Mildly Sweet Red Grouper

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Mildly Sweet Red Grouper! Trust your local source for fresh fish. I do. Since the fishermen often eat what they catch, it’s natural to ask them questions about the type of fish they sell. Oftentimes it seems to be different from what is common in the supermarkets. Does that make sense? I can relate to species that “taste like” sea bass, halibut, mahi mahi, swordfish, ahi, or tilapia. Beyond that, I really need some guidance for porgy, grouper, snapper, and hogfish. I tend to lean more toward mildly flavored and subtly sweet flavors. That way I can always default to melted butter and lemon. As they say, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

MILDLY SWEET RED GROUPER

Ingredients:

4 red grouper fish fillets

1/2 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Instructions:

In a shallow dish, arrange red grouper in a single layer. Whisk together orange juice, soy sauce, olive oil, ground ginger, and brown sugar. Pour marinade over red grouper fillets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the grill to 400°. Remove fish from marinade and place directly on the grill grates. Close lid and cook for 4 minutes until sides are slightly opaque. Discard marinade. Flip the fish and cook 4 minutes longer. Fish will appear charred with grill marks and flake easily. Transfer to a platter. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top. Serve immediately.

First Watch in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: First Watch in Estero, Florida! You can always tell breakfast is going to be good when you know the workers get up with the chickens, which means the crack of dawn. The oven heats up for freshly-baked pastries, the cage-free eggs get whipped for super-light lemon ricotta pancakes, and the smell of hardwood smoked bacon stimulates the appetite as succulent fruits and garden vegetables are chopped, sliced, or diced for the menu of the day. But that’s not all. Smell that coffee. Once you place the order, an aromatic pot of steaming coffee is set before you to drain at your leisure. This is how to enjoy the morning cuppa joe. As you can imagine, word has gotten out, so sometimes there’s a wait. No worries, it takes that long to decide what to choose. Besides, this is Florida and the weather brings a healthy disposition.

Rosati’s Pizza in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Rosati’s Pizza in Estero, Florida! You learn a lot about a business by talking to the owners. Perhaps that is why I sometimes visit a restaurant in the off hours of the day. You are more apt to find the owners working face-to-face with customers. Rosati’s Pizza is owned and operated by a family who not only strives for perfection, but also cares about the people who walk through their door. When they expanded their business in Estero for dine-in service, Covid hit with a vengeance and caused them to shift to delivery and carry-out service only. That takes a chunk out of overhead, which translates to selling a boatload of pizza. Yet, they endured. And thrived because they do things the old-fashioned way: like sourcing local ingredients, fresh mozzarella, and homemade crusts. Their story goes all the way back to the first pizzerias in Chicago; Italian roots to the core. So proud, they live by the motto, “We don’t cut corners, just slices of pizza.” Dine in, smell the aromas, chat with the staff, and over-order so you have extra servings for leftovers. Don’t forget to add a jar of the Hot Giardiniera. It is ah-mazing!

Steamers in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Steamers in Naples, Florida! For New England-style seafood in an unpretentious setting, it always helps to get a tip about where the locals go for incredible clam chowder with a side of fried clam strips and hush puppies. The menu offers way more than steamed scallops, sautéed shrimp, fried clams, blackened fish, and lobster tails. Unfortunately, I can’t get past the taste of my favorite combination enough to find out how delicious everything else is. What I can confirm, is that people stand in line or meander around the busy strip mall to wait for a table inside or out. It feels like family the way the staff interacts with customers. When you get the craving, remember Steamers for outstanding seafood at a pretty decent price.

Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza in Estero, Florida! You’re probably wondering what the big deal is about mentioning “coal oven” in the name of this pizza joint. Basically, it boils down to the deliciousness of a charred crust enclosing a chewy center without overcooking the toppings. You get this from very high, dry heat contained within the oven walls. The coal oven is a little larger than the others, so it holds more pizzas. Makes sense, amirite? There’s nothing worse than sinking your teeth into a pizza pie loaded with extra cheese only to discover the bottom crust is a bit soggy. That’s not going to happen at Tony Sacco’s. In fact, customize your creation like I do. For cheese-lovers, request shredded mozzarella, smoky provolone, grated parmesan, and fresh mozzarella over authentic Italian marinara. The cheese pulls will practically make your mouth drool in public. Slowly wipe your chin. Then garnish a pizza slice with freshly chopped basil and dig in.

La Sorpresa Latina Cuban Café in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: La Sorpresa Latina Cuban Cafe in Naples, Florida! For the real taste of Cuba, you go to the source. But if a journey 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida is not in the near future, no worries. Thanks to La Sorpresa, a family-owned place for a quick bite and a signature coffee, you can get a killer Cuban Sandwich stateside. This popular sammie is stuffed with shredded pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. Go ahead and add some hot sauce for extra kick. Everything is pressed together like a panini, making it the perfect handheld option. Because the crusty bread is bakery-made, you might think about sharing. Cuban bread is formed in the shape of a baguette, only with plenty of air pockets, so it could be over twelve inches long. It has a touch of sweetness that makes you crave another bite. We ordered two Cuban Sandwiches the first time and ended up cutting one in half for lunch. ‘Course that meant we got to eat the same thing the next day. By the time we left the café, we had an order of plantains and an extra loaf of Cuban bread. After all, dreams do come true. You just have to believe it.

Mr. Tequila Authentic Mexican Restaurant in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Mr. Tequila Authentic Mexican Restaurant in Naples, Florida! When one restaurant owner boasts about an additional place to try, my ears usually perk up. Mexican food is one of my favorites, especially authentic family-owned restaurants with a story to tell. Rafael Romo, born in Guanajuato, migrated to the United States as a teenager. With a good work ethic, he understood the commitment required for a successful business. His journey progressed into a food truck where he sold Mexican food infused with family traditions. Over time he gained more knowledge and experience. Then Mr. Tequila was born. Now popular as a farm-to-kitchen cantina, people flock here for grilled specialties that are bound to become favorites. Some of the drool-worthy dishes include crispy flour shells, grilled seafood and veggies, gooey melted cheese, creamy guacamole, marinated meats, and always fresh pico de gallo. Happy Hour margaritas definitely make late afternoon quite satisfying. For a dining experience rich in culture where people are greeted by name, this place fits the bill.

Zaza Mexican Kitchen on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Zaza Mexican Kitchen on Marco Island, Florida! Tucked away next to a local bike shop, a blend of kitchen aromas fill the parking lot with hypnotic haziness. The breeze reveals the familiarity of slow-cooked meats like woodsmoke curlicues. Something inside you says this is going to taste pretty good. Using fresh ingredients is a must when combining Latin secrets with Mexican family recipes. There is no other way to cook. The taqueria ambiance slightly resembles Old Mexico living as well. Go ahead, begin with hand-cut chips and salsa. Wash them down with an original agave wine margarita. Ahhh. Then dig in to a platter of sizzling fajitas, spiced carnitas, soft tacos, loaded enchiladas, or cheesy quesadillas. On second thought, better plan on a return visit. Your stomach will thank you.