At Cypress Restaurant up in Tallahassee, the Southern cooking is authentic yet sophisticated. The Dixie flair comes naturally to Chef David Gwynn, a Tallahassee native, and the chic assembly comes from his studies at top culinary schools and experience in high-end kitchens. Also key to the taste (or maybe it’s just perceived) are the locally grown produce he uses.
In the recipe below, he adds a gourmet flavor to a Florida seafood delicacy, grouper, and combines it with some Southern summer vegetables.
Garlic-Rubbed Black Grouper with Roasted Summer Ratatouille, Kalamata Olive Coulis and Pinched Herb Salad
For the Ratatouille
1 each yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant, - washed & cut into long strips (1 inch wide)
1 small sweet onion, peeled & cut into eight wedges
1 large red pepper washed, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch wide strips
1 tsp. each fresh, chopped herbs: oregano, rosemary, parsley & thyme
1 large yellow pepper washed, stemmed, seeded & cut into 1 inch wide strips
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 large, ripe tomato, washed & cut into eight wedges
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare all vegetables and herbs as directed. Combine all in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine. In a single layer on baking dish or pan, place vegetables and roast in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until cooked through but still firm. Keep warm.
2, 6 oz. fillets fresh grouper or other firm white fish, skin & bones removed
Light olive oil, as needed
4 cloves garlic, fresh, peeled & minced
4 oz. dry white wine
Salt & pepper
4 oz. chicken broth, low sodium
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Locate a sauté pan large enough to accommodate both fish fillets. Heat sauté pan to medium high heat. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Place a small amount of oil in the hot sauté pan (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Carefully lay the fillets in the hot oil, skin side up. Let the fillets develop a nicely browned crust, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn fillets over using a spatula. Remove from heat. Add wine and broth to the pan. Spread minced garlic evenly onto fillets. Place pan in the pre-heated oven until fish is slightly firm to the touch, about 5 minutes per inch of thickness. Do not overcook! Remove fish from broth and keep warm. Use broth in the preparation for olive sauce.
½-cup Kalamata olives, pitted & brine drained
Cooking broth, slightly cooled, as needed
1-oz. extra virgin olive oil
Place the oil and olives in a blender or food processor. Combine on medium speed for about 15 seconds. Mixture may not mix well but that is okay. Turn off. Scrape down sides of container with a rubber spatula. With the motor on low speed, slowly drizzle in cooking broth until you reach a smooth consistency similar to heavy cream. Reserve.
¼ cup mix of coarsely chopped/torn fresh herbs – parsley, chives, basil salt & pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped/torn fresh mixed lettuces
Light-style vinegar, ex. white wine
Combine herbs and lettuces in a small bowl. Toss with a splash of vinegar and lightly season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Assembly: On your best china, using a small spoon, drizzle about 1 ounce of Kalamata sauce randomly around the center of the plate. Place some of the roasted ratatouille in the center of the plate, stacking the vegetables to get height. Place a piece of fish on top of the ratatouille. Top the fish with a pinch of the herb salad. It’s that easy! Serve with a glass of un-oaked chardonnay or lighter-style pinot noir.