Friday, April 30, 2010

A Big Thank You to Sweet Foods Blog

Gera at Sweet Foods Blog is a true champion and supporter of bloggers.  Every week he scours the blogosphere and posts on Friday his best of the week.  He highlights not only Food blogs, but Fitness, Health, Tech, Blogging, General Topics, and Social Media.  Really, it is a herculean effort! 

I would strongly recommend that you check it out, it is interesting reading for sure.  You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon.

On today post, he mentioned that someone in his family is having surgery.  From both Nancy and I, we wish nothing but the best and a speedy recovery for your family member, Gera!  You will be in our thoughts.

For the last few weeks, this blog has been kindly mentioned in the Best of the Week.  We sincerely appreciate the support.

This week we were highlighted for the following posts....

Two more things happening this weekend.

1. This blog is incredibly fortunate to have Silvia at Citron & Vanille guest posting this weekend.  The floor will be hers.  She is a kitchen genius. Get ready for the blog to get a whole lot more sophisticated.

2. I will be guest posting on Denise's Quickies on the Dinner Table.  Her site is awesome, I really hope I do not embarass myself.  Big thank you to you are the best!  My post will be up on Sunday.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Editor's Pick Article and More Blogger Awards...Thank You!

Had another article published on Blogcritics today and it was fortunate enough to be chosen Editor's Pick.  My cousin Nancy, "The Vegan Voice" is my co-author on this blog.  She just posted her amazing Soyrizo Tacos that titilated us all.  She is a shining star. 

However, this article on BC is for my meat loving brethern.  So if you want to check it out here's the link.

If you do go over, leave me a comment on what your favorite cut of meat is and how you like to prepare it.

Here's the Beef: Carnivores Rejoice!

On behalf of both Nancy & I we would like to thank two fellow foodies for thinking of us and nominating this here blog.

On Sunday April 25, 2010, Catherine at Living the Gourmet, nominated Lazaro Cooks! for the Beautiful Blogger award.  What a wonderful award to recieve for blogging, I think the title says it all.  Please check out Catherine's blog, she is such a talented cook and writes some amazing recipes.
Also on Sunday April 25, 2010, Sarah at All Our Fingers in the Pie, invited us to play a blogger game, the 6th Photo.  Please check out Sarah's blog, she does a fantastic job, and I know you'll love it.

The object of this game is to post your 6th photo in your camera and talk about it.  I looked in my files and found that my 6th photo was of our youngest cat, Audi.  So here is his grand debut on Lazaro Cooks!

My wife and I took in Audi about six months ago.  He was living in the parking lot of our condo building.  As you can see, he is quite comfy in his new abode.  Audi is not only the youngest of our cats, he is also the only boy.  So as you can imagine the ladies are not too fond of him chasing them all over the house.  Oh, and fear not, all of our animals are fixed, so no kittens.  Here are some more photos of the Curious Case of the little Audi.

Audi thinks the sink is quite comfy...

He does actually run around the crib...I promise!

Here are my 10 nominees, you can take the Beautiful Blogger and play the 6th photo.  No pressure.  Only if you want to.  Just know that the terrific ten rock!

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crispy Potato Soyrizo Tacos

When one thinks of healthy fare, one doesn't automatically think of Mexican food, with its cheesy, fried dishes and tacos dripping with oil. However, all is not lost when trying to cook Mexican food in a healthy manner. Take the traditional crispy chorizo/potato taco ... normally, it is made with a fatty pork or beef chorizo sausage which is then deep fried ... not the healthiest but it is tasty. Luckily, I have created a healthy, vegan version of this traditional crispy taco that matches this classic's taste and surpasses it in health.

Here is the recipe:

1 12 oz. package Soyrizo (non-GMO kind sold at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons water
1 large yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 medium Russet potatoes
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste
King-size yellow corn tortillas
Spray canola oil

Cut potatoes in thirds and boil in lightly salted water. Drain water when potatoes are tender enough that they break when you stick a fork through them. Let them cool then peel them. Set aside.

In a medium nonstick skillet, on medium heat, break up the soyrizo using your nonstick cooking utensil and cook till it's browned and crumbled. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain some of the oil. In the same skillet (do not wipe off the oil, it gives the onions flavor), on medium heat, add the water and onions and saute for about 1 minute then add the garlic. Saute till the onions barely turn a golden yellowish color but do not let them brown. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, mash potatoes to get rid of any lumps. Add the soyrizo, onion mixture, cumin and cilantro and mix well. Salt to taste.

In a large flat pan or flat griddle, warm up the corn tortillas, two at a time, until they are soft and pliable - repeat for as many tacos as you'd like to make. Put about two large spoonfuls of filling into each warm tortilla then fold in half. Repeat for the rest of the tortillas. Spray outer sides of the taco with canola oil and lightly cook/fry in the same flat pan or griddle on medium heat. Cook tacos until both sides are slightly golden brown and crispy. If the tortilla seems dry, spray more canola oil spray on the taco shell while it's cooking.

Crispy potato soyrizo tacos taste excellent when topped with guacamole salsa and some kind of salty cheese, such as the traditional queso cotija, which is like a Mexican pecorino, or a vegan crumbled feta cheese, which also has that delicious semi-dry and salty taste.

Here is the recipe for:

Guacamole Salsa

1 large Hass avocado, set aside the pit
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes or 4-5 Roma tomatoes
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 scant tablespoon fresh jalapeno or serano chile, seeded, deveined and finely minced
Juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt to taste

Prepare all of the ingredients above and mix well in a mixing bowl. After you're done mixing the ingredients, put the avocado pit in there as well, as the pit keeps the avocado in the salsa from turning brown, as will the lime juice. Cover the salsa with Saran wrap and refrigerate the salsa in a serving bowl until you're ready to eat.

Serve these healthy vegan tacos with some refried pinto or black beans. If you want more heat, you can sprinkle your tacos with some Mexican hot sauce such as Tapatio brand.

I hope you enjoy my vegan version of these classic crispy potato tacos.

Buen provecho,

The Vegan Voice

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tropical Curried Chicken with Rice

I am proud to welcome, Velva, author of the fantastic blog, Tomatoes on the Vine. Especially excited to feature such a talented writer and cook. Not to mention, a fellow native South Floridian, although she now hails from the state capital, and Florida State Seminole country, Tallahassee. I cannot thank Velva enough for sharing her considerable gifts with us. I know we will all benefit from this!

I was honored to be asked to be a guest blogger on Lazaro Cooks! Thank you Lazaro for the opportunity to share my passion for food with your readers.

Without further ado, my guest post.

Growing up in South Florida, food was as diverse as its people. Today, my cooking reflects all of my food and travel experiences. I am not sure what inspires a person to have a passion for cooking. I am at my happiest not just when I am feeding a few, but when I am feeding a crowd. Where does it begin? Looking back, I could not find a single epoch in my life that would clearly define my passion for all things FOOD! Yet, there were definitely signs, events that added together would be equal to the moment that I was attempting to discover. I am reminded that life is often like that....a collection of events, that when reflected on, collectively tells the story.

My husband convinced me to submit the recipe below for the Annual "North Central Florida Cooks" sponsored by the local newspaper. I won first place in the entree category with this recipe. This prize-winning dish has evolved over the years to its present splendor. Try it and you'll see, or feel free to change it! This is still my favorite recipe to serve a houseful of guests.

Tropical Curried Chicken with Rice

(Serves 4 and easily doubled and tripled)
Note: All measurements are approximate and you will need to adjust to your taste.


2- 1/2 lbs. of chicken legs and thighs
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons good quality curry powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 (12 ounce jar) good quality chutney or homemade
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Green onion as garnish
Honey roasted peanuts as garnish

Prepared hot and ready to serve long grain rice (preferably a basmati or jasmine)


Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season chicken with salt, pepper and curry powder on both sides. In a large skillet, heat oil until hot. Add chicken pieces, skin side down and brown chicken until lightly golden on both sides. Do not crowd chicken in the pan. Add chutney and 1/2 of the red bell pepper. Simmer 30 minutes over medium low heat.

Transfer hot rice to a large serving platter. Place cooked chicken on top. Garnish with green onion, red bell pepper and peanuts. Surround platter with lime wedges.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Linguini con Bacon

The particular course is my first foray into a blogging contest. My friend, Natasha at 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures, is conducting her monthly recipe challenge. This month’s 5 Star Makeover Challenge is to create a PASTA dish with a twist.
If you have yet to visit her blog, please do so. You will find it unbelievably inspirational. Her cuisine is quite refined and she uses posh ingredients from all over the word.

This dish was inspired by Linguini Carbonara. The Italian classic is made with bacon, egg, black pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I’ve eaten this dish since I was a young boy. Throughout the years, through much trial and error, I have personalized this recipe. Now it is one of my absolute favorites.

My version is a merger of divergent tastes. The course is comprised of three distinct levels of flavors. 1. The white wine pasta. 2. The egg & cheese sauce. 3. The caramelized bacon. This is not the easiest dish to make, but well worth the effort.

You will find that the creamy egg sauce mixed with the smoky caramelized bacon is a real winner.

For the White Wine Pasta:
4 cups flour
4 Organic free-range eggs - (whole)
½ tsp olive oil
3 tbs White wine – (Riesling)

     1. Mound the flour on a work surface
     2. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the eggs, olive oil, and wine
     3. Use a fork to beat together the wet ingredients
     4. Starting at the center slowly incorporate the flour
     5. As you expand out the dough will start to come together
     6. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough. Scrape the board clean.
     7. Lightly reflour the board and kneed for 6 minutes
     8. Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
     9. Roll and shape to desired size.

For the Egg & Cheese Sauce:
5 Organic free-range eggs – (whole)
1 tbs butter – (unsalted)
4 oz St. Andre Triple Cream Cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt
White pepper

In cooking eggs it is vital to not overcook. When making this sauce, DO NOT ALLOW THE EGGS TO COAGULATE. You must stir continuously, while playing a game of on-the heat & off-the-heat. If you do not feel comfortable use a double-boiler.

    1. In a saucepan, add the eggs, butter, and triple cream cheese
    2. Set the saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes
    4. Remove from the heat, and continue stirring for 2 minutes
    5. Back on the heat for 2 minutes stirring continuously
    6. Off the heat. Stop cooking if the sauce has come together
    7. Do not allow the eggs to reach 170 F, or they will coagulate
    8. Add the Parmigiano. Season with salt and pepper

For the Caramelized Bacon:
12 oz Bacon – (small dice)
2 tbs Chipotle based hot sauce – (Cholula Brand)
2 drops liquid smoke
2 tbs Brown sugar
2 tbs Organic honey

    1. In a glass mixing bowl, combine the chipotle sauce, brown sugar, honey
    2. Using a dropper, add 2 drops liquid smoke
    3. Mix well. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes
    4. Cook the bacon over medium heat till crispy.
    5. Drain the pan of the fat and wipe clean
    6. Put the pan over the heat, and allow to get hot again
    7. Add the bacon. Cover with the Chipotle liquid
    8. Cook till the bacon is coated with the liquid and caramelized

To Plate:

    1. Roll the pasta on a carving fork to make a loose ball.
    2. Gently lay on the center of the plate
    3. Generously spoon the egg & cheese sauce
    4. Add the caramelized bacon.
    5. Garnish with edible flowers – (marjoram, thyme, chive)

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Editor's Pick Article Up on Blogcritics!

I am extremely happy to have my new Blogcritics article published because I was able to highlight another one of us.  Silvia, who runs the blog Citron & Vanille, is a fantastic cook and talented writer.  Her Mediterrainan cuisine, flawlessly presented, never ceases to inspire me.  If you don't learn something from her reading her it again and pay closer attention.  Please check out her amazing site.

The theme of the article is INSPIRATION.  If you go over to BC and read it, leave a comment and share what inspires you in the kitchen.

Here's the linkage...

Inspiration: The Creative Wind Beneath Our Culinary Wings

And the Winner is Lazaro Cooks...Thrice

On Wednesday April 21, a sweet foodie friend, The Kitchen Masochist,  nominated me for the "I Love Your Blog" award.  What a wonderful award to win if you're a blogger.  Even sweeter when you win 2 in a week.  If you remember KM was the "inspiration" get it inspiration, more cross promo, behind my Eco-friendly Catfish & Mango "Salad".
I would strongly suggest you support her fantastic blog.  You will not be disappointed.

Here are the rules:
*Post the award on your blog*
*Link the person who has given you the award*
*Pass the award to 15 other blogs you’ve discovered*
*Remember to contact the bloggers you’ve nominated*

So here are my deserving nominees, because...well...I Love Your Blogs!

1. Nicole @ Cooking with Cooley 
2. Andra @ French Press Memos 
3. Christina @ Hungry Meets Healthy 
4. Faith @ An Edible Mosaic 
5. Catherine @ Living the Gourmet 
6. Lady Ren @ Lady of 'The Arts' 
7. Rebecca @ Chow and Chatter 
8. Natalie @ Cupcake Corner 
9. Jessie @ The Happiness in Health 
10. Nicole @ Prevention RD 
11. Jecka @ Kitchen of a Lazy Girl 
12. Carmen @ Baking is my Zen 
13. Alba @ Ingredients of a Woman 

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grilled Calamari, Chickpea and Fresh Basil Salad with Chilli Lime Vinaigrette

I am proud to welcome Denise Fletcher, the author of the book Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night. Her knowledge of the kitchen is only rivalled by her uncanny wit and beguiling charisma. I am glad I can call her a friend. The blog absolutely got much smarter tonight. Enjoy!

Hello Lazaro Cooks readers and followers! I’m Denise and I blog at Quickies on The Dinner Table. I’m proud to say I’m a friend and big fan of Lazaro, who has very kindly and graciously invited me to do a guest post. I was so flattered when he approached me with the idea and I am honoured and happy to be contributing to this stellar blog, the brainchild of Lazaro and Nancy. Lazaro is nothing if not a gentleman and a generous soul and has given me cart blanche to post whatever I am happy to.

In keeping with my kitchen philosophy of quick, easy and delicious, I have for you a dish that is very simple to put together but one that I hope you will find a delightful mix of bold flavours, vibrant colours and richly contrasting textures. It's a spicy Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern hybrid, featuring grilled calamari, tender chickpeas, a handful of racy spices, refreshing cucumber to balance the heat, and a finishing flourish of fresh, wondrously fragrant basil leaves. Of course, you won't find this anywhere in Southeast Asia or the Middle East as it's something I concocted to calm constant cravings for calamari, cucumber, cumin.....and alliteration ; )

Before I go on to the recipe, I'd like to add that while many seem to almost fear calamari or squid, and resolutely refuse to go anywhere near it, for me, it's one of the most gratifying of edible delights. The thing about calamari (trust the Italians to make even monstrous looking squid sound romantic) is that it has to be fleetingly cooked over a fierce flame or lovingly and lengthily simmered over the gentlest heat, if you are to enjoy it at its best. Anything in between will leave you with something best given to teething pups to ease their itching gums with.

Calamari should shimmer like glass, have bulging, shiny, jet-dark eyes, and smell pleasantly of the sea. Choose midsized ones as anything over 15 cm (6 in) in length, excluding tentacles, will tend to be chewy. When washing the internal cavity, make a sizeable snip with sharp scissors at the pointed end of its body, so that when you rinse the inside, any grit or sand will easily wash out. Drain and dry very well so they will crisp up nicely when grilled. If you're squeamish, your fishmonger will be happy to clean them for you. Just ask! Alright then, on to the recipe.

Prep 30 mins Cook 5 mins Serves 4 as a light main course or 6 as a starter

8 medium sized calamari, clean, wash, drain and cut into broad strips or slices
1 Tbsp light vegetable oil (soy, canola, or grape seed)
1 can well drained cooked chickpeas
2 medium Japanese cucumbers, halve lengthwise and slice across thickly or as desired2 handfuls sweet basil leaves (or whatever kind you can get) reserve a few for garnishing
A little flaky sea salt (I like Maldon sea salt) for garnishing
A little freshly ground black pepper for garnishing
1 scant tsp cumin seeds, toast and coarsely crush, for garnishing

6 fresh large red chillies, discard seeds and cut up roughly
1 tsp hot red chilli flakes (optional - for extra heat)
2 shallots, peel and cut up roughly (use 1 very small regular onion if unavailable)
2 fat cloves garlic, peel
2 Tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
2 Tbsp light vegetable oil
1 ¼ level tsp salt (or to taste)
½ level tsp sugar (or to taste)

• Preheat electric grill on "High", if you have one. If you don't, use a stove top grill plate.

• Prepare dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender and processing to a sauce-like but not overly smooth consistency. I find a stick blender works best for this. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, playing around with salt, sugar and lime juice until you get a nice balance of spicy, sour, salty and ever so slightly, sweet. Cover and chill until needed.

• If using a grill plate, heat on stove. Combine calamari and oil and toss until coated. Check grill. When very hot, lay calamari slices on it in an even layer and cook until calamari begins to turn white and grill marks have formed. Flip over slices and cook other side very quickly. Total grilling time should not exceed 3 minutes for both sides. Remove from grill and cool on a fine wire mesh cake rack. If you put them on a plate while hot, they will start to leak their juices and turn soggy.

• In a large, clean mixing bowl combine cooled calamari slices, chickpeas, sliced cucumbers and most of the basil leaves. Pour over the dressing and toss gently so basil leaves don’t bruise. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

• To serve, divide salad amongst four plates or bowls. Garnish each portion with a few of the reserved basil leaves and a tiny sprinkling each of flaky sea salt, black pepper and crushed cumin seeds. Serve immediately.

Note on Japanese Cucumbers : These are dark green, thin skinned, slim cucumbers with very tiny seeds and firm, crunchy, juicy flesh. They are mildly sweet with no trace of bitterness. They come from Japan and are my favourite cucumber variety. Use whatever variety is available to you, as long as you enjoy it.

Drink Pairings: For whites, I would suggest Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer if in a flighty mood. For reds, a dry, fizzy Italian Lambrusco or a Rhone Valley rose such as Tavel. If you don't like wine, a really cold, Asian beer is never wrong with spicy seafood. Alcohol a no-no? Cold San Pellegrino with a lime wedge would totally rock this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

And the Winner is: Lazaro Cooks! Again

Hopefully I will need a virtual trophy case to store my blogger awards.  Seriously, I would like to thank Denise Fletcher, the subject of my last post, for nominating me for the Happy 101 Award.  I am quite sure by now, you can all get a sense for how I feel about Denise.  If not...please read my last post.  In short, she is a Mom, cook, writer, and a wonderfully sweet person.  If anyone is a deserving recipient of this award it it her.

Having to choose blogs to nominate is not an easy thing to do.  Last week I nominated 12 fellow bloggers for the Sunshine award.  Now, in the order of fairness, I did not nominate you for this award.  But, some of you are my absolute favorites, you know who you are.  I could give you every award, however I wanted to shine a light on some others.

Since, I started blogging I have had the pleasure to read countless blogs, most are cooking blogs, but some are not.  With this being the Happy 101 award, I submit the following blogs.  These blogs are run by people who always have a sweet word to say, and are sure to put a smile on your face.

Here are the rules:
1    Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2    List who gave the award to you and use a link to her blog (or hyperlink).
3    List 10 things that make you happy.
4    Pass the award on to other bloggers and visit their blog to let them know about the award.

10 Things that make me happy:
1. Making sure my wife is taken care of: Mind, Body & Soul
2. That my family is healthy & prospering
3. Having my Cousin Nancy on Lazaro Cooks!
4. Making new friends (In-person or on-line)
5. Cooking something I am proud to share with others
6. Writing
7. My Cats
8. Playing FIFA 2010
9. Fringe - (Best show on TV)
10. Watching blu rays on my Panasonic plasma TV

Here are my deserving nominees for the Happy 101 Award....


Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Blogcritics Article Up

I don't usually cross-promote the blog and my work for Blogcritics.  However, today I have a good reason.  Yesterday I had my article published on "Taste."  What is Flavor? A Party in the Mouth

It was fortunate enough to be selected as an Editor's pick and was the highlight article of the day.  Being that many of us here are cooks, I thought you might enjoy reading it.

More importantly, I highlighted a wonderful talent in the piece, Denise Fletcher.  Many of you know her, because I see your comments on her awesome blog Quickies on the Dinner Table.  If you are not familiar with her, she is an amazing cook.  On her blog you will find unique and original recipes.

Her cookbook, which I cannot put down since purchasing it on Amazon, is truly fantastic.  Not only is it full of great dishes, but her writing style is fun, imaginative, and humorous.

Luckily, Denise has agreed to do a guest blog post on Lazaro Cooks!  I cannot wait.

Check out Denise Fletcher's work, trust me you will not be disappointed.

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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Con Amor de Puerto Rico

From Puerto Rico with love comes, Arroz con Gandules, the National dish of “La Isla del Encanto.” Although, the most important thing to ever come out of this Caribbean island is my lovely and talented wife.

Gandules (Pigeon Peas) are a popular food in Caribbean cooking. This legume contains high levels of protein, along with the amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan. You can purchase them dried, canned, or frozen. For this recipe I used canned. To enhance the color of the plate, I used both brown pigeon peas and green ones.

The following interpretation is my take on this Puerto Rican classic. I must be free to create in the kitchen, so some of the ingredients have been changed. However, I certainly feel that the tropical soul of the dish is still there.

First we want to create a strong flavor base to work with, that comes from the bacon, andouille sausage, vegetables, spices, and white wine. The wine must be reduced to almost dry. This step is time consuming, however the intense flavor gained makes it all worthwhile. I like to use white extra long grain rice for this preparation. Feel free to substitute brown rice for a healthier plate. The garnish is cooked chorizo, gold pearl onions, edible flowers, and cilantro.

Enjoy this taste from ‘La Isla del Encanto” you will be transported to the Caribbean with a most unique amalgamation of flavors.

Arroz con Gandules:
4 strips bacon – (diced)
3 oz Andouille sausage – (out of casing)
1 golden beet – (small dice)
2 red bell peppers – (small dice)
1 tbs bird’s eye chili – (small dice)
2 leeks - white & light green parts only (small dice)
2 shallots – (small dice)
Ground Cumin
Ground coriander
Sea salt
White pepper

1 Meyer lemon – (zested & juiced)
15 0z brown pigeon peas – (drained of canning liquid)
15 oz green pigeon peas – (drained of canning liquid)
350 ml Spanish white wine – (Albarino)
8 oz tomato sauce
3 cups uncooked Canilla rice – (extra long grain)
5 cup water
3 bay leafs

1. Heat 1 tbs Safflower oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and sausage.
2. Cook till rendered.
3. Add the golden beet, leeks, red bell pepper, bird’s eye chili, and shallots.
4. Season with all-spice, ground cumin, ground coriander, sea salt, and white pepper.
5. Cook for 10 minutes.
6. Deglaze with the white wine.
7. Cook till almost completely reduced.
8. Add the Meyer lemon juice and tomato sauce.
9. Cook for 3 minutes.
10. Add the rice, pigeon peas, bay leafs, and water.
11. Re-season with all-spice, ground coriander, ground cumin, sea salt, and white pepper.
12. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Lightly tent with aluminum foil.
13. Cook until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

NOTE:  You must stir the pot very frequently.  To avoid anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.

For the Garnish:
2 Spanish chorizos
10 gold pearl onions
Edible Flowers

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Soak the onions in warm water for 5 minutes to loosen the skin.
3. Using a paring knife peel the skins off.
4. Toss in olive oil & lightly season with sea salt
5. Roast in oven for 25 minutes. Stirring 2 to 3 times to avoid burning.

6. Cut chorizo into ½ inch rounds.
7. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. No oil.
8. Add the chorizo. Brown on both sides. DO NOT OVER DO IT. Brown good, black throw it away.

To Plate:
1. Center a generous portion of the rice.
2. Top with the pearl onions & chorizo.
3. Scatter the edible flowers and cilantro.
4. Finish the presentation with the Meyer lemon zest.

You know a dish is right when you cannot stop eating it. I need a nap, because I really overdid it tonight.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Best Supporting Actor: Lazaro Cooks!

A fellow foodie blogger named Louise apporached me about submitting a recipe on her blog as a guest contributer.  I humbly accepted her generous offer.  She runs a wonderful and informative blog called Felice in the Kitchen.

Please check out her great blog.  You will defintiely be glad you did.

Here's the link to my post.

Chicken and Tomato "Salad"

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Support Sustainable Fish: It’s Now or Never

Cooking fish is a joy. Eating fish is equally rewarding. Fish, with all its healthy fats, essential oils, and nutrients, fits nicely in a balanced diet. However, on an exceptionally primeval level, it just tastes first-rate.

These days, with everyone wanting to “live green,” one of the issues that does not get enough publicity is the sustainability of fish. Our oceans are in crisis. Oceans supply us with food, help normalize our climate, and provide a source of revenue for millions of people. Humans have been fishing the ocean for thousands of years. Nevertheless, technology has allowed us to fish deeper and farther than ever before. Some methods are incredibly efficient, while others have us on the verge of disaster.

Over fishing of certain types of fish is a huge concern. The ocean cannot provide an infinite supply of fish. If a fish is caught at a much faster rate than it can reproduce…there will come a time when the fish will cease to exist.

Tilapia is a mild flavored, white fleshed fish. US farmed-raised tilapia is the “Best Choice,” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The MBA website is a wonderful resource for education on eco-friendly sustainable seafood. While US farm-raised tilapia is an eco-friendly sustainable fish, avoid Chinese and Taiwanese farm-raised tilapia. These fish are raised in pools where pollution and weak management are massive problems.

The ocean is a treasure trove of astounding delights. Do you part to ensure that future generations can derive pleasure from what it has to offer. You want to be able to point at a time in history and proudly declare that you were on the right side of the ledger.

Planet Earth is a shared living environment. At some point the policy of passing the buck will be at an end. The check will eventually have to be paid. Why are our policy makers bent on ensuring that future generations will have to deal with catastrophic environmental disaster? I am not. Stand up and be counted. Who is with me?!

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tortilla Soup - A Vegan Taste of Mexico

Tortilla soup is probably the most basic Mexican soup you can have. It's basically a chicken and tomato-based soup garnished with various toppings. In this recipe, I use a faux chicken bouillon base that you would never know is vegan. Depending on the garnishes, this soup can be as healthy as it is delicious.

For toppings, I use fresh chopped herbs and veggies and skip the more traditional shredded or crumbled cheese that can add quite a bit of fat and cholesterol to this otherwise healthy dish. You can serve this soup as a starter or as a main dish, depending on how many tortilla strips and toppings you use. Either way, there's a good chance you'll be asked for seconds.

Here is the recipe:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 ripe medium-small tomatoes, roasted or boiled, cored and peeled OR 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 quarts faux chicken broth (made by mixing 1 1/2 quarts boiling water with 2 tbsp. Better Than Bouillon Vegetarian No Chicken Base)
Salt to taste
Tortilla chips/strips
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
Fresh thinly-sliced green cabbage, for garnish
Fresh finely chopped radishes, for garnish
Fresh chopped avocado, for garnish
Red chili flakes
Lime wedges

In a medium size skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and whole garlic cloves and fry until both are a deep golden-brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop into a blender jar or food processor, add the tomato and process until smooth.

Heat the other tablespoon of canola oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tomato mixture and stir constantly until thick and considerably darker, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large saucepan.

Stir the broth into the tomato mixture, partially cover and simmer for 1/2 hour over medium-low heat. Season with salt to taste.

Place a handful of tortilla strips into a soup bowl and ladle the hot soup over them. (If you want to make your soup even healthier, use baked tortilla chips with no added oil.) Add as much or as little garnish and red pepper flakes as you like. Do squeeze some lime juice into your soup, as the lime brings out the flavors of the soup. I like to pile the veggies into my soup and eat it as my main dish!

You can easily double or triple this recipe and freeze the leftovers ... it's a great soup for a rainy day or when you're feeling under the weather, as it is a basic vegetarian broth soup. Just remember not to freeze the chips or garnishes in the soup ... add these to the hot soup right before you serve it.

I hope that you enjoy my veganized version of traditional Mexican tortilla soup!

Buen provecho!

The Vegan Voice

Monday, April 12, 2010

And the Winner is: Lazaro Cooks!

I was casually catching up on my morning blog reading as I am known to do.  One of the blogs on my required reading list is run by a foodie friend named Jennifer.  Her fun, well-written, and informative blog is called The Unpolished Spoon.

Her latest post centered around her winning her first ever blogger award.  The Sunshine Award.  As per the governing rules, When the Sunshine Award is received, the recipient then chooses their favorite blogs to read.  Lucky number 7 on Jennifer's list was us.
This is Lazaro Cooks! first ever blogger award.  I want to again thank The Unpolished Spoon for her choosing us.  I humbly accept this award.  Now, I must choose 12 blogs from the many I read daily.  Not really an enviable position to be in.  Since I read so many amazing blogs on a daily basis.

The following list is comprised of 12 food blogs that are amazingly well done.  All are bright, talented cooks that inspire me on a daily basis.  If you don't learn something from reading the blogs on this are just not paying attention.

1. Citron & Vanille
2. Quickies: On the Dinner Table
3. The Kitchen Masochist
4. She Runs, She Eats
5. 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures
6. Kitchen Worthy
7. My Life Through Food
8. Cooking With Jan
9. The Recipe Diva
10. Ma What's 4 Dinner
11. Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice
12. A Healthy Purpose

The 12 winners are well deserving.

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

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Can Vegetarian Food Be Interesting: Yes!

This is one of the best courses I have created in a long while. I cannot stop eating it at the moment.  My brilliant wife is a tough foodie critic.  Her star ranking goes from 1 to 5 stars.  She is famously frugal with her stars.  This particular dish earned the full allotment of 5 stars.  The combination of flavors at work here is mesmerizing.

An influential stimulating force for this dish was watching the work of Pierre Gagnaire. Chef Gagnaire has reinvented modern French cuisine in his amazing 37 year career.

When conceptualizing a dish I ask myself three important questions. What do I want to see on the plate? What do I want to smell? What textures do I want in my mouth? This course is an eccentric confluence of textures, consistencies, colors, and flavors.

The base of the dish is a sauté of shiitake mushrooms, Yukon gold potatoes, and shallots. The middle portion is a succulent, immoral, wickedly tasting Yukon gold puree. Next up following in the footsteps of yesterday’s Florida tomatoes post is a medley of diced plum, purple Cherokee, and tangerine tomatoes tossed in balsamic. The final flourish is a crunchy Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp.

An extraordinarily earthy veggie course even the most dedicated meat-lover will take pleasure in.

Yukon Gold Two Ways with Shiitake Mushrooms

For the Sauté:
2 small Yukon gold potatoes - (diced)
5 Shiitake mushrooms – (small chop)
2 shallots - (small dice)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Smoked paprika

1. In sauté pan heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the Yukon gold potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the shiitake mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Season with sea salt and smoked paprika.
5. Add the shallots. Cook for 3 minutes.
6. Sprinkle with marjoram. Take off the heat.

For the Yukon gold puree:
4 small Yukon gold potatoes – (peeled)
Half and Half
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean – (split)
2 bay leafs
Ground nutmeg
Brown sugar
Sea salt
1 stick of butter – (unsalted)

1. Place the potatoes in a stockpot
2. Cover with half-and-half.
3. Add the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, 2 bay leafs.
4. Season with allspice, ground nutmeg, brown sugar, and sea salt.
5. Simmer till potatoes are tender.
6. Remove the potatoes to a plate.
7. Strain the poaching liquid – (reserve)
8. Clean the inside of the stockpot. Put the stick of butter in the clean stockpot.
9. Rice the potatoes, using a potato ricer, into the stockpot.
10. Over low heat mix the potatoes and butter well.
11. Add a bit of the reserved poaching liquid. Whisk hard and fast to emulsify.

For the Tomatoes:
1 purple Cherokee tomato – (diced)
1 tangerine tomato – (diced)
1 plum tomato - (diced)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Sea salt

In a bowl combine the tomatoes with a splash of balsamic and olive oil. Season with sea salt. Mix well.

For the Parmigiano Crisp:
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Ring mold
Silpat Mat

1. Preheat the oven to 320 F.
2. Using a Microplane grater finely grate the cheese.
3. Place a Silpat mat on a baking sheet.
4. Using the ring mold, make mounds of cheese.
5. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Silpat Mats are the best baking tool known to man.  Nothing sticks to it and clean up is quick and easy.  If you do not have one...get one you will not regret it.  Demarle Silpat 11-3/4-by-8-1/4-Inch Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat

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

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tomatoes: Local, Seasonal, Perfect

Tomatoes are the most popular crop among vegetable gardeners. A vine-ripened tomato from the garden blows away a store bought tomato. Local seasonal Florida tomatoes grown in rich soil taste much better than tomatoes grown in depleted soil and shipped a long distance.

In the world of Botany the tomato is a fruit. Although most of us consider it a vegetable. Tomatoes are a staple ingredient in kitchens worldwide. I love tomatoes. There are so many varieties, shapes, sizes, and tastes that I find them delightful to cook with.

Florida tomatoes are mostly grown in South Florida. Right now we are in the peak months of production April and May. So I thought it appropriate to shine the spotlight on them.

There are numerous varieties of tomatoes grown in Florida such as Cherry, Grape, Green, Cherokee Purple, Plum, Heirloom and the colorful Tangerine Tomato, just to name a few. Many of these varieties were at my local farmers market today and found their way into my salad.

Drunken Goat Cheese of Murcia is a Spanish goat cheese that is dunked in red wine for two to three days. The rind takes on a wonderful purple color while the flavor of the red wine impregnates the cheese. This cheese has a mild nutty taste. I enhanced the nuttiness…my lovely wife says there’s much nuttiness emanating from my kitchen these days…by topping the cheese with finely grated walnuts.

Finish the salad off with a tangy Pedro Ximenez Vinagreta and a chiffonade of arugula. Local, seasonal, organic, simple tasty fare at it’s finest.

Vinagreta Pedro Ximenez:
2 tbs Pedro Ximenez (Spanish sherry vinegar)
4 tbs avocado oil
1 tbs organic honey
Pinch sea salt
Pinch black pepper

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sustainable Eco-Friendly Catfish Redux: Thai Style

This dish was set off on the recommendation of a fellow food blogger The Kitchen Masochist. I would enthusiastically advise you to check out her fun, imaginative and enlightening blog at Eco-friendly sustainable American farm-raised catfish is center stage again. Only now with a Thailand twist. The Kitchen Masochist was kind enough to supply me with a recipe for a traditional Thai Salad called Yum Pla Dook Foo.

Cooking is not a recipe; it’s a philosophy. Recipes are guides. Creativity in the kitchen is like air in the lungs. Explore your artistic side and truthfully express thyself. This interpretation is my twist on the Thai classic.

When conceptualizing this dish I wanted to keep the unique flavor profile intact. Job done! The “salad” portion of the traditional dish is shaved green mango. Florida mango production starts in May. I am not proud of the fact that for the purposes of creating this particular recipe I purchased a mango today. Product of Nicaragua. I am a strident supporter of using local seasonal produce. I made an exception.

The cooking of the catfish is involved but gratifying. Baking the fish in the oven first makes it easy to flake. When it comes time to fry the catfish, the oil better be screaming hot. The final texture is so crispy on the palate that it's like eating catfish croutons.

Curly endive or Frisee is a wonderful bitter green to use. In this case it perfectly complimented the sweet mango. The harmony between sweet and sour is found throughout Thai cooking. My final curtain call for the salad was a drizzle of an incredible Thai peanut sauce.

Thanks again to the Kitchen Masochist.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful salad…I know I did!

Catfish & Mango Salad

For the Catfish:
2 – 8oz farm-raised catfish fillets
Wondra flour

Spice Blend (equal parts of each)
Smoked Paprika
Sea salt

1. Bake the fish in a oven at 300 F for 12 minutes
2. Remove fish from oven. Place on a large platter
3. Heat 3 inches of canola oil in a deep pot to 360 F
4. With a fork gently flake the fish.
5. Drain the fish of its juices
6. Sprinkle with Wondra flour. Enough to coat the pieces of fish
7. Shake off excess
8. Prepare a plate lined with paper towels
9. Fry the fish till golden brown. (Do not overcook) Black no good.
10. Remove to drain on paper towels.
11. Sprinkle with spice blend while hot

For the Salad:
3 Bird’s eye chilies (minced)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1 lime (juiced)
¼ cup cashews (roasted)
2 Asian shallots (thinly sliced)
½ cup mango (diced)
Frisee greens
Thai Peanut sauce

1. Combine in a non-reactive bowl the sugar, chilies, fish sauce, lime juice
2. Center the diced mango on the palate
3. Artistically place the Frisee – (your choice)
4. Dress the salad with the lime chili mixture
5. Top with the catfish
6. Sprinkle the shallots and cashews
7. Drizzle peanut sauce around the plate

Thai Peanut Sauce:
4 tsp corn oil
½ cup minced red onion
2 tbs minced garlic
½ tsp hot chili pepper
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs vinegar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup water

1. In a blender, combine oil, garlic, red onion, and hot chili peppers. Blend for 60 seconds.
2. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over low heat until fragrant.
3. Add the peanut butter. Mix well over low heat.
4. Add the water. Simmer for 10 minutes till thickened
5. Stir in the vinegar and sugar. Simmer for 2 minutes. Taste check for sour & sweet balance, add more vinegar or sugar as needed.

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

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Farm-Raised Catfish: Sustainable Eco-Friendly Fare

Traditional fish and chips are British pub grub at its finest. My idea of a perfect Saturday morning is pub, fish and chips, pint of lager, and an Arsenal win. Talk about the breakfast of champions.

This particular dish is not done in the usual British manner. No batter. While I have no qualms with using a batter…I just wanted a lighter coating on this fish. Catfish is a wonderfully flavorful eco-friendly fish. Actually the Monterey Bay Aquarium hails catfish as one of the most sustainable seafood goods.

If you ever want to educate yourself on sustainable seafood visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website. The issue of sustainable seafood and the ocean is far too involved to discuss here. The twitter version..Our oceans are in crisis, bordering on disaster. The M.B.A.’s website has detailed studies on these topics and all things aquatic.

Fry the potatoes using a double fry method. Is this method French or Belgium? Regardless of who did it first, it is the best way to make the chips.

Catfish & Herb-Chips

For the Fish:
2 – 8 oz catfish filets (farmed in US)
1 cup Wondra Flour
2 eggs whole (beaten)
Sea salt
Curry powder

1. Remove the fish 15 minutes before cooking
2. Heat 3 inches of peanut oil in a deep pot to 355 F
3. Season with salt and curry powder
4. Dredge in the flour. Shaking off the excess
5. Roll the fish in the egg. Coat evenly.
6. Prepare a plate lined with paper towel
7. Add to the hot oil. Fry till golden brown.
8. Leave to drain on the paper towels

For the Chips:
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
Canola Oil for frying

1. Peel the potatoes and cut into irregular sticks.
2. Wash well with water
3. Drain and dry completely
4. Heat the oil to 340 F
5. Fry for about 10 minutes
6. Drain on paper towels
7. Raise the temperature to 370 F
8. Fry a second time for 3 minutes. Till crispy & golden
9. Drain on paper towels. Season with herb blend & sea salt (while hot)

Herb blend:
1 tbs dried chervil
1 tbs dried cilantro
½ tbs sweet basil
½ tbs marjoram
½ tbs smoked paprika

1. Combine all herbs in a bowl.
2. Mix well

Note…any leftover herb blend can be kept in a sealed air-tight container for future use

For the Meyer Lemon Crème Fraiche:
1 cup crème Fraiche
1 tsp Meyer Lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp fresh thyme (finely chopped)
Sea salt & white pepper

1. Combine in the bowl of a food processor, crème fraiche, lemon juice, honey, thyme.
2. Pulse till incorporated
3. Season with salt & white pepper
4. Pulse to combine

Give sustainable USA farm-raised catfish a go. This dish is simple to cook and will make you the eco-friendly star of your next dinner party!

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

My Article on a Major Newspaper...No Really!

A big thank you to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a major Seattle newspaper, for picking up my Blogcritics article on sustainable fish.  This is a first for me as a writer...hopefully not the last!

If you would care to check it out here's the linkage....

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lazaro Cooks!...One Month In

This is not a regular blog post for us on Lazaro Cooks!...just a little PSA.

As the blog has grown, exponentially it seems, we've welcomed new visitors to our blog.  My cousin Nancy, the talented and fantastic Vegan Voice,  and myself would like to take this time to thank you all.

Lazaro Cooks! is a labor of love for us and we appreciate all the support.

I have drawn immense pleasure in making connections with many phenomenally talented food bloggers and cooks.  Keep up the great inspire me everyday.

One more thing...As of this week I am a published author for the website blogcritics...I have 3 articles published so far.  My hope is to continue working with them, while I cook, blog, and give up sleeping.

Here are the links to the 3 articles...

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