In what has become a popular tradition during the Christmas week, we've come to enjoy turning over the Diversions page to a few of our chef friends in Hernando County, who, in the spirit of holiday giving, are happy to share some of their culinary favorites. • Our thanks to chefs Kevin Howe of the County Line Café & Grille, John Carlone of Farmer John's Key West Café, Joe Cuce of the Jersey Café, Lucio Correa of Enchiladas Mexican Restaurant and Vito Stancanelli of Zip's Italian Steakhouse. • You'll find that most of the recipes are fairly easy to make and use ingredients that can be obtained at any supermarket. • Good luck, and have a wonderful holiday.
Logan Neill, Times staff writer
CAFE CLAMS CASINO
Kevin Howe's variation of this classic has become a customer favorite at the County Line Café & Grille, 120 Commercial Way, Spring Hill.
2 pounds small cherrystone clams
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley
2 tablespoons diced bacon
2 tablespoons diced green pepper
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon sliced scallions
1/8 cup white wine (chablis)
Handful of Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cornstarch slurry (1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon water)
Wash clams in cool running water and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter and add chopped bacon. After the bacon is cooked, add clams, garlic, green peppers, roasted red peppers, scallions and spices. Mix well. After about a minute, stir in the wine. The clams will open when cooked. (If your pan starts to dry out, add a little water.) Stir in cornstarch slurry to thicken. Finish by sprinkling a generous handful of Panko bread crumbs over the clam mixture. Serve over angel hair pasta. (Adding other seafood such as lobster, shrimp, mussels or scallops makes this a special dish.)
KEY WEST PINK SHRIMP OMELETTE
John Carlone says this is a breakfast favorite at his Brooksville eatery, Farmer John's Key West Café, at 966 E Jefferson St.
6 large Key West shrimp
1 ounce diced onions
2 ounces diced fresh plum tomatoes
1/2 fresh (Hass) avocado, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
3 large fresh eggs, scrambled
In a nonstick, 8-inch skillet over medium heat, saute onions and shrimp in olive oil until shrimp turn pale pink (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add scrambled eggs until eggs begin to set. Add avocado slices, diced tomatoes and cheese. Garnish with diced tomatoes and cheese. Serve with your favorite sauce.
JUNIOR'S GOLDEN CORN MUFFINS
Joe Cuce, owner of the Jersey Café, at 12993 Cortez Blvd. in Spring Hill, traces this recipe from a popular Brooklyn, N.Y., diner — Juniors.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line six jumbo or 12 regular muffin tins with paper liners, or butter them well. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl and set aside. Cream butter and shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 2 minutes. Then, with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until the batter is creamy and light yellow. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Beat in half the flour mixture, then half of the milk, beating about 1 minute after each. Repeat beating in the rest of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk. Beat the batter until well blended, about 1 minute more, then spoon it into the muffin cups, almost up to the top. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue baking about 15 minutes until the muffins are light golden brown and set in the center.
This is an easy-to-make favorite from Lucio Correa and Brooksville's newest Mexican restaurant, Enchiladas, 128 N Broad St.
4 California avocados
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Halve and pit avocados, scoop out pulp and mash to a coarse consistency. Add onion and tomatoes. Mix juice and salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.
SHRIMP SCAMPI OVER PASTA
This is a classic dish from chef Vito Stancanelli at Zip's Italian Steakhouse, 11738 Broad St., Brooksville.
1 pound of pasta of your choice
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small lemon cut in rounds 1/4-inch thick
12 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white cooking wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Cook pasta, drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add flour and mix until there are no lumps left and set aside. In a large skillet, add shrimp, vegetable oil, chicken stock, wine, lemon rounds, 8 tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper, cheese and parsley and bring to a quick boil. Stir occasionally, making sure not to overcook shrimp (approximately 3 to 4 minutes). When shrimp is cooked, add flour and butter batter and whisk until thickened. Run hot water over pasta to separate before placing on plates. Ladle shrimp mixture over pasta and garnish with lemon rounds.