Last October, I had the rare opportunity to treat my aunt Teri to a vacation in Florida. We travel together on occasion whenever her vacation time off from work allows which isn’t often enough. We flew to Florida to visit my good friend Sherri, whom I participated in the Avon Three Day 60 mile walk with in 1998. We walked and raised money for breast cancer awareness and bonded from our mutual and in Sherri’s case “toe nail losing” experience. But that story will be saved for another day. The three of us couldn’t wait to run around Tampa, see the sights and eat our way around town. Oh baby, did we have fun!
Sherri took us on a tour of downtown Tampa which included walking along the Tampa Riverwalk, checking out the Tampa Museum of Art and eating lunch at U le le Restaurant. It was a great day checking out the local scene and eating and drinking fancy cocktails to get the whole Floridian experience. We missed out on tasting their craft beers made on site from their Brewmaster Tim Shackton. Their Fresh From Florida Mojito was made from Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, muddled oranges and mint was refreshing and just the right amount of sweet to quench my thirst.
Each of us picked something from the menu to share. Sherri ordered the Roasted Beet and Poached Pear Salad which was outstanding offering poached pear, saffron roasted beets, balsamic charred red onion, whipped goat cheese, blackberry honey gastrique, toasted almonds and watercress.Aunt Teri ordered the crispy fried north Atlantic calamari, Amarillo chile lemon dressing and a sauce piquant which didn’t disappoint. The last dish was vegetarian called Three Sisters Stuffed Portobello showcasing oven roasted marinated portobello, grilled zucchini, red onion, red pepper, sauteed spinach, cranberry beans, and Manchego cheese with crispy carrot ribbons. Yum.
We couldn’t leave without sharing U le le’s famous Key West Key Lime Stack served w bruleed meringue. It was to die for, but of course i’m a huge fan of Key Lime desserts. Here is my version of Key Lime Bars. It is worth mentioning their Toasted Coconut Ice Cream since another patron we sat with couldn’t stop talking about it. They have a similar recipe they make in their catering company. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that info or I would pass it on. Our new friends also recommended the Florida Cane Distillery . Hoping to make it back there sometime to check out this place. Sounds like a great spot to hang out and taste rum and vodka. And apparently Hamburger Mary’s has a fun atmosphere and delicious food if you are interested in gay bars. All this info was offered up from the locals we were dining with. Good stuff!
Our Florida trip couldn’t have gone any better. Sherri was generous enough to open her home to me and my aunt which saved us a ton of money and made our time together even that much more special. Aunt Teri loved seeing what Florida has to offer and I’m hoping my friend Sherri will take a trip to California soon so I can return the favor.
I will have to tell more of my Florida story for another blog since I am off to make dinner for my family. I can honestly say I am inspired to cook something vegetarian tonight. After writing about U le le’s vegetarian rice and beans dish, I’m ready to take on a grilled polenta and wild mushroom and zucchini dish. Hope you will get inspired to make delicious and healthy meals for your friends and family. Do you have a favorite vegetarian dish your family dreams about? If so, please write about it in the comment section below and tell me why they love it so much.
Polenta Wild Mushrooms and Roasted Vegetables in Marinara
1 ½ C Polenta
2 ½ C Veggie stock
½ C Heavy whipping cream
½ C Parmesan Cheese
½ C. fresh mozzarella sliced or shredded
3 T unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 White or Red Onion sliced in quarters
1 Red Bell Pepper sliced in 1 “ chunks
1 Yellow Bell Pepper sliced “ “
2 Zucchini Sliced “ “
1 C Sliced Mushrooms (Shiitake, Crimini, Portobello)
Optional: Marinara Sauce or Leftover meat sauce which makes it not so vegetarian.
Heat Veggie Stock to medium high in a medium size pot. Slowly add polenta stirring constantly. Add cream, cheeses, butter and salt and pepper to taste and cook until done about 10-15 minutes. Pour hot polenta into a 13X9 baking dish and refrigerate until cool. When ready to serve get your grill pan hot, slice the polenta into large squares and sear to make grille marks 1 minute on each side. I opted for skipping this step so we could eat sooner.
Place cut veggies on a roasting pan, coat w olive oil, salt and pepper and bake uncovered for 20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.
Serve in individual shallow bowls by placing cooked polenta down, marinara or meat sauce next, and olive oil roasted vegetables down on top. Enjoy!
For More vegetarian menu ideas check out my Heirloom Tomato, Basil Pesto and Mozzarella Salad