Underneath a Cloudless Sky
Not that I’m one to report on the weather here in South Florida but this ‘title’ couldn’t be more of a dichotomy as we go into 48 hours of straight rain.
About a week ago I was given this great new cookbook to read by my friend, Executive Chef Michael Bennett (of Bimini Boatyard) titled (yup you guessed it!) “Underneath a Cloudless Sky”. Chef Bennett just so happens to be the author as well. After writing the review for his first book, In the Land of Misfits, Pirates & Cooks, we became “social networking” confidants so it only stands to reason that I got an advanced copy of his second book. Not all “cooking” is fun but Michael makes it fun as I pointed out in his first book “…..Bennett’s signature style of presentation “food stacking”. Bennett creates towers and rises with his food; Bennett clearly defines “playing with food…..” Well dear readers, he’s at it again but this time Chef Bennett plays with his ingredients. He put items together I didn’t know existed let alone prepare and serve, like Breadfruit, Black Sapote, Guarapo, Azuki Beans and the list goes on!
Chef Bennett likes the exotic, why use oranges when you can use starfruit? Now don’t let items such as Breadfruit and Azuki Beans scare you off, open your door and let them into your kitchen! Experiment! As Michael states in the introduction of his book he contends that “familiarity brings comfort and reassurance, while trying new things. He will bring the unfamiliar exotic food and cooking techniques into focus for you. After reading this book you will be comfortable using food your mother would have never considered cooking.” In the Land of Misfits, Pirates & Cooks, is definitely the precursor to Underneath the Cloudless Sky.
Food can get boring, food preparation can get boring. So with a little patience and effort your dull-drab, same old way of preparing meals can instantly be transformed into exotic and tropical. Whether you’re a fan of sweet and savory or spicy and zesty you’ll find all the ingredients to unlock the boredom of grilled chicken in Chef Bennett’s new cookbook.
So to put a fork in it, I decided to plan a dinner party using recipes only from Underneath the Cloudless Sky. Starting with the appetizer, I decided on Grilled Radicchio Pockets with Crab, absolutely luscious! The flavors literally BURST in your mouth! For the entrée I chose Seabass with a Chimichurri Beurre Blanc. It was amazing! The flavors and the textures all worked beautifully together. The preparation itself was straightforward, nothing complicated or vague about this recipe. I made two side dishes to accompany the entrée, Baby Bliss Potato and Maytag Blue Cheese and Chick Pea Salad, both recipes very easy to prepare, (if you can read you can prepare these recipes!) This had to be one of the best dinners I have served in quite some time. The balance of my meal choices were spot on. The food types worked well together as did the all of the flavors. The wines I chose were Prosecco with the Grilled Radicchio with Crab and for the entrée I served both a California Zinfandel and an Albarino from Spain.
The best part of having a cookbook is to sit with it and plan and dream. Chef Bennett’s books definitely give you something to read and dream about; and with each book he keeps opening your pantry doors and gives them a good shaking. He’s done it again with his excitement for food, the Caribbean-style of food preparation and his sheer love for the islands. Do yourself a favor pick up a copy of this book and sit “under a cloudless sky” and dream a little