Global Cuisine

spicychicken.jpgI am always searching for a new way to make chicken.  It's one of those blank canvas foods...just waiting for inspiration to hit and turned into something wonderful.

While flipping through one of my Ina Garten cookbooks, I came across this recipe. There wasn't a picture, which often deters me from making something. I want to see it done. Anyway, it just sounded good, not to mention I had few hunks of ginger in the refrigerator I needed to use. Ina mentioned this was served in her New York store and was excellent both warm and cold.

The mixture of the honey, ginger, garlic and soy sauce sounded like the perfect flavor combination. So out came the chickens from the freezer to thaw completely and then the marinating process began.

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jamieIf you have as many chef crushes as I do, here’s some good news: you don’t have to break up with your favorite chefs in order to lose weight, you just have to redefine your relationships…

And here’s a Jamie Oliver “recipe re-do” to prove the point:  Skinny Steak with Mushrooms, Bok Choy and Gingered Tamari Sauce.

From the moment Jamie burst on the scene–with dishes that were both simple and sophisticated, and a style of cooking that was casual and fun–I was a fan; never questioning his recipes, I just cooked. But now, 30+ pounds lighter and with an eye on the health of everyone in my family, I do question the ingredients and instructions for every recipe I make and, though I still adore Jamie and his dishes, I happily alter them.

Found in Happy Days with the Naked Chef, the original version of this quick and easy recipe calls for one 8-ounce sirloin steak per person. Without getting into the other health risks of eating too much red meat, it’s just an awful lot of fat and calories…32 grams of fat, to be exact, and roughly 500 calories–about a third of the calories I need in an entire day… And I’m not talking about the fat and calories in the whole meal,  just the portion of the plate that’s protein!

By reducing that super-sized portion of beef and using meat-mimicking magic mushrooms to fill out the plate you can still enjoy the taste and sensation of a beef dinner but with half the fat, cholesterol and calories.

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easyenchiladasWe love good Mexican food in the Salzman household. Soft tacos are a weekly staple on our dinner table (using leftover grilled steak or roasted chicken, sauted with a little bit of onion and garlic), served with fresh salsa, sliced avocado, and if time permits, pickled onions.

One of our favorite neighborhood haunts is Monte Alban. Isaac not only eats his entire meal (enchiladas mole), but he polishes off half of Levi’s “Camarones a la Diabla”. We all crave the diabla sauce and if I would let him, Isaac would “lick” his plate clean. We save that behavior for the privacy of our own home!

When ever I find my kids getting bored with my cooking, I ask all of them to list their five favorite meals. Enchiladas always gets a collective thumbs up and is a meal that rarely gets the, “oh no, not that again…I don’t like that anymore”. Enchilads seems like a labor intensive task, but it really isn’t. With a little bit of prep and organization, this meal can be whipped up in 30 mintues or less.

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mexisoup.jpgSo any dish that I can make one day, eat it the next two or so, and enjoy it every time is a winner in my book. Soups and stews are most always better once they have “set” and allowed their flavors to thoroughly combine. This stew slash thick soup is of no exception. Delicious right out of the pot and just as good the next day, my Mexican Stew is an easy winner.

Don’t get me wrong, I love soups and food in general, but condiments, sides, garnishes, and flavor savors make a dish! Sour cream and Monterey Pepper Jack cheese in this case. Now, about this cheese…oh my! The Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack I love is from our local meat market, M&T Meats in Hawkinsville. It IS a cheese among cheeses. Very creamy, plenty of pepper warmth but not fiery, and melts in a jiffy…this is a cheese for me! The ones at the grocery are just fine, but if you have the chance to buy a local cheese, pounce on the opportunity…it is well worth it!

I digress, back on to the Mexican Stew. Meaty, hearty, and full of flavor, this stew was born out of what I had on hand – sometimes making the best dishes. A leaner ground beef and little bit of ground sausage (plain ol’ good sausage, no flavorings…mine again was from M&T) make for a textural background flavor and also provide the right amount of cooking fat for the whole stew.

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ImageChickpeas are among the most ancient and versatile legumes. Originating from the Middle East long before Christ, chickpeas eventually spread throughout Asia and Europe and have been a part of our diets for milennia. Popular chickpea dishes include hummus and falafel from the Middle East, roasted ceci from Italy, and besan ladoo and chana masala from India. Chickpeas can be cooked whole from dried beans, eaten fresh from the pod, dried and ground into flour, or puréed. One of my favorite Indian sweets is besan ladoo, which uses chickpea flour to create the buttery and sugary balls enjoyed as a Diwali festival dessert.

One of the easiest and most loved Indian chickpea dishes is stew. Indian chana masala is a flavorful vegetarian curry of chickpeas with a wonderful blend of Eastern spices. Indians hold chickpeas in high regard and the bean is considered to be the most widely used legume in the subcontinent. Vegetarians especially appreciate chickpeas for their nutritional value as they are high in protein and fiber. But even if you aren't a vegetarian, you too can enjoy this chickpea curry. Whether you eat it as a main dish or a side to pair with meat, this dish is completely versatile. It's easy to love and most certainly worthy of having seconds.

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