Monday, November 1, 2010


It has been a busy time with travel but I wanted to share the great time we had cooking together and doing a demo at the always blissful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden just off Coral Way in Coral Gables. We had been asked to participate in the 'Edible Garden Project' and we could not have been happier! I first came to know of the life work of Dr. David Fairchild when my wife, Janet, and I began a publishing project for Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts that would become our "Exotic Fruit Posters". We spent days and weeks there and at "The Kampong" in Coconut Grove learning all we could about the fruits that grow so amazingly well in our temperate climate. My knowledge was aided by many folks then and it was my pleasure to share some back along with my son, (and Chef) Justin. (That's him in the cowboy hat).

Janet worked in the background as is her preference setting up all of our mixing bowls, cutting boards, knives etc. while Justin and I prepared our dishes. He made a stellar Key Lime Cheesecake with key limes that we picked right from our tree, (or the ground underneath it!) from our yard in Key West. I could see the eyes rolling look of ecstatic class members as they dug in.

As for my end I was lucky with local too. When we were planning the class Fairchild's own Annie Stamps offered me some of her newly arriving of her trees avocados so I taught a version of Guacamole made with Key West Shrimp that Whole Foods Market donated to the event.

We worked under the sunlit tent for a standing room only crowd on a fabulous Sunday early afternoon. Near us farmers, growers, cheesemakers, honey gatherers and artisans of all sorts shared their passions too! I can't wait to go back to Fairchild again. Its one of my all time favorites. If you have not been you really will be amazed by the beauty of it. It is a treasure for all of us who are lucky enough to call Florida home.

A note on the recipe. If you don't have great avocados this "Bajan Shrimp Paste" is a fine stand alone marinade for shellfish, pork or chicken.

Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2010. All rights reserved.

This spice mix can be used on chicken, shrimp and pork. For our class we marinated 1 pound of shrimp to one half cup of the Bajan Spice Paste mixture. The remainder will keep covered in the refrigerator a week and can be used elsewhere.

Yield: 1 ½ Cups

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons juice of freshly squeezed limes
1 teaspoon Spanish Sherry wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons packed freshly picked thyme leaves, chopped
1 Cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons of garlic, (after being peeled and roughly chopped)
1 Scotch bonnet or Habanero chile, stem and seeds discarded
6 scallions, trimmed, removing half the green and roughly chopped
3 inner stalks celery
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish pimentón
¼ teaspoon, freshly ground allspice
1-teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon toasted and ground black pepper, to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to make into a fairly smooth paste.

Reserve until needed.