Smoked Salmon, Tomato and Bermuda Onion Salad

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Instead of chopping salads and tossing in a bowl, consider layering a few simple, main ingredients. Here nitrate-free smoked salmon is rolled and tucked into the layers of thick cut tomato and red onion. You might have to put that store-bought tomato in the sun for a solid week, to get some real tomato flavor, but buy ahead and don’t be tempted to refrigerate it into mealiness.

Salad of Layers of Smoked Salmon, Heirloom Tomato and Bermuda Onion

Dotting the presentation with briny capers and bright-flavored flat, Italian parsley tickles the eye even further. Drizzle with a simple fresh lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard dressing. Finish with a dusting of ground fennel for extra flavor and as a digestive aid.

Tart Summer Tart!

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Quick Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

With very little added sugar and the tartness of rhubarb, this fruity tart exactly that––tart! Sweeten it up a la mode with vanilla ice cream or simply enjoy it’s snappy flavor.

1 t butter
6 -8 squares puff pastry
2 cups strawberries halved
2 cups rhubarb sliced
1 t tapioca starch
1 T turbinado
1 T black strap molasses
2 T lemon juice
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 t vanilla extract

Lightly coat a baking dish with butter. Then cover the bottom of it with puff pastry. Bake at 350º until golden. Allow to cool a bit.

Cut rhubarb on diagonal into ½” slices. Add to pot with turbinado. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Stir occasionally.

Trim green ends of strawberries and cut in half or quarters to equal 2 cups. Add to softened rhubarb with remainder of ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Spread mixture evenly on top of crisp puffed pastry and top with remaining raw puff pastry squares. Fold seams into a decorative design and perforate with 3 or 4 holes with a paring knife to release steam.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350º or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Serve with a drizzle of pomegranate or vanilla ice cream.

3 Fool-Proof Steps to Moist Chicken Breast

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Part of the key to sticking to a diet, is that it has to satiate. Chicken breast is a great part of a diet designed to reduce weight, but they are so low in fat, they can be chalky and dry. Follow these 3 steps that add moisture, not fat. They guarantee moist, juicy chicken breasts every time!

1. Brine As soon as you get it home, rinse it and soak it in salt water until cooking.

2. Use a splash of white wine and fresh herbs to add lots of flavor. I used sprigs of mint, lemon verbena, tarragon and basil freshly clipped from my garden.

3. Cook on a very low temperature and with a lid to trap moisture. That means 250º in the oven or super low flame under your skillet. It will take longer at this temperature, but you can set it up and walk away. Cut with a sharp knife in the thickest part. As soon as the pink is gone, its done. Remember not to overcook it even at this low temperature and to remove it from the hot pan or baking dish or it will continue to cook. Cooking time will depend on your oven and thickness of the chicken breast, but expect about 60 minutes.

Crudités: A healthy party alternative

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By New Year’s, we often had our share of indulgences in fatty cheeses, the empty calories of most crackers and those awful, fried hors d’oeuvres we feel compelled to eat when they’re the only food available and we are imbibing. In support of our resolutions for the coming year, why not create a crudités? Each time I serve or bring one to a party, guests give a sigh of relief, I suppose because there’s something delicious and wholesome they won’t have to work off at the gym.

Now if you are thinking about those prepackaged crudités platters with baby carrots and stalks of celery with dry ends and broccoli that’s never touched, think again. Making your own is easy, naturally beautiful and inexpensive, too. The one pictured at the bottom of the post, cost only $8. (A quarter lb. of a fancy cheese can cost that much.)

Most of the work of creating a beautiful arrangement can be done the day before in about 15 minutes. Here are some tips to a great crudités!

1. Buy your fresh veggies at the farmer’s market if possible. Wash and refrigerate them until the day of the event.

2. Choose vegetables with a wide assortment of colors.

3. Use an extra sharp knife to cut vegetables into easy-to-handle shapes. Long shapes are more elegant. Get away from the kibbles and bits look. Put all cut veggies, especially celery and carrots, into baggies with a little water and a few drops of olive oil until it’s time to serve the platter.

4. Never use baby carrots. They’re essentially tasteless. Scrub full sized carrots with a toothbrush and cut into long spears. Don’t peel them or you’ll loose the most nutritious part. Orange carrots are fine, but look for the yellow, red and purple ones for their beautiful presentation.

4. Steam and chill vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.

5. Utilizing the crudité raw regulars such as celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, is great.


6. Feel free to add some fresh berries. No apples slices, because they’ll discolor.

7. Skip the eggplant, potatoes and anything in the onion family for this one. Going for chlorophyl is best, not onion breath. Come on! It’s a party!

8. Do that cool 50′s housewife thing and carve radishes into rose blossoms. Just cut petals toward the center of the radish with a paring knife and soak in ice water so they open up.

9. Make a homemade thick dressing, so party guests won’t drip it everywhere. Vinaigrette won’t do. Consider using plain yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream and present it in a lovely glass instead of an ordinary bowl. My Russian dressing is super quick and easy, (See my video on 3 Salad Dressings for recipe . ) so there’s no excuse to use an awful & artificial bottled dressing. And please, don’t fuss over “double-dipping.” It’s not gonna kill anybody!

10. Keep it wrapped in plastic, so it stays moist until the moment of presentation. If it’s traveling, put a clean, moist dishtowel or paper towels under the plastic wrap. Serve well chilled and on a gorgeous platter.

I promise you, if you skip the step of par-cooking broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini, it will remain right where it started. Otherwise, if you look to your party platter among other party snacks well into the event, the crudités will be gobbled up and only your beautiful dish will be showing. Take notice around the room. It’s the skinny people who will be munching the most!

Wishing you good health and good times in the New Year!

Popcorn Cauliflower

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Hmm, you say you don’t like cauliflower or your family won’t eat it? Well, I trick my party guests and even kids into eating my Popcorn Cauliflower every time!

The cauliflower of yesteryear was over-cooked, which much like broccoli, releases a stinky sulphur odor. Batter dip and roast instead of boiling, and I’m betting you’ll love it, too. I make it for parties because it can be done ahead and reheated easily and frankly, I just get a little thrill out of people freaking when they realize they just ate cauliflower and loved it. I will say the chili-mayo dipping sauce is strictly for kids though. Its also very inexpensive, compared to other party foods like cheese and boxed crackers, which areladen with fat. (I’ll save my calories for a marguerite, if you don’t mind!)

I use dosa flour in mine, because I’m off wheat entirely and it’s made from lentils, which are ultra-high in protein. This recipe is easy-peasy. You might even get the kids in on this one. It’s easier than pancakes and much better for them.

Popcorn Cauliflower is great for parties!


Popcorn Cauliflower

½ T butter
1 large head cauliflower
2 eggs
1/2 T butter
1 head cauliflower
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
2 T dulse or flaked kelp
½ T sesame oil
1 t Dijon mustard
¼ t sea salt
¼ t black pepper
¼ t chili powder
¼ cup water (as needed)

Chili May Dipping Sauce:

½ cup canola mayonnaise
¼ finely chopped marinated green olives
2 T lemon juice
1 T horseradish
½ t chili powder

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Using your fingers, snap off individual cauliflower florets or cut them off with the tip of a sharp knife from the core. Slice any of the florets in half that are 2” round or larger.

Place a buttered, glass, baking dish or cookie sheet in the oven to heat that will fit all the cauliflower in a single layer and allow for space in between the florets.

Beat the two eggs together with a fork, in a large, deep bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients with only as much water needed to form a thick batter that will not quite pour.

Toss the cauliflower florets into the mixture and coat evenly. Then spread the battered cauliflower out on the hot baking dish, leaving space between each floret. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottoms are crusty.

Using a thin metal spatula to preserve the coating, turn the cauliflower and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned all over. Serve hot with the chilled chili mayo.

 

 

 

 

Green Goddess Guacamole

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4 Haas avocados
3T fresh lemon juice
2T plain yogurt or mayo or sour cream
½ t sea salt
½ t chili powder
½ t cumin
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Split avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit before scoring the avocado’s flesh in a grid pattern with a paring knife. Squeeze the skins and drop the avocado cubes into a glass or ceramic bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher or fork to a lumpy consistency.

Refrigerating for several hours allows the spices to infuse more of their flavor, but the guacamole can also be eaten right away. To prevent discoloring from oxygenation, cover the guacamole with plastic wrap so that is making full contact with the bowl and the guacamole, with no air space in between.

Before serving, stir to reincorporate the ingredients. Serve with “baked not fried” tortilla chips to conserve calories.

Party Trick

Making this recipe for a party?  Make it a few hours ahead and put it in the freezer until serving time.  There’s so much oil content in avocados, it won’t harden, but it will stay cold and look fresh longer, which is a big plus.

Avocado by Choice

Rich in “good cholesterol”, ripe avocado slices are a nutritious substitute for mayonnaise in sandwiches or salads. Most flavorful are Haas or Bacon avocados, which have bumpy blackish skins, not smooth green ones.

Store-bought avocados usually need about a week in room temperature to ripen to supply their luxurious flavor and texture, so buy well ahead of time. A perfectly ripe avocado feels as firm as a banana that was some brown spotting.

Emergency tip:

If you need to make guacamole now and the avocados are still hard, add an extra tablespoon or two of mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt for smoother consistency.

Get Really Real!  A friend, who regularly enjoys citrus juice in his cocktail, was surprised to know bottled lemon-lime juice he was using was is full of sulfites! It was this preservative that was giving him a headache and allergic skin reaction, not the gin! Give yourself the vitamin C benefit, which almost immediately vanishes when citrus juice is exposed to air, and wonderful tartness of those fresh squeezed lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits on a weekly basis.  You can use an old-fashioned wooden pummel or an electric citrus juicer.

Call for Recipe Testers!

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As I promised, here’s a list of entrees from the first to be released, Enlightened Cook ebook.  If you’d like test any of these just send me the title of recipes at marlonbraccia@gmail.com.  I’ll send back the recipe and for many a photo of the finished dish. What I would value in return is your feedback with specifics about length of  preparation time you experienced, whether the measurements, especially the spices were accurate and the like.

Towering Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Shrimp Curry in a Hurry

Chicken korma

Aloo Gobi

Broiled Ahi Tuna with Tamari-Lemon Glaze

5-Minute Dover Sole Saute

Sautéed Whole Red Snapper with White Grape Sauce

Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Onions and Portobello Mushrooms for Two

Gingered Snapper

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Maple Syrup -Poached Salmon

Osso Buco: Fall-off-the –Bone Veal Shank

Pistachio-Crusted Stuffed Chicken

Roast Duck

Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Oven-Baked Fish Cakes with Mango

Tilapia con Pepitos (Pumpkin Seeds)

Turkey Meatloaf

Vertical Roasted Chicken

Oven-poached Halibut for One

Fried Eggs Italian-Style

Simple Shitake & Arctic Char Sauté

Curried Steak

Many thanks to supporters of my upcoming cookbook, The Enlightened Cook; Think Like a Yogi, Eat Like a King.

Pistachio-Crusted Stuffed Chicken Thighs

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Ok, friends. Without further ado, as promised, here is the little miracle of a recipe from last weekend. I skewered these stuffed chicken bundles for easily handled picnic food at the Hollywood Bowl. With a little planning, this recipe also makes a fantastic road trip meal.  You can resist burning road time and ingesting processed food at a roadside burger joint on the day when seated in car for hours and not apt to burn a lot of calories. Come on, be a good co-pilot and feed that man!  Yes, with your fingers! Here ya go:

1 lb boneless chicken thighs

10 grape-sized tomatoes

3 oz feta cheese

1 small onion

2 small or 1 large basil leaves for each filet

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 ½ T cumin

1 t poppy seeds

2 T. olive oil

¼ cup salt

coarse ground pepper to taste

Heat a skillet or a griddle, add 1T olive oil and the onion which as been cut into ½” pieces. Salt the onions generously to encourage caramelizing. Stir occasionally until well browned. Remove from heat and reserve.

Boneless chicken pieces should to be no thicker than 1/2”. Filet or pound them to ½” if necessary. Place the chicken filet on a work surface, dry the top side and sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper. If you brined the chicken do not add more salt here. If you haven’t, sprinkle with salt to taste. Place a long spear of feta cheese crosswise at the narrow end of the filet. Add a few grape tomatoes and some of the reserved onions. Hold the stuffing inside as you roll into a tight bundle and secure with a piece of kitchen twine.

Grind into flour ½ cup pistachios. Combine with cumin, poppy seeds and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Roll the chicken bundles in the mixture to evenly coat on all sides.

Reheat the same skillet or griddle on low without washing it. Add the remaining 1 T olive oil. Place the bundles on the heated surface and cover loosely with a piece of foil to insulate some of the heat. Slow cook the chicken bundles on the first side until well browned. Resist the temptation to move them before they are very brown on one side, so they retain their rolled shape. Carefully stuff any cheese back in that oozes out the side. Turn the bundles over and brown the second side. If the bundles are very large, brown all sides to insure chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and carefully cut and remove the twine before serving.

See blog post: To Brine or Not To Brine; That Is the Question. Coming Soon!