It may be winter wherever you are (or maybe, if you’re my brother in Australia, it’s the dead of summer), but here in Florida it’s been beautiful, t-shirt weather for the past several days. Tonight’s dinner honors this Florida winter season, because the past two years I’ve been here, it’s been anything but the mild weather I was promised.
OK–about the food–tonight I just let my creative side go nuts. We ate a tapa dinner — small, delectable bites of food that allowed us to be decadent and watch our growing waistlines at the same time. We decided we’d rather eat smaller portions of amazing food than go on a diet, so here’s our version of diet food. 🙂 I made both these dishes up tonight, drawing inspiration from the food available in my kitchen and the restaurant we love so much — Emiliano’s. Johnny really wanted to go there to have their arepas trio, but since we’re on a budget, I took on the challenge to try to recreate the dish, adding my own flair. Luckily, my shopping trip included a pound of wild Florida shrimp, and that was really the key. Ok, I digress. On the one side of the plate are arepitas — white corn flour patties lightly fried in organic canola oil topped with a cajun-seared shrimp resting on an avocado puree. Making the arepas was actually quite simple, with white corn meal, whole milk, a little bit of butter, a slice of havarti cheese, and a pinch of salt. To my surprise, they turned out crispy and delicious, almost as good as Emiliano’s. The avocado puree was just mashed avocados with a little salsa verde mixed in and the shrimp was coated in a dry rub of Old Bay, chile powder, and garlic salt. To be fair, this dish was not so much my original idea as it was a version of Chef Ali’s. The other side of the plate, however, was all mine. 🙂 What you see there is a little trio of red-wine deglazed sausage balls placed on top of a caramelized star fruit slice. I marinated the star fruit in soy and thai chili sauce for a few minutes before searing them on a hot cast iron skillet on both sides. When it’s raw, starfruit tastes quite bland, so I thought that caramelizing it would intensify the flavors nicely. It did. A few fell apart, but never to be deterred, I added them to the fruit salad, which was simply strawberries and kiwis, no sugar or spices added. I must say, the dish was surprisingly delicious. The combination of the starfruit with the sausage actually tasted pretty amazing. There was a sweet-sourness to the starfruit that complemented the sausageiness really well. Ok, so I have to work on my food vocabulary, but you know what I mean.
Making this meal took about an hour, total. A lot of it was just me scratching my head and wondering what to do next, though. In the end, I think both dishes are keepers, though the presentation is a bit over the top. Visually, it was a little bit like eating Carmen Miranda’s hat. Next time, I think I’ll put the salads in little side dishes to keep the presentation neater. One thing I really loved about making these was the attention to detail that it required. It may seem ridiculous that it took an hour to cook six little bites of food, but trust me, it was worth it. Nom to the nom nom is all I have to say about that.
I have no clue what’s for dinner tomorrow, but it’s farmer’s market day, and that’s where what remains of my weekly $60 food budget will be spent. According to the Union Street Farmer’s market website, there are going to be fresh tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli! Yummmmmmm. Catch ya on the flip side, and hopefully, see you at the market!