Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Welcome to Short Post Tuesday

The Lawyer left on Sunday for a business trip so I made her a going away present.  The recipe for the chocolate espresso sponge cake is pretty standard, nothing exotic.  I use Cuban coffee.  The real money is in the chocolate ganache topping.  It was pretty damn special!

Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with edible flowers.

Chocolate Espresso Cake


Chocolate Ganache Topping
1 cup Heavy cream
1/3 cup Cuban espresso
1 tbs Roquefort blue cheese
1 tbs Bleu d'Auvergne blue cheese

8 oz Semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbs Unsalted butter

In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and espresso to the boil.  Immediately remove from the heat.  Whisk in the blue cheeses.  Whisk until completely incorporated.

In a glass bowl, add the chocolate chips and butter.  Slowly pour in the cream mixture as you stir.  Once all the cream is poured continue stirring until the chocolate and butter melt into a uniform emulsion.  The whole process should take 5 minutes.  BE PATIENT.  You do not want the expose the chocolate to too high a temperature.  Done.

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tostone with Braised Chicken

First off, I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog and those of you that have your say at the end of every post.  I appreciate the interaction.  Regularly I field many questions after my posts about anything from what produce I use, to questions about sustainable fish, or where to find organic cheeses.  If you ever want more information, please do not hesitate to ask.  Send me an email at lazarocooksATgmail.com, I respond to every query.

Additionally, if you are on facebook, send me a friends request to my private page.  It's a good way of getting to know you better.  Most replies get accepted.

Laz Facebook Page

Onward to the business at hand...

Welcome to Mash-up Saturday

I am not a traditionalist by any stretch.  I am a deconstructionist .  I love reinventing or reconceptualizing dishes. 

One of my favorite chefs out there is David Chang.  That dude is a mash-up specialist.  He doesn't care if something is Chinese, French, Italian, Thai, or whatnot; if it tastes good it makes it on his plate.  If you study his dishes, he may have 5 nationalities blended on one plate.  It is in this spirit that I offer this course today.

Plantains are used a lot in Caribbean cooking, especially Cuba.  While sweet bananas are generally eaten raw, plantains require cooking.  With their high starch content, plantains can be cooked much in the same manner as a potato.  Tostones are fried mashed green unripe plantains.  Normally Tostones is an accompanier, a sidekick, a tag-along.  Here, I make it the central part of a fantastic first course.

After peeling the plantain, you fry them for 2 minutes at 350 F to soften.  Then most people use a Tostonera, a wood kitchen contraption, to flatten their tostones.  I like to use my hands.  Using a few sheets of plastic wrap, I push down and flatten the plantain.  Using my hands gives me much better control.  Since the tostone is the base of this dish, I must get as much surface area as possible.  Once flattened, return to the oil and fry for 5 minutes until golden and crispy.

I am a chicken leg man.  My brilliant wife won't eat them, she must have the white meat.  I've railed enough against this so I'll move on.  Organic free-range legs were made for braising.  Drop them in a bath of white wine, acid, herbs, and aromatics.  Cook low and slow.

Alright enough talking, lets build some flavor...


Tostone:  Fried, flattened, and fried a second time.  My good friend Tanantha from I Just Love My Apron let me know that I was becoming a tired cliche with my repeated use of peanut oil to fry stuff.  So, these were fried in CORN OIL.  See how unpredictable I can be?!


Fresh from Florida...SlimCado Puree.  Not to be confused with a Hass Avocado.  We can come up with our own wacky marketing LABELS too. Small dice roasted pimenton.



MUST, MUST, MUST component.  Yellow onions pickled in my super secret marinade.  I could tell you what it is but why ruin a wonderful mystery?


Here is our moist Organic Free-Range Braised Chicken.


A generous drizzle of my devilishly sinful concoction of Miso Mayo, fish sauce, ponzu sauce, plum vinegar, sesame oil, bird's eye chilies, and lemongrass.

Tostone with Braised Chicken


Garnish with fresh chervil and top with the Crispy chicken skin.

If this course doesn't get your dinner party moving, check the pulse of your guests, they may be dead!

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Guest Post Spotlight Thursday

This week I am happy to introduce a fellow Florida foodie.  Claudia from What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine is one of the sweetest and most supportive bloggers I have come across.  Every week she shares with us her family recipes for some fantastic traditional Italian food.  I have enjoyed following Claudia's kitchen adventures and was very happy when she decided to share her talent with us.

Please check out Claudia over at What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine.  Not only will you find a new blog to read, but you will also make a friend.

Enjoy...

Hi Everyone! I'm Claudia from What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine, a blog about family traditions with grandma's, mom's, and my own versions of Italian foods that are always cooked with love and fond memories! My mission had started out to build recipes on my blog to leave behind the family secrets to my two sons. It has now become a passionate obsession and hobby that I couldn't stop after completing those favorite childhood memories of their fabulous foods that lingers in my mind forever. With all that reminiscing and compiling all those memories it became and intoxicating love affair for food, I love blogging about food and family! So enough about me!


About a month ago, I was shocked and very flattered that Lazaro asked me to write a guest post on his blog. I had no idea on what to post about, looking at the lineup of fabulous talent he has on his site weekly along with his own outstanding culinary talents. My blogging and technical expertise are very limited yet, still learning. I decided to post about one of our favorite old fashioned Italian desserts, and he was gracious enough to help me deliver this to you all, plus I couldn't say no to such an amazing blogger buddie like Lazaro, his presentation, delicious recipes and his strong for family speaks for itself with his background. Thank you to both you and your wonderful wife and their adorable kitty children...I love all his cat pictures !

I decided to give this a try. So with that said, I am going to post my Mom's Italian Ricotta Cheesecake Recipe



Ricotta Cheese 32 oz or 2lb container or homemade

2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon extract
3 tsp of the juice of a fresh lemon or concentrated can be substituted
1/8 teaspoon salt

Prep work:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees . Set rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9 1/2 inch spring form pan, and tap out excess flour or if you prefer use a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom. Wrap the entire pan in aluminum foil just around the spring form pan, to preserve integrity of the pan..... this is in preparation for the water bath. The water should be no more than 1/4 inch below the top of the foil not above the foil.


You must have patience for this recipe as the longer you beat this and make sure its completely smooth as directed the better the results are.

Directions:

Place the 2lbs of ricotta in a large mixing bowl, and beat it as smooth as possible with an industrial mixer, beat with flat beater for 7 to 8 minutes..... on stir mode. If your are doing this by hand using a rubber spatula it will take at least 12 to 15 minutes. Stir the sugar and flour together thoroughly into the ricotta, beat another 3 minutes. Stir in the one egg at a time until each egg is well blended around 1 minute per egg, beating a little faster than a stir mode. Blend in the flavorings, zest, and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan it will be medium thickness in consistency not runny or thin. Bake in the center of the oven in water bath about 1/4 inch of water (refer to picture) for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours on 300 degrees, until a light golden color. Cook making certain the center is fairly firm, insert a knife in the center to see if the batter is solid. Cool completely. Chill till serving time. Serve with powdered sugar, a dab of whipped cream or a raspberry puree sauce over the top ( any fruit puree cant be substituted).

Note: If you prefer a crust. Line bottom of this pan with crushed shortbread cookies add 1/2 stick melted butter, dash of cinnamon and mix. Add to the bottom of lightly greased spring form pan.

Raspberry Puree Sauce
2 - 12 ounce bags of frozen raspberries unsweetened)
1/2 cup ) granulated white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Put raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in food processor until pureed, use for topping.




Please check out Claudia at What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quickies Cocktail Challenge

I'm happy to announce the second joint Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night Cooking Challenge with Denise from Quickies on the Dinner Table.  After the success of our first challenge we knew we would be back again.

Quickies Cocktail Challenge



Now, I will step out of the way and allow Denise to explain everything to you all....

The prize will be a copy of my cookbook Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night. This is my first cookbook and I've written it with the aim of providing inspiration to anyone who's ever felt too tired, too uninspired to cook or has the pizza delivery number on speed dial.

I've tested and cooked every one of the 70 short, easy but sensational recipes in it countless times, over many years, so you know that they'll really work. I personally prepared and plated all the dishes in the book, which were then photographed by a professional photographer, in my apartment.

It's more than just a recipe book - there are sections for things like kitting out your kitchen, getting the most out of your kitchen tools, the quick easy way to measure baking ingredients without a scale, making fabulous coffee at home and a walk through of everything a beginner would need to know about wine and how to pair it successfully with your favourite foods. I could go on and on but if you've not seen it and are curious, why don't you take a detailed Quickies preview here instead? HERE

The Challenge

COMPOSE a cocktail, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, of your choice. It can be your unique twist on a classic cocktail like a Martini, a Lemon Drop, a Margarita or a concoction entirely of your own creation, making its debut here ;) Use any alcohol, liqueur, mixer, juice, garnish or ingredient you wish. What we're looking for is a delicious sounding and sexy cocktail - either with a sexy name, sexy or cheeky background story, or a sexy looking presentation, or best of all, ALL THREE!!! The entry which best exemplifies sex appeal, in a glass, wins!

An example is on page 124 of  Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night , "Firefly"

I mixed Campari, lime juice, cranberry juice, a touch sugar and soda water for a zippy little quencher with the bewitching grapefruit scent of the famous Italian brand of bitters. Why did I call it "Firefly"? After I had shaken it up and strained it into a martini glass, it struck me that the colour was very much like a shade of Clinique lipstick I used to wear all the time, which was marketed as "Firefly". I haven't worn it in years, but the colour always stuck in my mind because my husband went mad for it and once told me that if it were not for that very shade of lipstick, we might not be married today. Men ;)

Challenge Facts:

1. Neither Lazaro, nor I will be participating.

2. The winner will be unanimously chosen by Lazaro and I.

3. The challenge is open to everyone, worldwide.

Challenge Guidelines :

1. You must submit an alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktail recipe, with a photo, as a post, on your blog.

2. Copy & Paste the Quickies cover image (contest photo shown above) onto your blog post that includes the cocktail you wish to submit.

3. If submitting an old blog post, just write a short, new post with the contest photo (Quickies Book Cover) included.

4. Email me a link to your post at quickieschallenge@gmail.com.

5. ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY 12:00 AM September 24,2010, EST

6. On September 25, 2010 we will announce the winner & post a round-up of all the submitted cocktail recipes.

The Prize:
Winner gets a copy of Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night.

I hope you enjoy our Quickies Cocktail Challenge. Have fun and be creative. Please tell your readers that you intend to participate; they might like to join in the merriment!

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Caponata con Pan-Roasted Pacific Halibut

Welcome to 10 Year Anniversary Saturday

Ten years together with the The Lawyer.  Amazing.  I can clearly remember the day we met.  Mind blowing how time just flies.  I would like to thank my life partner, the smartest person I know, her choice of mate notwithstanding.  Thank you for choosing me to share your time with.  Being with you is everything I need from this life.

Usually I would make a fancy multi-course meal to celebrate such an occasion, however, LC's kitchen will be closed tonight.  We are hitting the town.

I wouldn't dream of leaving my dedicated readers without a dish today, so...Enjoy!

Caponata is a Sicilian antipasti composed of eggplant and other vegetables deep fried and mixed with nuts.  Marinated in a sweet and sour sauce, it really is a fantastic dish.  Here I use it to accentuate a pan roasted Pacific halibut fillet.  U.S. or Canadian wild caught Pacific Halibut is a wonderful sustainable fish.

Here are some magnificent websites to educated yourself on sustainable seafood...

Monterey Bay Aquarium
NRDC
Sea Web

The cooking of the caponata can be a time consuming endeavor but well worth the trouble.  Traditionally in Sicily, dark chocolate is grated into the dish, do not skip this step, it takes the flavor profile to a whole new divison. The Caponata is meant to be served at room temperature.

Caponata con Pan-Roasted Pacific Halibut


1 large eggplant
peanut oil

1 red onion - small dice
2 celery stalk - small dice
1 fennel bulb - small dice
1 zucchini - small dice
1 squash - small dice
4 vine-ripened tomatoes - small dice
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup sunflower seeds - raw & unsalted

olive oil
5 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs superfine sugar
1 tbs black pepper
1 tbs sea salt

Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes.  Season with sea salt.  Leave to drain in a colander for 2 hours.

Heat some olive oil in pan.  Cook the onions over medium heat until soft.  NO COLOR.  If you allow the onion to brown, start again.  Remove the onion and place in a glass bowl.  Mix in the diced tomatoes.

Heat the peanut oil in a deep heavy bottom pot to 350 F.  Add the celery and deep fry for 2 minutes.  Remove with a spider.  Allow the oil to come back up to temperature and repeat the same process with the eggplant, zucchini, fennel, and squash.

Place all fried veggies in the bowl with the onion and tomato.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to infuse at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.  The natural steam from the fried veggies helps the dishes disparate flavors come together.

Note: Do not put in the fridge it will dull down the flavors.

For the Pacific Halibut:
2 - 8 ounce Pacific Halibut filets
Wondra flour
Sea salt
White pepper
Fennel Pollen

Canola oil

Remove the fish from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking.  Pat dry with paper towels to remove as much excess moisture as possible.  Season with the flour, sea salt, white pepper, and fennel pollen.

In a heavy bottom pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat.  When the pan is very hot, add the fillets.  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side.  Gently remove from the pan to a rack to rest.  Lightly season with some sea salt.

To plate:
 - Center some of the caponata
 - Using a microplane, grate some dark chocolate over the caponata
 - Gently lay the halibut on top
 - Garnish with edible flowers

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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vegan Goetta

Welcome to Quickies Challenge Winner Spotlight Thursday

Denise and I are stoked to announce that next week we will be unvieling the next Quickes Challenge but for now...

I am very happy to welcome the winner of our inaugural Quickies Challenge Jill from The Homegrown Gourmet. She is a caterer and writer that hails from my home state of Florida. Her blog is a fantastic resource for great cooking information, recipes, and writing. In addition, she makes some very tasty vegan food.  Please visit The Homegrown Gourmet, you will not leave disappointed and are sure to make a new friend.

Enjoy!

Hi, I’m Jill or Jilly as most everyone calls me. I’m a caterer, freelance writer and hard core foodie. As some of you may know, I entered a contest hosted by Lazaro and Denise from Quickies on the Dinner Table. The challenge was to combine feta cheese and avocado in one dish and the prize was a copy of Denise’s most excellent cook book,  Quickies: Morning, Noon, and Night and a guest post on Lazaro’s highly acclaimed blog. Not to gloat, but obviously I won so here I am!  

I peruse Lazaro’s blog all the time and when it came down to writing this article, I was hard pressed to decide on a recipe worthy of the talent he continually features in his own posts and those of his guest posters. In the end I chose something that I hope is unique and educational at the same time.

When my oldest daughter was 2 years old, my ex was hired by a company in Cincinnati Ohio. We packed up and left Chicago without so much as a glance over our shoulders. That was in 1984. We settled in a small community across the Ohio River from Cinci in the area collectively known as Northern Kentucky. Ok, I’m making this sound like we were pioneers who hacked our way through the forest to build a homestead. It wasn’t quite like that. I’m no Ma Ingalls! It was more like U-haul arrived, plopped all our stuff down in the middle of the living room floor, asked for a check and left us there buried in our junk.

Immediately (like the first day) we discovered one of the truly great culinary oddities of all time…Cincinnati Chili. There was a Chili parlor within walking distance of our apartment and so there we found ourselves; exhausted, disheveled and displaced but enthusiastically enjoying what would become the first of many “5-ways”. Don’t get excited, it’s nothing like THAT! For those not familiar with the Cincinnati Chili phenomenon; it is made with only meat and a rich cinnamon spiked, spicy sauce. Everything else is ordered separately. Hence a 3-way is chili over spaghetti noodles topped with huge mounds of shredded cheddar. Add onions and you have a 4-way; add beans and you have the granddaddy of them all…a 5-way!

The original chili recipe is said to have come from Greek immigrants who opened the first chili parlor in the Cincinnati area. This makes sense to me, as it is not unusual to find cinnamon in savory Greek dishes. There are many recipes out there for Cincinnati Chili but legend has it that the original, authentic recipe has never been divulged.

With its heritage of mixed ethnicity, other groups emerged to influence the culinary landscape of the Queen City; the Germans, Irish and Scots. With them came an influx of sausages of every shape, size and description. There is one however, that became and still is utterly indigenous to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. That my friends would be the mysterious and oh so misunderstood Goetta.

Now ask any Cincinnatian of German descent what Goetta is and they are likely to tell you it is akin to Scrapple. Steel cut oats are cooked with spices, onions and a mixture of pork and beef until the whole is one great grey glob that can be shaped into a loaf or roll, chilled, sliced and pan fried. Ask someone of Scottish or Irish descent and he’s likely to tell you that Goetta is a transmutation of Haggis brought to the Queen City via immigrant pioneers from Kentucky.

The original pronunciation of the word was “go-ta” but over the years it has come to be called “gedda” or “getta”. Oddly enough, most people outside the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area have no clue what it is…no matter how you pronounce it.

This is definitely one of those dishes that developed out of the necessity to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a larger amount of hungry people. Originally it was probably made with scraps of meat leftover from something else or organ meats. In other words, the parts you didn’t necessarily want to think about whilst eating them! Depending upon the German/Pennsylvania Dutch or Irish/Scottish interpretation you either used steel cut/pin head oats or polenta.

Over the years, the recipe evolved from using offal to the inclusion of ground meat, generally pork. Despite having lived in Northern Kentucky for twenty years, I never managed to successfully swallow a bite of Goetta without shuddering. Don’t get me wrong, it tastes really good…it was that whole mystery meat phobia thing. Plus, somehow boiled ground pork just seemed so fundamentally odd and in my humble opinion, ANY meat that is grey in color signals my brain to think bad, bad juju. Shortly after, vegetarianism began to appeal to me greatly!

A recent trip to Northern Kentucky to visit my grown daughters led us to a little coffee shop in a trendy area of downtown Cincinnati for brunch. Mokka, as it is called has been hailed to have the best “Goetta Combo Breakfast” in Cincinnati which my two non-vegetarian daughters promptly ordered. My one vegetarian daughter commented that it looked good but of course would not eat it. That set off a chain reaction in my head.

On the plane back home; and may I interject here that I was sadly NOT on Steven Slater’s parting flight with Jet Blue, I started thinking of how I could make a totally vegan rendition of Goetta. When the steward handed me my complimentary packet of 3 dry roasted peanuts, I didn’t even look up. My tray table down, head spinning with ratios etc…I was furiously scribbling out the tentative recipe.

Within a matter of days after my return, a loaf pan of fresh vegan Goetta was chilling in the fridge and my greedy little hands could hardly stand the wait. The next day, I removed the loaf from the pan, sliced off a nice slab and pan fried it in a bit of olive oil. My tongue was blistered for two days because of impatience but when a recipe works…it’s alright. It’s a sacrifice we’ve all made for the sake of our craft right?

To round out this hearty vegan breakfast, I’ve also prepared some scrambled tofu to serve with my golden, crispy Goetta. The “meat” in my Goetta is no mystery. Its extra firm tofu with most of the liquid pressed out. If you’re looking for an uncomplicated method of extracting water from tofu try this: open the package and pour off the water. Place the tofu in a plastic container that is slightly too short for it and then smoosh that lid down anyway. Stash it in the fridge and every so often, go pour the accumulated water out. I do this a day before I want to use it and it’s perfect for this recipe. You may be asking yourself why anyone would want to eat what essentially amounts to fried oatmeal but at least give it a try before passing judgment.

Vegan Goetta


(This was made in the slow cooker/crock pot)

• 1 ¼ cups organic Steel Cut Oats (may be called Irish or Pin Head Oats)

• 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 large sweet yellow onion, grated

• 2 dried bay leaves

• 1 teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves

• 1 ½ teaspoons dried poultry seasoning

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 2 pinches dried red pepper flakes *optional

• ½ block extra firm organic tofu, drained and excess water pressed out

• Oil for frying

*Note: If you find that the oats get dry before done, add additional broth or water. This may also be done on the stove top in a heavy sauce pan but frankly, who wants to baby sit a vat of oatmeal?

1. Rinse and drain oats. Pour vegetable broth into crock pot and set temperature to low. Add the oats, olive oil and all remaining ingredients except tofu; stir to combine. Place the lid on crock pot and cook mixture for approximately 1 ½ - 2 hours or until all the liquid is absorbed and oats are thick and tender. They will be chewy and this is just what you want. Remove bay leaves and discard.

2. Place tofu in a medium bowl and crumble with a fork until you have very small pieces; about the size of large curd cottage cheese. Stir the tofu into the oat mixture.

3. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap to facilitate unmolding once the Goetta is set. Scrape oat mixture into the prepared pan and use a greased spatula or wet hands to flatten the top and compress the loaf. Fold overhanging plastic wrap up around the loaf to cover. Refrigerate Goetta at least 12 hours but overnight is best.

4. When ready to serve, peel wrap back from the top of the loaf and invert onto a cutting board. Remove the plastic film and slice Goetta into approximately ½ inch slices or whatever thickness you desire.

5. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat; add Goetta slices. Fry the Goetta over medium heat until very browned and crisped on the first side; turn and fry second side. Goetta is best when fried very, very crisp. If your heat is too high, your Goetta will just brown on the outside and not dry in the center. It will probably fall apart. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with Scrambled Tofu and farm fresh sliced tomatoes for the perfect vegan breakfast.

Scrambled Tofu


• Half package of organic tofu, crumbled into medium pieces

• Coconut oil for sautéing

• Salt and pepper to taste

• ¼ teaspoon dried mustard powder

• Pinch of turmeric

• 1/8 tsp garlic powder

• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast *optional if you feel a little short on b-vitamins


1. Place tofu in a bowl and use a fork to break into medium curds. Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil; add the mustard powder, turmeric and garlic powder to the oil and swirl to combine.

2. Add tofu crumbles to the skillet and toss gently to coat with seasoning mixture. Cook over medium heat until hot. You may allow some of the curds to brown slightly if you like them that way. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle top with nutritional yeast if desired. Serve warm with Vegan Goetta.



It has truly been my honor and pleasure to write this guest post for Lazaro’s wonderful blog. Thank you for the invitation Lazaro and thanks to all your faithful readers. I am certainly in some elite company here!

Please check out Jill's blog The Homegrown Gourmet, I know you wil find a great new blog to read.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pizza Time

In keeping with my message of SOS, sustainable, organic, seasonal, I started a series on Blogcritics highlighting the fantastic produce produced by my home state of Florida.  The first in the series is...

Fresh from Forida: Sweet Corn & Blue Crabs

I would like to thank the Seattle Post Intelligencer and the numerous sites that have reposted this story.

Welcome to Pizza Pizza Pizza Tuesday


It is unconscionable to think that I have been blogging since March and have yet to post pizza.  My all time favorite food, it is not even close, my love for pizza borders on the obsessive, if not completely deranged. With this in mind, I decided to showcase three of my personal favorites from my arsenal.

Pizza, much like life, can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it.  The key is sourcing great ingredients.  Experiment with many of the fantastic cheeses out there.  Use different ideas for sauces.  However, always remember The Tao of the Kitchen "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."  Find the best ingredients.

Next in line comes execution.  So lets get started with the foundation of any great pizza...the dough.

A big thank you to my friend Justin from Marx Foods who sent me some fabulous White Truffle Oil.  Please check out Marx Foods and all of their magnificent gourmet products.

LC's Pizza Dough Recipe
3 cups Bread flour
1 cup warm water - (105 F)
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup Albarino White Wine
1 tbs White Truffle Oil
1 tbs organic honey
1/2 tbs sea salt

Combine wine, water and yeast in a glass bowl and stir to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes.  Add the honey, sea salt and white truffle oil and mix well. Start by adding 1 cup of flour and make a wet paste. Add remaining flour and incorporate.

Place dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for 1 hour. Punch down and portion for use.

Sopressata & Jamon Serrano Pizza


Sopressata, jamon serrano, tomato sauce, fontina cheese, havarti cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano.

White Veggie Pizza


Cauliflower puree, zucchini, squash, roasted red peppers, chives, taleggio cheese, comte cheese.


LC's Deep Dish Pizza Dough Recipe
1 1/2 cups warm water - (105 F) 
1 package active dry yeast 
1 tsp cane sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup oilve oil

In a glass bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar.  Stir to dissolve and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, corn meal, olive oil, and sea salt.  Mix to incorporate.  Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time.  Working the dough.


Place dough on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.


Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Let rise for 1 hour.  Punch down and portion for use.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza



Fontina cheese, tomato sauce, Italian sweet sausage, Italian hot sausage, mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano. 

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cuban Clam Fritters with Cilantro Mayo

Welcome to Winning Recipe Saturday

In July I was fortunate to win the Magic Bullet Recipe Giveaway on my friend Natasha's classy blog 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures.  The Magic Bullet is a convenient and compact food processor.  Right now, The Lawyer is monopolizing it to make her smoothies.  Thanks to the fine people at Magic Bullet for selecting my recipe and of course to our host, the 5 Star Foodie herself.

Florida clams thrive in our nutrient rich waters.  They are prized for their firmly textured, moist, and extra lean meat.  Florida clams are available year round and a great sustainable seafood.  Clams should be scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly before cooking.  You'll also need a clam knife.  Maybe another day I'll post a tutorial on shucking clams, because the Lawyer is not home and there is nobody here to take the pics.  Clams overcook very quickly so please PAY ATTENTION to your cooking times.

This dish is sure to make you a complete superstar at your next dinner party.  The clams are lightly coated in a flavorful breading, then QUICKLY fried in peanut oil, and plated on a bed of avocado, mango, red onion, and cucumber.  Finished with a delightful cilantro mayo.

Enjoy!

Cuban Clam Fritters



1 Organic egg
4 tbs Mineral Water
1 cup Galleta Molida – Cuban cracker meal
1 tsp Smoked Pimenton
1 tsp Fennel Pollen
1 tsp Chervil
1 tsp Marjoram
16 Clams – shucked & well drained
Peanut oil

Avocado - small dice
Cucumber - small dice
Mango - small dice
Red Onion - small dice

Sherry Vinaigrette 
Vinagre de Jerez
Avocado oil
Lime juice
Sea salt
White pepper
Honey 

Whisk the egg and water in a glass bowl to combine. Combine the galleta molida, smoked pimenton, fennel pollen, chervil, and marjoram in a Magic Bullet. Process to a finely medium consistency. Transfer to a plate.

Dip the clams in the egg mixture and then the seasoned galleta molida. Shake off excess. Heat the peanut oil in a heavy bottom pan to 350 F. Drop the clams into the oil and cook for 1 minute. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Make a bed of cucumber, avocado, mango, and red onion.  Lightly dress with Sherry Vinaigrette.  Lay the clams and garnish with Cilantro mayo.

Cilantro Mayo
1 small shallot – chopped
1 garlic clove – chopped
3 tbs fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 cup fresh cilantro – stems & leaves
½ cup olive oil mayo
1 organic egg yolk
Sea salt

Put the shallot, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro in the Magic Bullet. Pulse to make a paste. Add the mayo and egg yolk. Process to make a smooth sauce. Season with sea salt.

Now...

If you want to go next level, then serve this beauty.

Florida Clams Po-Boy on Cuban Bread 




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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Molohkia (Jute Leaf Soup)

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming a precocious cook and blogger, Mo from Mo's Kitchen.  From the moment you are read Mo's Kitchen you know the blogger means business.  She has something to say and isn't afraid to say it.  The recipes are diverse and the cooking spot-on.  All the while keeping health and healthy eating in the forefront.  This would be great for any of us food bloggers, but it is amazing when you learn the Mo is 16 years young.  She is light-years more advanced than I was at that age.

Make it a point to check out a future kitchen star over at Mo's Kitchen.

Enjoy...

Guest Post Spotlight Thursday


Hey, folks! I’m super excited to be guest-posting here today, something I’ve never done. I was honored when Lazaro asked me to. :)


My name is Mo (no, my parents aren’t cruel; this was self-inflicted) and I’m just a kid with a food blog. No biggie.

When Lazaro asked me to guest-post, he asked me way in advance so I had a lot of time to think of something. The problem was that none of my ideas were interesting enough to qualify, in my head at least, for a guest post.

My best friend, Marwa, moved to Cairo over 2 years ago. I live and have grown up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where all the diplomats and ambassadors and foreign services agents live. So a bunch of people from all sorts of different countries come and go, and I said goodbye to Marwa in June of ’08. Now, the foodie in me had not yet fully developed as of that time so I was not really interested in learning the delicious Egyptian recipes her mother always made us, and I was not at all fascinated by the spices or the interesting ingredients. I was sort of a “let’s make cookies instead” kind of a gal. So during our friendship and our many sleepovers, I took for granted the culture that was right in my face and on my dinner plate. When Marwa moved away I was sad only because of the fact that, well, she was moving away, to a place inaccessible by me. I thought nothing of the fact that I had much to learn about cultures other than mine in terms of food, and I could have done that by walking into her kitchen if I had felt like it.

Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I broadened my horizons when it came to food and different types of cuisine. I became increasingly interested in “weird” ingredients that were hard to come by in the States but popular in other countries. I especially opened my eyes to the world of spices, which continues to fascinate me. My dad brought me to a store he frequents, called Halalco, and it was as though I was in a toy store homogenized with a candy store, and I could have anything I wanted (also, I’m 5 in this scenario). Halalco, as you may have guessed by the name, is a Middle Eastern store that specializes in halal meat for the Muslim community. However, it is certainly not limited to that. Their spice aisle is a wondrous place that makes you want to purchase things which you have no idea what they are. You just know you want to try them. And even then they’re not finished. They have aisles and aisles of interesting finds, like legume flours that would cost you an arm and a leg in a regular grocery store, sweeteners such as date molasses and grape syrup, the biggest bags of basmati rice you’ve ever seen, all kinds of different cooking oils, bulk nuts and seeds for much less than you can get other places, Indian “TV” dinners, and a produce section that includes fresh olives (I don’t know about you but you can’t find fresh olives in the regular grocery stores around here, or in any grocery store I’ve ever been to as a matter of fact) and kindly-priced vegetables. Sometimes it’s a bit confusing going into the store, because you won’t know what something is, either because it’s called by its Arabic, Hindi or other non-English name or because you’ve just never heard of it in the first place. But after a while the foreign words become more familiar and it’s the only reason I know what cumin is in several different languages. Another thing I like about the place is that if you go in there looking for something you heard about (that’s used in the Middle East, at least), you’ll most likely find it.

Case in point: molokhia. This term refers to both the leaves of the jute plant and the soup which is prepared from the leaves. The conversation I had with Marwa over Skype as she tried to tell me what molokhia was was most interesting, given it was hard to tell when she was referring to the leaves and when she was referring to the soup. So, for the purpose of this post and the sanities of everyone reading this, I will refer to the leaves as jute leaves and the soup as molokhia. But when she told me about how she had to show me how to make it, I knew what I would be sharing with you guys today. (I actually attempted this on my own as she did not have the time to make it with me during her visit which just ended two days ago, but she guided me through the recipe as well as she could. )

Molokhia (muh-luh-KAI-ah – don’t say “mo-lo-khee-UH” unless you want an Egyptian to laugh really hard at you) is a traditional and very popular Egyptian dish, and I do not pretend to know any more than that. ;) I’m sharing Marwa’s family recipe with you today, but I wanted to research how other recipes are prepared. And it turns out it’s all relatively similar, but it varies by little things like spices, amounts and whether or not there’s meat in it. I was lucky enough to find frozen minced jute leaves at Halalco, but it is normally made with fresh leaves. However, if you can find jute leaves in the US, they will most likely be frozen, already minced and at your local Middle Eastern grocery store.

I tried to make as many actual measurements as I could with this because the recipe Marwa gave me was very inexact. I think this is great for a home cook doing her own thing, as Marwa’s mom is a genius in the kitchen and probably doesn’t really need to make measurements (then again I’m told that Egyptians don’t really measure anything anyway), but for food blogging I think it’s rather important. I also made the second version without chicken because it was just more practical for me to do it that way, but I included the original because it looks darn delicious. I hope Marwa’s mom would be proud of this, even though it’s probably a bit different than what she makes.

Molohkia (Jute Leaf Soup)

(Recipes by Marwa’s mom, adapted and improvised by Mo)

1 whole, 2-3 lb (small) chicken (you can remove the skin or not; your choice)
1 average-sized onion, peeled
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp whole peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1 bouillon cube (made with all-natural ingredients, s’il vous plait)
14 oz frozen minced jute leaves (molohkia)
1 tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

Place the chicken, the onion, the salt, the pepper, the cardamom (place each pod between your top and bottom front teeth, bite down to crack the pod, and place in the pot) and the bouillon in a large pot. Cover with water and cook on medium-high for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and onion from the pot. Throw away the onion (unless you have a use for a boiled onion) and allow the chicken to cool. Strain the liquid to remove the pepper and cardamom.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, add about 3.5 cups of the broth you’ve just made and the jute leaves. Heat this over low until the leaves are defrosted, then heat over medium-high until it is almost to a boil but do not bring to a boil*. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan, add the garlic, sauté a bit, and then add the coriander powder. When the garlic is a nice golden brown, add to the molokhia. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.

To prepare the chicken, cut it up into its various body parts and brown each piece in a little bit of butter. Serve the chicken alongside the molokhia and (in my case, brown) basmati rice and/or pita bread. Eat up!

*When brought to a boil, the leaves fall to the bottom of the pot and the soup becomes dull and heavy, which obviously will make everyone sad.

With no chicken/vegetarian:

4 cups organic chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 average-sized onion, peeled
1 tsp salt (1.25 tsp if the broth you use is low-sodium)
2 tsp whole peppercorn
2 cardamom pods
14 oz frozen minced jute leaves
1 tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

In a large pot, place the broth, onion, optional salt, pepper, cardamom (place each pod between your top and bottom front teeth, crack the pod, and place in the pot). Cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the onion and strain the liquid into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. There will be less than 4 cups due to evaporation, but there should be at least 3.5 cups of liquid. If there isn’t, add enough water (or broth, if you have it) to make 3.5 cups. Pour this broth into a large pot and add the jute leaves. Heat over low until the leaves are defrosted, then heat over medium-high until it is almost to a boil but do not bring to a boil*. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan, add the garlic, sauté a bit, and then add the coriander powder. When the garlic is a nice golden brown, add to the molokhia. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.

*When brought to a boil, the leaves fall to the bottom of the pot and the soup becomes dull and heavy, which sets off a chain reaction of unyummy soups and natural disasters. Stuff like that. The point is, don’t do it!

Serve alongside basmati rice and/or pita bread.

 
The verdict: I’m not going to lie to you all – molokhia is weird. Mucilaginous. It’s a bit like okra in that respect, I guess. Point being, I don’t recommend serving this to picky children. Or picky adults and anything in between, for that matter. It’s got a rather interesting texture but it actually kind of goes away once you mix it with rice, which is great. I definitely had to adjust the recipe after I made it to season it well since I wasn’t actually given any measurements the first time, and at this point I have no way of knowing whether or not the recipe tastes anything like what Marwa’s used to. All I know is that it’s delicious, regardless of authenticity, and definitely an experience. If you can get past the texture, which honestly isn’t as bad as I’m probably making it sound, I highly recommend making it, or at least some variant of it. :)


PS: Yes, I am insane for making soup when it is close to 100 degrees outside. There’s no denying that.

Please check out the fun & informative Mo's Kitchen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Braised Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Welcome to Piggy Delight Tuesday

Braising is my absolute favorite cooking method.  Long hours of cooking develop the kind of incredible flavor amalgamations that set the palate alight.  Pork butt was made for braising.  Want to know my idea of culinary nirvana?  That's a big hunk of pork relaxing in a bath of Gewurztraminer wine, tomatoes, aromatics, and spices, slowly roasting in a hot oven. 

Long slow cooking in the presence of moisture breaks down or dissolves collagen by turning it into gelatin and water.  Once the connective tissue, collagen, is broken; this happens to the pork butt.



Brasing Liquid - Gewurztraminer wine, tomato paste, red onion, Yukon gold potatoes, portobello mushrooms, water, spices.  Melt in the mouth tender.

Braised Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Colombian Bread
Taleggio Cheese
Pickled Red Onions
Braised Pork Butt
Basil Chiffonade



The grilled cheese sandwich all grown up!

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

Saturday, August 7, 2010

La Frita Cubana

Welcome to Burger Saturday

A Frita is a Cuban hamburger. When you were eating Quarter Pounder’s with cheese growing up, I was eating fritas. A traditional frita is a patty made of a combination of beef and pork. The toppings are sliced red onion, matchstick French fries, all served on a Cuban bread roll. Now that you know what the traditional frita is let’s move it forward now shall we.


I detest big sloppy hamburgers. Nor am I a fan of burgers that do not fit in my mouth. In reality most human jaws open to accommodate 3 fingers. All of my fritas must make it under this height requirement. If I took the time to source wonderful ingredients and cook them perfectly; I want my frita eaters to be able to savor every component on each mouthful.

Home ground meat is always better than store bought. Grinding your own meat allow you to choose the specific cuts you want. Moreover, it is infinitely more sanitary, so you can serve your meat medium-rare without fear of bacterial contamination.

When making a frita I strive for a good balance of lean meat and fat. Fat brings flavor and more importantly moisture the burger needs.



Organic & Free-Range - Beef Brisket, Beef Chuck and Pork Butt.


Twice ground.  Once through the large grinding plate and then through the small grinding plate.


When forming your patties do not overwork the meat. You want the meat loosely packed.


As they cook, I flip the patties every 30 seconds; this give you a rotisserie effect promoting even cooking and searing throughout.


My Spicy Ketchup - Vine ripened tomatoes, bird’s eye chilies, fish sauce, chipotle peppers, apple cider vinegar, and cane sugar. Cooked, reduced, and thickened.


Leeks – Thinly sliced. Cooked in a butter and Vinagre de Jerez emulsion.




Matchstick Yukon Gold Fries – Cooked in peanut oil.


Frita Cubana on a toasted and buttered roll.


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

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chickpeas with Coconut Sauce

Welcome to Guest Post Spotlight Thursday

This week I am privileged to introduce a talented cook and writer. Joanne from Eats Well With Others is the hardest working woman in blogging, contributing to 3 different blogs, all the while attending medical school. I like Joanne’s style because she has something to say and is not afraid to say it. Her writing is smart, witty, humorous, and full of top notch culinary information.


Please check out, Eats Well With Others, I promise you will find a new quality blog to follow.

Enjoy...

070

Idiot’s guide to making good first impressions: first dates, guest posts, and on-line dating profiles. A top ten list. By me.

Ahem.

038

1. Talk about yourself but not too much. Sharing is caring. But no one really wants to know how much pumpkin you eat on a daily basis or that your favorite part of medical school thus far has been dissecting a cadaver. In fact. Don’t mention cadavers. Or medical school. At all. They are buzzkills. Mention pumpkin. But only because it is a dealbreaker. If the reaction to pumpkin is one of shock and horror, then politely excuse yourself. And run.

2. Talk about yourself but not too little. Remember your med school essays and how you had to somehow figure out a way to explain how the fact that your favorite color is green will make you a good physician someday? All while being modest and vague; talking about yourself without actually talking about yourself? That’s a skill. Cultivate it.

3. Mention cupcakes. People like cupcakes. People are endeared to cupcakes. The way to anyone’s heart. Is through cupcakes.

4. Do not mention how much you really like the taste of tofu. Unless, of course, you are guest posting on a vegan blog. Or your first date has suggested you meet at the latest, trendiest raw food bar in NYC. Then maybe you should mention tofu every thirty seconds. Buy a watch. Set a timer. Trust me.

5. Don’t talk about the Real Housewives of New York like you know them. I know you think you know them. I know you cried during the wedding episode of Bethenny Getting Married? (okay, maybe that was slightly irrational. But did you see that red velvet cake? Totally cry-worthy.) And maybe you walk aimlessly up and down the streets of the upper east side every weekend hoping for a Jill and Ramona sighting. But these are bad habits. I hear they make patches for things like this.

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6. Be succinct. Sure you can ramble on aimlessly over at your own blog. Wax poetic about peanut butter for pages on end and hope that it will be tolerated. But most men (and readers) like women of mystery. Leave them wanting more. Remember what your mother always told you – why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. Maybe not entirely relevant, but good words to live by, nonetheless.

7. Don’t talk politics. In the food world, this means not mentioning the fact that you like vanilla better than chocolate. In New York City, this means not mentioning the fact that you are a Red Sox fan.

8. Give them something familiar. Something they know and love. Something that will make them feel safe. Chickpeas, for example, which have permeated just about every culture in some shape or form. Are a good option. Squid, on the other hand, is not a good option. Avoid it at all costs.

9. Give them something unique. Make yourself indispensible. Stray from the ordinary. Use black garbanzo beans. Tamarind. Coconut. Dabble in exotica.

10. Most importantly, be yourself. Because what better way is there to end than on a cliché, right?

075

Chickpeas with Coconut Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from Lisa’s Kitchen

1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas (black, white or a mix of the two)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp yellow split peas
1 ½ tbsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
4 dried red chiles
¼ cup tamarind paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
3 dried curry leaves
½ cup dried unsweetened coconut
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

1. Rinse and soak chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover them. Drain, transfer to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce a simmer and cook until the chickpeas are soft – one and a half to two hours. Drain and set aside.

2. Reconstitute the dried coconut by combining it with a half a cup of boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve and press out excess liquid. Set aside.

3. Heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the split peas, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dried chiles. Stir and fry until the split peas and seeds turn reddish brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a spice grinder and process until finely ground.

4. Return the pan to the heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the cooked chickpeas, along with the salt, turmeric, and curry leaves. Stir a few times. Add in the tamarind and a few tbsp of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for roughly ten minutes.

5. Remove from heat, stir in the ground spices, coconut, and chopped cilantro.

Check out Eats Well With Others for more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Capellini of Scallop

Welcome to LC's 100th Post Tuesday

Maybe the 100th post on LC merits more pomp and circumstance, but just got back from a LONG weekend getaway with the Lawyer...and I am beat.

Thank you to everyone that supported Tanantha and I with our joint guest post on Saturday.  It was a blast being involved.

Enjoy...

Capellini of Scallop



When creating a dish I strive for balance and harmony throughout. Rarely will I put something on a plate that cannot be eaten; in this case I made an exception and used the scallop shell for presentation. To secure the shell in place the base of the dish is a Wakame, or seaweed salad. Now, one of the ingredients used in making my Wakame is rice wine vinegar. I used the same rice wine vinegar to make the butter emulsion sauce that the leeks cooked in. That is what I mean by harmony within a dish. The rest of the course is white wine capellini pasta, fresh savory, and the pan-roasted sea scallop.

By the way, for anyone who is yet to see this one...

Sablefish Mojito Ceviche



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