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.

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.

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.

What’s the Beef About Red Meat?

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Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees. In addition to recipes, you’ll become smart about choices at the market. It’s all designed to help you navigate your way though some pretty treacherous food choices out there to healthy proteins.

So what’s the beef about red meat?

It may be a surprise to some to find red meat in a health food cookbook, but it’s my contention that consuming animal products in moderation and eating the purest ones available are the factors that count most. For instance, though pricey, grass-fed, free-range beef is by far the healthiest beef available. These animals live the life nature intended before commerce stepped in and both they and we are far healthier for it. Roaming steer eat no grain or commercial feed, but instead consume only grass when they are provided with the physical space to graze for it. Their robust health doesn’t require the stream antibiotics that commercial livestock receive. Free-range animals in general also aren’t riddled with stress hormones that are a natural response to the inhumane living conditions most commercial livestock are forced to tolerate.
Then there is the much-discussed protein benefit of meat. Because nine of the twenty- two amino acids essential to a healthy body that must be derived from diet are present in red meat, it’s considered a “perfect protein.” Although those amino acids (histidine, lysine, threonine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine and tryptophan) can be derived from combinations of plant-based foods, only animal protein contains all nine.
In addition, the protein in red meat makes the healthy dose of iron it also delivers more absorbable. That’s especially important for menstruating women, because they need to replace lost iron each month. Blackstrap molasses is a fantastic source of iron, too, but a juicy steak is certainly more sumptuous!
True, red meat has saturated fat, but saturated fat is essential to the body and especially to brain function. Much data points to the understanding that cholesterol in the bloodstream has little or nothing to do with dietary cholesterol and heart disease. What’s more, coronary health’s relationship to cholesterol is suspiciously linked to pharmaceutical companies’ interest in marketing statin drugs. I recommend researching extensively on line and making your own assessment of data available, before viewing red meat as a compromise to health.

Porterhouse Steak with Portobello Mushrooms

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!

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!

10 Tips on Food Photography for Cookbook Authors

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If a cookbook author or food blogger wants to try and photograph their own dishes, I’d definitely encourage them to do so. Click on the link to see examples of my published work and read the 10 tips below to improve your own food photography.

Enlightened Cook Food Photos

Here are 10 tips I can offer to other cookbook authors and budding food photographers:

1. Rarely shoot directly overhead. It’s usually a dull angle and almost never works when plates are round, because photographs are rectangular or square.

2. Don’t use a flash camera. Use natural light and a few bounce cards if you need them. Flash produces a very flat shot and glaring highlights. If you absolutely have no other option, back way up creating distance from the subject and zoom the lens in. Then the light won’t be so hot. (This is much more flattering for people, too.)

3. Never, ever use a light box. This light is too even and looks fake. If you do use one, your food will not look real. It will look more like a Hallmark card circa 1970′s.

4. The other trick to making sure your images don’t look like Hallmark cards is to have some of image in sharp focus and allow that focus to soften toward the background. Photos where the entire image is in focus don’t look natural because if the dish were actually in front of your reader, their eye would not see it that way.

5. Make sure you look at everything in the frame and take all extraneous things from the background out, unless you specifically want them there.

6. Shoot so that your photographs have a very large file size that will equal at least 300dpi so that when it goes to print, the images will remain clear. There’s nothing more disappointing than a great photo that doesn’t have enough resolution to be printed.

7. If you don’t absolutely love the photograph of a particular dish, omit it. If there are poor photographs it very quickly lessons the perceived professionalism of the whole book.

8. Don’t ever grab photos off the web to use on your own material. You must have copyright for all images. If a publisher finds out one of your images isn’t being used legally, I can promise you they won’t work with you again. Their liability risk for being sued is too high and too costly.

9.Be sure to choose props that are unique to each shot. It’s important to have other things in the frame, not just your food. It should look like we just arrived a talented host’s home where everything was beautifully laid out. I shop thrift shops constantly for tablecloths, napkins, utensils, dish and bakeware. Make sure everything you use is laundered, polished and immaculately clean.

10. After a few attempts, if your work isn’t top shelf, find another photographer and negotiate a rate you can handle. I work with cookbook writers and food writers to quickly get food images on a budget. I’d be happy to find out what food images you need and work with you at a reasonable cost. My food photos are on 10 food blogs and in my book, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees.

Cucumber Coconut Manna Hors’d Oeuvres

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Cucumber Coconut Manna Canapés

Organic, Persian or Kirby cucumbers
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup  coconut manna
1 t dulse (optional)
½ t coarse salt
½ t pepper
¼ cup hemp seeds
1/2 oz red coconut oil

Choose cucumbers at the market according to best freshness and price.

Wash and cut chilled cucumbers on an extreme bias into thick, ½” oval shapes. Do not peel.

Heat coconut manna until liquefied. In a deep bowl, mix salt, pepper and dulse into yogurt to evenly blend. Pour in coconut manna and mix quickly and vigorously until it stiffens into a stiff cream, which takes only moments.

Pile 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture on to each cucumber slice. Sprinkle with hemp seeds and garnish with coarse salt and 1-2 drops red coconut oil. Serve immediately.

Nothing makes me happier than showing people superfoods are delicious and Nutiva certainly makes them. This recipe features 3 of their sensational products: coconut manna, hemp seeds, and their new responsibly harvested red palm oil! Party goers at Nutiva’s party during the Natural Product Expo gobbled up over 700 of these delicious, nutritious finger foods! Yum!