Tuesday, June 26, 2012

5 Star Makeover: Chilled Aguacate Soup with Shrimp & Pancetta

Back this month with our new 5 Star Makeover challenge.  This month we were tasked with creating a sexy chilled soup, perfect for this scorching weather here in Miami.

The star of our soup is these babies, Florida Aguacate or Avocado for the English speaking folk.

Unless you've lived in Miami, you have no idea how popular these things become in the early spring/summer.  Everyone and their grandmother has one of these trees in the backyard.  So naturally...they gotta off-load them.  Cool at first but too much of a good thing is well a bad thing.  My kitchen is stocked, so they went in the pool.

LAWYER - "Hey make an avocado soup with watermelon."

LAZ - "Sounds disgusting."

LAWYER - "No would be good."  scours through the google machine "look someone made something like that once."

LAZ - "Umm, alright but I have some shrimp in the fridge that I gotta use."

LAWYER - "Add them too."

LAZ - "This is starting to sounds like a monster mash-up of something diabolical."

LAWYER - "Well Mr. Chef...figure it out."

So, I decided to make a "sweet & sour" pillar for my avocado soup consisting of...

  • Diced watermelon at the base
  • A thin layer of cream cheese
  • Sweet Key West shrimp
  • A thin layer of guava jelly
  • Crispy pancetta
  • Fresh mint chiffonade

The cream cheese and guava jelly is an homage to a Cuban puffed pastry I've eaten all my life.  The combo works, trust me.

All in all, it was a fun, refreshing, tasty concoction that I was happy to collaborate and enjoy with my favorite person in the world.

Finish the presentation with a light drizzle of walnut oil.

By the way, the red film you see on the right edge of the last photo is the watermelon juice starting to leech out into the soup.

I could have re-shot it but...who gives a fuck!  We had to eat.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Guest Post Spotlight: Tri to Cook

This week I am glad to turn the floor over to another talented food blogger.  I recently had the pleasure of finding the blog Tri to Cook written by the very talented Shannon.  She joined our 5 Star Makeover Crew and has made a fabulous impression.

Her blog is well researched, written and photographed.  Please do drop by and say hello to Shannon.  You'll find another marvelous site to follow and make a new friend.


Hi there!  I'm Shannon, and I blog over at Tri to Cook.  It's a pleasure to be guest posting here at Lazaro Cooks, as I have recently become quite the fan of Laz's complex flavor combinations and exquisite plating and presentation :)

Chocolate Chile Tart

In my little space of the interwebs, I post about my adventures in the kitchen (here's where the "Cook" comes into play) and swimming/biking/running (and here's the "Tri" part).  I love to play around in the kitchen, baking and cooking my way through new ingredients and flavor combinations :)  

Butternut Thyme Bars

Some of my favorite creations from the past few years have been Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Gingersnap Apple Pie w/Bacon Crisp, Chocolate Chile Tart, Butternut Thyme Bars, Cherry Pistachio Pesto, Sweet Basil Ice Cream (perfect with a tomato tart tatin!), White Chocolate Wasabi Truffles and even an Asian Sundae complete with Wasabi Ice Cream and Chocolate Soy Sauce!

White Chocolate Wasabi Truffles

As we step into summer here in New England, I'm getting extremely excited for the fruits and veggies that are about to come into season.  It's hard for me to pick a favorite fruit or veggie, but it was easy to choose the recipe to share with you today-- Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam!  I fell in love last year, and it's at the top of my list when tomatoes start ripening.

Whole Wheat Pita Bites topped with goat cheese and Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam
Yield:  ~2c

Extremely versatile, try this jam with cheese and crackers, on sweet corn poundcake, in grilled cheese, on a savory cheesecake, even inside pop tarts!

You can probably use whatever kind of tomatoes you have on hand or can find at the farmers market.  I just used field tomatoes - which are pretty juicy and took awhile to cook down.

3 to 3 1/2lb tomatoes, cored and chopped
1sm onion, diced (~1/2c)
zest & juice of 1 lemon
1/2c brown sugar
1 1/2c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/4c cider vinegar
1/2t cinnamon
2t salt
1t cumin
1/2t coriander
1/8t cloves
red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a heavy sauce pan or stock pot.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and reached a jam-like consistency, 2-3hrs.

Transfer to sterilized glass jars and cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks or use a hot-water canning bath for 15min for long-term storage.

What would you put your tomato jam on??

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Guest Post Spotlight: Grilled Artichokes with Lime Aioli & Cotija Cheese

Today I  turn over the LC floor to the creative team of Jenn & Seth from Home Skillet.  I have been a fan of this site for some time now.  The recipes are always on point and the photography is first-rate.  Today they spotlight a veg that is one of my favorites, the artichoke.  Job well done indeed.

Drop by Home Skillet and check out their work.  You will be glad you did.


Hi, so we are Jenn and Seth from Home Skillet, and we are so excited to be guest posting for Lazaro.  We are huge, huge fans of his site, his cooking style, plating, and presentation, and we’re honored to be included as a guest contributor to Lazaro Cooks.

We thought we would go ahead and celebrate one of our local, seasonal favorites by sharing this new recipe for Mexican-style grilled artichokes.  This recipe combines three things that we absolutely love – grilling (I mean, how can you resist that siren song of smoke, charcoal, fire, and cast iron grates), artichokes (we have a doormat decorated with artichokes and an artichoke-shaped candle, just to give you an idea of the depths of our love for this vegetable), and dipping (we are obsessed with foods that involve dipping; it’s such an active, communal way to eat).

This artichoke recipe is inspired by a Mexican corn preparation from our favorite local taquería.  After taking their corn off the grill, they like to brush on mayonnaise, cotija cheese and cayenne pepper.  It makes for a creamy, salty, spicy treat.  We’re taking this idea and running with it by making some homemade lime aioli, halving and grilling artichokes, and creating a dip-able mixture in the hollowed out center. Add the tangy sourness of lime juice, and the dish is taken to a new level. We recommend eating these from the outside in, as it will let you control the amount of topping per bite.  Plus, one of our favorite things about cooking whole artichokes… eating the heart and stem after finishing all the leaves.  No need to dip this part, as it will already be covered with the good stuff.

Grilled artichokes with lime aioli and cotija cheese

2 whole artichokes
½ cup canola oil
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese
4-6 limes, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Lime Aioli:
2 egg yolks
1 cup canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt

For the aioli:
We like to whisk mayonnaise by hand, though others find the food processor easier to use for this.  To use this method, place the egg yolks in a small bowl, place a cup of oil next to you, and keep a tablespoon handy.  Use a whisk to break up the egg yolks in the bowl.  Add a tablespoon of oil.  Whisk that into the egg yolks so the yolks absorb it.  Then repeat.  And repeat.  Just be patient.  It will probably take about 10 minutes to get through all the oil.  Then stir in the garlic, lime zest, and lime juice.  Refrigerate.

For the artichokes:
If using a charcoal grill, stack and light charcoal according to your favorite method.  We like using a large chimney starter.  The charcoal will be flaming and smoking for around 20-45 minutes, so we use this time to prepare the artichokes.  To start, set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Using kitchen shears, trim off pointy tips of artichoke leaves.  Using a large, sharp knife, cut off the top ½-inch of the artichokes and the end of each stem.  Carefully remove any small leaves attached directly to the stem.  Wash artichokes thoroughly under cold water to clean them off, and dry with paper towel.

For this section, you will want to do one artichoke at a time.  Take your big sharp knife, coat it with lemon juice from one of your lemon wedges, turn an artichoke upside down, so the stem is sticking up and slice it straight down in half.  Immediately rub down all cut surfaces with lemon wedges to prevent discoloration.  Take a serrated spoon, or regular spoon, and coat it with lemon juice.  Take one artichoke half and scoop out the fuzzy choke in the center, as well as the inner, purple leaves.  Make sure you get all of the fuzzy part out, and liberally rub down the top of the heart with lemon to prevent discoloration. I also try to cut any remaining prickly points off of the inner curled leaves to prevent poking the eater.  Repeat for other halves.

Once water is boiling, place artichokes in, cut side down, and cover with a clean cheese cloth, dish cloth, or cloth napkin.  This will soak up water and ensure the artichokes stay wet while cooking.  Cover pot with lid and cook about 15 minutes.  When they are ready, they should be just soft enough to push a fork into the inside of the stem, but no softer.  Carefully remove artichokes and pace in a colander over sink to drain.  If the charcoal still isn’t ready, pour cold water over the artichokes periodically to slow their cooking.

Once your grill is ready to use, brush the artichokes with canola oil, salt and pepper.  Adjust heat to high (350-400°).  If grill grates are cast iron, rub them down briefly using a few paper towels or a cheese cloth dipped in canola oil.  Place artichokes on grates, cut side down, and close top.  Once the insides are adequately charred 3-5 minutes, brush the leaves with a little more canola oil, turn over, and place on lower heat.  Brush the inside of the stem and cut sides of leaves with a bit of canola.  The open part of the artichoke should look a lot like a bowl.  Inside, place a layer of cotija cheese, cayenne pepper, a spoonful of lime aioli, and another layer of cotija and cayenne.  Adjust amounts to task.  Cover and let warm up for another 3-5 minutes before serving.  After serving, remove leaves from the outside and scoop dip from the center.  Once all the leaves are gone, eat the heart and stem, the best part!

Please drop by Home Skillet and check out their fantastic site.

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

5 Star Makeover Restaurant Wars Round-Up

This month on 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group we decided to do something different.  We thought it would be cool to take our group of amazing cooks and pair them up in groups of 3 to create individual restaurant concepts.

As with everything in life, there were some bumps in the road, disappointments, trial and tribulations.

Luckily some of us were able to persevere and create truly wonderful food.  It's awe-inspiring what in most cases are total strangers, binding together for a common case and flexing their creative muscles.  They created...

  • Unique concepts
  • Menus
  • Banners
  • Courses
Please drop my fantastic co-host Natasha's site and check out fabulous restaurant concepts that I would gladly pay money to eat at.

5 Star Makeover Restaurant Wars Round-Up

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