The Dish: Venezuelan chef Lorena Garcia

Lorena Garcia was born in Venezuela and enjoyed cooking as a child. While she started out her career pursuing law, she eventually found her heart was in the kitchen.

 After earning a culinary degree she took cooking jobs all over the world and that experience helped her develop the globally-influenced Latin cuisine she now serves at Chica, her hot-spot in Las Vegas's Venetian Hotel. Garcia is also the founder of Big Chef, Little Chef, a nonprofit that helps teach kids and their families healthy eating habits in an effort to combat childhood obesity. 

Here are some of Garcia's signature recipes: 

Beluga lentils and red quinoa with grilled shrimp 

Black lentils ingredients

2 cups black lentils, soak 1 hour
6 cups water
1/4 cup celery, whole
1/2 cup Spanish onion, whole
1.5 tablespoons garlic, whole
3.5 tablespoons carrot, whole
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Red quinoa ingredients

1.5 cups red quinoa
3 cups water
1/2 cup Spanish onion, brunoise
2 each bay leaves
3 teaspoons shaved garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher salt  

Purple potato sofrito ingredients

1/4 cup green bell pepper, brunoise
1/4 cup red bell pepper, brunoise
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, brunoise
3/4 cup Spanish onion, brunoise
3/4 cup purple potato, brunoise (rinsed to not stain)
1/4 cup carrot, brunoise
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grams kosher salt

White balsamic dressing ingredients

4 teaspoons agave
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
4.5 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch fresh black pepper 

Grilled shrimp ingredients

Jumbo shrimp
Lemons
Salt and pepper  

Directions

1. In a mini serving bowl, add cooked lentils with it's juice, bell pepper sofrito, and red quinoa and herbs. Mix together and cover to keep warm.

2. Rinse the quinoa, set aside. In a saute pan sweat the Spanish onion, bay leaves and shaved garlic. Season with salt. Add the red quinoa and cook for a few minutes, add the water bring to a boil. Cook until liquid absorbs and then turn off. Let rest for 15 minutes and then uncover and fluff.

3. Drain the soaked lentils, put in a large wide cooking vessel and cover with water. Add celery, Spanish onion, carrot, and garlic, salt and bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer. Cook and check at :30 minute assess, cook until creamy. Let rest and come to room temperature, before refrigerating before reserving.

4. Saute the purple potato sofrito veggies for five minutes. Cool in a single flat layer, and reserve.

5. Grill jumbo shrimp until done and season with salt and pepper, finish with a squeeze of lemon. Top the bowl with the grilled shrimp. 

6. In the serving bowl, add the quinoa, lentil and herb mixture. In a separate container combine cheese pieces, cherry tomato slices and white balsamic dressing. Top the bowl with the dressed tomatoes and guanayese cheese (for presentation, tomatoes should face flesh cut side up). Top with grilled shrimp and finish with microgreens.

7. In a mini serving bowl, add cooked lentils with it's juice, bell pepper sofrito, and red quinoa and herbs. Mix together and cover to keep warm.

Guacamole

Ingredients

1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon onions, diced small
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 whole avocados, peeled and cubed
½ cup tomatoes, diced small
1 tablespoon jalapeño, diced small
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

Directions

1. In a molcajete (mortar and pestle), combine garlic, 1 teaspoon onions, cilantro and salt. Muddle to combine well.

2. Add avocados, the remaining ½ cup of onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, lime juice, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Smash all ingredients to achieve a chunky guacamole consistency.

Mariquitas "plantain chips"

Topping ingredients

4 whole green plantains, large, skin on
Vegetable oil for frying
Kosher salt

Directions

1. Slice the plantains length-wise, with the peel on, using a mandolin or vegetable slicer, 1/16 of an inch thick. 

2. In a large skillet, heat oil to 350F degrees. (Oil should fill a third of the skillet.) 

3. Add plantain slices to hot oil and fry for 5 minutes until crispy and golden brown. 

4. Remove Mariquitas with slotted spoon and allow them to drain on paper towels for a few minutes. Season generously with salt and serve hot. 

Hoppin' Jose rice

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup bacon, diced
¾ cup lima beans, thawed
¾ cup Black Eyed Peas Guiso (see recipe below)
2 cups cooked Thai Jasmine rice
¾ cup lima beans, thawed
Olive oil, to drizzle
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and cook for 3 minutes to render fat.

2. Add lima beans and Black Eyed Peas Guiso. Cook for 2 minutes, then add cooked rice. Let rice and beans cook on medium heat to toast rice about 10 minutes.

3. Remove pan from heat and spoon Hoppin' José onto a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cilantro.

Black-eyed peas guiso

Ingredients

½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups dry cured meat (carne seca), diced and soaked overnight (optional)
1 cup white onion, diced small
½ cup carrots, diced small
½ cup celery, diced small
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red jalapeño, diced small
1 tablespoon cumin
½ tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound black-eyed peas, frozen
5 cups water
1 smoked ham hock
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped 

Directions

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

2. Add dried meat and cook for 1 minute. Stir in onions, carrots, celery, garlic and red jalapeño. Cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add cumin, paprika, dried oregano, ground ginger, and rosemary, and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add the black-eyed peas, water, and ham hock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Remove ham hock from pan, then remove pan from heat. Garnish black-eyed peas with cilantro.

Mac con queso 

Ingredients

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup shallots, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
4 cups Peruvian corn
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup white wine
½ cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup (packed) fresh spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup hearts of palm, cut into ½-inch rounds

Directions

1. In a small bowl, toss together the Parmigiano Reggiano and panko crumbs, and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In an oven-safe skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to hot oil and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add Peruvian corn and salt. Cook for 4 minutes then add white wine.
4. Reduce heat to low and add mascarpone cheese and heavy cream. Toss in the spinach, white pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice and hearts of palm. Stir together and simmer for 2 minutes.
5. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle with cheese-panko mixture. Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.