Florida's summers are hot. In a professional kitchen, the heat can become brutal. There is an adjustment period with our bodies and minds and it takes a while to get used to it.
I start to dress differently, and my cooking style also changes.
It's not just salad time, it's a mindset on my menu. It's global and it's local.
Time to say goodbye to Brussels sprouts, red meats, etc. When one season wraps up, Mother Nature is telling me to change. The summer harvest of tropical fruits, peppers and produce combinations are where Florida cuisine shines brightest.
Here, in the bikini belt, we dress scantily so we start to watch our waistlines more. Our cuisine should reflect that. Simple, light and bold.
Our sun-kissed summers are an opportunity go full-blown sunshine cuisine. It is what defines me as a chef different than a chef in Ohio, New York or Nebraska.
This summer, I will spend less time roasting red meat and more time catching and grilling seafood.
I like to go back to a style of cooking I learned in Baja Mexico, which has the same seasons, extreme heat and ocean. I call it Baja surfer food.
This was back in the late '70s and I was living in San Diego. Tex Mex had been my only exposure to Mexican food. But this was different, without all the dairy, simpler bolder flavors. Peasant street food in the tropical setting of Baja California affected me greatly.
Baja is where the style of simple grilled meat on a fresh corn tortilla began.
It is here that I think I gained my understanding of why the proper food for a region and a season is important.
It was also at this time that the fish taco explod
ed within the southern California cuisine.
This you could eat while wearing your bathing suit, then go surfing
Now, more than 30 years later, I can still recall the surf trips to Baja. I was young, impressionable and will never forget those flavors -- cilantro, lime and ground corn.
It fits in Florida beautifully and comes natural.
Baja-style fish tacos
Fresh corn tortillas
Fish grilled (any fresh white fish)
Tomatillo Verde sauce (see note)
Grill the fish, tear it up into warm tortilla and a little of everything else to your taste and your eating surfer food. Note: My favorite tomatillo verde sauce can be found at Bravo Supermarket, 2004 14th St. W., Bradenton.
Chef Dave Shiplett, chef/owner of SOMA Creekside, can be reached at 941-567-4001. SOMA Creekside is at 1401 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.