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.

BBQ Tamarind Ribs

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Finger lickin' good BBQ Tamarind Ribs

BBQ Sauce:
1 cup tamarind sauce (alt: tamarind paste & water)
½ cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 T peanut butter
1 T black pepper
1 ½ t pink peppercorns
1 t salt

Crush pink peppercorns with a mallet or heavy-bottomed pan. Chop fresh basil. Combine with all other ingredients for the sauce. Slather the ribs liberally and place into a baking dish. Marinate overnight if possible.

Oven or Combination Oven/Grill Method
Cover and bake at 300º for 1 hour. Then reduce temperature to 175º and bake covered, for another 3-5 hours. This can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight. Uncover and broil for 3 min each side immediately before serving or place on a BBQ grille to thicken the coating and brown.

Grill Method:
Grill with indirect heat (coals on one side and ribs on the other side) with the lid down. For that fall-off the-bone tenderness, use few coals and replenished when necessary so temperature is very low over a prolonged period. Soaked wood chips make a nice extra touch of smoky flavor. Slather with additional coat of BBQ sauce and finish for 3 minutes each side over direct heat for that finger-lickin’, sticky goodness that says 4th of July!

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.

Vertical Roasted Chicken

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Here’s an incredibly flavorful way to make roast chicken that’s so fast, you can even make it in the middle of a busy work week. It’s my go to meal when up to 3 people are joining me for dinner. I use only organic chickens because I don’t want to ingest chickens raised with artificial hormones, antibiotics or even feed with GMO corn. The flavor of organic chicken is cleaner and sweeter. You can justify paying about three times the price, by using all the remains to make organic chicken stock that will serve as the base of great soups or sauces. Just boil the skin, bones, cartilage, etc for 2 hours, strain it, freeze it and skim off all the fat before using it. It’s many times more flavorful than store-bought chicken stock. It’s easy and it’s thrifty.

In the video below I use parsley, purple basil, lemon verbena all of which were growing on my terrace, plus fresh ginger, but the recipe in my book I use other herbs. That’s because I’ve made many, many variations on this fool-proof roasted chicken. So feel free to any herbs or spices you like, because its the method that makes if great. Enjoy!

3-5 lb hormone-free chicken
3 T olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T minced rosemary
3” fresh ginger root
2 large cloves fresh garlic
2 T pink peppercorns
1T salt
1 ½ t black pepper
1 lemon
1 Bermuda onion

If the preparation time is available, brine the chicken in cold water with one handful of salt overnight in a large container or stockpot. Rinse the chicken before continuing the preparation.

Move an oven wrack to the lowest position and take the others out of the oven, before preheating to 475º. Select a baking dish longer than the chicken and a minimum of 2” deep to create a water bath in which the vertical roasting wrack will stand upright or be placed above.

With a mallet or poultry scissors, cut off the end of the wings up to the first joint and the knobs on the end of each drumstick. With your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the flesh of the bird.
In a cup, grate the ginger and garlic and combine with 3 tablespoons oil olive oil, ½ tablespoon salt (reduce to ½ teaspoon if chicken was brined) black pepper, finely chopped rosemary, parsley and cilantro. Spread 2/3 of the mixture both inside the cavity and between the skin and flesh of the bird, being sure to work it all the way into the legs and wings. Thinly slice the lemon and Bermuda onion and slide these under the skin, too.

Measure and cut 5 feet of cotton kitchen twine. Cross the drumsticks secure them upward as far as possible so they are above the water line if the chicken is placed in the water-filled pan. Continue trussing the bird by crossing the twine around the body and tucking the wings in tightly. Season the outside skin with the rest of the olive oil spice rub and the remaining ½ tablespoon salt. Place the bird and roaster vertically on the wrack above the water pan if possible. For smaller ovens place the vertical roaster in the pan of water or horizontally on the rack above the pan of water in the hot oven. The chicken will cook quickly so set a timer for only 25 minutes and check the bird!!

If the bird is horizontal, turn it over halfway through the roasting time.

To check for doneness, cut the chicken in the crease between the leg and the body. As soon as the liquid runs clear with no traces of blood, it is cooked!

Download the new ebook, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees

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New ebook! Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees

Just in time to re-inspire those fading New Year’s resolutions of eating a healthier diet, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees is here!  Available now for just $3.99 as a PDF download, this ebook is full of the delicious protein you crave. (Use the Buy it for $3.99 button on the right column of this blog. You can use your Paypal account if you like or just let the Paypal’s secure on-line credit card processing  do a normal credit or debit card transaction.)
In Protein Entrées, you can choose from international favorites like creamy Chicken Korma and zesty Shrimp Curry in a Hurry. New tricks reinvent old favorites with Vertical Roasted Chicken and Porterhouse Steak with Caramelized Onions and Portobello Mushrooms. Confidently create perfectly moist, delicious salmon, tuna and halibut entrees to add those healthy omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. Step-by-step instructions inspire even the kitchen novice with the confidence to prepare the leanest Roast Duck or incredibly succulent Portuguese Whole Snapper with White Grape Sauce. Even Pork Loin Florentine is surprisingly lean and packed with nutrients.
Among the protein-rich recipes and tantalizing photos, Marlon informs with enlightening tips on technique, nutrition and holistic sensibilities. Every recipe is completely devoid of artificial ingredients, so there are no synthetic horomones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives or colorings–just pure, wholesome delicious food! You’ll effortlessly learn how to buy the purest, most fortified ingredients at the market, how to retain their freshness and nutrients, understand which food products and cookware to avoid. Creating nutrition-packed meals is easy — no more fad diets! Change your perception of health food forever!

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.

Homemade Hummus: Mellow and Pure

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About two months ago I read the ingredient list on the side of each of the hummus containers I found at Trader Joe’s, a chain of markets Angelinos think of as offering healthy, all-natural foods. I was shocked at the length of unfamiliar ingredients, including emulsifiers and other things that looked suspiciously like chemical preservatives. Isn’t hummus simply garbanzo beans, lemon juice, tahini (sesame paste) and a little garlic, if you want to get fancy?
Well it is now. I purchased lovely, sprouted garbanzo beans from the lady at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market the followig week, who when questioned told me she does it the old Moroccan way; not in plastic, but in silk. Hooray! I’m all for cutting down on the chances that petroleum from plastic containers is leeching its way into my food.
Truth is the garbanzos sat in my refrigerator for a week before I could get to them. I searched on line for a tip on how to cook them, because raw garbanzos are mighty hard to digest. I couldn’t find a single site that was using sprouted garbanzos and when they did mention raw garbanzos, a raw hummus recipe followed. I’ve made this and I like it, but one cannot achieve the smooth satisfying texture of cooked hummus with the raw recipes.
So I opted to simply cover the beans with filtered water and let them simmer for 30 minutes. Once they cooled, I found it was easy to pinch away the semi-translucent skins from the beans, which I figured would make it still easier to digest. (Thanks for your help with that part, Paul.)
Tossed into a food processor with a good ration of tahini, lemon juice, some water, a few cloves of roasted garlic plus salt and pepper and a tablespoon of my latest superfood discovery, kudzu. Added for its property of soothing the entire gastro-intestinal tract, I knew the texture of the hummus would make the kudzu undetectable. I pureed all the ingredients for a full two minutes until it was sooth, streaming a bit more water thru the top o the food processor until it was the right consistency.
Tasting it, I found the flavor very mellow yet absolutely buoyant compared to any other hummus I’ve ever had. I suppose it’s because canned beans (like all canned food) have so little life force remaining in them. Roasting the garlic mellows its bite, so this hummus was as mellow as I had hoped. Adding nothing else allowed the fresh, clean unadulterated flavors of the garbanzos and tahini to be the focus.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a return to foods with a mellow flavor for their soothing effect. It’s one way I self-nurture and attempt to heal from the stresses of work and the economy. I suppose this outlook is guided by my knowledge of Ayurveda, which touts that spicy foods stimulate our energy and those with strong onions and garlic can pull us into lower chakra energy. On the other hand, mellow, soothing foods help us ground ourselves, heal and tap into intuitive thought. So I suppose my hummus and I will be meditating through the week. Happy Sunday to all of you!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups sprouted garbanzo beans

2 cups water

1/2 t. sea salt

1 T. kudzu powder

1/4 cup lemon juice

¼ cup tahini

¼ t. black pepper

1/4 t. cumin

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

Bring the garbanzo beans and 1½ cups of water to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, create a foil pouch and place in it 3 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1T. olive oil and 2 T. water. Place in the oven for 30 minutes to roast at 350º.
After 30 minutes, remove the garlic from the oven and remove the soft centers when cool enough to handle. Discard the papery shells. Then strain the remaining water off the garbanzos, rinse with cold water in a mess strainer, and roll the beans around vigorously so the translucent skins pop off. Pluck most of the skins out with your fingers, but don’t feel the need to be fastidious and discard every single one. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Pure for 2 full minutes, adding ¼- ½ cup water gradually, until the hummus is as smooth as peanut butter, but a bit thinner.

Serving Suggestions:
Chill and serve with raw vegetables, bread or crackers. Hummus also makes a great low calorie, high protein alternative to mayonnaise on sandwiches.

Adventures in Calamari

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A friend of a friend, Enrique, caught a Humbolt Squid in the cool California waters between San Pedro and Catalina Island a week ago. At sixty-five pounds and with dandling tentacles, is stood almost as tall as our handsome, statuesque fisherman. Brought on Friday night, I was too intimidated by the looming threat of it cooking up as tough as a fat tire, so instead we opted for the deli that night.
Next day, I took my surgically-sharp knife to the defrosted section that looked strangely like a KKK hood. Slithering and eerie with a faint briny odor and pushed into my bamboo cutting board with a firm palm, I slipped the blade under the membrane of this slippery white mass and pushed. With some guiding I pierced the place between the white flesh and the membrane, until it was my fist working to the other side of this slab of an animal. A weird sense of victory came in spurts each time a significant strip of membrane ripped off the main flesh. Great fun, and I must say, very primal!
Next I cut the calamari into 2-3” strips that were a mere ¼” wide. Then I took the whole slithering pile of them into a bowl, covered them with goat milk, a bit of kosher salt and plastic wrap and set them in the refrigerator to marinade. The enzymes in the goat milk break would down the proteins that make calamari tough, or so says the owner of Frankie’s on Melrose Blvd, whose restaurant makes the best calamari on either side of the Mississippi.
Thirty-six hours later, milky strips emerged visually unchanged. Now it was time to compose a batter that would be both light and crisp and yet adhere when fully cooked. Borrowing secrets from tempura, I opted to combine rice flour and an effervescent liquid––in this case beer. First I mixed rice flour, eggs, salt and pepper, and saved adding the beer until the final dredge through coarse corn meal was eminent. )Recipe will be postedin 3 days.)
My last consideration was on how to achieve the crispness of deep fried without the fat content or the danger of boiling a quart of oil! In my opinion it’s too dangerousto boil a quart or so of oil in the home kitchen. So I heated my Lodge iron griddle until it was searing hot. Rapid cooking is imperative for tender, crispy calamari. Then I mixed in ½ a bottle of beer to the rice and egg batter. Now with the speed of an assembly line, I dipped each drained strip of calamari into the batter, dredged them in the cornmeal, and plopped them on the hot griddle, which had just enough safflower oil on it create a crust.
Turning only once and cooked to golden brown in just two minutes, they were placed on a paper towel lined dish, where they were served with a hot, spicy tomato marinara sauce I made the day before.
Wow! Wow! Wow! What threatened to be chewy, had turned out––according to every one of my guests–became the most tender calamari any of us had ever had! Success!!!!
Unfortunately Enrique and his lovely wife, Lucia were down with the flu, so they did not taste their local catch, but waiting for them in the freezer is a fully dressed quart of calamari ready for the skillet as soon as they are well.
So does anyone else have something they’ve caught that I can tackle? Bring it on!!
Enrique’s video of of his live catch is on his facebook page here. Thanks, Enrique!!
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1307649981661