“Cheecken and froooot????” screeched our little Natasha as she peeked into my bubbling casserole dish hot out of the oven. Natasha is what is commonly known in North America as a Chernobyl child. Born one month to the day of the nuclear disaster, she was at risk for a variety of health problems and she and many of her young compatriots were shipped to other nations to host families for a summer of fresh air and and uncontaminated food. Natasha ended up being our guest and family member for seven summers in total.
I made this family favorite a few years in to her annual visits. Where Natasha lives in Chausy, Belarus, spices consist of salt and pepper, meat is scarce and vegetables are grown at home and don’t vary from what you could grow in an Ottawa summer. “Meat and fruit…no!” she informed me in a semi-wondrous, wide-eyed state. This dish soon became one of her favorites. Luckily after one summer with the Rose family she was very open minded and indeed adventurous.
This Moroccan themed dish was inspired by a recipe published in Canadian Living Magazine many years ago. It is a hearty stew that satisfies in cold weather but we serve it year round. Classic spices in the marinade, like ginger, cumin, and thyme, combine with garlic and olive oil to give the chicken and fruit complex flavours with no heat and a mellow sweet. It should be marinated overnight to let the flavours blend, but can be thrown together in a pinch and is still awesome. Prep takes very little time, but it needs an hour and ten minutes in the oven. We dish it up over couscous but rice is also a great way to sop up the sauce.
Chicken with Apricots, Olives, and Figs
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
– 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 ts ginger powder
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 3/4 cup green olives, sliced
– 3/4 cup dried apricots
– 3/4 cup dried figs
– 4 Chicken breasts cut in chunks
– 2 tablespoons brown sugar
– 1/4 cu orange juice
– Couscous for serving on
In a large plastic freezer bag, combine garlic, thyme, cumin, ginger, salt, and pepper to taste, vinegar, oil, olives, apricots, and figs. Add chicken. Refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. 2. Transfer chicken and marinade to a covered casserole dish. Combine sugar and orange juice. Sprinkle over mixture. Cover and bake at 325℉ for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake, basting frequently, for 40 -50 minutes until chicken is tender. 3. Serve over couscous.
SOURCE: Canadian Living
Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.
All content and photography copyright (c) 2011 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved
One of our main thoughts upon choosing Miami as a winter get away this year, was having a feed of stone crab. Joe’s Stone Crab, with its tuxedoed waiters, fine white linens, silver tableware, and valet parking, is another iconic South Beach establishment located near the end of Ocean Blvd. The cavernous dining room has several outdoor seating areas as well. Bobby Flay chose the stone crab at Joe’s as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, on the show entitled “Obsessions”.
Rob and I tried one evening to dine here but found a two hour wait for a table. Unbeknownst to us it was a holiday in the US and everyone was out on the town. Despite having paid for valet already, we opted out this particular evening and spent the next two hours trying to find a place that was serving stone crab. No luck. They had either closed their doors or were too far away. Sigh. “Another day.”, we hoped.
As I said earlier, it is difficult to relax ocean-side in South Beach. We decided to spend a day driving down the Keys as far as Marathon and then returning. On a previous “boys” trip, Rob had gone deep sea fishing and wanted to share with me a place he had visited where they cooked your catch for you. I was looking forward to getting some stone crab.
So on yet another beautiful, warm February day in Miami, we set out down the Florida Keys, buoyed by the sight of turquoise ocean on either side of the highway. This is a really pleasant drive. Each Key is cluttered with casual places to eat fresh food, marinas, and quaint mom and pop resorts. The Key’s own radio station plays easy-going rock classics and reports on daily events. With tunes cranked and windows down, we set out to enjoy the salt air, sun, and blue, blue waters. The island lifestyle is very seductive here.
About lunchtime we came upon the Fish House and Seafood Market in Key Largo. It is a typical seafood place with a ramshackle, weathered appearance strung with netting and starfish. You enter into a large, fresh seafood sale area and are led back to the dark eating area, again cluttered with classic seaside debris and heavy wood furniture. Classic and immediately comfortable. No pretension here.
We order conch fritters to start and discuss the stone crab situation with our server: the boats are not in yet and she has only jumbo claws served hot or cold. We decide to start with a pound of hot with drawn butter. At $40 per pound (three to four claws) we figure we will order a second if we are still hungry. Gone are the days of all-you-can-eat stone crab. We ended up ordering a second pound, cold, served with an excellent mustard remoulade. Stone crabs for those of you who have not experienced them, are meaty, sweet and succulent. Only the claws are served. Stone crabs regenerate lost limbs, so they are caught, harvested of one claw and returned to the ocean. I’ve yet to ever see them in Ottawa.
After a fabulous albeit pricey feed of stone crab, we headed further down the keys to Marathon where we stopped to enjoy a Landshark and enjoy the Marina view at Porky’s BBQ before making the return trip to South Beach.
Espanola Way is an historical district that comprises three blocks in South Beach. It was a two block walk from our hotel and we thought it would be a lovely way to spend an evening and have dinner. The Way turns into a pedestrian only walking mall at night. It is lit with old fashion lamps and the trees around some establishments have strung festive lighting giving the area a happy glow. The street is lined with Spanish style buildings housing small restaurants, patios and one-of-a-kind shops.
After walking the length of the Way, we decided on Tapas y Tintos for dinner. Their inviting patio, dark-haired waitresses complete with flowers in their hair and excellent tapas menu sealed the deal on a warm Miami evening.
Sangria was ordered and it arrived in a cold, crockery jug with inviting condensation dripping little puddles. Red wine, fruit juices and fruit. Excellent and refreshing. We put in our order for five dishes and sat back and enjoyed the gentle breeze on a warm night. The evening was approaching, the palms were silhouetted in the sky, and the festive strings of lights began to twinkle.
The first dish, Sepia a la Plancha, calamari grilled with garlic and paprika, arrived first, followed quickly by Asparagus dish, Patas Bravas, bravely done potatoes in spicy tomato sauce, Garbanzos con Chorizos, and Pimientos, green and red bell peppers roasted and marinated in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Plain, home grown cooking done well. The calamari was expertly grilled. The potatoes were perfectly tender and soaking up the spicy fresh tomato sauce. The garbanzo beans were garlicky and a nice starchy accompaniment to the spicy chorizo sausage, and the grilled peppers subtly marinated, added to the sweetness of the red and the sharpness of the green which played nicely on the tongue.
Dessert was a shared plate of Queso de Tetilla con Membrillo, slightly salty, medium soft cheese, mild in flavour, and sandwiching a slice of firm guava paste. The perfect end to a wonderful meal.
Still determined to have a last feed of stone crab at Joe’s before heading back to Ottawa, we figured lunch time would be a less busy option. We guessed right and were seated immediately. The elegant dining room at Joe’s was quite the contrast to the dark, sea-salt atmosphere of the Fish House in Key Largo.
Our chatty waiter brought a basket of excellent breads and took our orders. Stone crab, cold, the only way it is served at Joe’s. We order their signature string sweet potato fries on the side. They come sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Tasty, but the extra sugar is really not needed. Sweet potato fries, lightly tossed in cornstarch and expertly fried are perfection in themselves. Best sweet potato fries ever? Fathers Office. We finish our meal with good coffee and a decadent, not too sweet slice of key lime pie to share, which I think is the first time I have ever had this classic where it was invented.
We’d love to show you pictures of this meal, however for some reason they are missing. We don’t know why. We’ve checked cameras, computers, flash drives, archives, backups and we’re stumped. So as a diversionary tactic, here are some pretty pictures from Miami and environs.
That concludes our whirlwind visit to Miami. Lots of sun, fun and good eats were had. Ottawa and two kitties awaited our return. It is amazing what a little sun in February can do for the spirit. Stone crab too.
All content and photography copyright (c) 2010 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved.
Sauntering through customs at Ottawa International on a February Sunday, we were excited to be heading south for some much needed vitamin D. And Cuban food. Rob and I know little or nothing of Cuban cuisine. The American official asked our business in Miami. We told him we were looking for some sun and some Cuban food. “I’m Cuban! “ he says. “Make sure you have a midnight sandwich! It’s the best. Addictive.”. His eyes got a far away look and you could tell Ottawa in February was a hardship post. Even if you are from here. Especially if you are Cuban.
South Beach is a cool enclave of Miami, right on the ocean. Unfortunately you can see little of the ocean from the dining areas and cafes. Even rooftop bars offer little view in the historic Art Deco area where we made our home for seven days. Ocean Boulevard is lined with quaint cafes but the view to the water is obscured by dunes. Other areas of the beach have their frontage taken up by resorts and the ocean is only available for viewing by their guests. You could walk to the water easily, but we found you were not able to sit and enjoy a beer and watch the waves unless you drove to the Keys or Fort Lauderdale. South Beach offers good shopping in the historic district and dozens of street side restaurants offering excellent fare from a variety of cuisines.
Cuban food was our first priority. Just down the road a bit from where we were staying, was an iconic Cuban establishment, Puerto Sagua. We headed over for lunch. The buzz on this joint was that the food was authentic and the place was crusty and a bit rough around the edges and proud of it.
We were seated immediately and brought plastic tumblers of ice water. As we perused the menu, Rob noticed a dark object in his water: an expired cucaracha. What to do? We had not ordered yet. Decision time. We are here, and probably a cockroach never killed any one, probably. Blind-eye time. Let’s go for it. Rob asked the waitress for a fresh glass of water, pointing out the cockroach. She was horrified and a very good actress, because I would put money on this not being the first she had seen…that day even.
We had to order a few classics we were curious about including a midnight sandwich (medianoche) named for its role in many a late-night snack, ham croquettes, and tostones with garlic mojo, to round out our first Cuban experience.
The ham croquettes arrived first, hot, crisp and well made. Not greasy. The croquettes, made of minced smoked ham, onion, nutmeg, parsley and rolled in bread crumbs before deep frying, were excellent dipped in hot sauce.
Tostones are green plantains that are twice fried. After the first frying, they are squashed flat and refried. They are served with a thin, tasty, garlic mojo. The sauce has good flavour but the tostones themselves are extremely bland.
The star of this lunch arrived next. The famous Cuban sandwich. Basically a ham and cheese sandwich, the Cuban is served on a long, toasty egg bun. Spread with yellow mustard, layers of ham, roast pork and cheese, and finally pickles complete the ensemble. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good sandwich. The bun is warm, chewy and eggy, ham and cheese is a classic combo, and the mustard and pickle are a simple but excellent accompaniment. Would really hit the spot as a late night snack or light lunch. But I’m not sure it is anything that would make me desperately home sick or be the first thing I would want to tell a visitor to my culture “This is it. This defines us. If you have nothing else, have this.”
It seems we chose poorly. On a trek to the washrooms in the rear, I passed diners who were eating amazing looking food, mostly with large portions of shredded pork. Cuban food deserves more investigation.
If you have followed us on our journeys before, you know we are big fans of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, (Triple D) with Guy Fieri. On this trip we headed into Little Havana to a place recently featured on Triple D, La Camaronera. It is in a working class neighborhood and was packed with diners belly up to the counter where you ordered and ate standing up. Service is fast and friendly. Again we are headed in for lunch.
Both Rob and I were excited to try their feature fish sandwich, a lightly breaded, deep fried yellow tail snapper, dressed and served tail on in a soft bun. As well as being attractively presented, the lightness of the batter allows the freshness of the snapper to shine. The simple, soft white bun is a perfect choice to host the delectable piece of fish.
To round out our all-fried meal, we had the fried lobster with with spicy remoulade sauce. They take fresh-caught spiny lobster (no claws, all tail meat), cut it in pieces, dip in ketchup (yes, really!) and then in a spiced flour mixture and deep fry. It is tangy and spicy but the sweet luscious lobster flavour shines through.
Next: Miami, Part 2
All content and photography copyright (c) 2011 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved.