LIFESTYLE

Sizzling Latino Chefs: Miami's Lorena Garcia
Born and raised in Venezuela, Garcia has recently appeared on The Biggest Loser and The Next Great American Restaurant, and has served as a judge on Top Chef. Here are a few recipe secrets.
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Lorena's tools help inspire her to create new dishes for her restaurants.

(Lorena Garcia)

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Cooking makes Lorena Garcia so happy she jumps for joy!

(Lorena Garcia)

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Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 carrots, sliced crosswise into 1-inch lengths

2 celery stalks, sliced crosswise into 1-inch lengths

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed

1 large zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1-inch lengths

2 bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio

5 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon toasted shredded coconut (optional)

1 15-ounce can of coconut milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the butternut squash on the prepared baking sheet, season with the salt and paper, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast until lightly caramelized and a paring knife easily slides into a piece of squash, about 1 hour. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, leeks, lemongrass, zucchini, bay leaves, and roasted squash and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften and turn golden brown around the edges, 8-10 minutes.

Pour in the white wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Once the wine is mostly evaporated, pour in the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until all the vegetables are soft, 10 – 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the lemongrass and the bay leaves. Set the soup aside to cool for 20 minutes.

Transfer one-half of the vegetables and broth to a blender jar. Cover and pulse a few times to release the steam. Add one-half of the coconut milk and puree the mixture until it’s completely smooth.

Transfer the soup to a clean pot. Repeat with the remaining vegetables and broth, and coconut milk.

Bring the soup back to a simmer over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Divide the soup among eight bowls and serve sprinked with cilantro and toasted coconut, if using.

(Lorena Garcia )

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The cover for Lorena Garcia's new book: New Latin Classics: Fresh Ideas for Favorite Dishes

(Lorena Garcia)

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Chicken and Almond Pesto Sliders

Serves 4

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 generous cup sliced almonds, roughly chopped

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, very finely minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 jalapeno pepper, halved, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped

2 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons dried unseasoned bread crumbs

6 ounces mozzarella, sliced into 4 rounds

4 small brioche buns or mini buns

1 tomato, sliced into 1/4- inch- thick rounds

To make the almond pesto, whisk together the olive oil, almonds, Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, basil, and garlic in a medium bowl and set aside.

To make the sliders, pour the vegetable oil into a large bowl and whisk in the egg. Add the chicken, the jalapeno, scallions, cilantro, and salt and stir to combine. Stir in the bread crumbs and then divide the mixture into 4 balls. Slightly flatten each ball into a 11/2- inch- thick patty and set aside.

Prepare a hot charcoal or gas grill. Grill the burgers until they are golden brown on one side,

about 5 minutes. Flip over the burgers and place a mozzarella round on top of the burger. Cook until the underside is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer.

While the burgers cook, toast the buns. Place the buns cut side down on the grill (or an upper grill rack if your grill has one) until toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove the buns and burgers from the grill. Place a burger on each bun bottom. Top with a tomato slice and then spoon some almond pesto on top. Cover with the top half of the bun and serve.

(Lorena Garcia/Quentin Bacon)

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Pears Al Vino Tinto

Serves 4

3 cups  red wine, such as pinot noir

1 cup sugar

3 whole black peppercorns

3 whole cloves

3 ½-inch-wide strips lemon peel

1 cinnamon stick

4  ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored

1 pint vanilla ice cream (optional)

½ teaspoon  freshly grated nutmeg

Bring the red wine, sugar, peppercorns, cloves, lemon strips, cinnamon stick, and ½ cup of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.

Add the pears and simmer until they’re tender and a paring knife easily slips into the center, about 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to a large bowl and set aside.

Remove and discard the peppercorns, cloves, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick. Continue to simmer the poaching liquid over medium-low heat until it is reduced by half and is the consistency of thick syrup, about 30 minutes.

Return the pears to the thick poaching liquid and heat for 1 minute, basting the pears with the syrup. Turn off the heat and place 2 pear halves in the center of each plate or bowl. Drizzle the pears with 2 tablespoons each of the poaching syrup, and then top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if using, and a pinch of nutmeg. 

(Lorena Garcia)

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Blue Cheese-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Passion Fruit Demi-Glaze

Serves 4 

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Four 6- to 8- ounce 1-1/2- to 2-inch- thick beef tenderloin fillets

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound porcini or cremini mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

1-1/2 shallots, very finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, very finely minced

1 cup Simplified Red Wine Demi-Glaze (see below) (or you can substitute one cup of good red wine)

1/2 cup passion fruit juice

1/4 cup agave syrup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Before cooking the fillets, make a blue cheese butter. Place the blue cheese, butter, and Dijon mustard in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.

Set the fillets on a large plate. Season with the salt and pepper and then coat the fillets with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Heat a large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the fillets and cook until a nice crust forms, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the fillets to a clean plate (set the pan aside for the sauce) and set aside.

Pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the pan used to sear the fillets and place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms start to get glossy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the red wine demi-glaze, passion fruit juice, agave syrup, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the glaze reduce until it’s thick and syrupy, 35 to

40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the blue cheese butter from the refrigerator. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the fillets on it. Top each fillet with 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese butter. Roast the fillets until the blue cheese is melted and the edges of the cheese begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and place each one on a plate. Pour some passion fruit glaze around each fillet and serve.

Simplified Red Wine Demi-Glaze

A typical demi-glaze takes days to make. This version condenses the process into a few hours without sacrificing flavor or intensity. The demi-glaze gives structure to sauces like the passion fruit sauce for the Blue Cheese-Crusted Beef Tenderloin and the barbecue sauce for the Mango BBQ Baby Back Ribs. Try adding it to a pan after searing a chicken breast, pork chop, or skirt steak to make a rich pan sauce.

1-½ pounds beef, chicken, pork or veal bones

4 carrots, cut into thirds

4 celery stalks, cut into thirds

2 yellow onions

8 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 750 ml. bottle dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the bones, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in a large roasting pan. Add the olive oil and salt, toss with the bones and vegetables, and cook for 30 minutes. Whisk the tomato paste in a small bowl to loosen it up.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and use a pastry or silicone brush to coat the bones and vegetables with the tomato paste. Return the pan to the oven for 30 minutes longer. Turn the bones and any large piece of vegetables over, and cook for another 20 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and pour the red wine over the bones and vegetables. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Remove the bones from the pan and discard. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up an browned bits from the bottom of the pan and then use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a large stockpot or soup pot. Pour in the liquid from the roasting pan.

Add 6 cups of water to the stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 45 minutes to an hour. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large plastic container and strain the reduced demi-glaze into it. Use a rubber spatula to press down on the solids in the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Cover the container and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to three weeks.

(Lorena Garcia)

Sizzling Latino Chefs: Miami's Lorena Garcia

Born and raised in Venezuela, Garcia has recently appeared on The Biggest Loser and The Next Great American Restaurant, and has served as a judge on Top Chef. Here are a few recipe secrets.