It was a juicy 10# pile of larges from George’s Stone Crab, but let’s call them the jumbos that they were, that did us in. Claws that are the stuff of dreams, a chef’s lullaby. Tuesday’s Toro Pizzeria prep was in full swing, and there was only one choice for lunch as far as Michael was concerned, the host with the most that he is. Chefs Ken and Jamie would be indulging in a late afternoon feast of our iconic South Florida seafood, delivered fresh from Roger Duarte’s boats off the Florida Keys, and TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron had a decoy ready to get the juices flowing again.
The waters around South Florida are running with what I think is the freshest, best seafood we get all year round — Pelagic, or migratory, species like cobia, pumpkin swordfish, and gorgeous speckled golden tile, as well as reef fish like yellowtail snapper, although fisherman George Figueroa says that they’ve been tough to snag lately with the wind from this cold front and when the water gets too chilly these little guys don’t like to bite. Then of course there’s shrimp, especially Royal Reds from Wild Ocean Seafood in Port Canaveral, which all of our restaurants, especially The Cypress Room, scoop up with fervor, and the regal, not-to-be-upstaged stone crab. Except for when the little noble kumquat enters the picture apparently. I tried to hide my guilt as Brad’s salad seduced me, pinch by pinch until I had no other choice but to make room for a little mound next to my radiant claw and Bissed mustard schmear.
I sat at the genuine bar after preshift this morning to take down the “recipe” below. This salad is dead giveaway Bradley, a perfect example of his approach to cooking. Intuitive, simple and common sense, letting the ingredients do most of the work. “The dressing is more like a marinade,” he explained. “Rather than toss the dressing in the salad, leave it naked and crisp. You build it in layers right on the plate, tomatoes first on the bottom, and season with salt and pepper to release the juice. The vinaigrette falls to the bottom collecting all the juices along the way. You just scoop it up. That’s the beauty of this place.”
We drank rose with this feast for kings and queens, but pucker up with the recipe for our honored guests’ Kumquat Gimlet, the welcome cocktail concocted just for us since it is Florida Citrus season after all and served on the rocks later that evening. Small but packing a mighty punch, just like this week. Too much fun, good times, great friends. Cheers and TGIF everyone! Make it a great weekend.
Florida Kumquat & Heirloom Tomato Salad
3 medium heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
2 juicy, ripe navel or blood oranges, segmented
1 cup shaved fennel
1/2 cup shaved radish
1 pint sliced kumquats
1/2 cup lila onion, sliced on the bias
1/2 cut picked parsley leaves
1/2 cup picked basil leaves, opal if you can get it for color
1/2 cup picked mint
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Layer all the ingredients on a large platter. Mix dressing together in a deli cup first and dress on the platter to taste without over-dressing but should be juicy!
from Toro’s beverage director Caitlin Crosbie Doonan
yields one gimlet
1.5oz Gin, Ford’s is Jamie’s choice
.5oz Lime Juice
1oz Kumquat Syrup (recipe below)
Shake and strain over ice in rocks glass. Garnish with skewered kumquat sections.
Yields approx 1qt but depends on kumuqat size and ripeness.
.5qt Rich (2:1) simple syrup
.75 qt Kumquats
Blend for about 20 seconds, strain through cheese cloth, squeezing the blended kumquats to extract maximum juice.