We all know that we should eat plenty of fish for our health, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to cook it at home so that it is truly appealing. While researching my book The Flavors of the Florida Keys, I interviewed many chefs who specialize in cooking fish. I asked for their advice on how to make it delicious. One thing they all told me is to get the freshest fish possible. If very fresh fish is not available, the next best choice is fish that has been flash frozen.

Also important is not to overcook it. Measure a fish fillet at its thickest part, and allow eight minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness. The fish will continue to cook in its own heat for a few minutes after it is removed from the fire. Fish is cooked when the meat just begins to flake easily with a fork and has just turned opaque rather than translucent.

Easy-to-make fish recipes from the Florida Keys…


The chefs at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key buy their fish from the fishing captains when they return each day. One of their favorites is hogfish, a very delicate white fish, but you can substitute any type of white fish fillet, such as flounder or tilapia.

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, divided use
½ pounds hogfish fillets (or any white fish fillet, such as flounder or tilapia)
Juice from one lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
6 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup sliced shallots
¼ cup white wine
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons mango cubes, puréed in a food processor, or 1 Tablespoon prepared mango purée (optional)*

Heat one-quarter cup of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish, and sauté for four minutes. (If using a thick fish, cook it for eight minutes per inch of thickness.) Remove to a plate, drizzle lemon juice over the fillets, and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the same skillet. Add the garlic and shallots. Sauté for one minute. Add the white wine. Cook one minute more. Add the tomatoes, and cook for two minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the mango purée. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the fish among four plates, and spoon the tomatoes over the top and on the side. Serves four.


This recipe was given to me by a chef from the Harbor House Restaurant as she waited to buy fish from a local fisherman. Any thick, firm fish fillet can be used.

1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
¼ cup flour
1½ pounds mahimahi fillets (or any firm fish fillets)
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the mayonnaise and horseradish together in a bowl. Place the flour on a plate, and dip the fish into the flour and then into the mayonnaise mixture, making sure all sides are coated.

Place the bread crumbs on a second plate, and dip the fish into the bread crumbs, coating all sides.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fish. Cook for four minutes, turn and cook four minutes more for a one-inch fillet. The fish should be golden. Remove to four dinner plates, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serves four.


This is from Chef Jose Palomino, whose Spanish Gardens restaurant is in Islamorada.

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
¼ cup lemon juice
Pinch of coarse sea salt
2 pounds yellowfin (ahi) tuna (or tilapia, cod or sea bass)
½ cup brandy
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
113 cups bottled roasted red peppers, drained and sliced

Heat one-half cup of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and gently sauté 15 to 20 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, place the remaining half cup of olive oil, lemon juice and coarse sea salt in a self-seal plastic bag. Add tuna and marinate 10 minutes, turning once during that time.

When the onions are golden, add the brandy and cook for two to three minutes over high heat.

When ready to serve, remove the tuna from the marinade. Heat a heavy-bottomed (cast-iron if possible) skillet over high heat. The skillet must be very hot. Add the tuna, and sear for one minute on each side for rare tuna.

For medium-rare, remove the skillet from the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for one minute or longer if desired. (If using other fish besides tuna, cook it using the eight-minute-per-inch rule.)

Salt and pepper the cooked sides to taste. Place the tuna on four plates, and spoon the onions on top. Arrange the roasted peppers over the onions. Serves four.

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