Cooking the Books

Cooking The Books  
Excerpts from local cookbooks feature the talents and passions of local foodies
By Wendy O. Dixon

The Emerald Coast has an abundant array of cookbooks that dish out a taste of life in Northwest Florida. We asked some local cookbook authors to share their favorite dishes with our readers. Now you, too, can re-create the mouth-watering dishes and start your own collection of regional cookbooks.



Persimmon Champagne Punch

From “Seaside: Pastels & Pickets” published by the Seaside Town Council
Makes 25 servings

  • 3 (750-milliliter) bottles dry white wine
  • 2 (46-ounce) bottles pineapple-grapefruit juice
  • 2 (26-ounce) bottles Champagne
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans frozen lemonade concentrate

Chill wine, juice and Champagne well. Combine wine, juice and lemonade concentrate in a punch bowl; mix well. Add Champagne just before serving; mix gently. Add ice ring if desired.

Buy at: Sundog Books in Seaside. 



Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)

From “Heavenly Delights: A Collection of Recipes from Mission Love Seeds”
Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white sugar or honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon MSG, optional
  • 1 pound beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped

In a large re-sealable plastic bag, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, sugar, black pepper and MSG. Place beef and onions in the bag. Seal and shake the bag to coat the vegetables and beef with the sauce. Refrigerate for at least 2 ½ hours. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Remove meat and vegetables from marinade and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil; seal. Discard marinade, place on a grill and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or to desired doneness.

Buy at: Proceeds from sales go to Mission Love Seeds, a not-for-profit formed in Destin in 2004 to help feed families in the Philippines.



Beach Walk Cookies

From “Henderson Park Inn Exceptional Taste: Tales and Recipes” by Chef Tim Creehan of Destin
Makes 4 dozen

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups filling

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar together. Sift remaining dry ingredients together, set aside. Add eggs to butter and sugar one at a time. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix until just combined. Fold in filling (filling can be any dry ingredients such as chocolate chips, oatmeal, nuts, raisins, etc.). Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 10 minutes.

Buy at: Henderson Park Inn, Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble in Destin and at and 



Key Lime Fudge

From “Bay Fêtes” compiled by The Junior Service League of Panama City
Makes 64 squares

  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons Key lime juice or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, toasted

Line an 8×8 inch or 9×9 inch dish with foil, allowing a 4- to 5-inch overhang. Coat the foil with butter. Combine the white chocolate chips and condensed milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat just until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice and zest. Add 1 cup macadamia nuts and mix well. Spread the chocolate mixture in the prepared dish and sprinkle with coarsely chopped macadamia nuts. Chill covered for 2 hours or until firm. Lift the fudge out of the dish using the edges of the foil. Cut the fudge into squares and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Buy at: and



Crabby Mushroom Soup

From “Seasonal Florida: A Taste of Life in North Florida” by Jo Manning of Santa Rosa Beach
Serves 8-10

  • ½ pound unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ pounds fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 medium white onions, chopped fine
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup sherry
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 pound crabmeat, picked over
  • ½  gallon whole milk
  • 9  jigs Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms and onions until onions have softened. Add garlic, onion, Worcestershire, soy sauce and half of sherry. Stir in flour, a little at a time until smooth and the mixture forms a paste. Add nutmeg and cook about 3 minutes. Place in a large soup pot and add bouillon mixture and remaining sherry, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer 3-5 minutes. Add whipping cream and crabmeat, stirring gently. Maintain heat, do not let mixture boil. Add milk, stir and simmer until desired consistency is reached. Add Tabasco, cayenne, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in green onions and serve.

Buy at: and



Grits a Ya Ya (Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits)

From “Good Grits! (Southern Boy Cooks)” by Chef Jim Shirley of the Fish House in Pensacola and Great Southern Cafe in Seaside

The Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits:

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups Dixie Lily grits
  • ¼ pound butter
  • 1 (14 to 16 ounces) can creamed corn
  • ½  pound shredded smoked Gouda cheese

The Ya Ya:

  • 8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined jumbo shrimp
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
  • ¼ cup diced scallions
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits
  • White wine
  • Salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste

First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, drizzle in the rest of the cream, and stir till it’s all in the family. Shake in the shredded cheese and stir till it’s all smooth.

While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Sauté and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When the butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions and spinach. Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by one third, add salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return shrimp to the sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.

Buy at: Great Southern Café, and