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Learn to eat better and feel good

Chef skills

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post Morgan Ridge Chef Jason Nain shows different tools for slicing cabbage for slaw; in this case, a chef’s knife.

Would you like to have a Feel Good Friday?

Maybe you want some ideas for clean eating — delicious food with benefits.

Head to Morgan Ridge Vineyards and Brewhouse in Gold Hill.

Starting this spring, Chef Jason Nain is creating cuisine with a healthier you in mind.

First, Nain adjusted the tasting bar menu to be gluten free, from pasta to breads and desserts. Now, on every other Friday at lunchtime, Nain will lead a cooking demonstration where participants see the food prepared and then eat.

Last Friday, Nain fixed pan-seared mahi mahi with a honey lime coleslaw. On the side, he served protein-rich quinoa, which is a seed and not a grain.

Some of the preparation is done beforehand, because watching someone slice and dice vegetables is only so entertaining.

But the techniques are shown to the lunch crowd, with helpful hints on the right way to do things.

As Morgan Ridge manager Kim Love said, “Recipes are a guideline. You can adjust them to you taste. If you don’t like a certain herb or spice, leave it out or substitute.”

Along with the recipes, Love shares the benefits of using certain spices. Who knew paprika was rich in antioxidants? Did you know cumin can help treat insomnia and diabetes? Oregano is good as an antifungal and antibacterial.

And the sulfur in onion can help stimulate healthy skin and hair growth. Rub your hair with onion juice and you’ll increase the blood supply to the hair follicles. You might smell a little funny, but it’s cheaper than Hair Club for Men.

Mahi mahi is a firm-fleshed fish that holds up well to pan searing. Something like tilapia would probably fall apart. This mahi was from the North Carolina coast.

Nain began by showing people different ways to cut the cabbage for the slaw. First, he used the mandolin, a slicing tool with a sharp blade set into a cutting plane. Whatever you do when using a mandolin, protect your fingers. Use a guard that comes with the slicer or hold your vegetable with a utensil to keep from slicing your fingers into the dish. A mandolin is very sharp, fast, and relatively easy to clean.

Nain used a 10-inch chef’s knife, slicing through a cabbage from which he  removed the core in no time. He’s not one to use a food processor.

He also demonstrated how to use a knife to make citrus zest, again, avoiding a specialized tool. He sliced the peel away from a lime, avoiding the white pith, then julienned it into fine strips.

The best way to get juice out of a lime is to roll it on the counter top several times, pressing down to break up some of the cells inside. “You can also put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.”

The lime added a zip to the simple slaw.

For the fish rub, Nain had to substitute thyme for the recipe’s oregano, since he was out of oregano, but the flavor was good.

Blend rub ingredients together well, so each piece of fish gets a good combination of flavors.

Sear for just a few minutes per side in a lightly oiled pan. The richly flavored fish paired well with the tangy coleslaw and the comforting quinoa and made a balanced meal of protein, starch and a vegetable.

Love helped people pair a wine with the dish, as well, suggesting Morgan Ridge Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or their new rose, which has hints of rich fruit.

The meal is easy enough for a weeknight and impressive enough for guests. The next lunch and learn session is scheduled for Friday, April 27, with the menu to be determined. You will need to make reservations by calling 704-639-0911 by mid-day Thursday, April 26. Already, there are regulars for these sessions, so check it out.

Mahi Mahi with Paprika Rub

1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried oregano or thyme

1 pound Mahi Mahi filets

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Combine all the dried spices, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle seasoning evenly over both sides of the fish filets,.

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan, cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan.

Lime Cole Slaw

1 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced

1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 cup green onions, sliced

Zest of one lime

2 Tbsp. lime juice

1 Tbsp honey

1/2 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Add cabbages, carrots, bell pepper and onion in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, zest, honey and garlic. Slowly add olive oil and whisk until combined. Stir in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Toss dressing with vegetables and serve.

Easy Quinoa Pilaf

1 cup quinoa

2 cups broth or water

1 finely diced carrot

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 large stalk celery diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken or vegetable stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add carrot, onion and celery, boil about 1 minute. Stir in quinoa, return to a full, rolling boil for about two minutes. Remove from heat, cover tightly and allow the quinoa to steam for 10-15 minutes. All the liquid should be absorbed. Remove cover, fluff with a fork and serve.

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