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"Chopped" judge preps fish on a budget

Seasoned chef Geoffrey Zakarian serves up his signature modern American cuisine at The Lambs Club, in Manhattan.

He's been cooking for more than 20 years and has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in America, starting his career with 5 years at legendary Le Cirque.

He's been a contestant on "The Next Iron Chef," on the Food Network, and a judge on "Chopped."

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And he accepted the "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge from "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," meaning he had to try to whip up a three-course meal for four on our paltry $40 budget.

Geoffrey's chef's hat was also automatically tossed into our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost is invited back to make the feast for our year-end holiday extravaganza.


  • Peach & Mozzarella Salad
  • Fluke Ceviche
  • Floating Island



Floating Island: A light dessert of stiffly beaten, sweetened egg white mounds that have been poached in milk. These puffs are then floated in a thin custard sauce. The dessert is also known as oeufs à la neige, "snow eggs." 2. In France, ile flottante ("floating island") is liqueur-sprinkled sponge cake spread with jam, sprinkled with nuts, topped with whipped cream and surrounded by a pool of custard.

Fluke a.k.a. Flounder: Members of this large species of flatfish are prized for their fine texture and delicate flavor. Some of the better known members of the flounder family are Dab, English Sole, and Plaice. In America, flounder is often mislabeled as fillet of sole - a misnomer because all of the fish called "sole" (except for imported European Dover Sole) are actually varieties of flounder. Flounder is available whole or in fillets. It can be baked, broiled, poached, steamed or sauteed.

Buffalo Mozzarella: Mozzarella di bufala (also called simply buffalo mozzarella ) is the most prized of the fresh mozzarellas. Most buffalo mozzarella available in the United States is made from a combination of water buffalo milk and cow's milk.

Civeche: An appetizer popular in Latin America consisting of raw fish marinated in citrus (usually lime) juice. The action of the acid in the lime juice "cooks" the fish, thereby firming the flesh and turning it opaque. Onions, tomatoes and green peppers are often added to the marinade. Only very fresh fish should be used for this dish. Pompano, Red Snapper and Sole are the fish most often used.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!


Peach & Mozzarella Salad


  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 1 pound mozzarella (buffalo if possible)
  • 1/2 cup red onion, cut into triangles
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 24 small basil sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons basil seeds
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, to taste


1) Pickle the red onions: Bring the white balsamic to a simmer with the coriander, fennel, and peppercorns. Take it off the heat and add the red onion. Allow the onions to marinate for one hour.

2) Make the basil seed vinaigrette: Submerge the basil seeds in a small amount of cold water and allow them to rehydrate. They will thicken the water. Add the balsamic, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to taste.

3) Prep the peaches: Cut large chunks off the pit and then remove the skin with the knife. Dress the peach chunks with salt, cracked pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.

4) Plate the dish: Arrange the peach chunks randomly on four plates and top them with pieces of the mozzarella. Garnish with the pickled onions, the basil seed vinaigrette, and the basil sprigs. Finish the dish with another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

For more of Geoffrey's recipes, go to Page 2.

Fluke Ceviche


  • 1 pound sushi grade fluke filet
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon white balsamic
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 stalks celery, peeled
  • 1/4 cup cilantro


1) Prepare the marinade: Puree the white balsamic, honey, lime juice, red onion, garlic, and celery in a blender.

2) Cure the fish: Season the fluke with salt and extra virgin olive oil. Let the fish cure for one hour in half of the marinade.

3) Prep the garnish: Season it with salt and extra virgin olive oil.

4) Plate the dish: Slice the cured fish very thin and lay it out on four plates. Drizzle it with more of the marinade and season with more of the salt.

Walnut Orange Floating Island Recipe


  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • small pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoons plus on pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 8 egg yolks


1) Prepare to make the meringue: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Butter and lightly sugar the parchment paper. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip.

2) Make the meringue: Set aside 1 tablespoon of the egg whites for the sugared nuts recipe. Whip the remaining egg whites to soft peaks with on medium speed. Increase the speed and add the 1/3 cup sugar slowly. Whip until the whites are firm and glossy. Add a small pinch of nutmeg. Transfer the meringue to the piping bag and pipe four equal rounds onto the prepped sheet pan. Bake the meringue until it is crispy. Insert a toothpick and it should come out clean.

3) Prepare the sugared walnuts: In a small mixing bowl whisk together the 1 tablespoon egg whites, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Toss this mixture with the walnut pieces until they are well coated. Line a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper and bake the nuts at 350 degrees until they are crisp.

4) Prepare the citrus cream: Heat the cream, milk, and orange zest in a saucepan to a simmer over a medium flame. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until they are thick, fluffy, and pale yellow. Slowly add the hot milk/cream mixture to the sugar/yolk mixture in a thin stream while whisking. Return this mixture to the saucepan and whisk it over medium heat until it thickens...then chill thoroughly.

5) Plate the dish: Pour the chilled citrus cream equally into four large bowls. Place one meringue in the center of each bowl and sprinkle the walnuts around the meringue. (Walnuts optional)

So, how did Geoffrey do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

His grand total was -- $39.99 - barely getting in under our $40 limit!

Our Leaders Board this year to date:

  • 1.Floyd Cardoz $33.54
  • North End Grill
  • 2.Fabio Vivani $36.22
  • Café Firenze
  • 3. Marco Canora $36.33
  • Hearth
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