All of the varieties of fresh local seafood - from shrimp, to lobster, conch, crab and an abundance of species of fish. All with their own particular taste, texture, and visual stimulation.
Key West, The Southernmost island/city in the United States, dangling at the end of a string of islands closer to Cuba than the mainland is where I grew up and still live to this day. The best memories I have are centered around the deep traditions of food. My family is of Cuban descent. My mother moved to Key West at the young age of seven years old. My father came when he was he was seventeen after leaving Cuba during the revolutionary time. Food was a big part of my upbringing. No matter what the situation, food was the cure. As a child, I was always very interested in what was going on in the kitchen. There was always plenty of seafood. I loved it and still love it to this day!
Growing up in the Key West atmosphere becoming a chef was my destiny. I could make it to work on time and also enjoy the night life. If I wanted to wake up early and spend the morning fishing, I could get it in before heading to work which was also always a plus.
One of my favorite truly Key West dishes is Conch Salad. In Key West all the locals seem to think that their conch salad is the best. Conch salad is a traditional Bahamian dish but there are different forms throughout the Caribbean. It is citrus marinated conch or marine gastropod mollusks along with various diced vegetables. The method of preparation is also known as ceviche. The marinated seafood is preserved and cooked in the citric acid. In early time before refrigeration, this was a common method of preservation.
The dish is also thought to be an aphrodisiac. Who knows if it’s true, but that’s probably why it’s one of my favorites!Key West Conch Salad
Dice seafood and all vegetables into ¼ inch dice (do not forget to peel and deseed cucumber) rough chop cilantros add all ingredients together and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Then serve with crackers. Hope you all enjoy!
TIP FROM THE CHEF
If you’re not a fan of conch, the same recipe could be used for fish. Cobia, wahoo, any type of snapper, and even grouper make an amazing ceviche! If the luxury of fresh Florida seafood isn’t available to you in your region of the country; halibut or sea bass could be used as a substitute.
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