What's for LUNCH, La Diva? http://www.ladivacucina.com

Darlings!  For some vague reason when La Diva thinks about summertime lunches, it reminds me of when I was a wee lass of about eight years old and lunches eaten at home instead of at school.  That would make it 1971....and what a strange time for food THAT was!

I remember this Squeez-A-Snak stuff (and "stuff" is the perfect word for this, er, product!) but I don't think my mom would have ever had that in the refrigerator.  I can recall my teenage brother, in all of his gluttonous glory, eating this straight from the tube, but that was years later and after school when us kids were not  as closely supervised!  Instead, I remember mom having chocolate candy in the fridge that we used to want to eat but we were not supposed to touch.

The "candy" was an aid to weight loss but Ayds  never really helped my mom lose any weight.  Unfortunately, the cancer she got did.  And the summer lunches at home turned into lunches and dinners at our cousins'  or neighbors' houses while my dad worked and visited mom in the hospital every chance he could.  

Mom passed away on a beautiful summer day in August and after that was when all hell broke loose regarding what us kids ate.  Our guilt-ridden and grief-stricken father, trying to raise three kids alone, was more than a little permissive.  La Diva remembers loaves of Wonder Bread stuffed with Genoa salami and smeared with French's mustard, gallons of Kool-Aid, bags of Better Made potato chips, hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese and cases of Towne Club soda pop, that I begged my father to get cuz they had crazy colors and flavors like Tropical Punch and Strawberry.  Baked beans from the can was our vegetable of choice.

I'll never forget one day after school after mom had passed,  my brother decided to make a meat loaf sandwich.  I watched him in horror as he took four of his fingers on his right hand and dug into the meat, breaking off what he wanted, and setting the meat directly on the counter.  Then he took the mustard jar out, opened it, dug his fingers in and scooped out a big gob and with a loud splat, slapped it onto the meat.  He picked up the dripping mess and gobbled it up and washed it down with milk straight from the carton, all while standing in front of the open refrigerator.  

My brother's fingers-as-utensil digging/cutting/scooping technique also  applied to cutting butter for sandwiches and roast beef lunches included stuffing a piece of beef and  then squirting mustard directly into his open maw.  Mom would not have tolerated that and even though I was big sister reprimanding him, it fell on deaf ears.  Having my brother as a brother is probably the main reason I don't have kids.

 Yet, in spite of my mom's illness and subsequent death, I still think fondly of summertime in the 70's.   And I truly believe that is just the way she would have wanted it.

So, here's a weekday's worth of healthy and unique summertime lunches....my mom (and yours) would TOTALLY approve!   Enjoy!

Poached wild salmon salad with roasted potatoes and lemon vinaigrette:  Wild salmon is lightly poached, cooled and then flaked over mixed greens and oven roasted potatoes.  The potatoes add a nice satisfying crunch and the vinaigrette is zesty and tangy.  The dish can be lightened further and calories reduced by omitting the potatoes and adding fresh, raw grated carrots and sliced cucumbers but La Diva likes it just the way it is!

Quick, easy and cost effective, these vegetarian refried beans, spinach and cheese quesadillas made with low carb/high protein tortillas are sure to please everyone!  I simply spread a light layer of beans over a tortilla, load the fresh baby spinach leaves on and then top with a bit of cheese to help keep it all together.   If you can, grill them or cook with a small amount oil in a non-stick fry pan. 

Instead of serving the quesadillas with the usual trio of tomato salsa, sour cream and guacamole, I combined smashed avocado with freshly squeezed lime, low fat Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, quartered grape tomatoes and a dash of  cumin and salt and served it on top of refreshing, crunchy iceberg lettuce.  (Hey, it's summertime, why create more dishes?  Just mix it all together already!)  Delicioso, baby!

Like the idea of biting into a juicy, flavorful burger but don't like the heaviness of the usual beef burger all of the time?  La Diva does!  Just because I want to "lighten up" some of my meals doesn't mean I want to eat salad all of the time.  And besides, you know La Diva has to have "man pleasin'" food for the DJ!   This chicken burger with Thai seasonings does the trick.

Here's La Diva's version of a Thai chicken burger:  red curry paste, cilantro, lemongrass paste, a kaffir lime leaf very finely sliced, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs and milk with ground chicken.  Form into patties, then chill, grill and serve with lime chili mayo, sriracha  chili sauce and grated carrot and red cabbage on a whole grain bun.  Satisfying, spicy and unique!

Hmmmm....this reminds me of my family with me as the oldest, a younger brother and little sis.  But I think if my brother dressed like this, he would surely get beaten up!  No boy wore magenta pants (unless you weren't straight!)...believe me.  Burgundy corduroys was the closest thing you'd get to this look!  And I don't remember ANYONE wearing sport clothes for leisure like this little girl (that started in the 80's, thanks Run DMC!)

But I DO remember monster bell-bottom jeans and used to have mine dragging on the ground, frayed and fabulous, and wore them with my sky blue puffy sleeve shirt and beaded choker necklace that had a charm on the end spelling "love!"   In fact, this was my "roller rink" outfit and I'd skate on Friday nights, looking cool, to Led Zeppelin's Black Dog.

Traditional chicken salad sandwiches are always great for a cool summer lunch.  However, La Diva's chicken salad gets a hit of flavor by adding freshly minced tarragon along with diced celery and green onions.  Heavy and high-caloric mayo is cut by adding equal amounts of low fat Greek yogurt and then served up with fresh greens on lightly toasted high fiber sesame bread.  Tarragon has a strong and slightly licorice taste and is a classic pairing with chicken and I love how the addition of the yogurt lightens and moistens the salad.   Simple, flavorful and definitely more-ish!

Do you love the Thai classic noodle dish called Pad Thai?  La Diva does!  Since I love pad Thai so much, I came up with a way to turn the dish into a snack or light lunch!  All the ingredients of the traditional stir fried noodle dish, including egg, chicken, shrimp, rice noodles, green onions, bean sprouts and cilantro, are rolled snugly in a Vietnamese rice paper roll and served with a spicy, home made peanut sauce!   

The fresh veggies provide a refreshingly crunchy texture while the proteins and noodles deliver the satisfaction and the peanut sauce completes the dish with authentic Asian flavors.  (You can also make the peanut sauce for chicken sates and stir fries.)   When I serve these summer rolls at a catered party, they are always a hit.  You can find the recipe for them by clicking HERE.

Do you remember food from the 70's, darlings?  (Please tell me you were around then, c'mon, humour La Diva!)  And what did you eat when you were a kid in the summertime?  Tell La Diva all about it!  Ciao, darlings!

Red Rice & Quinoa Salad with Orange, Pistachios and Arugula http://www.ladivacucina.com

 Unusual and flavorful red rice pairs with nutrient powerhouse quinoa, arugula and pistachios for a chewy, nutty and delicious salad.  It's served here with macadamia crusted cod and mango chili salsa.

Darlings!  Remember a while back, La Diva wrote a post about a wonderful cookbook from Ottolenghi in the UK that offers divine Middle Eastern-inspired dishes made with seasonal ingredients?  Of course you do, darlings, but you can always refresh your memory by clicking HERE. 

Well, A few weeks ago while La Diva was traipsing through Whole Foods (as you do) when I  came upon this most interesting red rice. 

 More Bhutanese red rice info and recipes can be found HERE.  

A staple of the Bhutanese people, the rice is a medium grain japonica rice that cooks more quickly than brown rice and has a slightly sticky texture.  It's the only agricultural product imported from Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas.  Cool!  

So, naturally La Diva bought it!  Now, what to do with it?  I realized that a  high quality  and unique rice like this deserved to be featured in a recipe, not a merely used as a component, and I remembered reading about a salad with red rice from the Ottolenghi cookbook.

I looked it up and noticed that the recipe actually calls for a French red rice called Carmague, (but we shant split hairs) and think the Bhutanese red rice a fine substitute.    And as La Diva is trying to eat more of the protein-packed quinoa, thought it would be a perfect pairing.  

  Camargue Red Rice and Quinoa with Orange and Pistachios

Go on and click on the image to biggify, darlings, I can't read it either!!

RESULT:  La Diva found it interesting that the recipe calls this salad a salad of "orange" with orange juice and orange zest but also has delightful dried apricots as well.  And even though you have to prepare the grains and onions all separately, all the flavors and ingredients combine in a divine manner, making it worth the extra time and steps.  

The salad is slightly chewy and toothsome, the quinoa pops in your mouth while the red rice lingers a bit with it's nutty nuances further enhanced by the pistachios.  The caramelized onions add a wonderfully mellow flavor while the green onions and arugula add a  peppery bite!  The piquant flavors of the onion and orange mirror the mango salsa and the buttery cod and macadamias....DIVINE!   

If you are looking for a unique summer salad to serve with grilled meats, seafood or vegetables, look no further!  This complex salad of whole grains is gorgeous as an accompaniment to summer fare and because it's best eaten at room temperature, its perfect for picnics and barbecues.   The salad is definitely tastier the next day when the flavors really meld.  

Enjoy, darlings, and ciao for now! xo

Dishin' with La Diva June 13, 2011 http://www.ladivacucina.com

Diva TV coming to a computer near you soon!

Video may have killed the radio star but it is GREAT for driving traffic to websites!  While La Diva has done plenty of videos for reality show submissions, they have all had to follow specific guidelines and have been recorded in one shot and without any editing.  When creating these TV submissions, La Diva has had to be on her best behaviour, and I've had to repress my irreverent, sassy self!   (which is never good for a DIVA!)  So this summer, La Diva will be creating her own video world and in my own saucy style with the Diva TV channel on You Tube.   Me and DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah) will be filming and editing two videos for my channel, and most exciting of all, I will be FILMED IN 3D at an event on June 22nd!  Stay posted, darlings, and in the meantime, check out the video that got me into the Food Network Studios by clicking HERE!

Speaking of traffic....

You may have noticed that I've put my web address on each title of my blog post.  It's meant to garner more traffic to my apple webpage, which has abysmal SEO capabilities.  Each day La Diva opens her inbox and lo and behold, there is a message from Sanjay in India, pleading with me to consider using their services to help generate traffic to my site.  I'm considering it, actually, but have found that simply listing my business on Google Places for FREE has drawn a considerable amount of traffic to my business and website.  Don't believe me?  Then Google Miami cooking classes and see what comes up!

Another little trick a marketing guru recently shared with me was to label EACH AND EVERY photo I put on the web with my web address and contact details.  How many times have you searched a photo and it had info about the publisher?  Never, right?  Brilliant idea,  methinks, let's see what develops with these new traffic-driving tricks and if you have any hints or suggestions for La Diva, feel free to share them with me!

This beautiful bag of mangoes was given to me by a business associate visiting me for the first time!  The entire house is filled with the sweet scent of fresh mangoes!  Whatever will I do with them all?  I know one things fo' sho, La Diva Cucina's SPICY MANGO PEPPER VODKA will be an upcoming project!  Click HERE for the divine recipe!

"You like me, you really like me....!"

Yet another publicist/marketing person has contacted La Diva with the REALLY BIG NEWS that THEY think my blog is fabulous.  Well, thank you, kindly.  In their effort to drive more traffic to their own site and get free content, La Diva Cucina was recently featured as part of "Best of the Web" on Become.com.  Does La Diva appreciate this highly esteemed acknowledgment? Meh.  Will it drive traffic to MY site?  Perhaps, but it's not like they put MY link on THEIR home page.  Do I give a rat's ass?  NO.   Do you think La Diva sounds cynical?  Indeed I am but you always knew I was the Queen of Snark, did  you not?   So, no surprises there!  For this reason and many more, I'm not sure I'll be doing any more reciprocal  linking or accepting any more "blog awards." You can check out the post HERE and there is a link to Become on the right side bar! (for now....)

Subscribe to La Diva Cucina by email
Now you don't have to "check back" at La Diva Cucina to see if I've put up a new post but can have each LDC post delivered right to your email's inbox!  Simply add your email address to the box in the top right corner and La Diva news, recipes and info will be delivered!  Easy peasy, baby!  Want to remove it?  YOU CAN'T!  EVER!  (just kidding but you'll really hurt my feelings if you do....)

That's all the latest news from La Diva, what's YOUR latest news, darlings?  DO tell La Diva all about it!  Ciao for now!

What's Cookin' with La Diva THIS week! June 8, 2011 http://www.ladivacucina.com

Darlings!   Stumped over supper?  Done deciding dinner?  Let La Diva assist you, dear, with suggestions for uncomplicated and satisfying meals that are quick enough to make during the week.  Take a peek at what La Diva eats!

Satisfying, crunchy and bursting with flavorful nutrients, here's La Diva's Spicy Thai Beef Salad:  Flank steak is marinated with Thai spices, grilled, sliced and served with greens, carrots, red cabbage, cucumbers, snow peas, fresh Thai basil leaves and garnished with cashews and dressed with a zippy lime dressing.   Want to give it a shot?  The recipe from a previous post is HERE.

This divine and savory tart hits the spot for an easy and elegant Sunday lunch:  caramelized onions with lemon thyme, spinach, prosciutto and artisanal goat cheese from Hani's Mediterranean Organics!    La Diva has to admit:  it's Hani's wonderful cheese that really made this tart special!  Perhaps it's his Lebanese influence when feeding his goats, as Hani's cheese imparts the very distinct flavor of cinnamon, and is not strong at all, but mellow and unique.   By keeping ready made dough in the freezer, tarts like this can be made in a flash and as La Diva ALWAYS suggests, use what YOU have on hand like regular ham  in lieu of the prosciutto or feta cheese if you don't have any goat cheese in the fridge.

Instead of the usual rice, La Diva made supergrain quinoa with home made chicken broth, sauteed kale and fresh, Florida sweet corn as a base for spicy and succulent jerk shrimp.  The jerk seasoning was super quick:  I made a simple rub using cinnamon, allspice, garlic salt, cayenne pepper and a bit of oil, slathered it on the shrimp and  then cooked  it immediately.  Another detour from tradition included sauteing the jerk seasoned shrimp, instead of the usual grilling, and then flambeing with sipping tequila!  The muy picante prawns pair well with the buttery and mild quinoa and vegetables.

After looking at luscious photos of fabulous fava beans paired with shaved parmigiano cheese while researching my last post, (click HERE) La Diva was inspired to try the enticing combo.  I paired the bean with a gourmet pasta called Fiori,  or "flower" pasta that was a hearty, spiraled trumpet shape, and instead of the parmigiano  cheese, I added freshly grated Italian pecorino, a drizzle of fruity green extra virgin olive oil and further brightened the flavors by topping with lemon zest! 

 Chicken marsala is a classic and really so easy.  Organic skinless and boneless chicken breasts are split lengthwise and lightly pounded, floured, seasoned and then browned and finished with a lovely Italian Marsala wine and baby portabello mushrooms.  I stacked the lot over beautifully fluffy mashed potatoes and served with a young and tender spinach  leaf salad with feta, tomatoes, cukes, carrot and red cabbage!  Simple, quick and man-pleasin', this is one of our fave  family meals.  (Yeah, I said that, if Man not pleased, Man whine.  Not good when Man whine.  Or worse yet, Man go to shop and get junk to eat because he didn't like his dinner!   Make Diva mad! Ha!)

Darlings, I DO hope this post will inspire you to add something NEW to your weekly dinner repertoire!  What quick and divine dishes do YOU make each week?  Tell La Diva ALL about it!
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