Early in my marriage, after I had been cooking my heart out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for months, using Mom’s recipes, my husband said, “Don’t bother cooking, let’s just grab a couple of hotdogs from the hotdog cart on the corner.” Whaaat? The next day I bought some cookbooks. The world of cuisine opened up for me. I figured that since I could read, I could cook any recipe. I fell in love with cookbooks: I took them to bed. I planned fantastic dinner parties. I kept acquiring more and more books. I was obsessed. I set the table to match the cuisine: Italy, France, India, China. My husband began inviting more and more people to “drop in” for dinner. My love affair with cookbooks, and cooking, began, and I built an amazing repertoire. Ten years later, I was writing my own cookbooks.
When a warm winter vacation won’t work out this year, make up for it by bringing sunny new flavours to your kitchen. Brighten up your meals with new aromas and ingredients in distinctive dishes from the Bahamas, New Orleans and Miami.
Dining in Paradise by Raquel Fox
First, turn that Reggae music up nice and loud, and then start cooking. The recipes are printed one to a page, with straightforward, easy instructions. In the recipe Smoked Fish and Corn Chowder, Raquel gives us a simple method of how to smoke fresh fish in our own oven and toss it into a flavorful chowder. Make a double batch of Savory Coconut Curry Soup and keep half in the freezer. Her Stuffed Chicken Baked in Tamarind Sauce is poised to become one of my favorites. And at last, a good recipe for Festive Jerk Chicken Drumsticks. There are wonderful desserts with pineapple and coconut and island fruits, as well as a chapter on exotic cocktails. A passion for local foods led Raquel Fox and her husband to open The Wine Lounge in the Bahamas, voted one of the best in this archipelago of 700 islands. Today, after completing her studies at George Brown College, she teaches her own Caribbean Cooking Course at George Brown.
Besh Big Easy by John Besh
New Orleans embraced its slow cooking long before that became fashionable. Award winning Chef John Besh pays tribute to the authenticity of New Orleans cooking. Just as a start, and to raise your confidence, try Silver Queen Corn Pudding. Four ingredients plus salt, cayenne pepper and butter for the baking dish. Elegant and yet down-home comfortable. And that sets the tone for Besh’s 101 home-cooked New Orleans recipes. Is it Creole or is it Cajun? If you don’t live where live seafood is plentiful, family dishes like Chicken Pie Fricassee and Chicken and Sausage Gumbo will easily find a place among your favorites. Cherry Tomato Five-Minute Sauce; Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad and Fried Eggplant Salad are good news to a busy cook. Follow the simple directions and learn how to make Etouffee, the succulent “smothered” stew that’s often made with crawfish, crab or shrimp. Making Etouffee is all about building flavor. Rice, beans and corn have their own chapter and you can introduce some new flavours to your staples. New Orleans is a busy port city and it’s no surprise that bananas and rum shipped from the south were combined to make one of my favorite New Orleans recipe, Bananas Foster. Finish off a simple dinner with Mama’s Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce and you have you will have bitten into a piece of New Orleans culture.
Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival Cookbook
Lee Brian Schrager with Julie Mautner, and a forward by Anthony Bourdain
Here together, are all the food network stars chefs in the hot destination of Miami’s South Beach. Just start working your way through Chapter One – Drinks, to Chapter 2 – Starters and Small Plates. Cook your way through Burgers, Barbecue, Comfort and Casual Food and Main Courses until you get to the end where you will find Jacques Torres recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. It’s an education. Robert Del Grande Beer-mopped Ribeye Steaks with bacon, onions and garlic will open up a whole new world. Ming Tsai’s rendition of Swordfish – Bacon Kebabs with Cilantro Gremolata will whisk your taste buds to sunnier climes. Mark Miller’s Cinnamon-Brined Lamb Loin with Southwest Polenta and Sweet Mint Corn will amaze you. In South Beach for a couple of days each February, Champagne becomes one of the four basic food groups. Scores of otherwise rational people enjoy elegant six-course meals and then head for a hotel rooftop lounge for sliders and vodka cocktails stopping at a dessert party in between.
So don’t just sit there, have some fun and cook something!
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.