Celebrating the Sunshine State's Unique Treasures


A Tale of Two Florida Cookbooks

Author: Robin Draper
Date: March 21, 2015 12:00 am
Category: Things to Do
Type: Book Reviews


I enjoy perusing cookbooks, searching for tasty, fresh recipes that inspire my love of cooking.  But I especially like to find cooking guides and recipes that favor Florida foods and ingredients - particularly seafood, produce and citrus. For instance, when ordering seafood, I try to order locally caught Florida fish. I also believe Florida avocadoes are just as good, if not better, than those from California. And I always prefer sweet Florida lobster to imported crustaceans. And citrus? I still can’t bring myself to buy an out-of-state orange.


Florida is blessed with a bounty of fresh food. So, when I read Good Catch: Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida’s Waters, I knew I had found an authentic cookbook that takes the guesswork out of preparing the “best of Florida”.

Yep, there’s no “catch” with this cooking guide. It’s all about Florida seafood coupled with local ingredients. Good Catch shares recipes ranging from blue crabs to scallops, frog legs to catfish, mullet to mahi-mahi, but also side dishes featuring Florida-grown produce, from blueberries, to okra and tomatoes, to kale. The guide is also filled with interesting tales of historic fishing villages, along with profiles of the hard working fishermen (and women) who bring “freshness” to our tables.

Florida oyster boat, Apalachicola Bay

Veteran food writers Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson expertly organized this guide around the four seasons, highlighting recipes complementary to what is available during that time of the year. 

What a concept. Of course, Florida’s produce is seasonal. Citrus is picked from winter through spring, strawberries are spring crops while black-eyed peas, mangoes and watermelon are summertime favorites. And, as any fishing expert will tell you, seafood is seasonal too. There’s a cobia season, a snook season, a redfish season, a scallop season and a lobster season. Matching these up produces some excellent dishes.

Get tips for identifying and buying Florida fish

Readers even get to follow a picture guide identifying Florida fish; tips for buying fish; a primer on sustainable seafood; and steps to cracking delectable stone crab claws and cleaning shrimp.

And best of all is that Good Catch highlights some of the best authentic Florida seafood food shacks and restaurants, including their prize recipes. Even if you don’t cook, you’ll find an assortment of dishes from Florida’s best seafood restaurants.

And just to tease you, here are some of my favorite eateries included in Good Catch: Ted Peters in St. Petersburg - famous for smoked fish spread; St. Augustine's Osteen’s for Fried Shrimp; Sweet corn hush puppies with guava jelly from Deal’s Famous Oyster House in Perry; Pensacola’s Joe Patti’s Hot Crab dip; Weeki Wachee Springs Becky Jacks for fish tacos; Mayport’s Singleton Seafood Shack for Minorcan Clam Chowder; Islamorada’s Cheeca Lodge for Guava Glazed Mahi Mahi with Coconut Curry Sauce; Punta Gorda’s Peace River Seafood for Gator Gumbo; Apalachicola’s Boss Oyster Stew; Miami’s Garcia’s Seafood Grill & Fish Market for Florida lobster; Indian Pass Raw Oyster bar for what else, fresh oysters. 

Florida okra 

But I also enjoyed their other recipes including Aunt Glo’s Fried Green Tomatoes, Orange-Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Blueberry Cobbler, Grilled Lemon Okra, Kale Slaw with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Key Lime Mousse and yummy sauces.

Their previous book Field to Feast, highlighted Florida’s farms, farmers, chef and artisan recipes. They did an excellent job with that one, but Good Catch has become my new favorite.

 To purchase a copy go to Good Catch Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida Waters or enjoy the University Press of Florida Spring 2015 Catalogue for the new releases.

Another cookbook, Florida Bounty: A Celebration of Florida Cuisine and Culture follows a similar “local” theme, celebrating Florida’s food culture. Historically, Florida cuisine is a fusion of many heritages including early Native Americans, Spanish, French, English, Cuban, Caribbean and Latin American. Florida Bounty shares a cornucopia of cultural recipes, while keeping all of the menus “Florida fresh.”

Florida Bounty features “regional menu" ideas beginning with a Florida Thanksgiving. Just as Native Americans served indigenous foods to newly arrived Europeans for the first Thanksgiving, authors Eric and Sandra Jacobs support the “serve local” philosophy. A Florida Thanksgiving menu includes appetizers of Big Money Oysters Rockefeller and Stone Crab Claws followed by Turkey with Blue Crab Stuffing, Grouper in Orange Sauce, topped off by Tallahassee Lassie Pecan Tassies.

Florida oysters

Another creative menu featured is The Panhandle Fry Fest suggesting Oysters on the Half Shell, Dixie Fried Fish, Orange Hush Puppies, Florida Jambalaya with Grits, Sliced Watermelon and Southern Sweet Tea.  (Yes, my mouth is watering.)

Florida lobster

The Key West Fiesta menu includes Florida Lobster and Blue Crab Salad in Avocado, Key West Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa, Papaya, Tomato and Cilantro Salad topped off with Classic Key Lime Pie.

The Jacobs also provide a guide to Florida ingredients from citrus to seafood that helps the new Floridian, or even native cooks, sort out the wide number of foods grown here and available for locally prepared meals.

Even recipes for drinks and cocktails are provided including Jubilant Orange Creams, sweet Strawberry Daiquiris, and the lime Mojo Mojito.

Appetizers that intrigued me were the Florida Citrus Salsa with tangerine, orange and grapefruit, and the Gulf Coast Ceviche with scallops, shrimp and grouper.

And I can’t wait to try the recipes for the Blue Crab Bisque, Tampa Garbanzo Bean Soup, and Oyster Stew.

Of course, if you haven’t tried your hand at a Cuban sandwich, or the quintessential Florida Blackened Grouper sandwich, you owe it to yourself to do so.

For side dishes, enjoy classic recipes for Cheese Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes and Mango Salsa.

And to tempt your sweet tooth, there are some interesting finds to try such as Key Lime Cheesecake, Tangy Lemon Bars and Mamma Guava Pastry for a full circle culinary tour of Florida.

So enjoy both books and the many great dishes in each. After reading these two delightful cookbooks I am inspired to get back into my Florida kitchen and get cooking!

To purchase Florida Bounty, visit Pineapple Press at Florida Bounty: A Celebration of Florida Cuisine & Culture. For the 2015 Pineapple Press catalogue, you'll find many new featured publications.

 To receive Authentic Florida's free ENEWs, featuring travel and living updates, delivered weekly, sign up on the home page Authentic Florida.

About the Author: Robin Draper is a Florida native and blogger devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living. This article is connected to Robin's Google+ profile.


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Talk About This Post on Authentic Florida

Captain the Dog on March 25, 2015 said:
There are so many books to choose from about Florida Seafood.

I always look towards real life cooking experience in Seafood cooking so I choose to buy Florida cookbooks written by Chefs, like Chef Michael Bennett who has at least three cookbooks about Florida Seafood cookbooks.

Check out the link below to see more recipes for free:
Linda on March 24, 2015 said:
The best soft shell crab is at Peck's Old Port Cove in Ozello. Becky Jack's fish tacos are the best I've ever had. Their fish sandwich is equally as delicious and it's huge!
Jennifer Essad on March 24, 2015 said:
amazing amount of info in this post, I'm a "newbie" to Florida after years of visiting we moved here to central FL 7 years ago. I'm slowly learning what works in the garden as well as at our table using Florida fresh ingredients. I'm so bummed that most all of our neighbors are from out of state and can't really help me with questions. I'm anxious to check out the recipes and cookbooks that you've shared in this post. I've tried to find Salmon Steaks at the grocer and can't, is this true where you shop?
Lisa on March 23, 2015 said:
I have "The Florida Cookbook" by Jeanne Voltz & Caroline Stuart-I love it-breaks the state down by region-cuisine and history!

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