip and my personal favorite rib joint is Shivers BBQ in Homestead (pronounced SHY-vers) the ribs, briskets and everything on the menu is the BOMB. again....make the drive. Here are some pics from our most recent delicious field trip to Mama Lucy's. 

Heres that BOSS SOSS

That's Pit Master Jack and his Soss-chef prepping our ribs

Maximum Coverage!
Cheap-o White bread, the mark of any good BBQ joint
We covered a lot of this on the BBQ radio show already but as an extra little something, or "lagniappe" as they say in 'Nawlins, I wanted to share my own special rib rub recipe with you. We briefly discussed rubs on the show and to me, a good dry rub is key to developing flavor. So its into the legendary red binder we go..."what the hell is the red binder?" you ask...Its a simple red plastic organizer in which I keep my favorite, sauce stained & time tested recipes. 

In this red binder you will find instructions for such mouth watering meals as fried turkey, creole shrimp & grits, lemon & garlic roast chicken and many more. Basically, anyone who comes to the Redroots kitchen for a meal and sees the red binder out on the counter should know they are in for a treat. In short, the red binder IS Redroots. Here's an quick look at what you may find in it...
Juicy & Tender - Redroots Signature Fried Turkey

Crispy & Delicious Beerbatter Squash Blossoms

Another Favorite - Braised Beef Ribs with Redland Root Veggies
Good Recipes are funny things, many times our initial instinct is to keep a good one to ourselves and thereby create the all-powerful mystique of the "secret recipe". Often times that secret can be deciphered with a little research and an alert palate. At the risk of sounding Zen, when you take a bite, just be open to flavor and it will open itself to you. Take a bite, close your eyes and let your mouth tell you what it's enjoying. Little by little the ingredients start revealing themselves to you, its kind of like magic. The more you do this, the better you get and in turn, the broader the tools and tastes available to you in the future.

My sister-in-law, whose cooking skills I hold in very high regard, shared this recipe with me a while ago, I now share it with you...she IS from Texas and they know a thing or two about barbecue so you may want to take some notes. 

Over time I've made some tweaks and given it my own touch, something I recommend you do too. For me, a large part of cooking happens before I even step foot into the kitchen. I lay it out first in my mind; I think of flavors, consider techniques and planning needed to execute the dish I want to put out. 

Cooking also happens while you are eating. I love to savor my food and really taste it. In our house meal time is a "sit down and pay attention" affair. We enjoy our time at the table, talk and try to really taste what we eat. As I eat the meal I wonder what I would do different next time, what worked, what didn't. That's something I urge you to do as well. Don't be afraid to experiment in your kitchen and don't be afraid to fail, because it will happen and that's OK. once you come to grips with that, the world is your oyster. So without further ado, I present to you...  

1/4 cup Brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Seasoned Salt
2 Tbs Garlic salt
1 Tbs Onion salt
1 1/2 tsp Celery salt
1/4 cup Paprika (Hungarian if you got it)
2 Tbs coarse ground Coffee, preferably something bold like espresso & NOT instant
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Fresh ground black pepper (try not to use pre-ground pepper, its not the same)
1 1/2 tsp dried Sage
1/2 tsp ground Allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and store in an sealed container in a cool, dry place. I like to save the big canisters of garlic or onion salt, wash them out and keep my rub in there. It's sealed and since it has the holes in the top it's easy use. 

This is MY take on rub, try this one or take elements from this that you like and make your own. Soon you will have your own signature rub that's made just the way you like it. Again, think about the flavors you enjoy, do you like a spicier rub? more garlic? You make the call, its your rub.

In the case of this rub, you can't really stay local with it, with a few exceptions like using local coffee (Bald Bakers Blend from Knauss Berry Farm) or maybe Sea Salt from the Keys etc. You can also try to use locally grown herbs. But if you can't, don't beat yourself up about it. Just balance it out by making your side dishes with local vegetables ;).  

Once you have this rub prepared you can use it on pork, chicken or whatever you like but the key is to give the meat a good coating and really rub it in. Make sure it gets into every nook & cranny. Once you have accomplished this, wrap it up in plastic wrap and store in your fridge for a few hours up to overnight. Over time the spice mix will seep into the meat and give an amazing flavor.

So you've made your rub, now what? Its time for cooking...and THAT my friend is the follow up blog post because like good BBQ, you cant rush it and I don't want to bog you down with the many "ins, outs and what-have-yous" although what comes next is easier than you could this is a test of patience, but rest assured that by next week you'll have the tools to make some kick ass ribs at home worthy of Mama Lucy herself.

Up next, Part 2: Real BBQ on a GAS grill - It CAN be done...

In the meantime, keep it local, keep it fresh, keep it on Redroots!