New World Cuisine Serves Up Florida Flavors


September 08, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

The hot news in food this year comes from the steamy climate of South Florida, where young chefs have put together something they call New World cuisine -- a cooking style that relies on native Florida ingredients infused with seasoning from their Caribbean neighbors.

Key West fish with cilantro-ginger sauce, the main course of this Fastlane Feast, is inspired by the thinking of innovative chefs like Norman Van Aken of "a Mano" restaurant in Miami Beach and Mark Militello of Mark's Place in North Miami. If you can't find pompano or grouper at your favorite fish store, try substituting orange roughy or flounder.

Although this dish tastes better the longer it marinates, you can get a good quick-cook flavor by marinating the fish for 15 minutes at room temperature. The distinctive punch in the seasoning relies mostly on Key lime juice, which can be found in bottles in some supermarkets and gourmet stores, and fresh cilantro, a seasoning that reflects the Spanish influence of the islands. Even those who consider the leaves of fresh cilantro too soapy for their taste will be converted by this fine blending of flavors that are mellowed in the food processor.

Serve your fish with white rice seasoned with mushrooms and onions and green beans with toasted almonds. Start by putting the water on to boil for the rice and toasting the almonds. Then cook the fish and the green beans at the same time. End the meal with sliced fresh mangoes.

Items you should have in your pantry include: fresh ginger, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, white rice, green onions, chicken bouillon, margarine or butter.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

*1 pound fish fillets, such as pompano, grouper or orange roughy

*Fresh cilantro

*1 bottle Key lime juice

*8 ounces white mushrooms

*1 package slivered almonds, about 2/3 cup

*1 pound fresh green beans

*2 large mangoes (one-half per person)

Key West fish with cilantro-ginger sauce

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

OC 1 pound fish fillets, such as pompano, grouper or orange roughy


1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut in slivers

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

2 tablespoons Key lime juice or lime juice

pinch of salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash fish, pat dry and place in a 9-by-12 1/2 -inch glass baking dish.

Put ginger and garlic in food processor with a metal blade and chop until fine. Add remainder of marinade ingredients and process for about 2 minutes. The puree will be gold-colored with green specks.

Cover fish with marinade and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Place dish on lower rack of oven and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.

White rice with mushrooms and onions

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

2 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 cup white rice

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons margarine

8 ounces white mushrooms

3 green onions, chopped, including base of green part

Put water in saucepan with lid and bring to boil. Add rice and salt, turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt margarine and saute mushrooms and green onions until soft, about 3 minutes. When rice is done, mix sauteed vegetables into rice and serve.

Green beans with toasted almonds

Makes 4 servings.

1 package slivered almonds, about 2/3 cup

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 pound fresh green beans, ends cut off and cut diagonally in half

1/2 cup water

Put almonds and butter in microwave-safe dish and cook on high for 1 minute. Stir with a wooden spoon. Repeat 2 more times.

Put beans and water in a microwave-safe dish with lid and cook on high for 5 to 6 minutes, depending on texture of beans. Drain. Serve topped with toasted almonds.

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