Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Star Makeover May 2011 Round Up

This month's theme for the 5 Star Foodie Makeover Cooking Group is "Gourmet Picnic Food." Perfect this time of year with Memorial Day on the horizon and many taking to the parks for picnics.

Thank you for the hard work and dedication of this most talented group of cooks.  Thank you to my most talented and dedicated co-host Natasha.

Check out some very creative takes on Gourmet Picnic food, I am sure you'll find some stuff to incorporate into your Memorial Day menu.  Have a happy and safe holiday.


Southwestern Potato Salad

by Natasha, 5 Star Foodie

Picnic Basket Tart

by Lazaro, Lazaro Cooks!

Chicken Bites with Onion Confit and Sweet & Tangy Apple, Mango Slaw

by Priscilla, She's Cookin'

Olive Oil Scones with Cinnamon Figgie Butter

by Faith, An Edible Mosaic

Muffaletta Tartlets with Olive Salad, Cajun Chips, & Hibiscus Lavender Lemonade

by Trix, Tasty Trix

Gourmet Picnic with Spicy Cold Soba Noodle Salad
by Lori Lynn, Taste With the Eyes

Pulled Pork & Red Wine Caramelized Onion Sandwich

by Tanantha, I Just Love My Apron

Game Pie

by Deana, LostPastRemembered

Banana Bread Sandwiches with Chocolate Goat Cheese Spread and Strawberries

by Kelly, The Pink Apron

Lobster Roll with Lemon Aioli

by Marisa, Cook's Book

Chicken Pesto Sandwich

by Jessica, Bacon and Soufflé

Champagne Gazpacho and Arugula Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing

by Jennifer, The Adventuresome Kitchen

Chickpea Salad With Lebanese Flavours

by Aoife, The Daily Spud

Languedoc Style Tuna Salad Sandwich with a French Slaw

by Alisha, The Ardent Epicure

Grilled Baby Potato & Broccollini Picnic Salad

by Debi, Table Talk

Avocado & Edamame Salad With Dill

by Bren, Flanboyant Eats

Glazed Blackberry Watermelon with Lavender Sea Salt on the Grill

by Angela, Spinach Tiger

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

Picnic Basket Tart

This month's theme for the 5 Star Foodie Makeover Cooking Group is "Gourmet Picnic Food."  Perfect this time of year with Memorial Day on the horizon and many taking to the parks for picnics.

In conceptualizing my dish I thought it would be cool to incorporate some of the foods you might find in a classic picnic basket and make it into a tart.  One stop carrying.  Fits snug in most picnic basket as well.

You are gonna want to definitely check out our round-up on Friday, I am sure you'll see some great ideas you may want to incorporate for your Memorial Day menu.

Baked beans is a classic picnic staple.  Well, I am Cuban, no baked beans here.  What I did make is a smoky red bean puree, cooked with bird's eye chilies, leeks, champagne vinegar, cumin, and a splash of liquid smoke.

Aged Wisconsin Cheddar

For me there is little better in the world than oven roasted pork.  Now, when you add Piment d' Espelette and Cuban it just goes to another stratosphere.

Jalapeno Iceberg Slaw
Gotta have a slaw right?!  Mine is made with a homemade garlic aoili, jalapeno sauce, shallots, Vinagre de Jerez and thinly shredded crisp iceberg lettuce.

Thin and crispy matchstick Yukon gold potato sticks provide the perfect crunchy topping to the tart.

Add a generous swirl of White Truffle Oil...(sorry could not help myself)

Picnic Basket Tart

Happy Memorial Day

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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saffron Risotto with Butter-Poached Florida Spiny Lobster Meat

What a true culinary pleasure.  This is the course you serve to spoil a loved one or wow a dinner party.

I've written in past posts about my love for Florida Spiny Lobster.  Here I paired it with another of my favorite ingredients, Spanish Saffron.  Saffron is a very expensive item to use.  However, if you choose to use it, spend the money, because the cheap shit sucks.

The process of creating risotto is not the most complicated but it is quite exacting. So the question becomes can you have the patience to see the process through? I pattern my particular risotto making method after the Insegnante Italiano Giorgio Locatelli.

Carnaroli rice is thin, long grain rice which has a good balance of the starches, amylopectin and amylose. When cooked, it holds up well keeping its shape, and absorbs enough liquid to give the risotto its trademark creaminess. You can find Acquerello Organic Carnaroli Rice Superfino - 2.2 lbs


Without a great stock you will not have a great risotto. The stock determines the taste of the final product. Consequently, making it at home and controlling the ingredients is pivotal. A stock is not a kitchen bin, only use top notch wholesome ingredients. A useful tip for freezing stock is freezing them in ice cube trays, then transfer to freezer bags.

Toasting the Rice

Once you have made the leek soffritto it is important to make sure each grain of rice is coated in butter & leek. Warm each rice grain to prepare them to cook uniformly. However, DO NOT ALLOW the rice to BROWN. This may give your risotto a bitter finished product.


The process of beating in ice-cold cubed butter and Parmigiano is the finishing touch or rifinitura. This emulsification is what gives risotto its unique consistency. Organic Parmigiano is readily available online, and I am a particular fan of the cheese from i gourmet. Italian food is known to be high in Umami, the fifth taste, this is because of the Parmigiano.

Risotto Pan

Having a heavy bottom pan to cook the rice is important. You want something that is going to evenly distribute the heat and prevent burning.

Saffron Risotto with Butter-Poached Florida Spiny Lobster Meat

Extra virgin olive oil
8 cups homemade chicken stock - (you may have some left over)
1 tsp Spanish saffron threads
1 leek (white and light green parts only) - sliced paper thin
1 1/2 cups Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup Riesling wine


5 tbs cubed butter – ice cold
1 cup finely grated organic Parmigiano


2 tbs water
Unsalted butter - cubed and cold
4 pieces Florida spiny lobster tail meat - cut into pieces

In a saucepan heat bring the chicken stock to the boil, reduce to simmer. Add the saffron stirring to infuse.

In the risotto pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook slowly for 5 minutes, DO NOT ALLOW TO COLOR. Turn the heat up to medium, and add the rice. Stir until all the grains of rice are covered in oil and leeks. It is important to get the rice up to temperature before adding liquid. Add the reisling wine.  Reduce by half.

Now we are ready to add the chicken stock. Once you add the first ladle of stock the process should take 18 minutes to cook the risotto. Keep the risotto at a steady bubble while you continue adding stock, stirring, and letting it absorb, before adding more stock. Stirring is important, the bottom of the pan is hottest, so keep the rice moving to avoid burning. After 15 minutes, start checking the doneness of the rice. It should be plump and tender, but still retain a slight firmness to the bite.

Take the rice off the heat. Allow to rest for 2 minutes without stirring to prepare it for the emulsification. If the pan is too hot, when you add the cold butter and cheese they will melt too quickly and split.

Working fast beat in the ice-cold butter and cheese. Get your whole body into it. Move your hand quickly, shake the pan. The point of the exercise is to be left with a creamy, rich, and emulsified finished product.

Bring 2 tbs of water to the boil in a small saucepan.  Add the chilled butter bit by bit.  Waiting until each piece is melted. Whisking constantly to create a butter and water emulsion or beurre monte.  Use as much butter as needed.  Keep the emulsion at around 180 F.  This butter emulsion cannot be stored.

Poach the lobster tail meat for about 8 minutes in the butter emulsion.  Season the lobster with black pepper and sea salt before serving.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Florida Spiny Lobster Salad, Fried Florida Spiny Lobster Tail Meat with Balsamic Reduction

Here’s one of the dishes I made for my wife last week.  She is a big fan of what I make called “Lobster Bites.”  Basically it is breaded and fried lobster tail meat with a dipping sauce.  I have been making this for years and it is one of her favorites.

Now, I can never really cook the same thing a handful of times, I must explore the concept of the dish and find a new way of serving it.  Just how my mind works in the kitchen.  Sometimes it frustrates the hell out of my wife because she really gets attached to certain dishes.

I was fortunate to come across 3 lovely Florida Spiny Lobster tails; it was a gift from a good friend.  I decided to really showcase the lobster and serve it two ways on the same course.

Immediately it came to me that it would be a textural contrast if I served a “Maine-style Lobster Roll” without the bread, more like a salad.  So this “salad” became the centerpiece of the dish to accompany the fried lobster, served with her favorite balsamic reduction dipping sauce.

All in all, this dish was great success, high five to me!  I had one happy Lawyer to spend Mommy’s Day with.

Florida Spiny Lobster Salad, Fried Florida Spiny Lobster Tail Meat with Balsamic Reduction

For the Lobster Salad:
1 lb Florida Spiny Lobster tail meat – (cooked)
1 cucumber – peeled, seeded, & diced
1 shallot – minced
2 bird’s eye chilies – diced
½ cup olive oil mayo
1 tbs Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp jalapeno sauce
½ tbs fresh chopped chervil
Fresh chopped chives – to taste
Sea salt
Black pepper

Place the diced cucumber in a colander.  Sprinkle with sea salt and allow excess liquid to drain.  5 minutes.  You do not want to water down the salad too much.

In a glass bowl, combine the cooked lobster meat, cucumber, shallot, chili, mayo, lemon juice and jalapeno sauce.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Check the seasoning.  Fold in the chopped chervil and the chives.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Fridge for 2 hours.  Serve cold.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Feliz Dia De Las Madres

Mother's Day.  Really?!  Didn't the year 2011 just start?!

Happy Mothers Day to all you Mommies.  Thank you for your strength, wisdom, courage, love, understanding and persistence.  You make us who we are and for that we are forever indebted.  Celebrate your day, live it up!

In my house there are some furry critters that would like to thanks my lovely wife for her love and affection.




Audi, Davie, & Number 5

For my part, the best way to make her happy is to make a fabulous day of food.

Vanilla French Toast with Grand Marnier Bananas

Marjoram Green Bread

BBQ Baby Back Ribs (For me of course)

Fried Lobster Tail, Lobster Salad, Balsamic Reduction

Spring Peas, Cumin Carrot Puree, Pan-Roasted Golden Kingklip

Red Velvet Cupcakes, Petit Fours

So was it a fabulous day of food?

I'd say so.

Happy Mother's Day

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