Monday, August 30, 2010

Spicy BBQ Chicken Marinade

If to you the thought of eating low-fat poultry meat is bland and boring, try this out - your taste buds will be in for a treat!

This marinade recipe is based on a Portuguese specialty called “piri-piri” chicken, utilizing ground native piri-piri peppers (originally from Africa but now the pride of Portugal) rather than cayenne or other ground peppers. Not sure if piri-piri is available here in North America in grocery or specialty stores but if you can find it, try it out – it adds a nice flavour.

The marinade is absolutely marvelous for BBQ chicken pieces, but I imagine it would taste equally yummy on other grilled or baked meats or seafood (I've done it with shrimp and it was fantastic! Will have to try it on scallops).

1 cup EVOO
1.5 TBS piri-piri pepper or cayenne pepper or ground chili pequin / Thai chilies
.5 TBS paprika
4-5 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp sea salt
.5 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp lemon juice
.5 tsp ground pepper
.5 tsp sugar
Put the above in a tightly sealed jar, shake briskly, and keep in the fridge for a few weeks to meld flavours. Take out every day or two for a couple of hours to un-congeal (is that a word?) the oil, so you can shake and mix the ingredients more.
Recipe based on 1 cup of oil should cover 25-30 pieces of chicken. I usually use only 1/4 cup at a time, for 6-8 pieces of chicken. 8 hours is enough to blend the flavors in the jar, but the longer the better. Marinate the chicken or other meat in the fridge at least 8 hours or longer for the most intense flavour.
Be sure to remove the extra fat and skin from the chicken pieces before marinating or the grill could flare up and burn the chicken.
Grill on medium-high heat for about 45 minutes (based on thick breasts or thighs) or until juices run clear. 

For chicken Tandoori, you may add 1 TBS Turmeric, 1 tsp. gharam marsala, a small amount of red food coloring (optional), and increase the lemon juice to 1 TBS. Turmeric is full of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.
I haven't tried it yet, but might some time add tequila and use lime juice to make tequila-lime chicken; or some bourbon and brown sugar to make bourbon chicken.

You could also try this oven-baked, with the chicken pieces coated with seasoned bread crumbs after dipping in milk, for a “Fried” chicken that would make the Colonel come back to life.

Feel free to modify as you wish.

Bom apetite!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Smile in the Sky

Yesterday around 5:00 pm, as Jason and I were chillaxin' in the pool, we were treated to a rare sight in the hazy Phoenix sky - an upside-down rainbow. Never in my *mumble* years on earth have I seen such a thing.

No, our eyes weren't playing tricks on us, and we hadn't had four-too-many frosty beverages. Apparently, this was an optical phenomenon that happens when atmospheric pressure, the angle of the sun, and the ice crystals in cirrus clouds have a party.

According to (from where I copied this photo), "It is rarely noticed because it occurs so far overhead, but in fact is relatively common. Cirrus clouds which cause a sun dog can cause a circumzenithal arc when they reach the zenith, if the Sun is low in the sky."

True, I probably wouldn't have noticed the arc, had I not been wearing polarized sunglasses. It wasn't nearly as bright, colorful, or perfect when they were taken off. The Technicolor arch faded in and out for about an hour, sometimes showing only two colors, sometimes more brilliant than a regular rainbow.

Yet another spectacular masterpiece by the world's greatest artist, Mother Nature!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dry Heat

A phrase heard often in Phoenix is "But it's a dry heat". Dry heat or not, that's little consolation for those of us who inhabit the desert city. Today it's going to be around 112F degrees (~ 45C). Tomorrow it is going to be a degree or two hotter. If you can't imagine what that kind of heat is like, picture this:

You know that blast of hot air when you open the oven door, that's what it feels like when you open the door of your air conditioned home to go outside.

You will walk all the way across a parking lot in order to get the space with the tiniest bit of shade to park under.

You conserve your body temperature by walking very slowly.

You keep oven mitts in the car so you can touch the steering wheel.

Hot water comes out of both taps, no matter how long you let it run.

You have to drink water constantly to maintain hydration. If you see someone in public without water, you know they are either a tourist or an idiot.

Many people leave their garage doors open a foot to let the hot air escape.

The cute puppy in the right margin of this blog refuses to walk on the sidewalk and demands to be carried.

The temperature gauge on the BBQ reads 180 before it's been lit.

Ice cream for breakfast sounds like a good idea.

You can brew sun tea in the shade.

Never mind frying eggs on the sidewalk - you can grill hamburgers and roast marshmallows over the hood of your car.

Your summer electricity bill surpasses your mortgage payment due to A/C use.

You take two (or three) showers a day. And go through 21 pairs of undies a week.

The weatherman talks about a refreshing break coming when it is going to "cool down" to 105.

You jump in the pool to cool off, but it's more like a warm bath.

But it's a dry heat. We live with it. The heat is long forgotten when winter comes and we have the most lovely weather imaginable! In fact, I'm imagining it right now.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tofu Lasagna

I love lasagna - it's one of my favorite foods - but traditional versions tend to cause some grief around the mid-line, if ya know what I mean. Ground beef, heaping piles of Parmesan and ricotta cheese, eggs, etc. are full of artery-clogging saturated fat. I recently made a more healthy version - with tofu. Tofu is a highly nutritious, protein-rich food that is made from the curds of soybean milk. It doesn't have much flavor of its own, but when the water is squeezed out of it, it readily takes on flavors of anything it is cooked with. This recipe uses tofu to replace the ground beef in typical lasagna.

Before you say "YUCK!", try it - you might like it! Here's how it's made:


9 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 12oz block of extra-firm tofu, thawed from frozen, drained well
2-3 19oz cans of Italian style Diced Tomatoes (I used  fire roasted with garlic, and only used 2 cans. When I make this again I'll use 3)
1/2 medium onion, diced 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. ground oregano
1/2-1 tsp. crushed dried chilis
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg or allspice
1 large bottle of your favorite red wine
6oz frozen chopped spinach, drained well
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup fat-free grated Parmesan cheese topping
2 cups low-fat part-skim mozzarella cheese

(feel free to use fresh ingredients if you have them!)

Here's what the Italians do - soak the noodles in hot water in the same pan you'll use for the lasagna. You'll have no need to boil them!

Squeeze as much water as you can from the tofu. With very clean hands (or use plastic gloves) crumble the tofu to a ground beef-like consistency, squeezing as much water out as you can. This will keep the sauce from being runny.

 Sauté the onion & garlic in a small amount of olive oil (not too hot!) until almost translucent, then add the crumbled tofu. Sauté a few more minutes, then add the spices, lemon juice, 1/4 cup red wine, tomatoes, and tofu. Simmer for about 10 minutes or longer, letting the flavors combine.

Beat the egg whites into a small bowl, and mix in the drained spinach and Parmesan cheese. Pour yourself a glass of wine and take in the aroma of the sauce as you sip it.

Spray the bottom of a 9x13" pan with olive oil or cooking spray, then line with 3 softened, expanded noodles. Evenly spread the spinach/egg mixture over them. Add a 2nd layer of noodles.

Spread 1/2 of the tofu/sauce mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with one cup of mozzarella.

Add another layer of noodles, sauce, and cheese. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. (175c) Pour yourself another glass of wine.  Tune your satellite radio to the Frank Sinatra station.

Cook the lasagna, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown. Finish off the bottle of wine and open another.

After cooking, let stand for 10 minutes. Get help cutting it into 8 servings and serve with red wine.

buon appetito!