Agvolemono The Phenomenal Greek Soup Perfect For Citrus Season

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If you’re in California or Florida, you’ve probably got friends with a bumper crop of citrus. My friend Howard brought me 10 sensation pink grapefruits from his tree in Palm Springs. Magnificent Meyer lemons came through Greg, who got them from a mutual friend, Les, who has a lemon tree that fruits profusely.

So here’s a unique and wonderful thing to do with those lemons, because they won’t last forever without spoiling. I first had it a a Greek friend’s house and it blew me away. It’s easy, but there is one trick you’ve got to get right. Temper the egg and lemon mixture with hot chicken stock and don’t boil it or you’ve got scrambled egg in chicken soup, not the fabulous, phenomenal––

Agvolemono Soup

8 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked rice (optional)
4 eggs, separated
6 or more T lemon juice
salt and white or black pepper to taste

Prepare 2 cups of rice according to directions on the package.

Heat chicken stock to a simmer. Remove from heat and keep warm while preparing agvolemono sauce.

With an electric hand mixer or wire wisk, beat 4 egg whites until foamy in a large bowl. Add yolks and beat well for 2 minutes more, then gradually mix in the lemon juice. Beating constantly, temper the mixture by very slowly incorporating hot chicken stock into the lemon-egg mixture, slowly and one ladle at a time until four cups have been added. (Adding the hot stock too quickly will curdle the eggs instead of creating a velvety texture.) Then slowly reverse the process; stirring the remaining chicken stock in the pot constantly, slowly transferring the lemon/egg/ broth mixture from the bowl to the pot.

Add the cooked rice, and gently reheat the soup on a very low heat, being sure not to boil it. Remove the pot from heat and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Very finely ground pepper and salt are optional. Serve with lemon wedges and buttered toast.

A Freelancer’s Lunch

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Those with office jobs or regular gigs all too often think freelancers are loafing at home, when we’re actually hard at work, though there are a few differences in our daily routines, to be sure. We race to our computers with a cup of morning caffeine and our office counterparts tout a cup-o-joe that’s probably cost them $4 and then crawl their way to work in their vehicles. Sure freelancers often don’t hit the shower until 3pm or 30 minutes before our first outside meeting, whichever comes first, but don’t let our bunny slippers convince we’re not as hard at it as gals in their pencil thin skirts and sensible pumps.

Now that I’ve defended freelancers’ work ethic, lets talk about the lunch time advantages! We break up the day by having lunch out once in a while, but for the most part, we eat when we are hungry and make it from home. It’s best of we can prepare something quickly so we can race back to work, but it can still be fabulous. Last Tuesday, I took a bowl of clams I soaking in water overnight and made a scrumptious noodle dish, you can concoct, too. I even tossed in leftover caramelized boc choy from last night’s supper.

Use this ingredient list strictly as inspiration, because when it comes to a noodle dish and fresh clams, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. The most important thing to remember is to get he broth going long before adding the clams to the pot, so those clams stay tender. Just cook ‘em until the shell pops and not a minute longer!

1 T coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2″ fresh ginger root
1 whole leaf lemongrass
1 stalk celery
1 T coconut oil
8 oz clam brine
3 oz white wine
3 scallions
3 oz dry rice noodles
1 over-ripe tomato
2 baby boo choy heads
10 pink peppercorns
1 t dulse or kelp flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 T hemp seeds

Freelancer's Clam 'n Noodle Lunch

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan set on medium-high. Toss in the garlic cloves, halved. Mince the ginger and add it. Slice the celery on the bias into 1/4″ slices and add to the pot to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the briny water in which the clams have been soaking, lemongrass, pink peppercorns, salt and pepper and the dry noodles and push the heat to high until it boils. Toss the noodle around and remove them when they are almost tender enough to eat.

Chop the tomato. scallions, dulse or kelp and any left over cooked veggies on hand. Add the wine and stir. Add the clams and cover with a lid. In 3 minutes with the pot boiling, remove the lid add the noodles back in and wait for the clam shells to pop open. Remove one by one as they do. Pour the contents of the pot over the clams once the noodles are reheated through and soft. Garnish with hemp seeds for a great dash of amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids!

Note: Food continues to cook even after its removed from the heat, so pull it off the heat and out of a hot pot just a little before its perfectly done.

Aloo Gobi

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Aloo Gobi & Wooden Ganesha

 

1 medium onion
3 T. sesame or safflower oil
2 T. curry powder
¼ t. cumin
¼ t. chili powder (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 ½ t. salt
3 large thin-skinned white potatoes
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup vegetable stock
3 T. fresh cilantro
2 T. lemon juice

 

 

 

Peel and coarse-chop the onion. Heat the oil a large saucepan and sauté the dry spices in it, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds on medium heat. Stir the chopped onions into the spiced oil. Press 2 cloves of garlic with the broad side of a knife to remove their skins and add to the pot with the onions. Stir thoroughly and cook for 3 minutes.

If you have bought thin-skinned white potatoes, keep the skins on. If they have thick, brown skins like an Idaho potato or red skins, peel the potatoes. Then cut the potatoes into 1” cubes, add them to the pot with half the salt, mixing thoroughly into the onion and spice mixture.

Discard the leaves from the cauliflower head and break off whole florets. Cut any florets in half that are larger than 1” around. Add the cauliflower to the pot 5-10 minutes after the potatoes with 1 cup of vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice when the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a knife. Stir again, now being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice, when the cauliflower can be pierced with a knife. Stir again, being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

 

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

 

Photo and text by Marlon Braccia © 2008

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 for Pulled Chicken Molé

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Pulled Chicken Molé cropped

Saucy, luscious Pulled Chicken Molé with secret ingredient, cocoa powder

Hello People,

I’m working hard on finishing the first volume of the Enlightened Cook: Entrees.  Here is one recipe on which I’d love some feedback. What I generally ask of my recipe tests to provide feedback on the clarity of  the directions, accuracy of the measurements (i.e. too much salt? enough oil?). In the case of this terrific recipe, what I need in addition is info on how accurate the timing of each step was:

How long did it take at the given temperature to initially cook the chicken breasts so that they were slightly pink inside?

Was 2 minutes enough to sufficiently break down the tomato at the end into a smooth sauce?

I am considering instead instructing readers to add the tomato and then add the cocoa powder a few minutes later.  It’s really important the cocoa powder is not scalded or truly it ruins the sauce. (I’ve tasted that overcooked taste soooo many times in Mexican restaurants.)

So here is the recipe and a note on brining that will appear on that page of the book. Pulled chicken Molé is a recipe I truly love for it’s utterly unique yet unidentifiable flavor.

Pulled Chicken with Mole Sauce

3 cups vegetable stock
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 cup minced onion
2 t crushed garlic
1 t coriander
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t cinnamon
¾ t sea salt
1 t powdered arrowroot or kudzu
2 T cocoa powder
1 cup extra-ripe fresh tomato

Simmer chicken cutlets in the vegetable stock in a 2-quart pot until only the center remains slightly pink, approximately 5 minutes. Reserve the stock in a bowl and place the chicken breasts on a cutting board.

Mince the onions and the garlic and sauté them in the olive oil in the same pot on a medium heat.  When the onions are translucent, but not brown, add all the spices and cook for 1 minute as you stir with a wooden spoon. Then add ½ cup of the reserved stock. Slowly sift in the flour to the rest of the stock, then stir the mixture into the pot a little at a time. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce cooks down, tear the cooled chicken into shredded pieces about 1 ½” inches long and ½” thick with your fingers.

When sauce has thickened to consistency of heavy cream, remove it from the heat and puree with a pistol-style hand blender until it smooth (or puree in a blender.) Stir in the cocoa powder. Add the tomato, which has been cut into ½” cubes. Add the chicken and stir well to coat the chicken evenly. Gently reheat on a medium-low heat for  2 minutes to finish cooking the center of the chicken pieces. Do not boil or the cocoa will make the sauce bitter. Serve with soup spoons in deep bowls to savor every drop!

To brine or not to brine;
That is the question
By all means, if you have the prep time, brine! This technique adds moisture to all kinds of red meat and poultry. It’s especially great for lean protein such as turkey, which tends to dry out when cooking. To brine add a handful of salt to a bowl of water and stir to dissolve. Add spices, if you like. Submerge the flesh and cover the bowl before refrigerating. An hour has a good effect. A day is terrific. Three days seems to work fine, because the salt kills much of the bacteria , which deters spoilage. If you brine, be sure to use no additional salt directly on the flesh.