In what has become a delicious tradition during Christmas week, we turn the Diversions page over to some of our chef friends in Hernando County, who, in the spirit of holiday giving, graciously share some of their exquisite recipes. Our thanks to chefs Tony Tomassi from Nina's Cucina in Spring Hill, independent chef Kevin Howe of Spring Hill, John Carlone of Farmer John's Key West Cafe in Brooksville and Bill Scarpo of Billy Blue Crabs in Brooksville for sharing their creative sides. You'll find that these recipes are fairly easy to make and use ingredients that can be found in the supermarket. Good luck, and have a great holiday.
Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
From Nina's Cucina, 1427 Kass Circle, Spring Hill. (352) 556-5286.
4 cups tomato juice
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ stick of sliced unsalted butter
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
Combine all of the above in one pot or pan and cook under medium heat to a consistent boil, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Once cooked and ready, portion out into bowls or cups and top with grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.
From Bill Scarpo at Billy Blue Crabs, 915 W Jefferson St., Brooksville. (352) 593-4185.
2 sticks of butter
2 small jars chopped garlic
4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 cups white cooking wine
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (cooked or uncooked)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Melt butter in a medium saucepan, add garlic and saute over medium heat two to three minutes. Add Italian seasoning and white wine. Place shrimp in a 3-quart glass baking dish and cover with garlic sauce. Top completely with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves four to six.
Key West Shrimp and Mango Pasta
From Farmer John's Key West Cafe, 966 E Jefferson St., Brooksville (352) 754-8787.
24-30 large raw Key West shrimp, peeled
3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces butter
4 ounces shallots or sweet onion
1 ounce minced garlic
8 ounces of diced red and green bell peppers
1 medium-sized jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups fresh sliced Florida mangos
2 ounces coconut rum
5 ounces fresh orange juice (with pulp)
4 ounces cilantro
4 slices of fresh orange
1 pound angel hair pasta
In a 12-inch skillet, saute bell peppers and shallots in olive oil and butter for about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and shrimp and saute on medium-low heat for a few minutes. Add mango slices and flambe with coconut rum. Add orange juice and cilantro and simmer. Serve over prepared angel hair pasta and garnish with orange slices and remaining cilantro. Serves four.
Chicken Brandy Walnut Gruyere
From the chef Kevin Howe of Spring Hill.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup brandy
4 slices of Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1 bunch of scallions
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon each, basil, oregano, parsley
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
Brown one side of the lightly floured chicken breasts. Flip and add compound butter (softened butter, garlic and herbs listed above). As it begins to melt, add the brandy, walnuts and scallions. Place one slice of cheese on top of each breast. Add the chicken broth. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a platter and finish sauce by combining water and cornstarch and stirring into the sauce until slightly thickened. Pour sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serves four.