Pumpkin Pie!


By Jaime Brewer

I have always loved the smell of pumpkin…especially around Thanksgiving time.  The ironic thing is, I haven’t always necessarily liked the taste of pumpkin.  It’s like when people tell me they love the smell of coffee, but don’t like the taste.  Personally, I don’t understand those people since I live on coffee!  But, I get their point.  I used to love to cook and bake and then things happened (husband, dog, children- in that order) and cooking and baking became something I did for my family to survive and not necessarily as therapy like it used to be.  That’s why I tend to steer towards recipes that aren’t overly complicated and include a smaller amount of ingredients.  So, when I was asked to bake something for the Junior League Cookbook blog, I jumped at this recipe of only 9 ingredients.

The first thing I did was gather my ingredients and the necessary utensils.

1 pie shell, unbaked

¾ cups canned pumpkin

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

2 eggs

1 cup milk (small can evaporated milk plus enough plain milk to make 1 cup)

½ cup white corn syrup

Then, I went to work simmering the pumpkin over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Ten minutes later, I removed the saucepan from the stove and stirred in the next 4 ingredients (sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger). Next, I beat the eggs – first by hand before I realized it would take me an hour to get the mixture frothy, like the recipe called for, then with an electric mixer.  Definitely use an electric mixer and beat until frothy!

Once the eggs were frothy, I added the milk and corn syrup and mixed together. Then I added the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat together until they were well combined.

Next, I poured the mixture into the pie shell. Once thing I would have liked to have known beforehand was that the recipe actually made more mixture than would fit in the 9-inch pie shell. Had I known, I would have also purchased some of the smaller tart shells and made a few child sized pies as well!

Then it was off to a 450 degrees oven for 15 minutes and then to a 300 degrees oven for another 40 minutes.

I have to say I’m pretty proud of my very first pumpkin pie.  Not only did my house smell delicious for an entire day, but I was ready for friends who unexpectedly showed up for a play date!  FYI, if you make this for Thanksgiving or any other fall day, have some whip cream on hand!  Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs


By Lisl Unterholzner

One of the great things about The Gasparilla Cookbook is that it pulls together the best recipes from the various cultures that collide in our area, mainly Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Southern and more. You may be wondering if and how Swedish Meatballs have anything to do with Florida’s West Coast. Well, I don’t know the background of Mrs. D. A. Kafka, who submitted this recipe. I can tell you that part of my own ancestry is Swedish, and that my great-great-grandfather was one of five brothers from Sweden who came to the Tampa Bay area in the late 1880’s.

Today, the easiest way to enjoy Swedish meatballs is to stop by IKEA, and I’m definitely a fan. But the recipe from The Gasparilla Cookbook is a great place to start if you have the time and the inclination to cook from scratch. For one thing, the texture of these meatballs is phenomenal- super light and fluffy. Plus, the Almond Noodles that accompany them are seriously addictive.

There are a few things I would tweak. For one, the recipe calls for you to sauté 2 tablespoons of minced onion in ¼ cup of butter. You can easily knock that down to 1 tablespoon. The texture of your meatballs will also be affected by the bread you use to make bread crumbs. I used some white bread from the Publix bakery, maybe the Italian Sandwich bread, tearing the slices into pieces and giving them a whirl in the food processor to make pretty fine crumbs.

Don’t use canned bread crumbs- the key is to make sure your bread is not too hard or to dry. Finally, I drained my meatballs on paper towels after browning, then wiped out the pan to remove the excess oil. If you have some browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, you could loosen them with a bit of chicken broth, then return the meatballs to the pan and add the cream.

This recipe did not make a ton of sauce, so don’t expect it to be a make-at-home version of IKEA’s. I see it as a wonderful recipe for a birthday meal or a dinner party. Most of the work for the meatballs is done in advance, and the noodles can be put into a casserole or serving dish and covered with aluminum foil to stand for at least 30 minutes. I served this to some very picky pre-schoolers, and they gobbled up the meatballs. They were less fond of the noodles, which was fine because I was happy to heat them up for lunch (along with a few – not many!- leftover meatballs) the next day.

So, enjoy your meal, or as they say in Swedish, Smaklig måltid!

SWEDISH MEATBALLS

2 cups soft bread crumbs, firmly packed

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/4 cup butter

1 lb ground beef

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons flour

Fat or salad oil

1/2 cup light cream

Combine bread crumbs and milk; let stand 10 minutes. Saute onion in butter over low heat until soft but not brown. Combine beef, nutmeg, salt, paprika and egg. Add to bread crumb and onion mixture. Shape in small balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Chill at least 1 hour. Roll meatballs in flour; cook in a little hot fat or salad oil, turning to brown on all sides. Add cream, cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve at once with Almond Noodles. Makes 6 servings.

ALMOND NOODLES

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 8-ounch package egg noodles, cooked

Melt half the butter; add almonds and cook until golden brown. Add remaining butter, paprika and poppy seeds. To hot cooked noodles, add this mixture, tossing with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Makes 6 servings.

The Gasparilla Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition Has Arrived!


The highly anticipated anniversary edition of our award-winning cookbook was unveiled at the Junior League of Tampa Cookbook Chair Brunch on August 6th at JLT headquarters for all past Cookbook Committee Chairs. The Brunch featured presentations by JLT President Allison Burden, Past Cookbook Chair Lisl Unterholzner and Current Cookbook Chairs Aspen Kahl and Denise Schultz. “It was amazing to have 50 years of past cookbook chairs together celebrating our flagship publication,” said Aspen Kahl. “It exemplifies their commitment to the League and the legacy of The Gasparilla Cookbook that we continue to build today.”

A classic menu of recipes from The Gasparilla Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition was served, including: Banana Bread (muffins), Garden Salad with Zesty Salad Dressing, Five-Cup Fruit Salad and Chicken Salad De Luxe Croissant Sandwiches.

Brunch attendees had the first opportunity to purchase The Gasparilla Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition and received an appreciation discount on the purchase of five or more books at the event. “It’s beautiful and I will delight in giving them as gifts,” said Sue Isbell, Past Cookbook Committee Chair.

“We sold 103 copies of The Gasparilla Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition,” said Denise Schultz. “The brunch was a great success and properly celebrated this special commemorative edition.”

The launch of The Gasparilla Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition also included several events at Datz Delicatessen. JLT members were invited to attend a series of “Lunch Box” events and a cocktail party featuring recipes from our timeless cookbook. For each of these events, Datz made a donation back to the League to support our community projects.

Datz featured a series of “Lunch Box” events from September 19th through the 23rd. Each event featured recipe selections from The Gasparilla Cookbook, presented at a three-course seated tasting and cooking demonstration. JLT Guest Chefs included Lynette Russell, Stephanie Wiendel, Lisl Unterholzner, Danielle Post, Suzy Mendelson, Andrea Layne, Denise Shultz, and Casey Carefoot.

Chicken Shortcake Natchez


By Lisl Unterholzner

With a 50 year old cookbook, you have to expect that some recipes have stood the test of time better than others. This recipe was the main dish at the cooking demonstration I attended at Datz during The Gasparilla Cookbook’s week-long invasion of that foodie mecca, and I was curious to see how Chef Heather would approach it. What’s the concern? Well, if you can get past the MSG and the yellow food color in the sauce, it’s still a recipe for a style of dish that’s not as popular today as it once was. It’s kind of a chicken a la king over cornbread. Perfect for the ladies who lunched at The Wedgewood Inn in St. Petersburg back in the day, but I discovered it’s also surprisingly good if you’re looking for some easy comfort food and not counting calories.

One thing I have to mention up front, DO NOT follow the directions as written or you will end up with a gluey mess. The directions for the cream sauce call for an unreasonable amount of flour. I don’t know if it’s just a mistake, but I was very happy to watch Chef Heather prepare the roux for the cream sauce before I tried it at home.

The good thing about this recipe is it can be made in stages, and you can make it the long way, or use shortcuts as you see fit. The long way would be making your own chicken stock, cooking your own chicken, making your own cornbread and sautéing fresh mushrooms instead of using the canned ones called for in the recipe. Fine if you’ve got the inclination, but not a big deal if time is of the essence.

I decided to use my own cornbread, made in a skillet using the Corn Sticks recipe on page 26 of The Gasparilla Cookbook. But I’ve got a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix sitting in my cabinet that just might be called into service in the near future.

Here’s how I interpreted Chicken Shortcake Natchez:

First, I made the corn bread. Actually, first I made bacon to get the bacon fat for the cornbread, because I wanted to follow the recipe as much as possible, and no one in my house minds an excuse to make bacon. I really liked the suggestion at the end of the recipe to add crumbled bacon to the cornbread, but I held off this time. Just using the fat gives it a strong bacon-y flavor. Yum! By the way, the recipe for the shortbread calls for the cornbread to be made without sugar, but there is so little in this version that I left it in for balance. This is a pretty grainy style of cornbread, so if you like it softer you may want to try a different recipe.

My cornbread is cooling in the background. Now, I’m ready to start the cream sauce. That bowl of flour is WAY too much, despite what the recipe says. I actually used about 6 or 7 tablespoons. Chef Heather said to add it a little bit at a time, and stir constantly. The mixture remained loose and liquid. The recipe doesn’t really say how long you should cook it. I wanted to cook off the raw flour taste, but not allow the roux to begin to turn brown. I probably cooked it about 6 or 7 minutes before beginning to add the chicken stock. That, too, should be done a little at a time, and a whisk is handy to break up the lumps that form.

I substituted 2% milk for the evaporated milk, and left out the MSG and food coloring, but I did use the canned mushrooms for convenience. They have distinctive flavor, but in the sauce they aren’t too strong and mostly add some depth of flavor. Another suggestion by Chef Heather was to add a bit more depth to the sauce with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, which I did and liked the result. For the cooked chicken, I took the meat off a rotisserie chicken, and that worked well. The whole thing comes together very quickly, and then it’s time to dig in.

Here it is – decidedly retro, but delicious nonetheless. This would be fun for a themed dinner party, but it’s not too hard for a weeknight. Enjoy!

CHICKEN SHORTCAKE NATCHEZ

        • 4 cups cooked white meat of chicken (cut in medium-size pieces)
        • 2 cups canned mushrooms
        • 4 cups cream sauce

Blend  chicken, mushroom and cream sauce. Slice squares of southern style cornbread (no sugar) through the center. Ladle chicken mixture on half the cornbread, top with another slice of cornbread and put more chicken mixture over this, shortcake fashion. Sprinkle with paprika. Serves 6.

CREAM SAUCE

        •  3 cups rich chicken stock
        • 1 1/2 cups flour
        • 1/4 pound margarine
        • 5 ounces evaporated milk
        • 1/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1/4 teaspoon monosodium glutamate
        • 1 or 2 drops yellow food coloring

Strain stock. Add flour to melted margarine, stirring constantly. When smooth add the stock gradually. Then add milk, salt, monosodium glutamate and food coloring. Stir well, and cook until thickened.

Iron Leaguer: October Edition!


By Suzanne Oaks Brownstein

What happens when you take two Junior League cookbook committee co-chairs, mix in a secret ingredient, and add a dash of healthy competition?

The “Iron Leaguer” competition – inspired by the Food Network’s hot show “Iron Chef” – pits two Junior League of Tampa volunteers against each other in a battle of wills. . . or at least a battle of blenders. The contest involves two participants preparing recipes from a JLT cookbook, using one common “secret ingredient.” The finished dishes are sampled by attendees at the monthly JLT general membership meeting, who then vote – in an anonymous taste test – for their favorite dish. No cash prize, but the bragging rights are priceless.

At the recent October general membership meeting, we had in one corner Aspen Kahl, preparing Palma Ceia Margarita Pie (p. 307 in Tampa Treasures), and, in the other, Denise Schultz, preparing Cucumber Aspic (p. 59 in the recently released 50th anniversary edition of The Gasparilla Cookbook). The secret ingredient? Gelatin – always a tricky variable.

As this year’s cookbook committee co-chairs together, these ladies are otherwise great friends, close collaborators, and good “hang” buddies. But the contest revealed an underlying competitive spirit beneath their friendly smiles. I decided to dig into this competition a little further. Below is a Q&A with them both:

How did you choose your recipe?

Aspen: “I wanted to mess with my competitor’s mind. I knew she was going to choose a traditional gelatin recipe, so I wanted to go ‘outside the box’ – or should I say, ‘outside the mold.’ Also, I liked the idea of a modern recipe that called for gelatin.”

Denise: “The Cucumber Gelatin just caught my eye. I love cucumbers and find them to be refreshing; I thought that this would make an interesting dish.”

How did you size up your competition? Were you intimidated?  

Aspen: “I knew my competitor could cook, but I also knew she was a novice gelatin chef. No, I wasn’t intimidated….”

Denise: “Are you kidding? I, the non-cook (who, I would like to add, is a cook now) was up against one of the best dessert chefs and hostesses of the League. However, I knew I could talk trash to rattle her cage.  I figured I would try something unique, not sweet. I had a feeling she would go with a dessert, and I wouldn’t have a chance against her in that arena. I also planned to put some extra thought to the presentation.”

What did you do to mentally prepare for this “Iron Leaguer” cooking contest?

Aspen: “Mentally I would say I was pretty ready for the competition. The one thing I did do was look up what it meant to ‘soften the gelatin.’ Other than that, game on.”

Denise: “Meditations and listening to mellow music. I also tried some psy-ops against my competitor while I was shredding my veggies: I kept asking her ‘Do you hear that? That’s me shredding the cucumbers and now that’s the onion.’ I was trying to get her guard down with this talk. But her reply to all this was just ‘Gross.’”

Did you experience any challenges in preparing your dish? 

Aspen: “There were a few moments that I did not think my pie was going to set, but in the end it turned out perfect.”

Denise: “The recipe I made was not enough for my mold so I had to double the boiling water and gelatin from what the original recipe called for. That was a bold move for me, given that I’m a follow-by-direction chef at this time. But it seems as though I managed to pull it off.”

Were you happy with the final product? 

Aspen: “Yes, I was. But I didn’t try the absolutely final dish because I’m pregnant and the pie had enough alcohol in it to catch a buzz just by smelling it. Rumor has it that just one piece can make you blow a positive on a breathalyzer!”

Denise: “Thrilled.”

…and we have a winner!

Ultimately, Aspen won the first “Iron Leaguer” competition with her  Margarita Pie – by one vote. When asked if she was satisfied with the outcome, Aspen noted that “a close race makes for a good competition,” and Denise echoed her thoughts: “I was happy that it was only by one vote that Aspen won, and that she didn’t clean house.”

The contest continues….

But even after the polls closed, and the dishes were put away, the competitors were still at it: “I’m not sure that the judging was completely fair because my competitor was present at the tasting/voting table – she might have persuaded some voters to throw the results her way,” Aspen claimed. Denise as well continued to argue her case: “I do believe that if the competition were judged strictly on presentation alone, I would have blown her out of the League.”

Look out for the next “Iron Leaguer” contest at the GMM in November!

Two other members of the JLT Cookbook Committee are primed to compete in next month’s Iron Leaguer event. One competitor is already trying to psych out her opponent: “I’m confident that whoever is up to the challenge can’t match my cooking skills. I’m in my element for all things fall-flavored. Bring it on!” Tune in for next month’s results….

Annie Laurie’s Potato Salad


By Kathryn Zahn

If you have lived in the Tampa Bay area for any amount of time, then you have most likely ventured over to Tarpon Springs for some local authentic Greek food or wandered into any of the Louis Pappas’ Market Café restaurants throughout town and ordered a Greek Salad.  Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it about this salad that is soooo good and who decided to put the potato salad at the bottom?” 

Louis M. Pappamichalopoulos served in France as an army chef in General Pershing’s “Wildcat Division” during World War I. It was there that he created his own version of a Greek salad by adding potato salad to sustain the troops during hard times. Louis Pappas arrived from Greece in 1905 to find opportunity in America.  He and his wife Flora eventually settled in Tarpon Springs in 1925, and established the original Louis Pappas “Riverside Café”. With a handful of employees on sawdust floors, they opened their humble café, specializing in fine Greek-American cuisine and the Louis Pappas Famous Greek Salad. Potato salad at the bottom of a Greek salad soon became commonplace and the salad itself became internationally known. The success of the Louis Pappas Greek Salad has lasted for almost a century where it remains the most popular dish at our Louis Pappas Market Café fast casual restaurants in the Tampa Bay area.

Annie Laurie’s potato salad was recently one of the featured dishes during Gasparilla week at Datz deli.  I am sure for those of you who love the Greek salad that after one bite you were smiling from ear to ear.  I have never given much thought as to what the secret ingredient might be for this ever so delicious potato salad, and was completely surprised to realize that it is the wine vinegar.  Now, this makes complete sense considering that it is also an ingredient in the Louis Pappas Greek Salad dressing.

If you choose to make this potato salad for loved one, friends, or guests…be prepared to be asked to make it again.  It is delicious and a  great compliment to almost any dish…but most especially the Greek Salad.  Thank you grandfather Louis Pappas! Bon Appétit!

Annie Laurie’s Potato Salad for Greek Salad

  • 2 pounds medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise

Boil unpeeled potatoes in unsalted water.  While potatoes are cooking soak chopped onion in the vinegar.  When potatoes are done, cool slightly and peel, then cut in slices and cut the slices in half.  Add onion and vinegar mixture to still-warm potatoes.  Sprinkle in the salt and mix in the mayonnaise.

The Elusive Cuban Sandwich


By Lee Lowry

When the call went out for a new series of Junior League of Tampa cookbook blog entries, I perused the list of recipes that had been selected, looking for a good match for my family and me. One immediately stuck out: deceptively simple, yet, in our family, legendary. The Cuban sandwich. 

Until recently, every time I saw the Cuban sandwich featured in a cookbook or food magazine, the original creation was credited to Miami. That always struck me as wrong and bugged me a little. My adopted home of Tampa was the home of the first Cuban sandwich, wasn’t it? Recently, vindication! Both Bon Appetit and Food Network Magazine acknowledged that the first Cuban sandwich in America was indeed assembled and eaten here in Tampa. Our multi-ethnic city, with recently transplanted Cubans and Italians, put together a terrific mix of tastes from both traditions that is now a staple of sandwich shops and restaurants in our area.

The Cuban sandwich has an almost mythic reputation in my husband’s family. His grandfather had strong opinions about his Cuban. To him, it was a real Cuban if it had only the basics, meat and Swiss cheese, pickle and mustard and butter, never tomato and lettuce as it is sometimes made. It should also always be pressed and crunchy on the outside. Growing up in the Tampa Bay area, my husband absorbed all these rules and then added some of his own, mostly regarding the bread. To him, the best Cubans must always be on authentic Cuban bread, with extra points if some of the palmetto frond was still stuck to the top of the loaf. The sandwich must be moist inside, but the outside should be crackly and almost abrasive. So you can see with all these high expectations that I took on this recipe with a good deal of respectful trepidation.

The fact that the recipe came from our beloved and revered The Gasparilla Cookbook gave me some early confidence. The ladies who created this book knew their food, and knew their town. The recipe is credited as being from the Silver Ring Cafe in Ybor City. Unfortunately, it looks like the Silver Ring is now closed, after more than fifty years of operation, having opened just a few years before The Gasparilla Cookbook was first printed. From all the reviews I’ve seen, the Cafe knew their sandwich.

First thing was the ingredients. I wasn’t ambitious enough to roast my own pork, so I was pleased to see the great- looking Boar’s Head pork at my neighborhood Publix deli. Nice domestic Swiss and baked ham, check. Then salami. Genoa or hard? The recipe doesn’t specify, so I went with hard salami. (According to my brief Internet research, the salami is what makes the difference between our Tampa Cuban and the Miami Cuban sandwich.). I had mustard and butter already, of course, and I decided to get refrigerated pickles to enhance the crunch.

Now, I am very loyal to Publix and I love their bakery, but in this case, I was bringing out the big guns. I drove over to La Segunda Central to get the real thing. Their Cuban bread is three feet long and baked with the recipe brought over from Cuba by the original owners. The bakery has been in operation since 1915 and is still owned by the same family. I was not disappointed. Sure enough, there was the palmetto leaf, still on top, and the crusty, yeasty smell filled my car all the way home (as did the sweet scent of the guava and cheese pastry I couldn’t resist adding to my purchase).

Once I had all the ingredients, it was very simple to assemble the sandwiches. Softened butter on one side, mustard on the other, then the drained pickle slices, then the cheese and cold cuts. The recipe suggests that you might warm the sandwiches in the oven to enhance the flavors. But I wanted to give pressing them a try, since this is definitely my favorite way, and as I mentioned, the ONLY way as far as my family is concerned. I don’t own a panini press so had to improvise. A Dutch oven balanced on top of a crepe pan wrapped in aluminum foil was an odd but effective substitute. A little more butter in a medium hot frying pan, pressed with the weight of the cast iron oven on each side for a few minutes, and soon I had a crunchy outside and a gooey, warm inside, just right. And the pickiest taste tester of all, my husband? He said this sandwich was tied with his all-time favorite Cuban sandwich. High praise!

I will most certainly make this recipe again. Its ease of preparation and great taste payoff makes it a great blast from the past that still pleases today.

Cuban Sandwich

1 ½ loaves Cuban bread

Mustard and butter

¾ pound baked ham, thinly sliced

½ pound barbecued or roast pork

¼ pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese

¼ pound Italian salami, thinly sliced

Lengthwise slices of dill pickle

Cut Cuban bread in 6 pieces 8 inches long. Split lengthwise and spread mustard on 1 piece, and butter on the other. Divide ham, pork, Swiss cheese, salami and pickle among the 6 sandwiches, arranging in layers on the bread. Wrap each sandwich in a paper napkin and secure with a toothpick. Flavor is improved by warming in the oven before serving. Serves 6.

 

 

The Gasparilla Cookbook Invasion


The Gasparilla Cookbook Invasion

The Gasparilla Cookbook is a classic staple in kitchens across the Tampa Bay area.  Did you know that this book has been recognized on a national level?  It’s true!  The Gasparilla Cookbook has continuously gained national exposure since its original print in 1961 and has received prestigious awards such as the National Tabasco Award, the Southern Living Hall of Fame Award, and the Walter S. McIlhenny Hall of Fame Award.

Please join The Junior League of Tampa the week of September 19th for The Gasparilla Cookbook invasion at Datz Deli, where we will celebrate the new and improved,  50th anniversary reprint of the Junior League of Tampa’s oldest and bestselling cookbook in our collection of cookbooks.  For each event, Datz Deli will make a donation back to the League to support our numerous community projects.  Please click here to register for the following events:

Cook Like a Pirate

Datz Chef’s Kitchen Events featuring recipes from The Gasparilla Cookbook.  JLT guest chefs will co-host with Datz’s chef Nikki in preparing and serving lunch and dinner. The cost is $20 per pirate.

• Monday, September 19th

12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Tuesday, September 20th

12:30 p.m. only

• Wednesday, September 21st

12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Thursday, September 22nd

12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Friday, September 23rd

12:30 p.m. only

 

Party Like a Pirate

Datz is hosting a cocktail party fea­turing recipes from The Gasparilla Cookbook with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a free beer, wine or cocktail of choice. Complimentary valet will be available. The cost is $15 per pirate.

• Tuesday, September 20th

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

 

Pirate’s Breakfast

Join us for a Pirate’s Breakfast featuring recipes from The Gasparilla Cookbook.  The cost is $25 per pirate.

• Friday, September 23rd

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Black Bean Dip


By Lisl Unterholzner

I’m something of a recipe freak. I love to read recipes. I love to write recipes (really, sometimes I even measure things and take notes in case it turns out well enough to make again). I have stacks of recipes culled from magazines and newspapers that I want to try some day. Sadly, for a lot of those recipes, their time will probably never come (yes, Tea-Smoked Duck, I mean you).

Recently, I’ve been musing on a recipe in The Gasparilla Cookbook, Black Bean Dip. This recipe calls to me for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I like having a little something around to nibble on while I’m fixing dinner. Unfortunately, this isn’t a “little” something. This is a “double the recipe to serve 100” something. Which means that even if I cut it in half, I can still serve 12-ish, so I will probably be looking at this bean dip for a good long while.

Then there was the “1 can black bean soup” listed in the ingredients. That one got me thinking: is there really such a thing? What size can? What will happen if I just use a can of black beans?

I went to Publix intending to buy a can of regular black beans, when there I saw it, Black Bean Soup from Goya, on the shelf. Hot dog! I’m in business.

Black bean soup in a can- who knew?

Of course, since I was already planning to cut the recipe in half, now I need to use just 1/2 of the can of black bean soup, but maybe that will just be lunch. It wasn’t until I opened the can and started putting ingredients together that things got interesting.

This is a very simple recipe. Assemble ingredients, dump in processor, blend. But I’m still not sure about these black beans. What if they’re too soupy? I really don’t want thin dip, so I decide to add beans and liquid a little at a time. Everything but the beans goes into the processor and whirs away happily. I don’t know what the original, 1961 can size might have been, so I spoon out about 1/2 cup of beans and add about 1/4 cup of the bean liquid on top. Into the processor it goes.

It’s looking good and dippable, but still a bit pale, so I add about another 1/4 cup of beans, no liquid. I think it’s done, and so is the can of soup. I strain out the last few beans and dump about a half cup of liquid out. Next time, I’ll skip the soup and try the regular canned beans. Maybe add some garlic powder and thin with chicken broth if necessary.

Super speedy dip is ready in minutes, serves 1-100!

And will there be a next time? Yes! I’m glad I took the time to play around with this one. It’s surprisingly complex for such a simple and easy recipe. It’s good with pita chips, but would be even better with potato chips (what wouldn’t?) One recommendation: it gets better after the flavors have a chance to meld, so make it early in the day or the night before. Good for game-watching, dinner-fixing, or, considering the source, Gasparilla. 100 guests are optional.

Black Bean Dip

  • 1 can black bean soup
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise (or more)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients and blend thoroughly in an electric mixer or blender. Serve with corn chips. For a cocktail party, double the recipe for 100 people.

Gasparilla, Tampa’s Mardi Gras


Jose Gaspar, the “last of the Buccaneers” was a pirate who haunted the many bays and inlets of the West Florida coast during the late 18th and early 19th century. Formerly a lieutenant in the Royal Spanish Navy, in 1783 Gaspar and his crew of fellow mutineers seized command of a Spanish sloop-of-war and set sail for the Florida straits. This fearsome pirate amassed a great fortune, but was finally trapped by the U.S. Navy. Rather than be taken alive, he wrapped an anchor chain around his body and leaped into the sea. Some say his buried treasure was never found.

Since 1904, citizens of Tampa have celebrated the pirate’s legend with a mock-invasion and parade down beautiful Bayshore Boulevard. This Tampa tradition inspired The Junior League of Tampa to create a cookbook based on the many local flavors of our area. Click here to learn more at the official website for the Gasparilla Festival.

Below is an excerpt from The Gasparilla Cookbook, originally published in 1961.

At no time during the year is the cosmopolitan nature of Tampa more evident than at Gasparilla. All over the city visitors from far and near join with the native populace in celebrating this joyous midwinter festival. Under the skies as blue as a robin’s egg the participants set out with picnic hampers to watch the pirate invasion of the city from grassy spots on the banks of the sparkling bay or from the decks of pleasure boats. Later in the day there will be cocktail parties where the company is good, and the hors d’oeuvres bring to the occasion a touch of Latin flavor which is typical also of the city.

As the backgrounds of Tampa’s citizens are varied, so are the foods. One finds the usual canapés and cocktail spreads interspersed with such delicacies as Bollitos or Guacamole. Bollitos are a Spanish appetizer made from ground dried black-eyed peas, flavored highly with garlic, formed into small balls, and fried in deep fat until they are crusty, crunchy gold. Waiters bearing trays of these piping hot tidbits often get the feeling they are being followed. Many a guests has foregone dinner after a cocktail party because he was replete with Bollitos.

Guacamole is a creamy dip, the color of chartreuse, made from the incomparable Florida avocado pear. In the older sections of town there is a towering glossy-leaved avocado tree in every backyard, and when the fruit is ripe there is occasion for rejoicing. Neighbors appear mysteriously on the premises with a look of hope in their eyes. Is it possible the family has more pears than they can eat right away? The smooth rich meat of the avocado is a feat served with just salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, but there are many other ways to utilize this fruit which is truly more like a vegetable. Guacamole is a Spanish way of preparing the mashed avocado meat with spices, lemon, onion, and mayonnaise for a party snack which is a regional favorite.

Original Recipes

Bollitos – La Florida

  • 1 pound dry black-eyed peas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Soak the peas overnight. In the morning slip the skins from the peas. (This is done by rubbing the peas between the hands.) Wash and drain. Grind the peas and garlic fine until almost a paste. Add salt. Beat until the consistency of cake batter, then chill. Drop from a tablespoon into deep fat heated to 350 degrees. Brown and serve hot.

Guacamole

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large peeled avocado
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced onion
  • Mayonnaise

Rub a wooden bowl with cut garlic clove. Place avocado in a bowl and mash with a silver fork. Add salt, chili powder, lemon juice, and minced onion. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Put the Guacamole in a serving bowl and cover with a thin layer of mayonnaise (to prevent the avocado from blacking). Stir well just before serving. This can be used as a canapé spread or a raw vegetable dip, and it is very good as a dressing for head of lettuce salad.

About The Gasparilla Cookbook

The Junior League of Tampa’s The Gasparilla Cookbook is a proven classic, with its collection of superb recipes from famous West Coast Florida restaurants and locally renowned hostesses. This is a traditional cook’s book, featuring gourmet regional cuisine and prized heirloom recipes spotlighting the area’s blend of Spanish, Greek, Cuban, Italian, and Southern heritages. A welcome addition to the cookbook collection of both novice and accomplished cooks, The Gasparilla Cookbook features fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood, and includes easy instructions, and serving suggestions that make cooking and entertaining fun!

A national Tabasco Award winner, The Gasparilla Cookbook is 326 pages, and contains more than 700 recipes. An ideal hostess, shower, or holiday gift, The Gasparilla Cookbook is 7″ x 10″ in size, with a hard-back cover. The Gasparilla Cookbook retails for $14.95 each.

Click here to order your copy of The Gasparilla Cookbook!