Celebrating the Flavors of Florida

Today is National Florida Day, so let’s talk Florida Cuisine. While every country has its dishes, and every region its distinct style, Florida is one of the most uniquely diverse in the world. Its multicultural exchange of flavors can be traced back to 1513 when Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain.

This sparked the beginning of mingled flavors from Indigenous Peoples and their Spanish and European guests. Flavors from as far away as Africa found their way to the peninsula state. By the early 1900s Jewish communities sprang up, bringing even more new defining flavors to the state. Northerners migrated to the area, with new ways to incorporate the guavas, wild gingers and other native foods. By the late 50s, the first wave of Cuban refugees added yet another layer to the Floridian palate. Black beans and Arroz con Pollo became a staple in many eateries. Soon Caribbean and Vietnamese dishes were added to the mix, making Florida’s cuisine one of the most diverse on the planet.

The flavors of Florida are bright, exotic and unique. Kick your shoes off, play some calypso music and pour yourself a Bacardi Coke. Oh, this is the life!

Celebrating Florida
Lemon Garlic Florida Gulf Shrimp

Florida-Style Arroz Con Pollo
Cuban Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Florida Orange Meringue Pie


Lemon Garlic Florida Gulf Shrimp
1 lb large Shrimp (16 to 20 count)
Sea Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
4 Garlic Cloves
1 large Lemon
Splash White Wine
Parsley for garnish
4 tablespoons Butter
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Rinse the shrimp thoroughly. Peel and devein the shrimp, leave tails attached. Drain the excess water in a colander. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Peel garlic, finely mince and set aside. Cut lemon in half. Cut one-half into wedges for garnish. Set wedges aside. Juice remaining half, set juice aside. Pluck parsley leaves from stems. Finely mince leaves to garnish cooked shrimp, set aside.

Heat up a skillet on medium heat. Add the butter and saute and garlic until aromatic without browning, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and spread on a single layer, turning as needed for even cooking with a nice coral coloring. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, lemon juice and a splash of wine. Toss to coat and continue to cook another 2 or 3 minutes.

Transfer shrimp to a serving platter or serving bowl. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Florida-Style Arroz Con Pollo
1 medium Yellow Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 large Garlic Cloves
1 (15 oz) can Diced Tomatoes
8 Chicken Thighs, bone-in skin on
2 teaspoons Salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Hot Pepper Sauce
1-1/2 cups uncooked White Rice
2-1/2 cups Chicken Stock
8 Saffron Threads
1 cup frozen Peas

Peel onion, dice and set aside.Stem, core and seed bell pepper. Dice into small pieces and set aside. Peel and mince garlic, set aside. Drain juices from the tomatoes, set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken thighs lightly with 1 teaspoon of salt and the paprika.Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken thighs and brown on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, red bell pepper, and tomatoes to the skillet. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add the hot pepper sauce and the rice. Saute for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the rice is well coated with the oils and pan drippings. 

Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil; crumble the saffron threads over the mixture. Add the chicken pieces to the rice. Cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Stir occasionally.

While the chicken cooks, rinse peas under cold water to thaw. Let drain well.

Once the rice is tender, give the dish a gentle stir, then add the peas. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes longer.

Taste and adjust seasonings with more salt or hot sauce, as needed. For a casual feel, serve directly from the skillet.

Cuban Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette
The Vinaigrette

2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Sauce
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

Peel garlic, set aside.

Juice half of a lemon into a one-cup glass measuring cup. Add vinegar and red pepper sauce. Press garlic directly into the measuring cup.

Whisk to combine. While still whisking, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Set aside to make the salad.

The Salad
Spring Greens as desired
3 Firm Roma Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 large Red Onion, slivered
1 Lime, quartered
2 Avocados
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste

On a large platter, arrange a bed of greens down the center.

Slice red onion into slivers, breaking apart. Frame the spring greens with red onion slivers. Quarter tomatoes, arrange around the onion slivers. Cut 1 lime into wedges, tuck around the outer rim of the platter. Cut remaining lime in half, set aside.

Peel and slice avocado, arrange slices over the bed of greens. Squeeze remaining lime halves over the avocados. Sprinkle salad with a little salt and pepper.

Note: If not serving right away, build salad to the point of the avocados. Slice and arrange avocados just before serving.

Whisk vinaigrette one final time, drizzle over salad. Serve and enjoy.

Florida Orange Meringue Pie
Citrus Orange Pie

1 (9-inch) Pie Shell
1 cup Sugar
5 tablespoons Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Warm Water
1/2 cup Orange Juice
3 large Egg Yolks
1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Orange Zest

Bake the pie crust as directed on the recipe or package. Place baked shells on a cooling rack and set aside.

Reduce oven, if necessary, to 325-degrees. Have at the ready the bottom of a double boiler with simmering water. The top of the double boiler will be used both over the bottom and directly on the stovetop burner.

In the top of the double boiler, combine the 1 cup of sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in warm water and orange juice.

Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to boil. Boil gently, stirring, for 1 minute. Set the saucepan over simmering water and continue cooking for about 10 minutes longer.

Separate egg yolks from white. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. While whisking constantly, add about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolks. Whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the hot mixture; blend thoroughly. Place the smaller saucepan over the simmering water. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, stirring constantly.

Remove the saucepan from the pan of hot water. Add the butter, lemon juice, and orange zest. Let mixture cool slightly and then pour it into the cooled baked pie crust. Set aside.

Meringue Topping
3 large Egg Whites
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
6 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy; add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the meringue holds soft peaks.

While beating constantly, add the 6 tablespoons of sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Add vanilla. Beat to blend.

Spoon the meringue onto the pie filling, gently spreading to the crust edge to seal filling in.

Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until the peaks are nicely browned.

Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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