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!

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!

Crispy Asparagus with Lime Mayo

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Crispy Asparagus are coated in ground pumpkin seeds and spices!

10-12 thick asparagus spears
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ t ground coriander
½ t dulse or kelp flakes
¼ t ground fennel
¼ t kosher salt
¼ t black pepper

Sauce:
1 ½ T mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1 ½ T fresh lime juice
zest of ½ lime
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Garnish Recommendations:
1 radish
2 springs parsley, basil, sage or cilantro

 

Rinse, trim the bottom ½” and remove the skin from the lower third of each asparagus spear with a vegetable peeler.

Evenly coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place in an oven set to 350º.

Grind the pumpkin seeds into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. (Add coriander and fennel here, if spices are whole seeds.) Pour ground pumpkin seeds and the remaining spices into a rectangular baking dish at least as long as an asparagus spear and tap it to one of the longer sides. Roll each spear in the pumpkin seed and spice mixture and reserve at the empty side of the dish.

When all the spears are evenly coated, place them on the hot baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes before turning over each spear. Continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the asparagus is tender and the coating is golden brown.

Zest ½ a lime in to a cup and stir in lime juice and mayo until smooth. Arrange the asparagus in a serving plate and pour a thin stream of the limo-mayo sauce over it. Sprinkle the white sauce decoratively with fresh thyme leaves and garnishes before serving.

Tip: For once, fat is better than thin!
Thin asparagus spears aren’t more tender than the big fat ones. It’s the insoluble fiber in asparagus’ skin that’s the tough part and overcooking it just makes it stringy and bitter,not more tender. Preferred are asparagus with a larger circumference. Then the ratio of tender soluble fiber beneath the skin is higher for a more chewable, flavorful experience. So go for the big ones!

 

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.

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!

Magnificent Spinach Pie

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EC Blog Posts

1/20/10

Spanakopita: Magnificent Spinach Pie

See video at bottom of post!

Spinach Pie

If 3 Greeks are any indicator this crowd pleaser recipe is one worth saving for generations to come! I guarantee it will be the freshest, most vibrant, bursting with goodness and flavor spinach pie you’ve ever had.

Greek #1: Gratefully, my close friend’s sister gave me her grandmother’s recipe, though I quickly baulked at the instruction to use thawed, frozen, wrung out spinach. Blasting I said I was quite sure “the ancient Greeks did not use frozen spinach” and commented that the recipe was probably created in the 1950′s when using frozen vegetables was commonplace. I openly vowed to augment and improve it with more wholesome ingredients, which frankly did not go over very well. Yet I remained determined to apply the same holistic sensibilities I do to each of my recipe and created an updated, vibrant recipe that’s worthy of inclusion in my upcoming book!

Greek #2: My client, Paul from Professorit.com, hired me to host a bunch of cooking segments.  Not realizing he was of Greek decent and had probably had countless spanakopita made for him by family members, I planned to make the spinach pie in one of our video segments. Several friends had already flipped for this nutrient-packed recipe, so I remained confident. At 11pm, we wrapped the shoot and he tasted it. Low and behold, he said it was “the best spinach pie” he’d ever had! Eureka!! I was vindicated!!

Greek #3:  Jason, who is a student through my yoga DVDs is standing by now for this recipe.  Originally from Cyprus, his entire family are apt to be discerning tasters.  So Jason, this is for you.  Sincere hopes you and your family enjoy it as much as my friends and I have.

Spanakopita: Magnificent Spinach Pie

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach (approx. 1 bunch)
2 T (approx. 20 fresh mint leaves)
¼ cup flat leaf parsley
8 oz feta cheese
2 eggs
8 sheets of filo dough
1 T butter
¾ t sea salt
½ t fresh ground black pepper to taste
¾ T + 1t sesame seeds
¼ t poppy seeds

Defrost the filo dough at room temperature for 30 minutes without removing the plastic wrapper.

Place a pie plate or shallow casserole dish in the oven and set to 375º.

Snap off the large stems as you wash the fresh spinach thoroughly in a colander with cold water, removing all the sand. Gently pat the spinach leaves very dry with a cotton dishcloth.

Remove the heated pie plate to a heat safe surface like a wooden cutting board and quickly add ½T butter to the heated pie plate. When the butter melts, spread it evenly around the bottom, sides and over the lip of the plate with a pastry brush or paper towel. Place 4 sheets of filo dough in the pie plate. If the plate is round, cut overhanging edges off with a scissor, retaining an extra ½” all the way around so the crust does not shrink smaller than the plate. Retain any cut pieces. Prick the filo dough with a fork so it doesn’t puff up while baking and return the plate to the oven. Allow it to bake for approximately 10 minutes. When the dough becomes very crisp, but not yet brown, remove it from the oven. Place the remaining ½T of butter in a small ramekin or oven-safe cup to melt in the hot oven for the top of the pie.

Beat Eggs

Beat Eggs In A Large Bowl

As the filo bakes, beat eggs in the bottom of a large bowl.  Finely chop the parsley and mint. Use the parsley stems, but discard the mint stems. Add spinach to the pile and continue to chop coarsely to large 1” pieces. Add the chopped ingredients to the bowl and crumble the feta into ½” pieces over it with your hands.  Add the salt, pepper and ¾T of the sesame seeds. Lightly toss the ingredients until well mixed, being careful not to crush the spinach.

Spinach, Feta and Egg Mixture

Spinach, Feta and Egg Mixture

Blind Baked Filo with Spinach Mixture

Blind Baked Filo with Spinach Mixture

Lightly place a mound of the spinach mixture into the pie plate or casserole dish, on top of the cooked filo dough.  Nudge the mixture with a fork toward sidewalls of the baking dish.

Spinach Pie with top filo layer

Spinach Pie with top filo layer

Place any reserved scraps of filo dough in an even layer on top of the spinach. Cover these with four un-separated sheets of filo dough. Trim with a scissor leaving ¾” of dough all the way around the dish.  Carefully tuck the raw filo under the lip of the cooked under layer of filo for a neat and finished edge. Remove the melted butter from the oven and brush the top layer with it, especially around the edges.  Sprinkle the poppy seeds and remaining sesame seeds on top of the buttered filo dough and return the pie dish to the oven.

The finished pie

The finished pie

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until well browned. If the top crust is browning too quickly, place a sheet of aluminum foil across the top. Ovens vary, so after check periodically for doneness after 30 minutes baking time.

Slice of Spinach Pie

Photos and text Copyright 2008-2010 Marlon Braccia

Kick Off Enlightened Cook Blog with Superbowl Wings!

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Hello Cooks and welcome to the Enlightened Cook’s first blog post!!

I thought I’d kick off with something timely like Superbowl Wings!

The Wing Story

One of my dearest friends, Vicent Grupi, whose since passed on, told me he had fabulous chicken wings at a party, and he was told they were made with yogurt.  He remarked that it seemed a very strange combination, yet they were the best wings he’d ever tasted.  I wondered how anyone, especially Vinny, could get that excited about chicken wings. To me they were greasy junk food with little culinary merit. Yet somehow the thought of deriving a recipe from that one piece of information, stuck in my mind for 15 years. By then I knew marinating in yogurt was part of India’s Tandoori tradition, in which foods are slow-cooked in an oven for a long time.

Finally, when I looked down at the meat counter one day I saw a package of the plumpest wings I’d ever seen.  They were hormone/antibiotic-free, organic chicken wings and still very inexpensive, and that was a great place to start. So I decided to do what I often do when I cook; I “winged it.” I dreamed up what I thought would taste good and marinated these wings for 3 days, before bringing them raw and swimming in sauce to Candy and Will’s Labor Day BBQ. Being from Texas, Will’s a master griller and knew to cook them slowly on a cooler part of the grill. My rock star date, who I’m sure prefers to go nameless, was licking his fingers with delight over them and our drummer friend, was stomping his foot with speechless appreciation. Everyone at the party said they were the plumpest, most succulent wings they’d ever had, except Will.  Unfortunately, the wings were all gobbled up before he got one.  Sorry, Will!

Try to plan ahead on this one, so you can marinate for the full 3 days.  I think you’ll be amazed at the result. And please, save one for the host!

SUPERBOWL WINGS

4 lbs chicken wings

1 quart plain yogurt

3 oz. beer

Juice of 2 limes

1 1/2” ginger root- coarse chopped

2 t. dried thyme

1 t. dried lavender

1 t. black pepper

3/4 t. sea salt

Rinse and poke holes into the wings with a sharp knife, so the sauce penetrates the flesh of the chicken.  Mix all the ingredients together and marinate 1-3 days. Stir the mixture twice a day.

Grill very slowly on the BBQ or bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet in the oven at 325º for 45 minutes.  Goes good with a beer. Enjoy!

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