Sunday, July 19, 2009

Food Sense 4- Lebanese garlic marinated chicken on the grill

Beth and I started a dinner club, a group of friends who get together periodically to enjoy dinner together. Each couple brings one of the courses. The inaugural event had a Mediterranean theme; a Mediterranean diet is quite healthy. As hosts, we prepared the main course. I chose a recipe from The New Mediterranean Diet by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the accompanying garlic sauce was quickly used up, to the disappointment of those assembled. This recipe is dead easy, and well worth it:

Ingredients: 4 garlic cloves, peeled; 1 tsp kosher salt; 1/2c fresh-squeezed lemon juice; 3/4c extra virgin olive oil; 1 tsp sweet paprika; freshly ground black pepper to taste; 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts.

1. Mince the garlic. Then, place in a small bowl and add the salt. Using the back of a spoon, mash the mixture until you have a creamy paste.
2. Add in the lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well.
3. Dump the chicken into a zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade over the meat. Seal the bag and toss a few times to ensure all of the meat is covered.
4. Refrigerate for at least four hours (longer is better).
5. Grill over medium heat for at least 10 minutes per side.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 136 g. Per Serving: Calories, 397; Calories from fat, 258; Total Fat, 28.7g; Saturated Fat, 5.1g; Cholesterol, 101mg; Sodium, 389mg; Total Carbohydrates, 0.6g; Protein, 32.9g

Garlic sauce
This sauce is outstanding. Note that the recipe in the book calls for ladneh, which is a Lebanese soft cheese made by salting yogurt and then letting the whey drain off for 24-36 hours. There are recipes online and in the cook book from which I got the recipe, but I can tell you that the sour cream I substituted should work just fine.

Ingredients: 6 garlic cloves, peeled; 1 tsp kosher salt; 1/3 to 1/2c extra virgin olive oil; 3-4 tbsp low-fat sour cream.

1. Coarsely chop the garlic. Then, place in a small bowl and add the salt. Using the back of a spoon, mash the mixture until you have a creamy paste.
2. Slowly beat in the olive oil, like you were making mayonnaise. If you can do so without the sauce breaking, add the entire amount of olive oil.
3. Gently fold in the sour cream, making sure to fully incorporate it into the sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 23 g. Per Serving: Calories, 136; Calories from Fat, 133; Total Fat, 14.8g; Saturated Fat, 2.6g; Cholesterol, 3mg; Sodium, 295mg; Total Carbohydrates, 1.0g; Protein, 0.3g

To complement the main course, I grilled slices of sweet onions, tomatoes, eggplant, and bell pepper, brushed with olive oil. Serve the chicken breasts, and pass the garlic sauce for guests to spoon on top of the meat. Outstanding!

The aftermath and interim

Beth headed home about 8:30, and left me to my own devices. I read for a while and flipped through the TV channels. Once I was allowed up, I went to the bathroom and checked the location. Although the site in my groin was covered by a four-inch square bandage, it was clear that the bruise was going to be a doozy. I finally shut off the lights at 10:00.

Several times during the night, I had the obligatory wake-ups from the nursing staff. Blood pressure checks, meds, and even a blood draw. Finally, I woke up for good at 7:00.

About 9:00 Beth called and told me she was hitting the shower and would leave soon thereafter. About 10:00 I started entertaining a parade of visitors, all getting me ready for departure. First was a dietician, telling me how to eat healthily. She left me with a booklet, which I have yet to open.

Some words about eating: Since my clean stress test in 2002, I’ve monitored my cholesterol and triglycerides aggressively. While somewhat high back then (in 2002, my total cholesterol was 265 versus a target max of 180), it has been below 200 since 2004 and below 180 since 2006. Since 2002, I’ve had my cholesterol checked more than a dozen times. For many years, I have tended toward salads and almost never eat red meat. Chicken and shrimp probably represent the majority of the animal protein I eat. What I have always struggled with is portion control: It’s the old joke about see-food diets… I see food, I eat it. I made a vow to focus on portions, since I was already eating better than many people.

Next up was a cardio-pulmonary rehab nurse. She told me that I would be in rehab, and my local hospital would be contacting me to set up a schedule. This was the first time it really hit me that my life was going to change, and change in a significant way.

Finally, the cardiac physician’s assistant came in. She did an exam to check the puncture site, asked me how I was feeling, did the usual doctor things, and added new prescriptions for me. The final thing she did was to go over the procedure, tell me what was coming (the second procedure on June 1), and then she gave me a “stent card.” Who knew that you’d have to carry a card with you at all times explaining that you had a small tube stuffed inside a coronary artery?

How big is a stent? Do this: Open a typical ballpoint pen. The tube that holds the ink (in slimline pens, at least) is about 3 millimeters in diameter. Now, for the metrically challenged or resistive among you, there are 25 millimeters to an inch (25.4 to be exact), so 3 millimeters is an eighth of an inch for all intents and purposes. Hack off a piece of the pen tube 18 millimeters long (again, about 3/4”). That’s what saved my life; that tiny medical miracle was holding open my widowmaker (the left anterior descending coronary artery). To put in perspective just how small the stent is, see the accompanying photo.

The PA set up a follow-up visit for a couple of weeks away, gave me a slew of literature, and left me to get dressed. Beth showed up, and we headed out of the hospital. I was moving slowly (I was sore), but we headed home. I was told to take it easy (no driving for 48 hours). In the next installment, the joys of cardiac rehab and the second procedure.