Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Flavors of the Florida Keys

by Linda Gassenheimer Photographs by Sandy Levy

From Margaritaville’s original margarita to Square Grouper’s cracked conch to Hawks Cay’s cloud-light Key Lime Pie, discover the hidden culinary treasures of the Florida Keys.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date December 07, 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9623-1
  • US List Price $20.00

About The Book

The sun-drenched Florida Keys are a unique crossroads where Caribbean, European, and American cultures and cuisines meet. In The Flavors of the Florida Keys, Linda Gassenheimer brings the islands to your kitchen with over two hundred recipes that range from the humble (Bahamian Conch Chowder) to the sophisticated (Crab Cakes with Pommery Mustard Sauce). In her quest for the best of the Keys’ culinary traditions, Gassenheimer has been everywhere from waterfront beach shacks to resort dining rooms, while collecting the stories of the men and women behind the recipes—the eccentric artists and writers, the local fishermen, and the bon vivants captured by the magical atmosphere of the Keys. Your dinner companions include chef Doug Shook from acclaimed Louie’s Backyard, Elena Spottswood, a member of one of the original Conch families, who shares her recipe for a perfect Cuban Mojito, and Wolfgang Birk, whose Ocean Bounty serves up an abundance of superlative seafood from the surrounding seas. Travel the Keys with Gassenheimer’s book by your side, and discover its hidden treasures; use it as a stove-side companion to bring the sunlight and spirit of the Keys to your own dining table.


“After a brief history of the Florida Keys, James Beard Award winner Gassenheimer (Dinner in Minutes) credits originating restaurants for these recipes. As one would expect, there is an assortment of drinks, including Piña Colada, Key Lime Cosmopolitan, and Key Lime Martini. Seafood and desserts, such as Tropical Coffee Cake (made with key lime juice, pineapple, and coconut) and Key Lime Cookies, are also plentiful. Highly recommended for Gassenheimer’s knowledge of the area and the well-written recipes.” —Library Journal

“A Sloppy Joe’s sandwich is the last thing one might expect to qualify as a Florida Keys flavor, but Gassenheimer (Dinner in Minutes) tracks its origins to a Florida speakeasy frequented by Hemingway and provides a classic, ketchup-filled recipe. Of course, among her more than 200 other offerings there are plenty of exactly what one would expect, namely, seafood, Key limes, and rum.” —Publishers Weekly


The Fish House Smoked Fish Dip
Serves 4

Doug Prew, part owner with CJ Berwick of The Fish House in Key Largo, smokes his own fish very slowly for many hours over buttonwood chips. This wood is very hard and ideal for smoking because it burns slowly and releases generous quantities of heat. His smoked fish has become so popular that people now bring him their fresh-caught fish to smoke. Here’s his smoked fish dip.

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
Several drops Worcestershire sauce
Several drops hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons seeded, finely chopped jalapeño pepper
4 ounces smoked fish
3 tablespoons sour cream

Mix the onion, celery, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, jalapeño pepper, and smoked fish together, breaking up the fish as you stir. Add half the sour cream and taste. Add more sour cream if needed.

Green Curried Keys Shrimp
Serves 4

Chef Charlotte Miller from Tom’s Harbor House at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key mentioned that she grew up in an international house on the college campus where her parents worked. She learned about many exciting ethnic flavors there. For this dish, she makes her own Thai green curry sauce and combines it with sweet Keys pink shrimp. She says you can also buy green curry sauce, found in the ethnic section of many markets, to make this dish. She serves the dish over Steamed Rice with a sweet coconut flavor and with Stir-Fried Broccoli Slaw.

Green curry paste is also available in markets. If using the paste, mix 1 tablespoon paste with 4 ounces canned unsweetened coconut milk.

For sauce:

1 stalk lemongrass, white part only
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1/2 bunch fresh mint, stems removed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
4 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup bottled green curry sauce

Blend the lemon grass, cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño pepper together in a food processor. Add the coconut milk and blend to a smooth sauce.

For shrimp:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 pounds peeled shrimp

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the shrimp. Toss for 1 minute. Add the sauce and stir for 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn red.

Steamed Coconut Rice

1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup water
1 cup basmati rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 scallions, sliced

Bring the coconut milk and water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and boil for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid, and turn the heat down to very low. Steam for 20 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. Fluff the rice and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the scallions on top.

Stir-Fried Broccoli Slaw

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 package broccoli slaw (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broccoli slaw and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes. The broccoli will still be slightly crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste.