Memorial Day


Diva's Dad in his army uniform in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 1960.  Luckily, he never saw any action from the Vietnam War and spent some of his tour in Europe.  He is alive and well and residing in Michigan where he enjoys the company of his grandchildren.





My mother's father and my grandfather George Scott at Ft. Sheridan (third from left on bottom) Grandpa had a wife and four children at home in Michigan at the time and gained his U.S. citizenship by fighting in World War II.   He came home to his family and fathered three more children and lived to a ripe old age.





A letter written by my grandmother for my mother (Becky), her brother(George) and sister (Brenda) to their dad during the war at a time when snail mail was the only option and letters both ways were anticipated and cherished.



Thank you to all of our soldiers, past, present, fallen and alive, for their bravery and sacrifice.



La Diva will be back tomorrow with Meatless Mondays!

Ciao, darlings.

New Culinary Throwdown Competition: Picnic Basket!


Darlings!  The birds are singing, the grass smells sweet and fragrant blossoms perfume the air!  What better time to go on a lovely picnic al fresco than in the Springtime before the weather gets too hot and the bugs come out in full force?!

 For the last throwdown, BamaTrav, winner of the lobster throwdown, made an excellent choice by picking Caribbean as the theme for his competition.  La Diva loved seeing all the creative entries and interpretations but having the home field advantage as a Miami Mami, I took home the prize.  You can see my Caribbean entries HERE!  As the winner of the throwdown, La Diva gets to pick the theme and date for the next throwdown and my theme is:   

PICNIC BASKET!




Oh those wacky Aussies!  6000 people participated in a picnic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge last October.  Click HERE to take you to the story!


Here are the rules:

  •  You have to enter a dish that can be eaten cold outside of the kitchen and requires no additional on the spot cooking (so grilling outside doesn't count)  You have to actually PREPARE something yourself, video submissions of other people cooking, pre-made food from the deli and links to good picnic recipes don't count.

  • Anyone can enter.  If you don't have a blog you can send me a photo and description and I'll post on my page: ladivacucina@gmail.com

  • You have to post by the deadline of Wednesday, June 16. (just under three weeks away)  I will post my entry and then you come to my blog and comment that you are UP.  I'll come 'round and visit your site to see your entry and declare a winner.

  • Extra bonus points go to those that add a photo of their picnic or fave picnic spot!

With the holiday weekend upon us, there should be good opportunity for all to participate!



Over the years, La Diva has enjoyed some great opportunities to picnic, here are a few of my fave past picnic places to inspire you:

  • Christmas Day picnic on the beach in Sydney eating oysters, prawns and smoked fish while drinking local sparkling wine.

  • Under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl watching Sting and Annie Lennox and eating pressed Italian sandwiches, antipasti and salads.

  • On the bike trail at Shark Valley in the Everglades eating simple submarine sandwiches and drinking lemonade from a backpack cooler.
The PICNIC theme provides everyone with the opportunity to experiment with a dish you've been wanting to try, or to prepare a traditional family favorite or even to highlight a regional recipe!  Good luck everyone, I look forward to seeing your entries on June 16th!

Ciao for now, darlings!

If you are looking for Miami cooking classes or a chef to provide unique culinary entertainment for your next event or party, call Laura Lafata aka La Diva Cucina!  Click HERE for more info!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, top chef

Meatless Mondays: Roasted beet soup with dill butter croutons!


Darlings!  Welcome to week two of Meatless Mondays!  Would you believe that La Diva STILL has a bunch of baby beets from last month's CSA?    When I looked in my refrigerator I was surprised to find that I had at least a dozen of the earthy root vegetables and thought to myself: better get to steppin' Diva Girl before they go bad!  But what could I do with them besides tossing them in a salad?

Okay, to tell the truth, La Diva used to LOATHE beets.  That is until I started getting them in my CSA and learned that roasting farm fresh, organic beets were so much tastier and sweeter than the muddy flavored beets from cans that I'd been brought up on.  So, if La Diva liked roasted beets in salads, then it stood to reason that a roasted beet soup would please my palate too, right?

I roasted the beets and a quartered white onion in olive oil until tender and then dropped them into a veggie broth to simmer with thyme and a bay leaf.  After 45 minutes, the taste was divine!  La Diva couldn't believe this!

I pureed the beets and then pushed them through a sieve and put them back into the pan.   I tasted it and instantly though:  BABY FOOD. Blech.  Hmmm.....

What could La Diva add to give this soup a bit of texture?  Croutons!  I fried up cubes of yesterday's baguette and then for flavor, tossed dill butter and salt through them.  I ladled up the soup, squirted a bit of plain Greek yogurt through and then dropped the crunchy bread on top.  Wow.  So pretty!

La Diva's colorful roasted beet soup with dill butter croutons and yogurt.

RESULT:  Hmmmmm.....The soup tasted good actually but I think I would have preferred the texture more had I left the beets chunky in the flavorful broth.  I was not overly thrilled that once I pureed the beets, the lovely broth was gone and I was left with a super strong beet taste!  But then again, I don't like beets and what the heck did I think was going to happen?  Honestly, I could not have enjoyed this soup without the crunchy texture of the croutons, the grassy dill flavor gave the soup that extra bit of "oomph" it required. 

Would I make this soup again?  Doubtful.  In the future, La Diva is stickin' to roasted beet salad with feta and pine nuts.  While beets are really not a vegetable I would ever crave, at least I can't say I still LOATHE them!

Do I think you would like this soup if you are a beet lover? ABSOLUTELY.  Cost effective, quick and healthy, this would make a good, body-cleansing meal after a few nights of rich foods (or anytime, really.)

Do you require a personal chef for private parties or corporate events?    Laura Lafata aka La Diva will show YOU how to be fabulous in the kitchen while offering a unique brand of entertainment.  Click HERE for more info.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, top chef

Sunset du Jour: 5-21-10


 

I changed my blog template just so I could post this.  I'm not sure why I waited sooo long to do this!

WINNER OF THE CULINARY THROWDOWN: Caribbean!


Darlings! When La Diva heard that recent culinary challenge winner BamaTrav was picking "The Caribbean" as the next throwdown theme, I got really excited and myriad ideas churned through my brain.

After all, La Diva has the home field advantage by living in Miami.  While Southern Florida is not officially part of the Caribbean, my life and food is heavily influenced by our island neighbors and many ingredients indigenous to the Caribbean are readily available here.  Not to mention that I've been introduced to them via trips to Jamaica as well as through friends and neighbors who are originally from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Jamaica.




What's so nice about living in Miami is how close it actually is to the United States.  (You can click on all the photos to enlarge, darlings!)


While trying to decide what to make for the throwdown, La Diva thought about the flavor profiles of the Caribbean.  What spices to use? What produce says Caribbean?  What ingredients will create a tropical, island feel?

When La Diva thinks Caribbean, I think:

Coconuts, plantain, ginger, calabaza, callaloo, ackee, sugar cane, limes, okra, allspice, tropical fruits like sugar banana, guava, guanabana, jackfruit, sapote, shrimp, jerk chicken, lobster, goat, ginger beer, red stripe, annatto, rice, scotch bonnet peppers (habanero)  and of course, rum!  




 
Some of La Diva's ingredients for the throwdown with Miami and Biscayne Bay in the background.  Clockwise coconut milk, Bacardi rum, limes, green plantain, sugar cane,  jalapeno and scotch bonnet peppers, ginger, coconut.


The first thing La Diva knew I had to make was a cocktail!  I've always loved the Cuban mojito and its ingredients leave so much room for experimentation.  I've made champagne mojitos that are divine!  This time I wanted to concoct a coconut mojito.



A toasted coconut mojito with sugar cane and fresh mint garnish.

I eagerly hammered away at my fresh coconut, trying to break it open.  I wanted to extract some fresh coconut flavor out of it's succulent flesh  by muddling it along with the limes and mint.  But...it  was rotten!  Boo.  So, instead La Diva toasted some sweetened grated coconut I had in the pantry.  I also used brown sugar syrup and coconut milk to create my  toasted coconut mojito.  

It was quite pleasant with a light coconut taste yet the cocktail needs to be refined further.  The toasted coconut tasted great at first but as it sunk to the bottom of the glass, La Diva found the toasty coconut flavor had disappeared and left only a strange texture.   Naturally, that didn't stop me, DJ Nevah L8 or our guests from having three each!


 
WARNING:  HIGHLY ADDICTIVE FOOD!!!  La Diva's tostones and garlic mojito sauce

Another dish La Diva discovered when moving to Miami was the tostone!  Tostones are twice-fried green plantains and are almost always served with a savory dipping sauce.  You cut the plantains into about 1.5 inch pieces and lightly fry until just brown on both sides.  This softens them up and then you take the pieces and smash them in a tostonera, a paddle-like aid to work the plantain into nice, disk shapes and then fry them up to crispy, starchy goodness.

I did a post about preparing tostones back last year and since then, I'm getting pretty good at making them. (You can go to THIS LINK to learn how easy they are to make!)  Today, the dipping sauce of choice was a garlic mojito and may I just say that IT WAS THE BOMB and we could not stop eating it!  You can get the recipe for the mojito HERE.


 
Delightfully juicy chicken in a sweet molasses rum glaze tasted just as good as it looks.

Second course was a succulent and savory grilled chicken thigh in a molasses, rum and coffee glaze.  Oh my.    I used THIS RECIPE and then modified it:

  1. 2.5 T of molasses (instead of some crazy brown sugar Splenda!)
  2. Light rum instead of dark (it's what I had!)
  3. Grated ginger instead of chopped (I find pieces of things in glaze to fall off and make a mess on the barby!)
  4. And used finely ground fresh coffee instead of instant coffee granules.
I liked my version and the molasses really added some kick to the glaze! La Diva thinks that this glaze would also be absolutely divine on some sugar cane skewered shrimp.



 La Diva's jerk pork on sugar cane skewers!

So, for the main course, La Diva had a great idea!  I had a stick of sugar cane in my fridge  that I had bought for the sole purpose of making  CHẠO TÔM or Vietnamese prawn paste on sugar cane.  Chao Tom is a delicious Vietnamese dish that I discovered while living in Sydney.  You take ground shrimp and spices and mold it onto sugarcane skewers and then grill it.  Then you take the shrimp off and put into a lettuce wrap full of mint, shredded carrots and rice noodles and eat it with a dipping sauce.   Now take the sugar cane and suck all the gorgeous juices from the prawn and spices, that's the best part!   It's delicious, fun and a great, light dish.

As I've been either super busy or super sick lately, I hadn't had a chance to use the sugar cane.  I started to think of succulent shrimp skewered on the cane and grilled.  Great idea.  But, not the most original idea and various versions were all over the web.  So, La Diva had her own designs on the dish.

I decided that instead of the ground prawn, I'd use ground pork.  Instead of the Asian spices, I'd use jerk seasonings.  And instead of a dipping sauce I'd make a mango salsa and stuff the lettuce wraps with shredded carrot and cooling jicama!

 
 The tasty and spicy jerk pork sits in a lettuce leaf with mango salsa, jicama and carrot, waiting to be rolled up and devoured!  The cooling mango, jicama and carrot were perfect foils for the spiciness of  the scotch bonnet pepper I had added to the pork.  

I thought the dish was a success but I did one thing wrong:  I steamed the pork first like I do then I use prawns and it just made them tough.  When I was testing the seasonings earlier in the day, I had fried up a small amount and it tasted juicy and delicious.  So, next time, straight onto the grill they go!



The table is laden with Caribbean dee-lights!  From left top:  mango salsa, leaf lettuce, shredded jicama, toasted coconut mojito, shredded carrots, jerk pork grilled on sugar cane, molasses rum glazed chicken thighs and twice-fried plantains with garlic dipping sauce.  




Posh Star Island, a gated island community for movie stars, musicians and celebrities, sits regally in the foreground of stunning Magic City high-rises. 


RESULT:  Da-YUM!  La Diva and DJ Nevah L8 were very pleased and so were our guests.  Everyone really enjoyed the unique and refreshing way to enjoy the spicy pork, the chicken was just as juicy and tasty as it looked and the tostones were highly addictive.  We finished the meal with sweet and simple peach ice cream cones.  Overall rating:  SUCCESS!

If you want to see what everyone else did for their Caribbean throwdown entry, then CLICK HERE to take you to host BamaTrav's site and see who else participated in the throwdown.  Want to see WHO WON THE CARIBBEAN THROWDOWN?  Check back over the weekend!

Thanks to BamaTrav for hosting and to DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah) for the photographs! 

 

Want a little party music to go along with your Caribbean dinner?  Check out a fun and fave La Diva band from the 80's:  Kid Creole and the Coconuts!  Click HERE!   Dey fun and fabulous!

Ciao, darlings and cool runnings mon!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, top chef

Welcome to Meatless Mondays!







Darlings! La Diva has officially declared Mondays to be MEATLESS! Why? For a variety of reasons, darlings, and one of them is because I find weekend eating to be a bit more, ahem, caloric....

On many weekends in sunny Miami, La Diva is going to friend's for barbeques, Sunday breakfast at the pancake house, experimenting on new recipes, participating in culinary throwdowns and of course imbibing in cocktails by the pool with her boys, all which contribute to La Diva taking in a lot of calories! So, come Monday, La Diva would like to kick start the week by lightening up dinner and preparing something vegetarian. Or meatless. (because I can't guarantee I won't use anchovies or fish sauce!)

Let La Diva be clear about a misconception: eating vegetarian does not guarantee lower calories. After all, an asparagus quiche loaded with cream, shortcrust pastry, eggs and cheese would certainly have more fat, calories and cholesterol than a lean cut of grilled meat and salad. But, for THIS Monday, I'm going to go with a dish that is light and fairly healthy and full of lycopene-filled tomatoes!

My Meatless Monday entry is:  Heirloom Tomato Tart with Home-made Goat Cheese and Mint!

Colorful tomatoes From Donna Hay magazine Feb/Mar 2010

As summer was on it's last breath during my recent trip to Sydney, Australia, tomato season was in full swing and  Australian food editor and best-selling cookbook author Donna Hay offered a wonderfully colorful spread about different tomato varieties in her summer magazine. The photos of this tart with the succulent and juicy looking heirloom tomatoes was just too enticing, so I had to try!


 
 Clickety click to see the recipe, darlings!

I've been keeping South Florida goat farmer and cheese maker Hani Khoury's  delicious goat cheese in my refrigerator for about a month now so it should have developed a stronger flavor which I think will pair nicely with the tomatoes.   Hani's farm is in the Redland community and that's where he makes his flavorful and natural  goat cheese along with traditional Lebanese dishes.  His freshly made cheese has a slight, cinnamon taste and is quickly becoming a favorite local product among chefs like Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine. You can order Hani's cheese and other home-made  Mediterannean delights from his website HERE.



La Diva's Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart with Mint.  

To be honest, La Diva was looking forward to making this tart all week.  Since the tomatoes were the main flavoring component to the dish, I was concerned about using regular vine tomatoes instead of organic heirloom ones and paid ENTIRELY TOO MUCH for five of them.  (No, you DON'T want to know....) I ended up using only half of them anyway.  As my quiche pan was four centimeters short of the the pan indicated, my crust went up the sides and was quite thick. 

The recipe also said to "toss" the tomatoes in the dressing.  I didn't think that was too practical considering they were very ripe and cut into delicate slices, so laid them in a bowl and seasoned each layer.  The recipe then asked for a whopping 750 grams (almost 27 ounces or 1 3/4 cups) of goat cheese, I used about half and it was  just fine. Likewise, I only used half of the mint and did a quick chiffonade of it instead of leaving it whole. 



Go ON and CLICK on the photo, darling, you won't be sorry!

RESULT:  A very juicy and tasty dinner for a Meatless Monday. I really loved the thick shortcrust pastry and the parmesan cheese really came through in a delightfully pungent way.  The tomatoes were very juicy and their flavor was further heightened by generous sprinklings of good quality sea salt.  

I must admit, DJ Nevah L8 was none too thrilled to come home to a tomato tart for dinner but after witnessing the evil look I threw his way while sarcastically suggesting he go to MacDonalds if he didn't like it, he soon became a bit more open-minded to the dish and actually ate his whole piece!  (He's still here watching TV, so has not sneaked out for a burger....yet.)

I think this would make a really lovely brunch dish in the late summer when local tomatoes are plentiful in most states, but obviously fresh and ripe tomatoes are the key.  With the wetness of the fruit, I'm not sure how well this would keep until the next day, even with the thick crust.  I guess La Diva will find out tomorrow!

Ciao, darlings, and HAPPY MEATLESS MONDAY!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, top chef


La Diva does Earth Day with the Kids!

La Diva shows a schoolgirl how to use the julienne peeler.

Darlings! When La Diva was offered the opportunity to teach Miami school children how to utilize a garden vegetable in a kid-friendly meal, I jumped at the chance! It was only a week before that I had met Fairchild Tropical Garden's Special Events Associate Melissa Contreras at the Overtown Farmers market and told her how I would like to get more involved in urban gardens and teaching kids how to cook and enjoy the bounty from their community gardens. In the weird way the world works, a week later Melissa contacted me for an Earth Day opportunity to do just that.

With the help of Fairchild Tropical Gardens and Bloomingdales The Falls, two sets of Miami school children were bussed to the store on the morning of Earth Day to participate in the store's "Going Green Initiative." The students were instructed by Fairchild Garden staff about various plants, vegetables and herbs and how to plant them to create their own gardens. Afterwards, the kids were sent to the Bloomingdales kitchen where La Diva demonstrated to them how to prepare a delicious dish they could make utilizing vegetables grown in their own gardens.

It was La Diva's first time demonstrating specifically for children and while I was a bit nervous, I knew I had to do two things to guarantee a successful class: Engage the kids as much as possible and make them a dish that was kid-friendly.

I had a few kids from each class help me out by reading the recipe, helping me peel veggies and mixing the pasta. But the one thing that really got the kids excited was when La Diva asked if any of them could "shake it?" They jumped up, eagerly raising their hands and danced around! Of course, I needed their help in coating the chicken with corn starch in a zip lock bag by shaking it! The kids were thrilled.

With the help of a few of my friends and blogging buddies (Many thanks Making Space, Gardening Under the Florida Sun, Eggplant to Go!, Deborah and Heather!) I got feedback about the recipe I wanted to try: La Diva's Super Amazing Honey Chicken with Three Colored Spaghetti. I figured every kid loved chicken nuggets with honey sauce and spaghetti and I wanted to sneak the veggies in by julienning them in long strips and adding them raw. It worked.

One mother who was helping dish out the plates said to me: "What if they don't like vegetables? Shall I make some plates without?"

"NO WAY!," exclaimed La Diva! " To get them to try veggies is the entire point of this demo!"

And just then a little angel sitting in the front row piped in: "I don't even like zucchini but I love this, Miss Diva!"

Out of the mouths of babes! It was a fun and informative day for all and I look forward to my next opportunity to teach kids!

To see the photos and get the recipe, click HERE!

Ciao for now, darlings!

If you are looking for unique party entertainment, why not call La Diva Cucina? I'll come to your house and get the party started with my hip culinary demonstrations! For more info and Miami cooking classes click HERE!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, top chef

La Diva's Favorite Dinner in Sydney!

View of the beautifully secluded Mackerel Beach jetty from high up on Champagne Rock! (Go on and click for a closer look!)


Darlings, when I got back from downunder mid-March, fellow foodie blogger Shamu of the Karmic Kitchen immediately asked me: "Alrighty, tell me, without pondering, what was the best thing you ate on your trip?"

Now, anyone that reads this blog knows I loves me some Asian food and La Diva certainly did indulge in an Asian feeding frenzy while in Sydney, but....the best thing I ate on THIS TRIP just so happened to be what I made for dinner myself! My inspiration for this divine dinner all started for La Diva by using what was right in front of me!

Allow me to 'splain.

During my last trip to Sydney in March 2009, La Diva was presented with a different kind of sovenir to bring home: a new friendship. Mary Jane is Irish by birth, Aussie by residence and a total Yankee by voice and soul. We hit it off instantly. She's a beautiful song writer and soul singer that was dating my ex-husband and when we met, we clicked on many levels. Excited about our reunion, she invited me and bestie gal pal Fiona to a lush retreat on Mackerel Beach for a little girlie get away.


La Diva and Mary Jane singing "Hit the Road, Jack" at the pub on a Sunday afternoon.

Mackerel Beach is a small, secluded hideaway without roads or cars and is on the edge of a Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It is located about an hour or so north of Sydney and across the water from toney beach suburb of Palm Beach. It can only be accessed by ferry and boasts about two dozen or so upscale weekender "cottages" for Sydney's well-to-do set. MJ has been coming here for years and scored the Kookaburra Cottage for a few days complete with two pianos, loads of local flora and fauna, two laden macadamia trees and utter peace and quiet!

La Diva was in heaven!



La Diva on a bush walk up to Champagne Rock look out and to see ancient aboriginal rock carvings. It was SOO PRETTY HERE that I'm thinking I might just do a post on Mackerel Beach itself!


In between bush walks up sandstone cliffs with gorgeous vistas and aboriginal carvings, singing with Mary Jane at the piano and dancing our girly asses off, La Diva picked macadamia nuts. An entire grocery bag of them, actually. I knew I would find some thing to make with the buttery delicacies!



I got as close as I could to this grazing wallaby but had to use the zoom lens as he was very skittish.


After two peaceful and fun days of hiking, swimming, cooking, laughing, dancing and singing, we bade Kookaburra Cottage and Mackerel Beach adieu. On the way to the last ferry off the beach, I nabbed a huge banana leaf, the gears already spinning for a dinner in my Diva head! When I got back to Fifi's, I put the banana leaf in a bucket of water to keep and the macadamia nuts in the pantry.

Come Saturday morning, Fifi and I headed off to the Sydney Fish Market to buy food for a feast! Fiona and I would buy and prepare the food if our friends would supply the grog. Seeing as our Kentuckian pal Randy (aka The Re-filler, for obvious reasons!) was in town and coming for dinner, we knew bottles of local Aussie sparkling would be flowing in abundance.

Here's what we prepared:

First course: No necesario! La Diva didn't even need lemon, crackers or mignonette sauce to serve and devour these divine AAA grade oysters!


Second course: Fresh green tiger prawns were coated with a pre-made spice rub from Herbies consisting of ground kaffir lime, lemon myrtle, ginger, turmeric, galangal and other exotic herbs and spices! Fiona grilled them like a master and we all enjoyed how they popped in our mouth with spicy, lemony bursts!


The third course took some hard work and was quite the process! Much to the entertainment and curiosity of the little girls next door, La Diva sat in the gutter and smashed the macadamias with a hammer, naturally while imbibing in a refreshing vodka, soda and home-made blackberry cordial. (Fifi wisely keeps the chef lubed for chores like this!) The macadamia has a thick skin and a very tough shell. No wonder they are so expensive, it was very labor intensive to get to their creamy insides!

Now, off to churn the butter.....heheh....(just kidding!)


Into the blender went the raw macadamia with cilantro, garden fresh basil, garlic and olive oil to create a lovely pesto with a bit of a kick!



Scallops on the half shell are perfect for the grill or broiler. La Diva topped each with a healthy dollop of the rich macadamia pesto.



Third course: Grilled scallops with macadamia cilantro pesto on the half shell. Cooked until only "just" done, the scallops retained their juices and the zesty cilantro pesto complimented the sweet scallop perfectly. Wish I would have bought more of these........two each was just not enough! But it was a nice little teaser for what was yet to come.

Main course: Wild caught barrumundi fish marinated in coconut cream and spices and grilled in banana leaves.

I didn't tell you about the wild caught barramundi I bought at the fish market, did I? I've eaten it plenty of times while living in Australia and always found it to be a sweet, light tasting fish with a thick yet not heavy texture, perhaps similar to mahi-mahi.

La Diva bought three huge fillets at $60 AUD and it was worth EVERY PENNY. Sure, I could have bought ling at a much cheaper price but I wanted to make and eat something special, something that I don't get to eat often and is certainly not available in my part of the world. And finally, I wanted to make something I knew would be delicious. I was not disappointed.

I made a simple but flavorful paste using coconut cream (no, darlings, NOT the milk but that fatty, solidified part of coconut milk!) fresh garlic, ginger, salt and kaffir lime. The paste smelled heavenly. I smeared it all generously on the fish that I had cut into portions and let marinate for a few hours until dinnertime.



Remember that big ol' banana leaf I carted all the way back from Mackerel Beach? I cut it into sections and then blanched them quickly in boiling water to make them pliable without splitting.



I then took each barramundi fillet and wrapped the banana leaf around it and secured with toothpicks. They were ready for grillin'!



Fiona deftly handles the barbeque like the true blue Aussie Sheila she is and cooked the fish to perfection!


Darlings. DARLINGS!!! The photo just does NOT do justice to the divinely, decadence that was our fish dinner on this night. The coconut cream was so subtle but added to the moist succulence of this super fresh fish. The seasonings were gentle in flavor and the addition of finely shredded kaffir lime added after serving put just the right zest and brightness into the dish without overpowering the mellow fish flavor.

Everyone "ooohed" and "aaahhhed" upon being presented with the banana leaf encased fish. Opening the steaming little parcel was like opening up a savory surprise with all the aromatics rushing into your nose! Even though I'd been to some of the finest restaurants in Sydney on this trip, this was easily the best meal La Diva had taken. In fact, our guests said that it was THE BEST meal they had and a meal like this would have easily cost a minimum of $150 a head.

The dinner was completed with yet more Aussie sparkling and a lovely compote of home made stewed rhubarb slathered over vanilla ice cream finished with a lovely little dab of marscapone.

While I thought the dinner a triumph, it simply attests to La Diva's philosophy of using very fresh, high quality ingredients prepared simply and using seasonings based on a variety of ethnic styles. Good friends and fun conversation completed a wonderful, and La Diva's favorite, dinner in Sydney.

And to think this lovely meal all started with a macadamia tree, a banana leaf and a bit of inspiration!

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, top chef