I grew up in Southwest Florida, Gator country. There's nary a pickup truck without a University of Florida license plate or bumper sticker. Most kids from my high school spend their junior year focused on getting into UF. The Florida-Florida State game is an event second only to our town's annual parade.
But in my family, Gator hatred runs deep. My parents both grew up in Miami, and are die-hard Canes fans, so in their eyes orange and blue is the most insidious color combination imaginable. I was the loyalist, and attended University of Miami. My sister, the rebel, attended University of Florida. With minimal teeth-grinding my parents made the six-hour drive to Gainesville and moved her into her Swamp-adjacent dorm. They graciously accepted token "Gator Dad" and "Gator Mom" coffee mugs with barely a grimace. Latent football animosity turned on our common rival, Florida State.
Through this earth-shattering changing of loyalties did my parents take into consideration the fact that neither my sister nor I ever gave two thoughts to football? The realization that two rabid football fans raised two kids with athletic aversion seems beyond them. Even now that we've both graduated they gleefully report football scores and play highlights for all three schools, as well as the Miami Dolphins, on a weekly basis during football season.
So, it was with only a little guilt that I cooked and ate Florida State-inspired fish tostadas from “Taste of the Town,” by ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge. They may have been featured under the FSU section but the ingredients, fresh fish, black beans, and grilled veggies, could really celebrate any school from the sunshine state. Like most of the recipes in Blackledge's book, there were no complicated or fussy instructions and the meal came together quickly. I added a few special toppings – crumbled feta cheese and mango salsa – for a salty kick and a nod to Miami.
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Florida State fish tostadas
Reprinted with permission from "Taste of the Town" by Todd Blackledge and J.R. Rosenthal
Four 5-ounce pieces of fish of your choice (grouper, mahi mahi, tuna, or salmon)
2 to 3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Cooked black beans (see recipe below)
2 to 3 tablespoons grilled mushrooms
2 to 3 tablespoons grilled onions
2 to 3 tablespoons grilled peppers
1 to 2 tablespoons mild or hot salsa
1. Season the fish with Old Bay.
2. Cook the fish on a grill pan until cooked through – do not overcook fish or it will dry out!
3. Lightly butter a 10-inch flour tortilla and brown on both sides.
4. Top the tortilla with black beans and rice, then add the fish, and finish by topping with grilled mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Serve with your choice of mild or hot salsa.
2 pounds black beans
2 teaspoons chopped red and green bell peppers
1 small white onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1. Combine all the ingredients except for the salt and the tomatoes, cover with water, and boil until the beans are soft, stirring frequently and adding water if needed.
2. When the beans are soft, stir in the salt and the tomatoes.
3. Drain the beans of excess liquid and serve with the fish as a side dish.