Miami Recipes: Where the People Play & Eat

A Taste of Homesteading Around the World — Recipes

Miami Recipes: Where the People Play & Eat

By Habeeb Salloum

As a child, roaming across the fields of Saskatchewan around our homestead, I hardly ever saw a puddle of water larger than a small pond. However, in our small library in the one-room schoolhouse that shelved some 200 works, I found a book that described the southern United States, and emphasized Florida’s Miami with its ocean waves, palms, and sandy beaches. On that cold, winter, sub-zero day, for, this little farm boy, I realized there was a whole new world out there.

As a young adult, I left the cold, flat prairies and headed to Toronto, escaping the cold of Saskatchewan. But this still was not Miami.

One cold winter day, my dream of visiting Florida came to fruition. Seafood and sun were on my mind as I booked my trip to Miami. The Florida I learned about from tourist literature now lay before me.

Along with its beaches and its ocean shores, I wanted to feast on the creatures of the sea. Growing up in Saskatchewan, seafood was simply not available. Shellfish was virtually unheard of, but we did have access, once in a while, to fresh-water fish. As the plane hovered over Miami, I realized that books at times do indeed tell the truth. Miami looked before me like a picture-postcard of beauty.

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Sprawling across 2,054 square miles of land, Miami, a metropolis of some 420,000, is actually two different cities: Miami, the mainland city, and, to the east, connected by causeways to Miami Beach, a city of beaches. Truly cosmopolitan, Miami is the mainland city, with a mixture of ethnic groups, dominated by an overwhelmingly Latin American flavor. Much different is Miami Beach, almost exclusively tourist-orientated, saturated with hotels and other visitor abodes, as well as restaurants of all types. The two cities complement each other and travelers usually refer to them as simply, “Miami.”

This two-in-one city is one of the world’s most renowned vacation spots. A large world-class metropolis, it is one of the most renowned cities visited by tourists from the four corners of the globe. Most arrive at Miami International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the country. The city is also known as the cruise capital of the world, with ships sailing to and from ports around the world. Millions travel from the cold parts of North America by car to enjoy their winter vacation under the Miami sun. All in all some 15 million tourists visit the Greater Miami area annually.

Most of these tourists usually come to revel in the warm all-year-round Miami weather. However, there is much more to lure the visitor. Besides the beaches and all their activities, including great boat tours and deep-sea fishing, golf courses, some of which have been rated in the top 10, the city is filled with an endless variety of restaurants, high-end plush hotels to budget motels, boutique shops, as well as crowded bars and nightclubs. The lively nightlife is one of the trendiest in the world’s tourist resorts.

For those enamored with shopping, the city appears to be sprawling with large malls. Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, Lincoln Road and South Beach are the best places to feel the throb of the shopping experience. Biscayne Boulevard is another prime spot for shopping, and in addition there are other areas for tourists to thin out their wallets.

When people hear the name Miami, beaches come to mind. There are 16 beaches visitors frequent, each offering their own specialties.

South Beach, located on the southernmost part of Miami Beach, where visitors head for when they first reach Miami, is noted for its topless sunbathing beauties, which draw the crowds—topless dress is permitted only on South Beach.

Other tourists make their way to the Art Deco Historic District of South Beach, set on a one-square mile area. A showcase for early 20th century art, it incorporates a series of restored structures with the architecture from that era.

All through the area trendy boutiques, hotels, restaurants, bars and art galleries are found. Depending upon one’s taste, be it shopping or partying, South Beach is well known for being a trendy spot frequented by artists, celebrities and international supermodels.

South Beach boasts that it caters to some of the most beautiful people in the world—a good number of Hollywood screen stars have made this city home.

After partying all night in one of South Beach’s world famous nightclubs, it is easy to understand why a good number of travelers say that no visit to Miami would be complete without at least a stop at South Beach.

For visitors who like the exotic and colorful, a tour of the “District of Little Havana” and the other Latin-American spots in Miami would be an excellent excursion. The countless Hispanic immigrants from Cuba, Central America, Puerto Rico, and South America have made Miami home. Spanish is used in almost every part of the city. Signs are in both English and Spanish especially in Little Havana.

Should one have time to spare there are many more choices on what to see and do, most available by organized tours. Miami Seaquarium Museum—a great stop where one can witness an outdoor aquarium; Miami Zoo—some 1,200 animals living in free-range environments; Coral Castle—a bizarre monument consisting of coral sculptures; Everglades National Park—an unusual park, it is home to 14 rare and endangered species; Jungle Island—offers an up-close look at tropical birds in their natural habitats; Miami Museum of Science—a learning adventure for the whole family; Monkey Jungle—where humans are caged and the monkeys run wild; and Vizcaya Mansion—a glimpse of the U.S.’s top resort where high society flourishes, are all worth a stopover on a visitor’s itinerary.

After spending the day exploring a few of the hundreds of sites, one is more than likely ready for a good meal. And Miami has plenty to offer. The food of the city, due to the large influx of Cubans after the Cuban Revolution, is saturated with Cuban influence.

In the small inexpensive cantinas, especially in Old Havana, rice and beans, chicken stew and salsa are almost always a lunch special. The Sandwich Cubano, sliced pork and mild cheese, is sold in almost every cantina. No one can say that they’ve eaten in Miami without having tried one of the city’s Cuban sandwiches. As for drinks, espresso coffee seems to be a required morning and afternoon drink for most adults—a very popular morning beverage for the working masses.

In this culturally diverse city, other immigrants have, to a lesser extent, added to the culinary tastes of the city. The traditional African dish Gumbo (seafood soup or stew) served with rice, and Sangria, a Spanish drink that is a mixture of wine and fruit juices, enhance the Miami kitchen.

Miami also has excellent restaurants of every kind, from Italian to various types of Asian. This collection of influences has given the city a rich culinary landscape and reflects the blend of cultures in its gastronomy.

There are some 3,500 restaurants in Miami and a good number are outstanding in what they offer. Besides Cuban food that appears to be everywhere and the ethnic food outlets, there are restaurants that cater to every taste and whim.

Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami eating place which specializes in preparing stone crabs in its own way, has been in business for over a 100 years, and is so successful that there are always long lines of hungry patrons waiting.

For romance, Miami is the place. Restaurants abound for those seeking fine dining in an atmosphere of romance, and the ideal spot is the Casa Tua. Most patrons are dazzled by its romantic atmosphere and pleasantly surprised by the fine European-style dishes. One very satisfied customer who stayed in this lover’s nook once wrote: “All that you can envision about paradise and more are to be found here.”

On the other hand, for those wishing to dine in style on American food, the Capital Grille is the place. This steakhouse is frequented by many tourists arriving to relish the excellent steaks and fresh seafood offered there.

However, a good number, especially first time visitors, venture to the Garcia Seafood Grille to try its Gumbo—an iconic dish in Miami’s cuisine. It is a pleasant culinary experience that one does not quickly forget.

As I relished my Sandwich Cubano, I thought of the immigrant food we ate on our Saskatchewan homestead—wholesome, healthy and fresh. Here, I was enjoying Cuban immigrant foods, a little different, but in sunny Florida.

Here is a sample of a few recipes any tourist can enjoy in Miami, the second homeland for many Cubans.

Ensalada de Aguacate y Piña — Avocado and Pineapple Salad
Ensalada de Aguacate y
Piña — Avocado and Pineapple Salad

Ensalada de Aguacate yPiña — Avocado and Pineapple Salad

Here is a great bright and fresh salad that offers a creamy and sweet addition to any dinner table.

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon seeded finely chopped hot pepper
1 large avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, quartered then thinly sliced

To make the dressing, in a bowl, mix together the oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, onion, and hot pepper. Set aside for 1/2 hour.

Place avocado and pineapple in a bowl. Gently stir in dressing then serve immediately.

White Gazpacho Soup
White Gazpacho Soup

White Gazpacho Soup

4 medium cucumbers, each about 6-inches long, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 cups sour cream
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
4 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Place all ingredients except the green onion, parsley and almonds, in a food processor and process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish with remaining ingredients.

Moros y Christianos — Cuban Style Black Beans and Rice
Moros y Christianos — Cuban Style Black Beans and Rice

Moros y Christianos — Cuban Style Black Beans and Rice

Somewhat different than the same dish served in Spain, it is as its name indicates: (Moors and Christians), the beans the Moors and the rice, the Christians.

Cubans enjoy this dish with fried eggs on the side and fried plantain (maduros). To fry them, slice the plantains lengthwise and fry in hot oil, turning them over occasionally, until golden, about 2 to 4 minutes then sprinkle with a little salt.

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup white rice, rinsed
3 cups chicken stock

In a saucepan, place water to about 3 inches over the beans and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 hours or until beans are tender but still whole, adding more water if necessary. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan then sauté onions, garlic, bell pepper and coriander leaves over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir-fry for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and remaining ingredients then bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir, re-cover and allow to cook in own steam for 30 minutes.

Note: Substitute red kidney beans for the black beans and you have a type of congri.

Fricasé de Pollo — Cuban Chicken Stew
Fricasé de Pollo — Cuban Chicken Stew

Fricasé de Pollo — Cuban Chicken Stew

Quite simple to prepare, it is important to note that the chicken needs to be marinated the night before preparation.

6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
6 tablespoons olive oil for paste
1 whole chicken, 3 • to 4 pounds, skin on and cut up into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned
1/2 cup white wine
10 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups frozen green peas
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives

To make the marinade:
The night before, in a bowl, mix together the garlic, lime juice, salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to form a thick paste. Rub the paste onto the chicken pieces. Place chicken in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Preparing the chicken stew:
In a frying pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Remove the vegetables and place in a large saucepan and set aside.

Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil with its marinade in the frying pan and sauté over medium heat until golden on both sides about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove chicken from hot oil and add to saucepan. Add wine and water making sure that there is enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook covered for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.

Add the potatoes and peas, cover, bring to boil then cook over medium heat until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more water if necessary.

Just before serving, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Seafood Gumbo
Easy to Make Seafood Gumbo

Easy to Make Seafood Gumbo

There are many different ingredients and endless ways to prepare this dish. This is my version. If served with cooked rice, it makes a perfect delicious meal for the whole family.

4 tablespoons butter
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium potato, grated
2 1/2cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste, dissolved in 1 cup wate
1 1/2teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon fish spices
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound uncooked shrimp
1/2 pound scallops, fresh or frozen
1/2 pound crab meat
1/2 pound frozen or fresh okra, chopped (if not tiny in size)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and then sauté over medium heat the red pepper, onion, garlic, hot pepper and potato for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, salt and the spices and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium/low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, except the coriander leaves, bring to a boil, cover and cook then cover and cook over medium/low heat for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the coriander leaves and serve hot along with cooked rice.

Habeeb Salloum
Habeeb Salloum

Join HABEEB SALLOUM during the next several issues as he takes us around the world to six continents, describes their homesteading culture in every city he visits, and presents us recipes from the region. In the next issues, he will take us to Mexico, and then he travels on to Cuba.

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