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Peas with Snaps Recipe

2 cuos fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
16 ounces frozen field peas and snaps
4 ounces frozen cut green beans
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger
(feel free to substitute ground ginger)
1 lime

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the peas and snaps, green beans, and thyme. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes
or until vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Let stand, covered for at least 10 minutes
so the flavors can blend. Standing time is critical, the longer it sits the better it gets, as the flavors come together well over time.

Pass The Peas
  Chef Marwin Brown

This May, I had the privilege of participating in the American Heart Association’s "Power To End Stroke" Weekend held in New York City. Power To End Stroke is an education and awareness campaign that embraces and celebrates the culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles of Americans. It unites people to help make an impact on the high incidence of stroke within their communities. The weekend’s events were to celebrate and recognize the efforts of key ambassadors for the program. I was chosen as one of five ‘celebrity’ chefs including Top Chef's Tre Wilcox and Chef Marvin Woods to prepare appetizers for its VIP Reception and also demonstrate one of the recipes from the Power To End Stroke’s new cookbook, Soul Food, featuring healthy versions of classic soul food recipes.

I chose to demonstrate their Peas with Snaps recipe. Our task was to demonstrate that you could make heart healthy meals that were easy, relatively inexpensive, and yet still flavorful.Now of course no chef worth his/her salt would ever stick to the script and follow a recipe word for word, to the tee, verbatim. You know I had to moopify the recipe and bring the flavor. I did keep it simple, choosing to focus on layering flavors via use of different spices and a few herbs. I chose this recipe because I felt it provided a good base for anyone to doctor it and put their spin on regardless of cooking skills.

If you think about it, flavor comes down to four senses: taste, touch, smell, sight. Taste is obvious, but think of touch in terms of texture or mouthfeel, smell relates to the aromas coming from the dish, and sight is basically the visual appearance of the dish – how well is it plated, color, etc. I’m generally cognizant of this with any dish, but more so with this recipe given its simplicity. I just wanted to apply a few tricks of the trade to show a basic cook how to really elevate a simple dish to gourmet status. The basic ingredients featured chicken broth, frozen peas and snaps, frozen green beans, dried thyme, green onions. I flipped it by adding cilantro, lime juice and a few spices to at a level of complexity as far as the taste. I also added some red onions. The peas were cooked just long enough to strike the right balance from a texture standpoint (not too mushy, but not so firm that the peas are crunchy). The onions also added to texture. I chose cinnamon, ginger, and cumin as my trio of spices to provide the aroma. The smell really fills up the room once the heat hits the spices. Lastly, the green onions add some color to contrast the greenness of this dish.

I had a wonderful time, as it was well organized, the people and honorees were truly inspiring, and it was moving to be part of such a great cause when you think of the number of people/families affected by stroke. It’s a disease that impacts all Americans, but at a greater rate among African Americans. Consider these sobering stats for African Americans age 25-54:

- 75% have had heart disease diagnosed in their family, and 25% have had stroke diagnosed (this is definitely true on a personal level for me!)

- 77% have at least one risk factor for stroke and heart disease, such as obesity or family history

- African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever strokes compared to whites.

- African Americans have higher death rates for stroke compared to whites.

- The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans in the United States is the highest in the world.