Saturday Morning with La Diva at the Sydney Fish Markets!

Hey there, Crabby! Mr. Mud Crab waiting for his debut in a lovely Singapore chili crab dish!

Darlings, one of the things La Diva misses MOST about living in Sydney was their fabulous fish markets! The variety of whole fish, fish fillets and myriad seafood choices from vendor after vendor are truly dazzling!

Huh? But you live in Southern Florida, La Diva, what gives?

Well, darlings, the variety of fish available to us mere consumers is JUST NOT COMPARABLE to what's available to foodies in Sydney. Much of our waters have been over-fished (there currently is a ban on Grouper fishing!) and whatever isn't scooped up by pricey local restaurants, most of the best of our aquatic produce gets shipped to resorts in the Bahamas.

And that really TICKS A DIVA OFF.

Sigh...but what can you do?

When I'm back in Ol' Sydneytown, I make a point to get over to the fish markets! The array of fresh fish available is utterly amazing. It makes Diva wonder why we in Southern Florida only see a handful of varieties when so much is on offer in the waters of the South Pacific?

So, La Diva found herself planning a divinely decadent dinner of fish and seafood and trotted off with my bestie Fiona early Saturday morning to beat the crowds and get the freshest fish for a special night.



Conveniently located in Pyrmont, a suburb just the other side of Chinatown near downtown Sydney, this wholesale fish market is open to the public with both wholesale vendors as well as a retail building boasting restaurants and a variety of shops.



The Italians and the Greeks have it all wrapped up here with wholesalers Poulous Brothers, De Costi, Claudios and Musumeci Brothers.



Red Scorpionfish is just one of the cod varieties available at the markets. It's butt-ugly but it sure tastes good!



Another rock cod variety, the gold spotted red rock cod. They don't look very red or very much like their Scorpion fish cousins, do they? One thing is for sure, they look FRESH!



Fresh tiger prawns are highly coveted in Australia and the Japanese tourists love to devour them in a Godzilla like fashion when they visit here in droves. Notice the prices are in kilos (2.2 lbs.) NOT pounds.



While the wholesale part of the market has been jamming since the wee hours, the retail part is just getting started at 9 am on a Saturday morning and includes sushi bars and cafes, a bakery, a bottle shop, a deli and a fruit market.

A hungry customer can go to one vendor and order fish and chips, pick up a bottle of wine from the "bottlo" and a damper from the bakery and enjoy the lot under a pleasantly shaded table on the water outside. I told you Sydney life was civilized.




Imagine trying to keep your car clean in this parking lot!




You just KNOW La Diva HAD to get some Sydney Rock oysters while in town! De Costi offered me some little beauties from an area I was not familiar with and also from Sydney, both were rated AAA so I bought four dozen. I was not aware that they rated oysters in such a fashion but liked the guarantee that they would be fresh and first class in taste! They did NOT disappoint!



This lovely lady let me taste all the oysters before I bought them and La Diva greedily accepted even though it was early morning. Some were creamy, others briney but ALL were fresh and delicious!




My Greek pal spends his entire day shucking oysters. Sheesh~ that's some HARD YAKKA (or tough work) as the Aussie slang goes.

Quick digression: When La Diva lived in L.A. the fishmonger at Santa Monica Seafood refused to shuck oysters for me stating some kind of health law violation! HA! I was appalled and never shopped there again as La Diva never heard of such nonsense and merely thought him lazy. That's like a butcher refusing to de-bone a leg of lamb! I found that upscale grocer Bristol Farms was happy to accommodate.



Did you think these pretty little pink critters were prawns? Smelling only of the sea and blemish-free, these lovely langoustines or scampi are ready to be served up sauteed in butter and garlic!



When is the last time you saw so many varieties of WHOLE fish at YOUR local fishmonger or grocer? When I moved back to the States from Sydney, I asked my local fishmonger why I could only find a few varieties of whole fish available like snapper or trout? For some reason Americans in general have an aversion to buying, preparing and eating the whole fish. That's a shame, really, and leads to so much waste.



Yes, please, I'll take the lot!!! What shall La Diva do with them? Saute them with chorizo and simmer in a saffron broth? Or how about plunk them into a Thai green coconut curry? Or perhaps prepare them the Belgian way with blue cheese and white wine and a side of pommes frites? Any way you serve 'em up, La Diva will be slurping them up, guaranteed!



La Diva was in her glory! Did you think this place smelled fishy? It DID NOT. Fresh fish does not smell fishy but of the sea! (Click on the image to see the variety!)



Ah yes, the crustacean section, La Diva's favorite! See those odd prehistoric orange things in the foreground that look like small lobster? They are called "bugs" and are harvested off the coasts of Eastern Australia. One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is served with fluffy little pillows of gnocchi in a light, creamy gorgonzola sauce.....sigh.....Bugs are one thing I can never get enough of! (Of course you an click on all the photos to see up close, darling!)



Check out the variety of cuttlefish, squid and octopus! The Italians, Greeks and Asians love cooking with these cephalopods and so does La Diva!



All of the photos on this blog were taken at De Costi (My fave place) only. There are at least a dozen or more wholesalers selling a large variety of seafood just like De Costi. That's a LOT of fish.




A mere $89.99 a kilo for sushi grade tuna. Luckily, the Japanese didn't take it all and saved a bit for the locals...at a price!






Fish from the pristine waters off the New Zealand coasts makes it way to Sydney's vendors too.



Ah yes, this is the bivalve that caught La Diva's eye! Scallops on the half shell! These ran about $1.50 each but I HAD TO GET THEM as myriad ideas swirled in my Diva head!!

Want to know what divine dinner I made with the lovely seafood I bought? Stay tuned darlings, all will be revealed in an upcoming post!

For more info on the Sydney Fish Markets click here to check out my previous post! Ciao for now, darlings!

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La Diva Does Fairchild Tropical Garden for their annual Food and Garden Festival


Darlings! La Diva had a lovely day yesterday demonstrating (for the first time!) at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. I was asked to participate in the Food and Garden Festival and to demonstrate a vegetable or fruit that you would pick from a southern Florida garden.

La Diva decided to highlight the lowly radish! Now, as you know from previous posts, La Diva LOATHES radishes. (and I wasn't too crazy about beets or turnips either!) After getting so many in my CSA box last season, I resigned myself to the fact that I better find other ways to enjoy them besides in salads. The French enjoy radishes with sea salt, butter and a crusty baguette. But Diva DON'T need to be eating one more thing with butter so decided to come up with another, lower fat option for radishes!

After traipsing about on the Internet for inspiration, I decided to slice them finely and saute them in olive oil and then flambe with white vermouth! But that's not all, my demo was about how to use the whole vegetable, so radish tops were sauteed as well and then combined with sweet apple chicken sausage and bow tie pasta! The sweet sausage (and vermouth!) really help cut the bitterness out of the radishes. The dish was DIVINE, darlings, and the crowd enjoyed this new take on an old salad standby!

As you probably guessed, La Diva doesn't loathe the radish no mo'! (And DJ Nevah L8 even asks for seconds!)

For more photos and the recipe, go HERE!


Ciao for now!


A SPECIAL DIVA THANK YOU TO:

Fairchild Tropical Gardens staff and volunteers, especially Melissa Contreras and Natalie White from Whole Foods Coral Gables.

For Miami cooking classes click HERE!
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Next FABULOUS small bites, BIG DRINKS cooking and cocktail class is May 8!!

Attendees at the small bites, BIG DRINKS class sample a pomegranate margarita!

  • Do you want to learn how to make fancy cocktails like a mixologist?
  • Do you want more kitchen confidence when entertaining guests?
  • Do you want to learn how to whip up sophisticated canapes like a pro?

La Diva Cucina's small bites, BIG DRINKS cooking and cocktail class is FOR YOU!

Darlings, it's always GOOD FORM to know how to entertain with FABULOSITY! If you are in the Miami area, check out La Diva Cucina's "small bites, BIG DRINKS" cooking and cocktail classes!

Classes are two hours long and fun, fun, fun. You learn how to make and sample FOUR APPETIZERS and TWO COCKTAILS all done to hip beats, courtesy of DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah!) All attendees leave with a recipe book jam packed with bartending and party throwing secrets! A MUST for anyone who loves to entertain or wants to have fun!

The classes are open to anyone over 21 years old and is enjoyed by tourists, couples, girlfriends, and groups celebrating family reunions, birthdays and bachelorettes parties!

Classes currently on offer include:

  • small bites, BIG DRINKS Asian
  • small bites, BIG DRINKS Mediterranean
  • small bites, BIG DRINKS Vegetarian
  • small bites, BIG DRINKS Old School (coming soon!)


NEXT CLASS IS SATURDAY MAY 8. 1PM-3PM

South Beach location

$75 per person or $140 for two

More class details at

http://www.ladivacucina.com


or call 305 297 8121


Miami cooking classes click here!

PS: COME AND SEE LA DIVA LIVE AT THE FARCHILD TROPICAL GARDEN FOOD AND GARDEN FESTIVAL THIS SATURDAY, APRIL 24 @ 2PM!

Details HERE

Culinary Throwdown: LOBSTER!

Wacky artist Jeff Koons' "Lobster" hung at Versailles for an exhibition that outraged some of the French!

Darlings! You know it's only right that a Diva participate in a culinary throwdown that involves lobster! Heff of Heff's Bar and Grill won the last challenge of pepperoni (yeah, don't go there!) so naturally he got to pick the ingredient for this challenge. And La Diva would like to thank him for choosing such a fabulous ingredient to work with for the throwdown. Lobster is one of those items I love to indulge in occasionally but hardly ever prepare at home. In fact, it's been years since I bought whole live lobster and feasted upon its rich, delicious flesh!



However, La Diva has heard some complaints around the blogosphere regarding the choice of lobster as the throwdown ingredient.

"It's too expensive."


"There isn't any available here."

"It's not sustainable, I'm not getting lobster unless it came from within a block of my home."

Rubbish, says La Diva. Honestly, people, if you can't do the challenge for whatever reason, then kindly step aside and let the other participants play without your grumbling, it's not very sportsmanlike. When you win the throwdown you can pick the ingredient you want! Sheesh!


"Mind your claws, please, dear!"

As you know, La Diva likes to participate in these challenges not so much for the glory of winning or to feed my competitive spirit, but to challenge myself to try new ingredients, dishes and kitchen techniques I've not tried before. So, I always try to use a recipe that will push me on all levels. And when I heard the ingredient for this throwdown was going to be lobster, well, La Diva KNEW only one cookbook would serve me for this challenge:

Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.




Yea-uh! DJ Nevah L8 gave a copy to me for my birthday in February and I have yet to make a recipe from it. Honestly, French cooking is not really my fave as I find the food to be incredibly rich with all the butter, cream and eggs. And besides, you know La Diva is always watching her figure so I try to cook with a minimum amount of those ingredients and lean towards Asian cooking for that very reason.

Yet, I wanted to stretch my culinary wings and thought it was high time that La Diva embraced a cooking style that is revered and extolled by the world's best chefs.

My entry for the lobster throwdown is:


Soufflé Aux Crevettes avec Sauce Mousseline Sabayon!

or


Lobster Soufflé with a Damn-good Butter Sauce!


You can click on the photo to read the recipe for yourself! This soufflé would make a lovely, decadent brunch dish!

With 2 sticks of butter, 7 eggs, 3 small lobster tails, 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, half cup of cream, a fish head and 3/4 of a pound of flounder, it ended up costing me about $40 to make. But, honestly darlings, what would you pay in a restaurant for just a slice, even if you could find something so titillating on the menu? This souffle served six so I knew we'd have an ample taste between the two of us! That's less than $7 a serving!



Julia wisely suggests that one reads the recipe through completely before beginning. This is good advice as this recipe has many steps that can "make or break" this intricate dish.



The recipe called for only a 1/4 cup of concentrated fish liquor so I bought a fish head to make my own as the first step.



Three small Canadian lobster tails were steamed and flesh removed when cool. I added the steaming broth to the fish head stock and continued reducing.



Ground, raw flounder combined with flour, butter and milk as the base of the soufflé. The flounder gave the soufflé body and texture and an entire soufflé made of lobster would have been unbearably rich.


Egg whites were beaten to stiff peaks.



And then gently folded into the flounder and milk mixture.



Meanwhile, the lobster meat was sauteed in butter and sherry and then the liquid reduced. In the future, I will undercook the lobster as I forgot that it would be cooked for an additional four minutes on the stove. The lobster tasted DIVINE but it was slightly tough.



One third of the egg/fish mixture is put into a buttered soufflé dish, then the lobster, then more of the soufflé mixture, then the rest of the lobster and one last layer of the soufflé base. Into a hot oven it goes for 30-40 minutes.



Meanwhile, it was time to make the sabayon. I started out by whisking cream, 3 egg yolks and the fish liquor on a medium heat so as to make a creamy sauce. I had to be careful the mixture didn't get too hot or I would have had scrambled eggs!



Once the sauce coated the whisk, I slowly added the 1 1/2 sticks of butter, piece by piece and whisking furiously after each addition. I was meant to keep the sauce warm over tepid water but found it was just fine sitting on the stove and would stir it every few minutes so it would not over cook.


La Diva sticks the knife in the middle of the soufflé to test doneness. If the knife comes out clean, the soufflé is done and must be served immediately.



Brown and tempting, my soufflé didn't rise much above the top of the dish. I'm not sure it was supposed to but it looked good to me!



The first slice comes out easily and it's cooked through with a light, airy texture. Although this dish served six, I greedily cut it into quarters!



The sabayon sauce is generously spooned over the top.



Voila! Lobster soufflé with mousseline sabayon sauce! DIVINE!!!

RESULT: The texture and taste of the souffle was incredible and rich. The butter sauce was such a silky delight and combined with the lobster in what can only be described as heavenly. This dish was delicious and a richly decadent treat that La Diva could only indulge in once in a while. DJ Nevah L8, however, naturally went back for seconds!

If you'd like to see all the other lobster throwdown entries, wander on over to Heff's Bar and Grill to take a gander! I am always amazed at how many ways people can interpret the throwdown ingredient! Ciao for now, darlings, La Diva is currently in a cholesterol coma!

Are you looking to expand on your culinary skills? Or would you like to learn how to entertain with FABULOSITY? If you are in the Miami area, contact La Diva Cucina for Miami cooking classes or Miami cocktail classes today! Party packages are also available!

http://www.ladivacucina.com

Florida's First Urban Farmers Market Opens in Miami!



Chefs Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine restaurant and Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Wave, Marvin Dunn, historian, author and founder of Roots in the City and Daniella Levine, President and founder of the Human Services Coalition speak at the event's ribbon cutting ceremony on April 7, 2010.

Darlings, La Diva is feeling all warm and fuzzy inside! Yesterday was a good day for the residents of Miami's famous "Overtown" neighborhood because yesterday was the official opening of the "Roots in the City" farmers market.

So what, it's a farmer's market? What's the Big Deal? And what the heck is Overtown?

Overtown is one of Miami's oldest neighborhoods and was incorporated when Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate and visionary, needed a place for his black workers to live. This was in 1896 when segregation was still a big issue unlike today where all racism has been eradicated. (!) Overtown is located just north of downtown Miami and is still heavily populated by the African American community where the average income is just over $13,ooo. You can read more about historical Overtown HERE.


The Roots in the City farmers market is located at NW 2nd Ave. and 10th Street just north of downtown Miami and is open from 1pm-5pm. Just a few small tents offering farm fresh produce each Wednesday is making a HUGE difference within the community.

So, what's the big deal about a farmers market in the city? Many farmers markets are in the suburbs of affluent neighborhoods where urban dwellers have no access. THIS farmers market is the first in the state of Florida that was started specifically to offer inner city residents farm fresh produce AND the ability to use their food stamps to subsidize their purchases!

This program was initiated first by the Wholesome Wave Charitable Venture in 2008 at 12 farmers markets in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts, the Double Value Coupon Program has expanded to an additional 44 farmers’ markets in 2009. Currently there are more than 60 markets in 12 states and the Washington, D.C, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

These particular farmers markets are so important because it is an unfortunate fact that many inner-city areas of our fair land are blighted by a phenomenon called "urban food deserts." An urban food desert is an area of the city where there is no access to fresh produce. Residents living in these areas are forced to shop in markets that carry no fresh fruits, vegetables or any whole grain foods.

Imagine doing your weekly grocery shopping in a 7-11? Or drinking sugary and nutrient-free fruit "drink" instead of eating an apple? Or subsiding on sweetened and preserved canned corn instead of biting into a juicy succulent ear of fresh whole corn? Now imagine that there are no supermarkets within walking distance and you have no car to get to one.

This challenge is what many urban dwelling residents face daily and is a serious problem in America. It's also a problem that La Diva experienced first hand when attending Wayne State University while living in downtown Detroit. The significance of the farmers market is that it allows urban residents access to farm fresh produce at affordable prices.

One woman, who only gets $40 each month for food stamps, has been living on canned beans and corn and was thrilled to be able to use her food stamps at the market. Sarah Wallace said, "On $40 a month, I've got to really stretch it. I prefer to eat fresh vegetables. I just can't afford it.'' The double coupon program at the Roots in the City market allows Sarah's food stamps to go twice as far. Read the rest of the Miami Herald story HERE.


Roots In The City, Inc., founded by author and academic Marvin Dunn, Ph.D. in 1994, is a nonprofit, community-based organization located in the Overtown neighborhood and is focused on community development, creating jobs and beautifying Miami's inner city. The organization has established several community gardens and tree nurseries in Overtown. You may click on the photo to take you to their website for more info.


Hani Khouri and his lovely wife Mary are goat farmers, cheese makers and offer organic and authentic Lebanese delicacies through their Redland Mediterranean Organics! Darlings, YOU'VE NOT LIVED until you try goat cheese made the day before! Nutty and mild with an almost "cinammon" flavor, I wonder if Hani is feeding his goats some special Lebanese food? Click on their photo to take you to their site!


Fresh giant goose eggs were on sale for $2 each from Redland Mediterranean Organics. I was told they are rich and delicious but have yet to get the courage to buy one to eat. Maybe I will next week, La Diva loves eggs!


Melissa Contreras is one of the founders for the Urban Oasis project which helps initiate urban community gardens! Today she was helping out with the Redland Organics booth. To find out more about the good stuff Melissa is doing for the community, click HERE.



Farmer Margie Pikarsky from Bee Heaven farm offers customers a bounty of fresh-picked delights from Redland area's finest organic growers. You know you can click on the photos to see more detail!


The Roots in the City booth is slammin'!


The lovely Miss Vivian Dunn, helping her brother out and offering samples of sweet potato pie and lemon coffee cake at the Roots in the City booth. Of course La Diva HAD to sample some. It would have been rude not to!


One of Dunn's community gardens behind the farmers market stalls. The property is maintained in part through the assistance of the Collins Center for Public Policy. La Diva just loves the juxtaposition of this photo: The garden and the city's high rises beyond!


John Paul Alvarez and Jonathan Araujo are both Johnson and Wales culinary students working the "Michael's Genuine Food and Drink" restaurant cart and offering samples of shrimp creole and collard greens made with produce from the garden.

Michael Schwartz, recognized for his farm-to-table cuisine and commitment to the sustainable food movement, is identifying local farmers, enlisting other chefs and businesses, as well as raising awareness in support of potential fundraising efforts to expand this program beyond Miami.


Cal Soto, Caitlin MacLaren and Julieta Romano man the Human Services Coalition booth.

The Roots in the City market is the only farmers market to accept food stamps! But the Human Services Coalition will go one step further: Give them your food stamp and you'll get TWO tokens, your stamps go twice as far at the Roots in the City Market. The Human Services Coalition (HSC) supports individuals, organizations and communities to create a more just, equitable and caring society, click HERE to take you to their site!


Mike Borek of Teena's Pride is a grower in the Redlands farming community that has been supplying Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine restaurant the juiciest and most delicious heirloom tomatoes since the restaurant opened. Chef Michael is KNOWN for his dee-lish heirloom tomato salad and La Diva has enjoyed it each time I've dined there. Now YOU can buy those same tomatoes each Wednesday at the market!


Epicure Gourmet Market catering coordinator Caron Cole discusses the best herbs to grow in containers with farmer Teena of Teena's Pride.


Chef Adri Garcia whips up some sauteed arugula and tomatoes. Simply dressed with salt and extra virgin olive oil, she omitted the vinaigrette she had prepared, it simply did not need it!



All sass and brass from the Booker T. Washington High School marching band.



Michel Nischan, founder of the Wholesome Wave foundation presents a check to Daniella Levine of the Human Services Coalition. The mission of Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures Inc. (Wholesome Wave) is to nourish neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh, and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all. The organization initiated the double value coupon program as an incentive.



The market is only running until the end of April which also marks the end of the Southern Florida growing season and is looking to start up again this November. The hours have been extended from 4 PM to 5 PM.

And now you know why La Diva is feeling so warm and fuzzy inside: I'm thrilled that there are so many good people in Miami that are working together doing something really special for the community. What can YOU do to support YOUR local farmers and community? Get involved by getting in touch with the "movers and shakers" that participated in this wonderfully progressive event and learn how to make a difference in YOUR city!

Ciao, darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment, www.ladivacucina.com