These three recipes will take you south for the winter.
I’m not sure what triggered the flashback, but years ago I found myself daydreaming about picking oranges from my mother-in-law’s fruit-ladened tree in Florida. You see, I was a novice to Nashville’s winters and sorely in need of a break from its relentless 36-degree drizzle. So, as quickly as possible, we gifted ourselves a trip to head south for the winter to St. Petersburg for a long January weekend—Florida-style. Once there, we basked in the 70-degree temperatures and clear skies and took leisurely walks along bricked paths adorned by lush vegetation still in bloom. We juiced oranges, picked late-season avocados, grilled grouper, and soaked up the coveted sun. The brief therapy worked. However, upon boarding the plane back to life in Tennessee, I felt a slight tinge of regret we’d ever left this slice of paradise.
Now a seasoned Tennessean, I’m better prepared for the winter doldrums. Many of the solutions I’ve found were right here in my kitchen, where at day’s end the aroma of a rib-sticking stew could become the backdrop to some much anticipated snuggle time around the fireplace. Nothing wrong with that scenario. But keeping the blues at bay also meant I needed to keep exercising, glimpse the sun occasionally, and take a culinary break from the usual winter palate and plate. So, it occurred to me: What if I headed south for the winter—at least with my menus?
Some of my favorite eateries in the Tampa Bay area are of Spanish, French, and Cuban influence, so naturally my first stop on this culinary journey is Grouper en Papillote. Complicated? No. It’s simply baked fish in a parchment bag. The magic comes from what you add to it, so choose your ingredients according to cuisine you desire. My go-tos are citrus and olives.
Another blues buster I use is cruise research. I figure if I can’t find the sun outside, planning for my next glimpse of it is a close second. And, to take us there, my Floribbean recipe serves up the flavors of Florida and the Caribbean. Take your choice of flaky fish, and give your slow cooker a winter break with this 30-minute yummy meal.
January lends toward adding to my annual bucket list, and there’s something about putting pen to paper that solidifies my plan. This year Hawaii made the cut. However, until our budget catches up, only my taste buds will be making the trip. To suffice, this amazing poke bowl recipe is sure to keep my Hawaiian travel goals on track.
Shed your winter blues and head south with me this winter—if only through your palate and plate.
Grouper en Papillote
Makes 4 servings
4–6oz. grouper fillets
8 creamer or fingerling potatoes (sliced thin)
1/4 c. olive oil plus
4 large garlic cloves (minced)
1 Tbsp. thyme leaves (fresh, chopped)
1 large shallot (chopped)
2 large lemons (cut into 12 rind strips and 8 rings)
1 large orange (cut into 12 rind strips)
2/3 c. olives (chopped)
1/2 c. pistachios (chopped)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. In a small pot, add water and sliced potatoes. Boil for 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and set aside. To a small bowl add olive oil, garlic, thyme, shallots, chopped olives, pistachios, red pepper flakes, orange and lemon rinds, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. On the counter, lay out four pieces of parchment paper (about 12 inches each) and fold each in half like a book. Open the folded parchment papers, keeping one half on the counter. Portion out cooked potatoes in the center of each sheet. Coat with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Pat fish dry, and then place on top of potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Evenly distribute the olive and citrus mixture to the top of each fillet. Place two lemon slices on the top and close the parchment paper packet by rolling the long edge under and seal it by tucking both sides under to form a packet. Place packets carefully onto a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. When serving, cut an X in the middle of the top of the parchment packet for a pretty presentation.
Tip from Laura —
If you’re having trouble finding fresh Grouper, another firm bodied fish will work for this recipe.
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls
Makes 4 servings
2 c. sushi rice
1/4 c. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil (divided)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lb. ahi tuna (cubed)
4 scallions (thinly sliced)
2 avocados (cubed)
2/3 c. pineapple (cubed)
1 cucumber (sliced into half-moons)
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, stir in four cups of water and one teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then add sushi rice, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low (cooking to package directions) for 14 minutes. To make the marinade, add soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic to a large bowl and whisk together. Add the cubed tuna to the marinade and gently toss to coat. Add sliced scallions and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut and cube the avocados and pineapple. Add to the tuna right before serving. Slice the cucumber and toss in one tablespoon of sesame seed oil, then set aside. Begin to build bowls. To the bottom of the bowl, add one cup of rice. Layer cucumbers over rice. Place tuna and other ingredients on top. Sprinkle with extra sesame seeds.
Tip from Laura —
If you like a little heat, feel free to add Sriracha Hot Chili sauce to the top. It pairs well with the other ingredients.
Red Snapper with Mango Salsa
Makes 4 servings
2 c. long grain rice
1 large mango (chopped)
1 red bell pepper (diced)
1/2 c. red onion (diced)
1/2 c. cilantro (rough chopped)
15 oz. can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
4-6 oz. red snapper fillets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, stir in four cups of water and one teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and then add rice and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to low and cook for 14 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees on broil. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the salsa ingredients: mango, bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, the juice of one lime, black beans, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. Stir to combine, then set aside. In a shallow dish, add the zest and juice of one lime, olive oil, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, then coat both sides of the fish. Place fish on the sheet pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Broil fish for seven to eight minutes, or until fish flakes with a fork. Serve over rice topped with the salsa.
These recipes originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of HomeLife Magazine.