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Fresh from Florida! (September 10, 2009)

We were on the Gulf coast of Florida recently, and stopped in at our favourite seafood restaurant, Captain Eddie's in Nokomis. It's a great local place, just a notch above a multi-roomed beach shack really, and features the freshest local fish just off the boats. Sweet, moist broiled grouper, delicate crab cakes, mangrove snapper and juicy alligator ribs found their way to our table; all this was washed down with a crisp sauvignon blanc to make a perfect feast!

We looked further into Florida seafood and agriculture, and found some great recipes and ideas for all this bounty. Herewith are a few of our favourites!  

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (83 KB)


Spiny Lobster, Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Spiny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters, are crustaceans related to crabs, shrimp, crayfish and the Spanish lobster; they are found off South Florida primarily in the Florida Keys.

This clawless version has a melt-in-your-mouth, mild sweet white meat low in calories and high in protein, and only the tail is eaten. Lobster lovers debate the merits of both varieties, as they are a bit different, but we say try both! Warning: after enjoying this salad, you'll vote for Florida spiny lobsters every time.

For a smart little lunch or pre-dinner starter, try this recipe with fresh fruit and that sweet lobster all tied up in a tangy citrus dressing. Divine!

2 servings

  • 2 tsp shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups Florida spiny lobster meat, cooked and chilled*
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 ripe avocado half, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
  • Sea salt to taste

Combine shallots, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Add oil in a stream, whisking to blend. Set aside. Slice cooked lobster meat into ½-inch-thick medallions. Arrange arugula, avocado slices, lobster slices and grapefruit sections on 2 salad plates; drizzle with shallot-lemon dressing. Add sea salt to taste and serve.

* To cook lobster:
Boiled lobster: Place in boiling salted water and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. For tails only, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes depending on size.
Grilled lobster: Brush tail meat with olive oil and place on grill, meat side down, for 5–6 minutes per side.

Tony's wine recommendation:
a very dry, medium-bodied white wine without oak – Chablis, Muscadet or an unoaked Ontario Chardonnay or Sancerre from the Loire


Clams Casino

The old classic, perhaps made more famous as the last meal of a few dons in New York's Little Italy! Good reason they and the rest of us order this dish – it's rich and satisfying with the salty sweetness of the clams blending with the herbaceous Mediterranean ingredients! Good news: it won't be the last time you enjoy this! Ciao bella, everyone!

2 servings as an appetizer

  • 4 slices lean bacon, chopped fine
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 12 middleneck Florida clams, shucked (reserve bottom shells)
  • Rock salt for lining the pan and platter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, cook chopped bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove to absorbent paper to drain. Wipe skillet clean. Over low heat, cook onion, garlic, bell peppers and oregano in olive oil until peppers are crisp-tender. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in chopped bacon, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper to taste. In a jellyroll pan filled with a layer of rock salt to balance the shells, arrange clam meat on the reserved shells. Top each clam with the bell pepper mixture. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes until cooked through. Serve clams on a platter lined with a layer of rock salt. Note: Bell pepper mixture may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Soave, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Verdicchio, or Gavi


Alligator Ribs

Oh, come on, alligator? Yes, and very toothsome as well as healthy! Alligator is a lean meat low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein with a texture similar to veal. We could have had ordered Grilled Gator Kabobs or Alligator Scaloppini, but chose these babies instead. Good move, too; they were snapped up in a hurry; ribs bathed in tangy citrus sauce made an irresistible combo.

Alligator meat is available fresh in some outlets, and widely available frozen.

Allow ¾ to 1 pound per serving.

4 servings

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup key lime juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 4 fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Florida alligator ribs
    Citrus Glaze
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup sweet butter

Prepare a citrus marinade by combining all ingredients except alligator ribs in a glass bowl; blend thoroughly. Set aside ½ cup marinade for basting. Pour remaining marinade over ribs and thoroughly coat all pieces; refrigerate in covered bowl or sealed zipper-type bag for 1 to 3 hours. Remove ribs from marinade and discard used marinade. Heat stove top grill or gas grill to medium heat. Grill ribs for 45 minutes or until tender, basting frequently with reserved ½ cup of marinade. Prepare Citrus Glaze while ribs are grilling by combining all glaze ingredients, except butter, and simmering for 15 minutes or until thickened. Add butter in small pieces; heat until butter is melted. Keep warm at low heat until ready to serve. Remove ribs from grill and baste with Citrus Glaze.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Alsace Pinot Gris, California Chardonnay


Blueberry-Mango Parfait

After all that, we'd better skip the key lime pie or cheesecake and head for this fresh, lighter dessert. A great way to finish, and actually good for you with the fruit, yogurt and wheat germ! Way to go, for sure.

4 servings

  • 1½ Tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp orange rind, grated
  • 1 tsp orange juice
  • 2 cups reduced-fat vanilla Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 cups blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 cups mango, sections
  • ¼ cup wheat germ

Stir sugar, orange rind, orange juice and yogurt in bowl until blended. Spoon into 4 parfait glasses in the following order: blueberries, yogurt mixture, mango slices, blueberries, yogurt mixture, mango slices. Sprinkle wheat germ on top and serve chilled.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Ontario Icewine, Monbazillac, Sauternes


We wish to thank Barbera S. Turnbull, Development Representative, Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing, Tallahassee, Florida, for her assistance.

Recipes and photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

For more information and recipes, go to and


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (83 KB)




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