A First at Oyster – Guest Post: Sustainably Season Food

Sarasota, Florida

Just a bit of what’s going on for me.  Along with my day job I added teaching a class at a local university on international business and strategy.  Can I say this was one of the best choices I have ever made?  I love it – the animated conversations, the head nodding when the concepts click for the students are so rewarding, plus on a topic I find truly fascinating; even if it has proven more work than I anticipated.  I’ve also taken on a few speaking engagements and volunteering, and trying to make sure that my husband knows I’m still here.  We also leave for Italy later this week.  Phew.  Needless to say, I felt I needed some help.

So a while back I sent an S.O.S.  Some kind folks answered my distress signals and so interspersed in my posts, I now have the privlaege of introducing you to some wonderful fellow food lovers.  The first person that stepped forward was the amazing Lazaro.

Lazaro lives in Florida and makes ample use of the bounty of his state, along with the techniques I seek out when I travel there.  Also, a healthy dose of Cuban influence shines through to my eternal gratitude.  Lazaro cooks the way I aspire to, and he plates his food as if it was in a 5 Star restaurant, something I could never do.  I love the amazing food he produces, and appreciate his focus on local and sustainable ingredients.

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Hello readers of Oyster Food and Culture, my name is Lazaro, I blog over at Lazaro Cooks! It truly is an honor to be invited to contribute here, one of my favorite sites on the web. Everything cooked on LC is sustainable, organic, and seasonal, with precious few exceptions. Many people feel powerless against the big machine that controls the food in this country, but is that accurate? In my opinion, we can effect change every time we go to the market. Business is driven by supply and demand; if you demand better from your local food retailers they will supply it. Cooks have total control over what goes into the food they prepare and nothing compares to using locally sourced SEASONAL produce.

The advent of modern refrigeration transportation has distorted the seasonal boundaries. Why should we use out-of-season ingredients from another hemisphere? As a Floridian I am fortunate to live in a state that turns out the widest variety of produce imaginable like, potatoes, avocados, mangoes, white mushrooms, eggplants, tropical fruits, fantastic seafood and sweet corn. Right now we are in the peak of the Florida blue crab season which runs through October. Florida sweet corn production is just cranking up and my kitchen is full of them. Both these wonderful products converge to produce a fantastic starter to any meal.

Sweet Corn & Blue Crab Tostada

Factory farming is vile, soulless, unforgiving and merciless. The practices in industrial farming houses for cattle, chicken, pigs, and various other foodstuffs are not acceptable. When trolling our local markets we gaze upon case after case of beautifully butchered produce. It’s easy to forget that every piece of meat, chicken, pork or fish was once a living breathing animal. I am not a vegetarian but it is extraordinarily easy for me to understand why people abstain from eating animal protein. If we choose to eat meat, we should be cognizant of where our food comes from and how it was treated. Do not take my word for it, do the research; read the books and articles, watch the videos. Humane animal husbandry and earth-friendly production practices ensure ecologically sustainable farms. Eden Farms is one of the most environmentally sustainable pork companies around. Pork Belly is where our bacon and pancetta come from. If you braise the pork belly, it can get incredibly tender. Here I paired the pork belly with a sustainable US farm-raised Catfish, for a surf-and-turf entrée.

Braised Pork Belly & Pan-fried Catfish with Black Bean Sauce
Braised Pork Belly

Cooking fish is a true joy. Eating fish is equally rewarding. Humans who eat seafood depend on our waterways for sustenance. The conditions of our oceans, lakes, rivers, and creeks have deteriorated to unacceptable degrees. Habitat destruction and chemical pollution are at the forefront of why fish are disappearing. Countless species of fish are at perilously low levels. Technology has allowed us to fish deeper and farther than ever before. Some methods are incredibly efficient, while others have us on the verge of disaster. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an exhaustively detailed website offering guides to sustainable seafood. Likewise, amazing chefs have taken up the cause. Rick Moonen, one of America’s finest chefs, wrote Fish Without a Doubt, an ode to the cooking of sustainable fish. The ocean is a treasure trove of astounding delights. Get educated and do your part to ensure that future generations can derive pleasure from what it has to offer.

US Farm-raised Malaysian Giant River Prawns.  Fantastic for making shrimp stock.

Caponata con Pan-Roasted Pacific Halibut
Trigger Fish with Broccoli Puree
Planet Earth is a shared living environment. At some point the policy of passing the buck will be at an end. The check will eventually have to be paid. Why are our policy makers bent on insuring that future generations will have to deal with catastrophic environmental disaster? I am not. Who is with me?

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!

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Thank you Lazaro for those great reminders on how important it is to tread gently on this planet.  If, along the way upon reading this post you got distracted by one or two of Lazaro’s amazing photos, here’s a few links to the recipes:

Sweet Corn and Blue Crab Tostadas

Pan-Roast Catfish with Black Beans

Caponata con Pan – Pan Roasted Pacific Halibut

Update me when site is updated

29 comments for “A First at Oyster – Guest Post: Sustainably Season Food

  1. October 5, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    great guest post, I believe each state has their own bounty and we should treasure where we live. Supporting local farmers, helps everyone. I am also blessed to live in a great state with many wonderful seasonal produce, take for instance here in Edinburg we are huge on citrus, why when I go to the store in July is there citrus from California? Our season begins in Nov? great dishes lazaro, I love the sweet corn and blue crab tostadas the corn gives the plate a great pop of color…and the giant river prawns, swoon

    sweetlife

  2. October 5, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    The dishes are great… and I love the sentiment. Farmers work themselves harder than just about any profession and should be rewarded and encouraged to be better stewards for their land and not forced into Monsanto serfdom reliant on frankenseeds and pesticides/herbicides and creating hell-on-earth meat farms. Buying well raised meat is a no brainer… misery meat is bad for everyone. Really, do you like the idea of eating things that were raised horribly by people who are abused with no voice in the matter? WIth money tight.. go for a little less meat but better raised… the planet will thank you… and buy locally!

  3. October 5, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    Lovely site and fantastic guest post! I’m the same way, I’m not a vegetarian but I can absolutely understand why some people make the choice to abstain from animal products. For me, sustainability is absolutely crucial.

    The Sweet Corn & Blue Crab Tostada sounds like the perfect balance of flavors!

  4. October 5, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    great post Lazaro! i’m a huge seafood fan, but unfortunately all the seafood we eat needs to be shipped in from other places. the best we can do here is buy farm-raised seafood. before food blogging, i never saw the importance of buying locally, sustainable, and organic. food blogging has opened my eyes to a whole new way of eating. although it is quite costly to buy organic, sustainable, local food, i think it is worth every cent. thank you for this reminder.

  5. October 5, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Great info Lazaro! I find it a challenge to always eat local, organic foods because the prices can be much higher, but whenever possible I try to recognize where my food is coming from and do my best to be a knowledgeable consumer! I hope to do better in the future 🙂 Documentaries like Food, Inc definitely help!

  6. October 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Hey Lazaro,

    You know if I had a choice, I’d vote for you to cook me a three course meal. Reading your posts and seeing these amazing dishes has really inspired me to cook fish several times a week and it’s become a pleasure. I’m all in favour in using local and seasonal products, especially when you can make such wonderful things like you do.

  7. October 5, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    Hi LouAnn, I came from Lazaro’s blog. I totally understand when you talked about International business class! I took a few classes relate to the field on my grad program. It can be controversial but fun topic. Anyway, you have made another great choice to have Lazaro as a guest post. I can tell you two have the same food philosophy.

    Lazaro, that corn and crab tostada looks amazing! There are other dishes I haven’t seen on your blog but here. Everything looks so good. The pork belly and catfish dish is one of my fav dishes!

  8. October 5, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Awesome dishes, Lazaro! I’m loving those blue crab and corn tostadas! I think we are nearing the end of our blue crab season here 🙁

  9. October 5, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    A great informative guest post! Wish we had enough local markets here as they always have fresh well grown but few products.
    And LouAnn,I can understand how you feel as I’m that busy, too during year until summer. I do love teaching, but blogging makes me pleased too. Maybe one dayI send S.O.S just like you did.

  10. October 5, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    I’ve had those moments when I felt stretched. It’s commendable that you have taken on so much for the benefit of people who are looking to venture in international business and strategy. I hope you have a great time in Italy.

    Lazaro – Thanks for the information. I’ve not visited the Monterrey Bay Aquarium website. Looking forward to seeing what I can learn there.

  11. October 5, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    Thanks for the great information. I’m off to check out the Monterrey Bay Aquarium site, and to follow up on all of those beautiful photos.

  12. October 5, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Awesome post, Lazaro! I love edible flowers & they’re lovely to pair with food.

    Thks for bringing me to this wonderful site!

  13. October 6, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Thank you Lazaro, for reminding us of our precarious position and the need to do something about it. Fantastic recipes and examples of sustainable and responsible eating. Everything you’ve prepared looks faultless and inpirationally beautiful.

    Lou Ann, you have a wonderful site and Lazaro was right – your blogroll is awesomely inspiring!!

  14. October 6, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    A subject near and dear to my heart. Thank-you for spreading the word. And those tostados are calling my name and I shall answer in a sustainable fashion.

  15. October 6, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Hello Lou Ann, I am a newer follower of your site and just love it 🙂
    Lazaro, this is an amazing guest post…You have such a powerful voice, and of course your amazing array of dishes are always a treat 🙂 Living in California I am quite fortunate as well with the bounty of fresh and local food choices.

  16. October 6, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Headed over from Lazaros..beautiful and delicious food as usual! 🙂 And Lou Ann, I know exactly how you feel about teaching to a class that wants to learn and is involved.. it makes everything so much more fun!

  17. Mo
    October 6, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Lazaro, you’re SO much better than I am at choosing my seafood wisely. I clearly need to spend more time at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s site, because I don’t quite have it figured out yet haha.

    And thanks for the info about Eden Farms. I’ll look around for that brand. 🙂

    Nice to meet you, LouAnn!

  18. October 6, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    I didn’t know that you teach international business so interesting.
    Wonderful post of Lazaro, I know him from his blog and he has yummy recipes.
    So beautiful dishes that deserve a big bite onto them 🙂

    Cheers,

    Gera

  19. October 6, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Well done Lazaro!!! I’m a lover of seafood myself. It’s actually one of the only things I can eat since I decided to give up meat for a few months. 🙂 I’m one of those who like to go from the local vendors. I’m lucky enough to have in my weekend farmer’s market, a little shop that caters to fresh seafood. I was happy happy about that when I first heard of them.

  20. October 6, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Love the guest post. Thanks Lazaro. I adore seafood and really admire your conviction to be sustainable. Our family has a bit of Cuban influence so I particularly liked some of your menu ideas.

  21. October 7, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    I couldn’t agree more. Voting with your dollars and making good buying decisions will make a difference. Great-looking food here! The broccoli puree with fish looks fantastic.

  22. October 8, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    LouAnn – How awesome about your teaching gig! I taught a guest lecture a few weeks ago and it had me thinking how fun that would be. I just wish I could find something with my current knowledge base. I’m not interested in going back to get my PhD at this point.

    It sounds like you are swamped and will really be needing that Italy vacation! I hope you have a fabulous time and enjoy every minute (and bite) of it.

    Good guest post. The food looks wonderful. I too choose to buy local meats where I can verify how the animals are raised. However, I’m careful not to put all farms in one basket when criticizing them.

    While I don’t agree with the practices shown in the media, it’s important to remember that not all farms and farmers are bad. It is not fair for me to judge a system until I have personally visited each farm to see for myself. For me, I make the choice I feel is right, keep an open mind and be careful of the influences media has on my decisions.

  23. admin
    October 8, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    Lazaro – Thank you so much for the incredible post. I love and share you sentiment on sustainability, and in case anyone thought that cooking this way required skimping they have only to look at your incredible recipes to see that is not the case.

    Sweetlife – I couldn’t agree more. Lazaro’s food is amazing and when I get back from Italy, I see myself having a Lazaro week to check out the dishes he featured here.

    Deana – I’m with you, its hard to conceive what could happen as a result of the lack of biodiversity let alone what we’ve lost as a result of the choices of a few people so removed from the situation.

    Tmanatha – I wanted to take this adjunct position because I really missed B-School and the conversation and constantly being challenged. I was so excited to be able to teach on or my favorite classes and get that dialog started again.

    Zerrin – Its been a lot of fun, but everything just seemed to come together at the same time – a “perfect storm” as it were.

    Christine – The Monterey Bay Site is indeed a good one. I know of a fish restaurant in DC that handed out their printouts so diners were educated while they ate there, which I thought was a cool idea.

    Denise – Thanks!

    Claudia – Those tostados have my number too!

    Magic of Spice – Sweet, look forward to sharing information in the future.

    Evan – The teaching has been just so rewarding so far.

    Mo – Nice to meet you too!

    Gera – I have to keep some surprises up my sleeve =)

    Lori – I am very much looking forward to this trip and you’re right, the teaching is just fantastic, now I wish I had started sooner. Lori, I agree with your comments about the farmers, and that not all are bad, critical to not lump them all together.

  24. October 8, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    LouAnn, you sound like one busy lady. I teach too but a more lighthearted subject and manner: cooking and cocktails. Yet I can certainly empathize with the satisfaction you get from doing it.

    Laz, La Diva approves of the Asian inspired surf and turf! Beauty, mate!

    Lazaro, I agree with your article and sentiments 100%….but….I get frustrated by trying to adhere to sustainable practices and try so do the “right thing” when I can. I just wish to do the right thing wasn’t so expensive and until it gets more affordable for more people, especially families, some people will continue to choose the cheapest product. Thankfully, we are changing the way we think (Thanks Lazaro) and therefore how we buy. I, for one, am not a vegetarian but a true omnivore. But, my big hungry husband and I eat vegetarian once or twice a week, without missing any satiety, so that when we DO eat meat, it’s of a high quality and we really appreciate it.

    Another concern is how a consumer buys sustainable meat. I have been unsuccessful in finding a local supplier, although there are some in South Florida. If you order the meat, you have to deal with the shipping of the product in styrofoam containers that cannot be returned. It makes it hard when the product is expensive and hard to get (at least without doing more damage in another “non green” way!)

    Anyway, I agree with everything you say and am hoping that awareness will bring more change to people’s buying habits and hopefully lower prices. Cheers and thanks for a very thought provoking piece.

  25. October 8, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    PS: I didn’t know blue crab was in season. Is there a website so I know what is in season foodwise her in Southern Florida? I still get thrown by the fact we grow everything in winter!

  26. October 8, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    It is so thrilling to find a blogger who is imaginative and informative an this one truly is; thank you for thinking of him guest posting.

  27. October 10, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    A beautiful post! Lovely food and great presentation.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  28. October 13, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    What a lovely & very informative guest post!! This was such fun reading!!

  29. October 19, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    Great pictures. I especially love the one of the shrimp, actually. But I have to say I am most tempted by the blue crab and corn tostadas and the pork belly…yum.

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