Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Morning Love…Olive Oil Pancakes!

Pancakes are a favorite breakfast fare in the Lazaro Cooks! household. Sometimes it can get quite frightening the sheer volume of cakes we parachute down our gullets. Yes…I said olive oil pancakes…we will get there don’t you worry. By the way, chocolate is another nice accoutrement these babies pack.

Most pancakes are made with butter. Not these. For this recipe I use olive oil in the batter and olive oil on the griddle. Look, I of all people, have nothing against butter. On the contrary, I fancy it. When I go to the market I buy a 4-pack of butter even if I don’t need it. Occasionally when I’m bored I take the butter out the fridge and hug it. Is that strange?

In reality this is a variation of a Spanish recipe called ‘Tortillas de Aceite.’ Olive oil is a bit more diet-friendly, while offering a distinctly unique flavor. The rest of these poshed-up flapjacks are grated semisweet chocolate, edible flowers, blueberries, and…

I love maple syrup, maple, maple syrup. Mmm Mmm Mmm. Here it goes down, down into my belly…If you didn’t see Anchorman…sorry you’re not going to get it. Maple syrup, preferably from Vermont, is a breakfast staple and goes gloriously with these pancakes.

Plate these up this weekend for your significant other. Who knows you might just get lucky.

Olive Oil Pancakes with Chocolate

For the Batter:
4 oz chopped semisweet chocolate
1 ½ cups flour
2 tbs cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Sea salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg whole – beaten
1 ½ tbs good olive oil

For the Garnish:
1 oz semisweet chocolate (for grating)
Maple syrup
Edible flowers

In a large bowl, add the flour, cane sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of sea salt.

In the center pour the buttermilk. Then add the egg and the olive oil. Starting at the center, slowly whisk the ingredients together. DO NOT OVER MIX. It’s ok if you have some lumps. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Grease the griddle with olive oil. If you don’t have a griddle, this is a very good one...Presto 07046 Tilt 'n Drain Big Griddle Cool-Touch Electric Griddle.  Watch the bottom of the pancake, when it’s nicely browned, turn it. Do not let it BURN...BURN NO GOOD!

Stack the pancakes on the center of the plate. Drizzle the maple syrup. Grate the chocolate over like softly falling snow. Arrange the edible flowers and the blueberries. Job done!

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pasta with Vegan Sausage: An Oxymoron or a Delicious Dish?

I invented this pasta dish when I was cleaning out my fridge and pantry one day, and my picky husband and daughter loved it. Back when I worked in Italian catering, we used lots of beef and pork sausage in our pasta dishes, which made them extremely unhealthy. For this dish, I used a "faux" grain sausage by Field Roast which is excellent. I used the Mexican Chipotle sausage, but Field Roast also has an Italian and a Smoked Apple Sage sausage which are also excellent.

You can make this pasta dish in less than 30 minutes flat. This dish is perfect for those busy people out who can't spend all night in the kitchen. Here's the recipe:

Spray olive oil
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 Field Roast sausages, chopped lengthwise twice then chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion, half moon slices sliced in half
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, julienned
10 oz. 100% whole grain bowtie (farfalle) pasta
Salt to taste

Non-vegan option: Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for topping

In a toaster or conventional oven, toast pine nuts by baking them at about 250 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Pinenuts should be slightly golden but not brown. Be watchful when toasting these since they go from golden to burnt in a minute. Set aside.

Boil about 5 quarts of water for the pasta. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil as well as salt to taste to the water before putting in the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions, usually ten minutes. After pasta is cooked, drain the hot water and rinse with very cold water to stop the pasta from cooking any more. Set aside.

Over medium-high heat, spray a deep, large-sized heavy bottom pan or dutch oven with olive oil, add vegan sausage and brown. Once sausages have a nice brown crust on them, take them out of the pan. Set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the onions. Stir for about one minute and then add the garlic. Cook for about 2 more minutes until onions are soft and garlic is no longer pungent. Add the sausage, pinenuts and sun-dried tomatoes and stir for about one minute, till everything is well-combined. Add the pasta and stir ingredients some more. Drizzle a little more olive oil on the pasta if it is a bit dry, but it usually isn't. Pasta should glisten a bit.

Serve pasta in shallow bowls and top with Parmigiano Reggiano, or not if you're vegan.

Simple Swaps for the Svelte:

Field Roast Sausages - Since these are made from grain, you won't be consuming much if any saturated fat or cholesterol, yet these puppies still have a lot of protein in them. Also, regular sausage has no fiber; these sausages, on the other hand, have three grams per link.

100% whole grain pasta - Swapping out white, nutritionally anemic pasta for a pasta made from whole grains is an easy way to make any pasta dish considerably healthier. Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients than regular pasta and don't spike up blood sugar the way that white pasta does. You can find whole wheat/grain pasta in any supermarket nowadays.

I hope you enjoy this simple and quick vegan recipe.

Till next time,

The Vegan Voice

Monday, March 29, 2010

In the Mood for Something Spicy and Satisfying? Try this Pad Thai.

Growing up in Los Angeles and living in the Bay Area, I have been influenced by Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisine. I am well-versed in eating spicy dishes ... I am equally comfortable eating some Ma Por Tofu as I am eating an excruciatingly hot Mexican mole over roasted vegetables. There is something about spicy ethnic food that is just so satisfying.

When I am in the mood for something spicy and delicious, and don't have much time to cook, I immediately think of whipping up some Pad Thai. Pad Thai is one of those dishes that is layered with spicy, exotic flavors that you can just keep on eating and eating. I usually have seconds and also like eating it cold, right out the Gladware in the fridge, and it tastes just as good or better the second day.

My Pad Thai is not only vegan, it's also gluten-free. You can adjust the amount of heat that you add to this dish to make it more or less spicy. Here, I start off my recommending a "medium" amount of heat. If you usually order your meals "mild," I recommend using 1/4 tsp. of red pepper. If you order your meals "medium," I recommend using the 1/2 tsp. noted in the recipe below. If you like your dishes really spicy, as do I, I recommend you use a whole teaspoon of red pepper flakes or more if you really want to clear out your sinuses.

Here is the recipe:

8 ounces rice noodles
Toasted sesame or canola oil for sauteing the tofu
1 package (16 oz.) extra-firm organic tofu, cubed
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup vegan granulated sugar
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce (San-J reduced sodium brand is excellent)
1/3 cup lime (or lemon) juice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
1/2 cup bean sprouts, for garnish
Sliced lemons and limes, for garnish (optional)
Peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish (optional)


Cook the rice noodles, according to the package directions, drain, and immediately return them to the pot, secured with a tight lid to keep them from drying out excessively. They will re-moisten once you add them to the sauce below.

Heat oil in a pan and saute the tofu until it's golden brown. I usually use half toasted sesame, half canola oil to saute the tofu. Sprinkle on the salt and fresh ground pepper while it's cooking.

In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, tamari, lime juice and red pepper together using a whisk. Set aside.

In a separate large-sized saute pan, heat oil (half toasted sesame, half canola) and add green onions and garlic. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes till the scallions wilt.

To that pan, add the peanut butter mixture, bean sprouts and tofu and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the noodles, combine well and cook just until all of the ingredients are heated through. If the noodles seem a little dry, add a little more tamari to the pan, but not too much ... you just want to make sure that all of the noodles are coated with sauce.

After you serve the Pad Thai on a place, top with bean sprouts and generous amounts of cilantro ... cilantro makes it taste refreshing and more delicious. You may also garnish with a some coarsely-chopped peanuts for a bit more crunch.

Lastly, if you keep a bottle of hot sauce on your desk like I do, meaning you REALLY like your food hot, you can drizzle your Pad Thai with some Thai Sriracha hot sauce - it tastes great!

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as I do. Cheers!

The "Spicy" Vegan Voice

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lobster Tail with Porcini Mushroom Broth

This particular dish is a variation of one done by an unbelievably talented French chef named Gerald Passedat. He is a master seafood cook and one helluva big Olympique de Marseille supporter.

The lobster tail used for this dish is from the SPINY LOBSTER a warm water Atlantic Ocean lobster. I purchased this 7 oz frozen lobster tail from Allow the lobster tail to sit in the refrigerator overnight for slow natural thawing.

For the Dried Porcini Mushrooms- 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms – 2 cups hot water around 180 F. Soak the porcini mushrooms in the hot water for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft. Using a spider remove the mushrooms to a bowl. Set aside. Using a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth…strain the mushroom liquid.

For the Porcini Mushroom Broth - All Vegetables small dice – 1 large white onion, 1 leek (white and light green parts only), 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 2 shallots, 2 small boniatos, 5 ounces of bacon. 1 satchel – black peppercorns, rosemary. 2 tbs poultry seasoning. 350 ml of Gewurztraminer Wine.

Heat ¼ inch of safflower oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon cook till lightly browned. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, shallots, boniato, and porcini mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine and porcini mushroom liquid to cover the vegetables. Add the satchel and poultry seasoning. Lightly tent the pot with aluminum foil. Cook for 50 minutes. Remove the satchel and discard. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Season with sea salt to taste. Broth done.

For the lobster – Blanch the lobster tails for 3 minutes in boiling water. The blanching process makes it easier to remove the meat from the shell. Cut the shell along the top to the back of the tail. Pull the shell apart…the tail meat will come out intact.

Using a knife, devein the lobster tail of its intestinal tract. Same concept as deveining shrimp. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Season the lobster tail with butter, olive oil, sea salt and white pepper. Roast in the oven for 8 minutes.

For the lobster garnish – 1 carrot, 1 green zucchini, 2 leaves of radicchio. Using a vegetable peeler cut ribbons of carrot and zucchini. Using a paring knife cut ribbons of radicchio. The pieces should be cut to the same width and to the length of the lobster tail. Keep all leftover vegetables to make a wonderful salad.

Remove the lobster tail from the oven. Garnish the tail with alternating ribbons of vegetables.

I served the dish with angel hair pasta. The thin pasta compliments the superb broth.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Delicately Delectable Cod

Atlantic Cod or Gadus Morhua, again for you science nerds, is an extremely popular food item. Cod has an opaque, flaky flesh with a mild flavor. It is a generally versatile fish used in scores of kitchen applications. The British use it for fish and chips. My dish is roasted cod with jasmine rice in a vegetable broth.

For the broth – All Vegetables small dice – 1 large white onion, 1 leek (white and light green parts only), 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 2 shallots, 2 small malangas, 5 ounces of bacon. 1 satchel – black peppercorns, rosemary. 2 tbs poultry seasoning.

Heat ¼ inch of safflower oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon cook till lightly browned. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, shallots, and malanga. Cook for 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Add the satchel and poultry seasoning. Lightly tent the pot with aluminum foil. Cook for 50 minutes. Remove the satchel and discard. Puree in a blender. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Season with sea salt to taste. Broth done.

For the Jasmine rice – 1 cup rice, 1 cup water, ½ cup white wine, sea salt, white pepper.

In a small saucepan bring the water and wine to a boil. Add the rice and seasoning. Lightly tent with aluminum foil. Cook for 15 minutes.

For the fish – 8 oz cod, finely grated carrot, finely minced chervil, finely minced oregano. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Place the fish in an ovenproof dish. Lightly coat the fish with olive oil. Make a line of carrots, then a line of oregano and chervil mix, and a line of carrots. Roast fish in the oven for 8 minutes.

To test the doneness of the fish insert a metal skewer into the thickest part. Place the skewer to your wrist. If the skewer is cold – the fish is raw. If the skewer is warm – the fish is perfectly cooked. If the skewer is hot – the fish is overcooked throw it away.

It is important to coordinate the cooking of these items to plate at once together. You really don’t want to have anything sitting around.

Enjoy this wonderful delicate dish…it takes a few steps but well worth the trouble in the end.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies ... Mrs. Fields Has Nothing on Me!

If you happen to love chocolate chip cookies, and also happen to be vegan or want to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol, this is the best chocolate chip cookie you're going to find. I tried several different recipes and this one produced a perfectly sweet, delicious cookie with a nice crust on the bottom and soft chewy center. My husband, who isn't vegan, demands that I make a batch for him every week, and now he even prefers my chocolate chip cookies to Mrs. Fields'. I hope you are as enamored by these cookies as we are.

Here's the recipe:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Earth Balance (vegan) Buttery Sticks
3/4 cup vegan granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegan brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer
4 tbsp. water
2 cups vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat Ener-G egg replacer with water until fluffy and foamy. Add butter, vanilla, granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat some more until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and remove to wire racks to cool completely.

After the cookies have cooled, and you have eaten your half dozen, store the rest in an air tight BPA-free container. I keep a Brown Sugar Bear in my cookie container since it keeps the cookies from getting hard and stale.

As you can see, these vegan cookies are simple to make, and the best part about making them is that you can taste, taste, taste the cookie dough and not have to worry about getting sick from eating raw eggs.

I serve my vegan cookies with cold soy, rice or almond milk. I must warn you, though ... these cookies are addictive, just ask my husband!

Till we sweet again,

The Vegan Voice

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Versatile Lentil

Hi all, it's been a while since my last post, but I think this lentil rice recipe will make up for it. I discovered this lentil rice when I went over to a friend's house and her mom cooked this delicious rice. It is full of protein and taste, and you can eat it with a bunch of different accompaniments, such as stew, salad, or some meat analogue. It seems complicated at first but it is really simple. Just make a big pot of it and then you don't have to worry about making more for a while, just reheat and serve. It reheats pretty well.

Here's the recipe:

Persian Lentil Rice

1 1/2 cup (dry) Basmati rice
1 cup (dry) brown lentils
1/2 tbsp turmeric
salt to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon Persian saffron
3 medium Russet potatoes
lightly toasted almonds, sliced (optional)
dried cranberries (optional)

Salt and cook Basmati rice halfway until the grain is al dente (you don't want it cooked all the way since it will continue to cook later). Once it is al dente, drain the hot liquid and rinse the rice with cold water until the rice stops cooking. Do the same thing for the lentils, i.e. salt and boil them halfway till they're al dente, drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.

Peel potatoes and slice into thin slices. Set aside. Using medium heat, saute onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the onion becomes translucent. Add raisins and saute mixture until onions turn a golden brown ... you want the onions to be sweet and the raisins will plump up a bit. Set mixture aside.

In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven, drizzle bottom of pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then dust the oiled bottom of the pan with the turmeric. Layer sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pan making sure that the entire bottom is covered with potato. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the potatoes.

Next, spoon 1/2 of the basmati rice over the potatoes. Dust the rice with 1/2 tablespoon of the Persian saffron. Sprinkle 1/2 of the lentils ion top of the rice. Sprinkle 1/2 of the onion/raisin mixture on top of the lentils. Next, you make another layer of the potato, olive oil, rice, saffron, lentils and onions/raisins as outlined above.

Cook the lentil rice on medium-low for about 10 minutes, covered, till it gets a bit steamy, then lower the heat to low for about 35-45 more minutes until the lentils and potatoes are tender.

Serve the lentil rice garnished with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.

A Word About Lentils

Lentils come in many different shapes and sizes and will provide the centerpiece for some varied and delicious dishes. I use brown lentils in this recipe and for lentil stew. I also use small red lentils to make indian dal and French puy lentils to make delicious hot and cold salads.

In addition, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare and readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings.

Nutritionally, lentils are full of fiber, lower coronary heart disease risk, stabilize blood sugar and replenish iron stores and give you energy.

Enjoy your lentils!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chocoholics Unite & Rejoice…Double Chocolate Cake

To say that my wife loves chocolate is to say that water is wet. Her deepest loves in life are coffee, our cats Bailey and Newbie, her car, DJ Hero, scallops and me. However, everything on that list pales in comparison to chocolate. Most chocoholics would say that the greatest gift the universe has bestowed upon them is the tree, Theobroma Cacao, the original source of chocolate. However, do they know that chocolate contains certain alkaloids, such as Theobromine, that stimulate the kidneys as a mild diuretic? How about the fun fact that Count Chocula famously OD’ed on the stuff leading to the cancellation of his cereal line. Allegedly. Any how…

This is a very simple recipe. First off, I’d like to talk about the garnishes I added. Citrus goes groovy with chocolate. Here’s a cool tip for preparing orange zest for this dessert. Use only organic oranges and wash them thoroughly. Slice off the top and bottom of the fruit exposing the inside. From the top cut down with your knife following the curvature of the fruit. If you have any of the white pith, lay the fruit horizontally on the board and “filet” off the pith. Now cut the zest into thin matchsticks. Prepare a simple syrup, which is equal parts water and sugar, brought to a boil, to dissolve the sugar. At this point the zest is preserved in the simple syrup till ready to use. The green you see on the dish is a tart and creamy lime jam.

3 sticks butter cubed
½ cup whole milk
6 medium cage-free organic eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
Sea salt
2 vanilla beans (split in half)
3 cups flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
4 ounces white chocolate chips

To make the cake – Remove the butter 35 minutes before use to soften at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the whole milk in a small saucepan till warm. DO NOT BOIL. In the bowl of a KitchenAid stand mixer add the eggs, butter, salt, sugar, and warm milk. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the beans and add to the bowl. With the mixer attachment on, stir at a low speed until incorporated well.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Mix further. Stir in the white chocolate chips. NOTE – before mixers existed cooks used their hands to stir so…if you don’t have a KitchenAid…

Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan with olive oil. Pour the cake batter in the pan. Bake at 350 F for 8 minutes. Lower to 300 F and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

To plate – Stack two pieces of cake. Use a fine mesh strainer to dust the plate with a mixture of cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Gently place the pieces of citrus zest on the cake. Drizzle the plate with the simple syrup. Add the lime jam.

Trouble-free lip-smacking chocolate goodness any night of the week.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Landmark 1st Dessert Post…Caramel Tiramisu Tart

First and foremost, I am not a pastry chef. I don’t really eat sweets or desserts…ever. Unless Vanilla Coke counts as a dessert then…well…I’ll leave that for another day. I grew up in a household that never finished a meal with a dessert. We ate loads of fried foods, and processed sugary cereals, but never dessert. However, I realized that I needed to teach myself to make desserts, in order to become a well-rounded cook. Luckily, my wife loves a good dessert and she happily tastes all of my wonderful creations...and wretched disasters.

Baking is an exact science. The difference between the correct measurement and eye-balling it determines whether the dish is a success. Therefore, I will be posting exact measurements and a traditional recipe format.  FINALLY, I can hear many of you say…I hear you trust me.

For the crust – ½ stick butter cut into ½ inch pieces. Allow the butter to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for softening. 9 chocolate graham crackers.

Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 20 seconds. You want a fine crumb consistency. Add the butter. Pulse till mixed.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with olive oil. It works! If you’re not that brave, just use more melted butter. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool at room temperature for 25 minutes.

For the chocolate layer – 1 ½ cups of heavy cream, 1 tbs corn syrup, 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, 2 tbs unsalted butter (cubed small), 2 tbs coffee liqueur.

In a saucepan over medium heat bring the cream and syrup to a boil. Take off the heat. Add chocolate, stirring until melted. Stir in the butter and the coffee liqueur. Empty it onto the graham cracker crust. Cool entirely, and then chill.

For the Filling - 1 cup heavy cream, 1 ½ cups mascarpone cheese (30 minutes at room temperature), 3 tbs powdered sugar, 3 tbs cold espresso, 2 tbs coffee liqueur. Caramel sauce for finishing.

Whip the cream in a bowl to soft peaks. In another bowl, beat the cheese till softened, then add the powdered sugar and beat till silky and velvety. Slowly but surely, beat in the cold espresso and coffee liqueur. Now gently fold in the cream and chocolate. Spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust on top of the chocolate layer. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until ready to serve.

Run a sharp knife around the side of the pan to loosen the tart. Remove the side of the pan and slide the tart onto a plate. Dust with a generously with powdered sugar.

To Plate - Spoon caramel sauce on the center of a plate. Place a portion of the tart on top. Drizzle with some more caramel sauce.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

White Veggie Lasagna…Now That’s Amore!

Lasagna, in most of its incarnations, is one of my all time favorite foods. This particular one uses no tomato product, thus it’s white. White sauce pastas are commonly prepared with some variation of a Béchamel Sauce. A sauce made of butter, flour, and milk.

That’s where my lasagna gets exciting. My white sauce is actually a cauliflower puree. Take a bunch of cauliflower and cut off the florets. Sweat in a saucepot with safflower oil for three minutes. Do not allow the cauliflower to brown. Cover the cauliflower with half-and-half. Season with all-spice, ground cinnamon, and a vanilla bean. Split the bean in half with a knife, scrape out the seeds, add to the pot. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender. Scoop out the cauliflower and add to a blender. Use enough of the cooking liquid so the machine will turn. The amount of cooking liquid used, determines the thickness of the puree. Sauce completed!

For the filling you will need equal parts diced red bell peppers, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms. Sauté the vegetables in a large pan until soft, but do not overdue it because they still will cook in the oven. Let the mixture cool.

Tarragon is another secret weapon this lasagna packs. You’ll need about 1 oz fresh tarragon finely chopped. I use three different cheeses for this dish…25 oz Ricotta, 8 ounces grated Asiago cheese, and 8 ounces grated Smoked Gouda.

Add the ricotta to the filling mixture, incorporate fully. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

To assemble on a lasagna pan…a thin layer of the cauliflower puree, the pasta, the filling, sprinkle some of the chopped tarragon, and some of the grated asiago. Repeat three more times. Top the lasagna with a layer of the cauliflower puree, and the grated smoked gouda. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 55 minutes.

A note on the pasta, I use Barilla, in my opinion they produce the best commercial pasta.

Uncover the pan, and bake for a further 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top. There you have it a wonderful vegetarian lasagna that will please even the toughest critics.

That’s it for now…Till we exchange a few more again…Peace!

We Will Soon Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

I’ve only been online with Lazaro Cooks! for about 15 days so I felt it appropriate to say a few words. I want to thank everyone who has taken time out of their internet surfing to stop by my blog. Some of you have signed on to follow the blog…I sincerely thank you! Countless more of you, and I use site meter I know, have stopped by to visit and read pages...I sincerely thank you as well.

I started this blog on the recommendation of my wife, who incidentally is far more intelligent than I, to fuse two of my three great loves in life…cooking and writing. It is my intention to foster an open forum where people can be free to talk about food. All viewpoints welcomed, opinions make the world go 'round, and so they will on this blog.

Please feel free to contact me, my email address is, with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. I know I’m not the best with posting traditional recipes…the way you might find in a cookbook. That is because I feel people sometimes get too literal with the recipe translations, and that stymies personal growth as a cook. So much of cooking is exploration, but if you require a detailed recipe, I will be glad to provide it via email.

My cousin Nancy, who also is exponentially smarter than I…and a Vegan…contributes to the blog. In my opinion it’s great, because she appeals to a demographic that is growing everyday, and needs a smart, humorous, inventive cook with lots of fun and original recipes. I truly feel that she enhances the blog by making it more diverse.

I look forward to the growth of the blog, and all the great conversation on the horizon about my favorite subject…FOOD!

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

To Plate, or Not to Plate: That is the Question

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageously bored stiff guests.

Remember when Mom said that playing with your food was bad? Forget it. If the cooking process is logical and perfunctory, then presenting the food is fanciful and full of fun.

A good cook makes the food look good while tasting good. Humans eat with their eyes first. So the fifteen seconds after a plate reaches the table are the cook’s opportunity to honestly express the self. Hearing a diner say that she “Doesn’t know whether to eat something or roll around naked in it” is a tribute to a well thought out and plated dish.

Themes to take into account while presenting food are colors, shapes, textures, flavors, and portion sizes. Mixing and matching three or more colors on a plate, while throwing in a few dissimilar textures is a good place to start. Think deeply about it. Don’t just throw food down on the plate…finesse it. Move it around, make it distinctively your own.

My spinach salad has Serrano ham, bacon, croutons, shredded cheese, and creamy vinaigrette. Nothing exotic or problematical. What is attractive about this salad is the shape, and quirky plating. I’m nobody’s Pierre Gagnaire, so I like to keep plating simple, while not boring my guests to tears. This salad could be taken in many different directions, play with it. Use your innate creativity when cooking tonight and dazzle your spouse, children or company.

Keep in mind presentation is there for fifteen seconds, it is flavor that ultimately holds the memory. Although, what a precious fifteen seconds they are. Make them count the next time you cook.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Where's the beef?...On my plate!

As the resident carnivore on this blog, I was rather horrified when I realized that there was yet to be a beef post. This incredibly gross, negligent oversight on my part was happily rectified tonight. Beef does the body good. Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole, but it does fit well into a balanced diet.

When I buy my red meat I go to the butcher’s case, not the supermarket. Do not buy meat in a package. I like to hold the cut of meat in my hand, caress it, look at the marbling, smell it, talk to it…that last bit really gets me noticed at the butcher shop. We’ve all purchased a steak that looked good in a package, only to get home, open said package and immediately know that we just got a trunky in the tradesman’s entrance. If you didn’t understand that last part…ask a Brit!

Pay close attention to how the raw meat looks. It should be bright red, not brown or black. Black?! You’d be surprised. The meat should be free of any repulsive odor. I always buy organic hormone-free beef. Grass fed or Grain fed? That’s for a future post.

There are three things you must have before even thinking of cooking a steak. First you must have a good, heavy pan. Second you must have a RACK, a wire rack you can put over a plate so your cooked steak can rest. Lastly, you must have FLEUR DE SEL. Fleur de Sel is a French sea salt that is hand-harvested. Fleur de Sel dissolves faster than regular salt, making it perfect to sprinkle on meat during the resting process.

Tonight I purchased a Hereford Beef strip steak. The strip steak or NY strip comes from the short loin, a section of meat located along the back, behind the ribs. It’s an area of the cattle that does not get much exercise, making it a tender cut. Tender cuts of meat require rapid cooking at temperatures. The goal is to create a flavorful brown crust on the exterior, while the inside is pink and juicy. Overcooked meat is tough as old boots, not particularly appetizing.

The following recipe is for an 8oz strip steak. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 10 minutes before cooking. Season the steak with sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, and cane sugar. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of butter. When the butter begins to foam, gently lay the steak on the pan. You better hear a sizzle, if you don't, get it off the's not hot enough!  Cook for 2 minutes. Turn the steak with a spatula; do not puncture with a fork. While cooking for 2 minutes on the second side...slightly tilt the pan and use a spoon to baste the steak with the oil-butter mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven, cook for about 8 minutes. Doneness on a steak can only be judged by feel. Touch the steak, if it feels like your CHEEK…RARE, if it feels like your CHIN…MEDIUM, and if it feels like your FOREHEAD...Throw it out, it’s well done.

Take the pan out of the oven, and with the spatula lay the steak on the RACK to rest. When meat cooks the juices are drawn to the center. Resting allows the meat to open-up and redistribute those juices. Resting time should be exactly half the cooking time. While the meat is on the rack, season both sides with the Fleur de Sel. I made no sauce for the steak tonight, but if I had, I would add any of the juices on the plate under the rack to the sauce.

The purple element on this dish is shallots. I diced two shallots and put them in a glass bowl. To the bowl I added ½ cup orange juice, ½ cup Meyer lemon juice, and sea salt.  Mix well.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. It’s almost like a shallot ceviche. Why it turns purple…I don’t know…there is some chemistry going on there, but I could not explain it. The end result is appealing to the eye and quite tasty. I finished the dish with chopped chives. French fry post to come later.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shall I Compare Thee to a Seared Scallop?

If I could only have but one wish,
I would wish to sit at dinner everyday,
With the sight of you on my dish,
Your sweet, soft, nutritious meat,
Is a wondrous joy to cook and to eat.

The sound of you sizzling on the pan,
Can engross even the best of cooks,
Fantasizing of the savory meal to come,
Yet keep ever present the cooking time at hand,
Or a hockey puck you will have done.

Many moons ago I introduced you to my wife,
Who could have thought, she would eat you for life,
She likes you with orange, fennel, thyme, butter or garlic,
You have made my poor wife a scallopaholic!

This is only the first of many scallop posts,
For Lazaro Cooks! loves this little marine bivalve mollusc most.

I purchased 20-30 count scallops from The number represents how many scallops per pound. These are “Dry” scallops, meaning they are chemical free. Inside a scallop shell there are basically three parts, the skirt, the coral, and the abductor muscle. The majority of scallops sold on the market are the big, white pearl, the abductor muscle.

Sear the scallops quickly on a very hot pan, with minimal oil, about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side. I season my scallops with a mixture of equal parts…sea salt, curry powder, and smoked paprika. Mix plenty and store it in a sealed air-tight container.

I served the scallops with a simple corn puree. 2 cans of organic sweet corn kernels drained of the canning liquid. 1 small yellow onion diced, 1 shallot diced, 2 cloves of garlic minced. Sauté the vegetables in a pot, till softened, but not colored. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the corn mixture, substitute water if you like. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Puree hot in a blender, do not allow cooling. The amount of cooking liquid added determines the thickness of the puree. Strain through a mesh strainer. Season with sea salt and white pepper. Swirl in a knob of butter.

The green element in the dish is a cilantro puree. Take a bunch of cilantro and throw into a blender, leaves and stems; most of the flavor is in the stem. Season with a pinch of sea salt, black pepper and a splash of white wine vinegar. Add just enough olive oil to allow the blender to turn.

Scallops are a wonderful introduction for seafood newbies. So eat plenty of healthy scallops…and a burgeoning poet you might just be.


That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

How Do You Like Them Beans?

For my first vegan recipe post, I’d like to introduce you to a recipe that is as healthy as it is delicious … meet Tuscan Beans with Sundried Tomatoes.

Among the dozens of Italian bean dishes, this one stands out as the most delicious I’ve had in a while. I discovered this recipe in my favorite vegan cookbook, The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Here’s the recipe:
Heat one tbsp. olive oil in a large-size sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a large chopped yellow onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add 3 thinly sliced zucchini and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, 3 cups of fresh spinach, 4 cups of cooked small white beans (Northern or navy … and make sure they are tender but not mushy), 1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (reconstituted or packed in olive oil), 1 cup water, ½ tsp. ground sage, salt and black pepper to taste and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, stirring to combine. Salt to taste, and cook for 10 minutes longer. Stir in 1/3 cup of fresh basil and serve right away.

I like to serve this dish with crusty whole grain bread or over some polenta. You may also serve your Tuscan beans with veggies as pictured above. In the above picture, you can see that I served the beans with kale and tomatoes. The kale, I just steamed, chopped coarsely, mixed with avocado, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkled with kosher salt. I made the tomato salad using organic vine-ripened tomatoes that I chopped coarsely, olive oil and kosher salt.

Nutritional Scoop

Beans are a nutritional powerhouse. Small white beans, such as navy or Northern, are chock-full of folate, fiber, protein and many other phytonutrients. Among their health benefits, beans prevent constipation and digestive disorders through their rich fiber content, reduce heart attack risk by a whopping 82% when consumed regularly, stabilize blood sugar levels (perfect for diabetics or pre-diabetics), replenish iron stores, increase energy, disarm free radicals in the body (that cause cancer), maintain brain cell/cognitive function and provide tons of protein.

Kale is another nutritional giant; though, if not prepared properly, its bitterness, due to its high mineral content, might traumatize an unwitting palate. On the ANDI scale (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which has been implemented at Whole Foods stores nationwide and measures foods’ nutritional density on a scale of 0 to 1000, kale receives a score of 1000! Kale has so many nutritional accolades that it would be impossible to list them all. Among its myriad of health benefits, kale helps to prevent various cancers, detoxifies cells, lowers cataract risk and improves vision health, promotes lung health, strengthens immunity, protects against rheumatoid arthritis, helps in energy production, is a great source of fiber, calcium, and a whole range of vitamins. Recent research shows that kale provides significant cardiovascular benefits as well. It seems that kale does a little of everything nutritionally … think of it as a jack of all trades veggie!

Tomato and its friend Olive, oil, that is, are a great pair. Adding olive oil to your tomatoes helps you to absorb more of the very important lycopene found in tomatoes, since lycopene is fat-soluble. Research on tomatoes shows many benefits of lycopene including benefits in bone health, sun protection, skin aging, male prostate and fertility and asthma, among others.

Therefore, enjoy those yummy beans, tomatoes and greens. Here's to your health!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Vegan Voice, My Take

Greetings from Northern California! I’m Nancy, a.k.a. the Vegan Voice, and I’m very excited about being a contributor to this tasty and informative blog.

A little about me, I grew up in a household where delicious but unhealthy Latin food was front and center. My parents cooked lots of meat, fried foods and sugary treats. When I left home to go to college, I was on my own and had total control over what I ate. That’s when my culinary journey began.

I went to college in Berkeley, California, the mecca of alternative cuisine and environmental awareness. In addition to a plethora of vegetarian ethnic restaurants from which to choose, Berkeley was the home of Chez Panisse, Alice Water’s culinary gem known for its local, organic products and seasonal menus. Being surrounded by such haute food couture, as I like to call it, I started spending an ungodly amount of time in the kitchen, cooking everything and anything I could afford on my measly college budget.

To put myself through college, I worked in fine food. First, I worked at A.G. Ferrari Foods, an Italian delicatessen/catering company, then at Cater Marin, known for their “Glorious Food, Pure & Abundant.” Being surrounded by such amazing chefs and delicious food inspired me to take my cooking to a higher level. I learned all that I could from these experiences and sought out more culinary expertise from cookbooks, cooking classes and The Food Network, of course. I also began reading many non-cookbook books on issues related to food, such as food politics and production, organic food, genetically modified food or GMOs, nutrition and disease and the like.

In 2009, I came across, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Nutrition Study Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and it changed my life and cooking forever. In it, Dr. Campbell lays out a mountain of indisputable scientific evidence for how a plant-based diet can not only improve your health but also reverse many diseases that plague Americans and others who indulge in the typical Western Diet.

I have had the misfortune of losing my father and other relatives and loved ones to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, diseases that absolutely could have been prevented through proper nutrition. I hope that I will inspire you to take a good hard look at your diet and decide that you could be making better choices at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Being a new mom, I will also be delving into the subject of childhood nutrition and hopefully shedding some light on how you can help your children prevent disease and obtain optimal health from a young age.

Lastly, through this blog, I will be providing many delicious plant-based recipes for you to try. When I say plant-based, I mean that I cook using vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds, all of which provide optimal nourishment for brain and body function. I am going to show you how to make delicious, filling and nutritious meals that will make you healthier and feel more energetic (and if you have constipation issues, I promise I can resolve them!). My hope is that I can get you to eat more plant-based meals in lieu of meals that may be laden with saturated fat, processed food-like substances and empty calories. Nutritious plant-based food can be utterly delicious, and I am here to prove it to you! I look forward to our adventure together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lazaro Cooks! Welcomes...The Vegan Voice

I am pleased to introduce a new gifted contributing author to the blog…Nancy “AKA The Vegan Voice” She is a super-fit cook, writer, high-energy personality, and a mother. She also happens to be my cousin.

A resident of Northern California, Nancy will bring her unique perspective to a myriad of topics such as organic foods, genetically modified foods, organic vegetable gardening, sports nutrition, and proper nutrition for children to prevent childhood obesity. In short, the blog just got a whole lot SMARTER.

She will be posting her superb, innovative vegan recipes. As you can see from her Persian Rice…they will be flavorsome treats.

Northern California sensibilities fused with South Florida flare…makes for an interesting blog. Check in regularly for the Vegan Voice…I know I cannot wait!

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pierre Gagnaire…Kitchen Goliath

Pierre Gagnaire: Inventing Cuisine is a short film on the cooking and art of a culinary genius. From his flagship restaurant on 6 Rue Balzac in Paris, Chef Gagnaire shares his fluid, and ever changing approach to cooking. He creates two dishes from a group of ingredients chosen at random from his kitchen. Chef Gagnaire comments on the spontaneous nature of his kitchen, saying that “There are no rules; the goal of the process is not to alter the ingredients.” He readily admits that many times he has no clue whether a dish will work, and that the line between a good dish and a terrible one is razor thin.

I created two dishes inspired by some of Chef Gagnaire’s theories on cuisine. The first is a dish with two different tomato preparations and chicken.

The chef talks about having different textures and consistencies on the same plate. So I took grape tomatoes and cooked them with butter and honey. On another pan, I cooked diced chicken thigh meat that I dusted in flour and spices. I then merged the two to create one unified flavor profile. In a bowl I tossed sliced green tomato with some olive oil and vinegar. To plate…in the center of the plate the cooked chicken and tomato…then top with the raw green tomato…and then a slice of purple heirloom tomato…top with a drop of chervil crème fraiche. When you eat through the dish you get the contrast between the cooked tomato and the raw tomatoes, with the cooked chicken in the party as well.

The second dish is straight vegetarian…just for you Nancy…The dish incorporates cooked shitake mushrooms, with raw tomatoes, and two different potato preparations. The base of the dish is par-boiled Yukon gold potatoes diced and shitake mushrooms diced, sautéed in a pan. Then I layered a succulent, out of this world Yukon gold puree. Hence the two potato preparations. I topped the dish with diced green and purple heirloom tomato tossed in olive oil, red wine vinegar and marjoram.

If you've ever wondered what the inner workings of a fine dining restaurant kitchen looks like, I recommend you watch this film. You can check it out on Netfilx they have it.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

You Can’t Learn to Cook from a Book…Really?!

Things has been awfully cordial on this maiden voyage of my blog, however it’s time to VENT. You will come to find out about me that at times, I can get nuclear, so here goes. I’ve heard the above saying one too many times. To be clear, you CANNOT learn to be a PROFESSIONAL chef from a book. Working in a professional kitchen with all of its inherent pressures, hierarchy, politics, and demands, is no different than working at your particular job.  You must learn the ropes there.

However, the act of cooking, producing great food can be learned from books, instructional videos, etc. On the first day of trigonometry class did the instructor say, “Okay people no textbooks for this class, you can’t learn trigonometry from a book,” RIDICULOUS. If you take the time to study, and then practice in the kitchen you undoubtedly can learn to cook from a book. Luckily for the so inclined, the greatest chefs over time have generously, for profit, shared their knowledge with the world.

Oh, and please don’t say that you are SELF-TAUGHT. Everything you know is learnt from someone else, maybe not directly through a class in school, but from knowledge outside of yourself. Who amongst us that is fortunate enough to walk, says “Yes I walk, I was self-taught.” No, someone took the time to teach you to walk, and not in a class by the way. I did not go cooking school, I’ve taken some classes, but ultimately I learn better through self-study.  Nevertheless, the knowledge comes from outside of me. Saying that one is self-taught is just another way for humans to satisfy their need to feed the ego.

The third statement I get that burns me up is…”You were born with it.” Really?! I was born on October 21 in the 70’s with a functioning cardiovascular system that keeps me alive, and brain cells that work, sometimes. Through the years I’ve killed off far too many, but that’s off point. I can go on for pages, but my blood pressure is way too high right now, and that cardiovascular system might stop working mid-blog.

That’s all for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Got Crabs?...Why Yes…Yes I do!

Crab cakes are a staple of many restaurant menus. Crab cakes are made from REAL crabmeat, mostly from the Blue Crab. Not the stuff you get with your SUSHI, that is called SURIMI, or imitation crabmeat. It is a fish based product, made mostly of Pollock or Hake. Vile stuff…stay away. The only actual crab in that product is from pulverized shells…yuck!

Blue Crabs from Maryland are valued as the tastiest in the world. The crabs are found all up-and-down the east coast. Demand is so high that we cannot produce enough to meet it; so much of the crab consumed in the United States comes from Mexico, Venezuela, and Southeast Asia.

Live crabs taste best, but it is labor intensive to extract the meat, and one whole Blue Crab yields about one ounce of meat. So we buy the pasteurized crabmeat at  Pasteurization involves subjecting the crabmeat to a special heat treatment and sealing it in air-tight containers. The process of pasteurization makes the meat 100% bacteria free.

The crabmeat I purchased from is a product of Vietnam. The species is Red Swimmer Crab, an Asian cousin of the Blue Crab. The size I used is Lump.

Crab cakes are all about the ratio of crab to bread. You want to serve a crab cake that tastes of crab. With that said, crab is a blank canvas, so you can get pretty creative with the flavor base you add to the cake.

When you open your container of crab meat pick through it with your fingers…you will always find bits of shell that will ruin your cake eating expereince. Keep the meat refrigerated. The following guidelines are for 1 pound of crab meat. Dice a red bell pepper, a leek (white and light green parts only), a jalapeno pepper, a shallot, and 2 cloves of garlic. Sauté the vegetables in a pan over medium-high heat to soften. Place in a bowl and allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, mix the crabmeat with the sautéed vegetables. Add 1 cup of bread crumbs, and 3 tbs of mayo. Mix well. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 250 F.

Place a pan over medium-high heat, and a bit of canola oil. Take a handful of the crab mixture and form into a patty. If it is too wet, add more bread crumbs, but only just enough, remember more crab, less bread. Working in batches, add a few to the pan, do not overcrowd the pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side…the goal is to brown the exterior of the cakes.

Transfer the pan to the oven. Cook in the oven for 7 minutes. Place the cakes on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately with Lazaro’s Spicy Mayo. Okay, sauce time. This is a real crowd pleaser and goes swimmingly with the crab cake. ½ cup mayo, ½ cup crème fraiche, pinch brown sugar, pinch sea salt, 2 drops soy sauce, 2 drops honey, splash of ketchup and Tabasco. The Tabasco is up to you, some like it hot, let her rip. If you’re more conservative a few drops will do. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for one hour.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2 Dishes for the Egg-Lover in You

These dishes highlight the infinite possibilities and combinations one can do with scrambled eggs. There are no rules, just allow the creative mind the flow.

Dish 1…Chicken & Egg. Have I ever told my theory on what came first the chicken or the egg? Well it’s interesting actually…I'm just kidding…who really cares.

Take a chicken breast and cut it into cubes. Now mix together in a bowl, sea salt, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and flour. Mix well. Dust the chicken in the flour mixture, and shake off any excess. Heat about ¼ inch of peanut oil in a skillet. Get it nice and hot. Add the chicken and fry till golden brown.

To present…spoon your scrambled eggs onto the center of the plate. Place the chicken on the eggs and garnish with chopped chives. And there it is…an elegant breakfast dish you’d be proud to serve to Momma.

Dish 2…Eggs On Toast. Wondering where the toast is? This is what I mean by being playful with food. I take PANKO Japanese bread crumbs and toss them in a bowl with chopped chervil, salt, pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

PSA time…DO NOT BUY THE CRAP IN THE CAN, OR THE PREGRATED STUFF. It may seem convenient; however it bastardizes what the “Undisputed King of Cheeses” according to Mario Batali, should taste like. Invest in a Microplane and grate your own fresh cheese.

Now…place the bread crumb mixture on a pan with no oil, and toast for a few minutes over medium-high heat. When you can smell the bread toasting take it off. Here’s a math equation for you…bread crumbs + overcooking = shitty cook.

To present…spoon the toasted bread crumbs onto the plate…cover with the luscious scrambled eggs, and I made a chipotle-based sauce for a spicy dish. More on my sauces later stick around for future posts…It’s called a tease people…come on!

Two unique and diverse ways of serving eggs to the hungry egg-lovers in your household.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

The Amazing Remarkable Edible…Huevo

The timeless egg remains one of our favorite breakfast foods. For a seemingly simple item, the egg has countless uses in a gourmet kitchen. Its makeup and structure must be studied to apply the correct cooking method for achieving the desired result. In this episode we will concentrate on the humble scrambled egg.

A whole egg consists primarily of three parts, the shell, yolk, and egg white. The shell is the container, but it’s not an ideal container. It is fragile for one thing, but even worse its permeable…meaning that an egg will absorb odors, and flavors through the shell causing it to lose moisture even if unbroken. This alters the eventual taste of the egg, and not in a yummy way. The yolk or yellow part is high in both fat and protein. The white is mostly albumin protein…which is clear and soluble when raw, but white and firm when COAGULATED…important word that we will revisit.

Egg should be purchased as fresh as possible. Farmers markets usually carry very fresh eggs…sometimes right out of the chicken. I would advise you buy only CAGE-FREE ORGANIC eggs. Proper storage of the eggs is crucial, eggs should be kept at a temperature of 36 F…do not keep at room temperature…for every day that an egg is kept at room temperature you can lose a full grade…which means that your farm fresh egg is quickly becoming a crappy shitty egg you don’t want to consume.

Now for the cooking…In my kitchen eggs are never OVERCOOKED. I believe the egg to be at its best when rich and creamy. You like your eggs scrambled well? Stop reading now…please!

Whole eggs beaten become firm when heated or COAGULATE at a temperature of about 156 F. Adding liquid to it will raise the temperature slightly. 156 F might not seem a very high temperature, but a sauté pan over medium-high heat can exceed 156 in a very short time.

I cook my scrambled eggs in a method of constant stirring, and a game of on-the-heat and off-the-heat. The goal of the exercise is to have a finished product of cooked, creamy, luscious scrambled eggs.

I use a non-stick saucepan…yes a saucepan not a skillet or omelet pan. I crack the eggs into the saucepan, but don’t beat them. I stir them so much it’s not needed. I don’t salt at this point, as salt would begin to breakdown the eggs…don’t want that. I use about 1 tbs of butter per 2 eggs, butter helps the eggs get even richer.

Place the saucepan over medium heat, and using a silicone spatula, start stirring. Leave it on the heat for a minute, then take it off, put it back on, and take it off…all the while stirring. By going (on-the-heat, off-the-heat) you control the temperature of the eggs, which combined with stirring, slows down the coagulation process. And when it’s come together enough for you…stop cooking.

Now add salt, pepper and CRÈME FRAICHE. Crème Fraiche is a French-style cultured cheese. Straight from the refrigerator, the cold crème will drop the temperature of the egg, not allow carry-over cooking to overcook it. It will also make the eggs silky smooth. This is my method for making the Queen’s Scramble…eggs fit for a Queen…or at the very least the Queen of the Lazaro Cooks! household.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dinner and a Champions League Match

On the list of things I enjoy doing, watching a European Football Match (Soccer), is close to the top. The only time it gets even better is when I have the privilege of watching one with THE MAN! The Man is my cousin Miguel. There are 3 undeniable facts you must know about my cousin….1. He’s infinitely smarter than us…2. He knows much more soccer than us…3. He’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Tonight I decided to ditch the Pub Grub, and go with some lighter fare. The first course was a healthy broccoli soup. I garnished the soup with oven roasted grape tomatoes. At first glance it might seem an odd paring, but you would be surprised at how well it works. The design of the soup is straight forward…boil the broccoli for 4 minutes…puree in a blender…strain through a chinois, or fine strainer, and season with salt and pepper. I always strain my soups, to achieve a silky, velvety texture, then again it is totally a preference thing…If you don’t want to strain…serve as is.

The tomatoes I toss with minced garlic, good olive oil, thyme, sea salt, white pepper, and a very smooth…Fig infused vinegar. Roast in a 425 F oven for 10 minutes. I finish the soup with a drizzle of the juice from the roasting pan.

For the pasta dish…I used linguini…In my opinion BARILLA makes the best commercial pasta. Sauté some diced pancetta till rendered and crispy. Set aside on paper towels. Using the rendered pancetta fat, sauté some diced red bell pepper, diced Japanese eggplant, and yellow onion. Deglaze the pan with a generous amount of white wine…I used a LEXIA wine from Alice White an Australian wine producer.

Cook till the wine is reduced by ¾…then whisk in about 3 tbs of butter…creating a wine-butter emulsion. Season with salt, pepper, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.  Add the cooked pasta, and toss well.  Leave on the heat for about 1 minute then take off.

For the fish…I used Tilapia…season the fish with sea salt, white pepper, smoked paprika, and Wondra flour. The flour helps achieve a nice light crust on the fish. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, add canola oil. Not too much, or you will not be able to sear the fish. The thickness of the fish will determine the cooking time…USE YOUR EYES…2 minutes per side should do.

It is important to coordinate the cooking of the pasta and do not want either sitting around too much.

To present…I roll the pasta on a carving fork, and lay gently on a plate…spoon some of the wine-butter sauce on the pasta. Add the cooked pancetta. Place the fish on top.  Drizzle the fish with olive oil and sprinkle a handful of chopped chives. Splendid…an easy to make dish on any night of the week.

As far as the football went…Lyon stunned Real Madrid, in Spain at the Bernabeu, to advance to the round of 8…and Manchester United demolished and embarrassed AC Milan…4 to nil. Last night my Gunners advanced to the round of 8…kicking Porto’s ass right out of London…5 to nil. Good football, good food, and great company…what could be better?

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fringe Fans...We Party!

Fox has ordered a full 22 episode 3rd Season of FRINGE...AWESOME!  The second half of Season 2 kicks off on Thursday April 1, 2010 at 9pm on Fox...if you've never seen this show...I spiritedly recommend it.  For the uninitiated, FRINGE is a cool, trippy sci-fi show created by the team from Bad Robot Production Company headed by J.J. Abrams, The excellent director who brought back the STAR TREK franchise from the dead.

In this image released by FOX, Anna Torv stars as Agent Olivia Dunham, right, John Noble stars as Dr. Walter Bishop, left, and Joshua Jackson stars as Peter Bishop in a scene from, "Fringe." (AP Photo/FOX, Craig Blankenhron)

I just purchased Season 1 on Blu Ray from Amazon...  If you have netfilx...they have it too.  Today just brightened up...knowing that we will continue to follow FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham...played by the lovely and talented Anna Torv...and the Bishops, Walter and Peter...on all of their creepy, mind-bending journeys.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rings Even Commitment Phobes Can Get Behind

Invariably, when you go out to eat at a restaurant a plate of fried calamari, or squid in Ingles, will be ordered for the table. It’s all nice and polite at the beginning…no please you go ahead, oh thank you, you are a scholar and a gentleman, no worries there’s plenty to go around…By the time there is one ring left, everyone at the table becomes an inhabitant of Middle Earth.  Forks in hand...fighting to be the Lord of the Ring, and your best friend is snaring at you saying, “Smeagol wants The Precious.”
Squid is a wonderful protein to cook. They have tentacles, I personally don't care for them, but both the bodies and the tentacles are eaten. Squid must either be cooked very quickly or braised for a long time. In this episode, we will be flash-frying them.

Clean the squid thoroughly inside the body or the tube as it is called. Outside of the tube are these two wing-looking appendages, lop those off. Now, slice the tubes into 1/3 inch wide rings, or thicker if you’d like.

The key to crispy squid rings is to keep the squid as cold as possible before frying. Place the squid in a glass bowl and cover with half-and-half. Use plastic wrap to cover the bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Upon frying time you will need a candy thermometer. I got this one on Amazon - CDN TCG400 Professional Candy & Deep Fry Thermometer. Regulating the oil temperature is crucial...Shoot for about 350 to 365 F.

Prepare a light coating.  Squid is a delicate protein and you do not want a thick batter. This is a sample of something I would use…1 cup Wondra Flour, 1 tbs Garlic Powder, 1 tbs Onion Powder, ½ tsp of white pepper…NO SALT. Salt breaks down your cooking oil. About cooking oil…I like to use PEANUT.

Drain the squid in a colander…working in batches, and quickly you want the squid as cold as possible…drop the squid into the flour mixture…shake off excess…drop into the oil. Fry for about 45 seconds to 1 minute…No longer or you will be eating fried rubber bands.

Scoop out of the oil and drain on paper towels.  Now sprinkle with SALT WHILE HOT.  Serve immediately with your dipping sauce of choice…soon I will get into my recipes for dipping sauces.  The one in the picture is an especially delightful Tomato Garlic sauce.

There you have it crispy, light calamari rings the whole family will love…just make enough…or you might be getting a visit from a short creepy dude with an affinity for the words…MY PRECIOUS.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

Cristy Robles...Artist Extraordinaire

I know this a food blog...and trust me we'll get back there. Just wanted to highlight a young talented artist. Cristy Robles is an LA based illustrator, artist, and addition to being the biggest Spongebob Squarepants fan on the planet. She is a graduate of the prestigious Ringling School of Art & Design. She currently works for the Jim Henson know...THE MUPPETS...and no she's not a puppeteer. Her work is whimsical and adorable as you can see.

I would also like to chat about her exploits as a photographer. A great photo is a piece of art. It captures the essence of a subject and evokes emotion. All the while, putting on display the skill, timing, art, interest, and personality of the photographer. Cristy's concert photos put you right the show...and really make you stop and say WOW!

If I had a band, I would want her making my shows look good...And if it weren't for the fact that she is based in Los Angeles and I live in Miami, she would be taking all the pics of my food for this blog.

So if you like art, or beautiful photography, please check out her work

Decibel, Metal Hammer, Revolver are you listening...there is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered...and her name is Cristy Robles.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

The Seafood Website to end all Seafood Websites is a website dedicated to selling frozen seafood.  At said website,  you may purchase frozen seafood of the highest order for wholesale prices.  I buy all the seafood you see on this blog at

You can find their delivery schedule on the FAQ'S portion of the website.  Two things to make note of...1. If you live in a gated community...NO DELIVERY FOR YOU!...sorry for channeling the Soup Nazi there...2. There is a minimum for delivery of 20 pounds.  Now that may seem like a lot, however if you work with any foodies...who like seafood...then reaching the 20 pound minimum is a breeze.  FISH typically comes in a 10 pound box, SHRIMP in 5 or 2 pounds, SQUID in 5 or 2.5 pounds...etc...and so forth.  Just make sure you got a freezer, or a cooler with ice...FROZEN seafood is funny that way...if you don't keep it chilly it will...nevermind.

For all of my multitude of followers...4 to be exact...5 if you count may know by now how I feel about recipes.  However, there is a recipe section on that I will be contributing to.

So...give it a go...purchase some seafood this week at ...BE SURE TO MENTION THAT YOU HEARD ABOUT THEM HERE...and have a seafood extravaganza this weekend.

 That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

There's Tuna Salad and then there's a Tuna Salad

Forget about that crap in the can. You know that can of tuna that once open makes you retch and sprint out of a room. Perhaps that’s just my reaction. I know many of you out there love you some Star-Kist or if you’re...Jessica “I didn’t know there were chickens in the sea” Simpson...some Chicken of the Sea.  However, nothing compares to a nice piece of Yellowfin Tuna...a delectable 8oz Saku Block...Sold at Tuna or Thunnus Albacares, for you science nerds, is commonly called the BEEF OF THE SEA.

Cook this fish like you would a nice filet of beef…which means not that much. Overcook it and the fat lady has sung…no one will want to eat it. The main objective is to sear it quickly to achieve a nice crusty exterior, while the interior is pink and moist.

Let’s converse about searing shall we. First off, the objective is to brown the piece of fish ‘cause brown food tastes yummy. NOT BLACK, black means burned, which can be translated to…your nice piece of fish is now shoe leather. Always remember the immortal words of Gordon Ramsay, this saying will serve you well in the kitchen…”WHEN IT’S BROWN…IT’S GOOD, WHEN IT’S BLACK…IT’S FUCKED!” Succinctly beautiful in it’s straightforwardness.

Let the fish sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes prior to cooking. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove as much moisture off the surface of the fish as possible, it will help you achieve seary goodness…Is seary a word…no…I just made it up...your welcome!

Okay set up your RACK. A wire rack over a plate, or an overturned plate, somewhere for your cooked fish to rest.

Place the pan over medium high heat. Allow the pan to get nice and hot. Add a bit of oil to the pan…just a bit though…or the fish won’t sear. Lightly season the fish with salt, white pepper, smoked paprika and a bit of FLOUR, flour will help you achieve a nice crust. I like to use WONDRA FLOUR…you can find it at Publix.

Lay the fish gently on the pan. The thickness of the fish dictates the cooking time. For an 8 oz portion say 45 seconds on each side. You can see the fish cooking, because the interior will get nice and white as it cooks...DO NOT OVERCOOK PLEASE.

Place the fish on the rack and allow it to rest for 1 to 2 minutes. You can slice it, or serve it whole on the plate. If you slice it, fan the pieces of tuna on the plate, and lightly season the eye or inside of the fish with some salt.

I made a simple salad of romaine lettuce, shaved white mushrooms, grated radish, and diced avocado. I dressed it with a mustard vinaigrette and…presto a tasty, healthy tuna salad…and no one will dive for a can of Febreze.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!