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Baba Ganoush

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Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush

Time: 45-75 minutes (10-15 minutes to make once the eggplant has been cooked and cooled)

Serves: 10-12 as an appetizer

Inspired by: When I began cooking my theme was often “Mediterranean” because I always loved the foods prepared by my Armenian grandparents. I thought some sort of eggplant dip was something I should at least try to make. I found one in an Armenian cook book and then began modifying it slightly as I made it more and more often. I especially love the flavors of this when the eggplant is grilled and gets a bit charred – it adds a fabulous smokey flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons Tahini
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ bunch parsley, minced (garnish)
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds (garnish)

Recipe:

  • Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, score the face with a knife and brush each face with olive oil.
  • Put eggplant face up on cookie sheet and place under pre-heated broiler (40-60 min at about 350), or grill eggplant face down over medium heat (20-30 min). Cook until thoroughly cooked – slightly charred outside and soft on inside.
  • Cool.
  • With spoon, remove eggplant from the skin and mash thoroughly (can do this in a food processor).
  • Then add the Tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt and continue to mix well until creamy.ly.
  • Spread the dip in a large, round platter. Sprinkle with parsley or garnish with parsley sprigs. Dribble with olive oil (optional). It’s pretty if sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Notes: The grilling/broiling step is the key to this recipe as it makes the eggplant taste rich and smoky. This can keep for a couple of days but the garlic flavor gets stronger each day so if you don’t plan to eat right away, use a little less garlic.

Wine Suggestions: Any white or light red works well with this dish as well as other middle-eastern “mezzas”. Try a creamy white such as a rich California or Australian Chardonnay, and for crisp – try a Chablis or other unoaked White Burgundy, Sancerre, Gruner Veltliner or a Spanish Verdejo. Also a light red with a bit of oak tannin such as a Red Burgundy or Rioja is a good accompaniment if you go heavier on the garlic.


Chilled Shrimp with Basil Ponzu Sauce

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 8 as a finger food appetizer

Inspired by: The mother-in-law of one of my closest friends, Judy Sellers. Judy is food and wine savvy as well as being incredibly adventurous, fun and interesting – someone I’m thrilled to know. One thanksgiving when we hosted dinner, she and her husband joined us and brought this as an appetizer. Everyone loved it and I still make it for parties because it’s so yummy. That was my first introduction to Hugh Carpenter and this recipe is from his “Fast Appetizer” cookbook. After that a few of us girls took a “How to Cook Fish” class with him that was really well done.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw medium to large shrimp (deveined and peeled, but with the tail still on)
  • 2 tablespoons thin or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flavorless cooking oil (I use an extra light olive oil)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (I’ve been using Thai Kitchen roasted red chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger (don’t forget this – it’s a key ingredient)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (I substitute with Italian parsley when I can’t get fresh basil)

Preparation:

  • Fill a bowl with water and some ice to make very cold.
  • Boil water in a large pot and cook shrimp about 1.5 to 2 minutes – until done but don’t overcook.
  • Drain shrimp in colander and add to bowl with ice water so they don’t continue cooking.
  • When it’s cooled down, drain again.
  • Mix the basil Ponzu sauce ingredients together in a shallow glass bowl (this can be made up to 10 hours before serving).
  • When ready to serve, toss the shrimp with the sauce – can serve with toothpicks as “finger” food.

Notes: I purchased Hugh’s cookbook so this is the original recipe, but I recommend doubling or tripling the Ponzu Sauce ingredients so it covers the shrimp a bit better, or if you wanted to put some on the side for dipping. The shrimp taste best when they are freshly covered or dipped in the sauce.

Wine Suggestions: Because there is a slight sweetness and spiciness to this sauce, a slightly off-dry wine such as a Riesling is a nice pairing. Depending on what chili you use, if the sweetness and spiciness is only slight, the ginger and other aromatics make it a nice pairing with dry, aromatic whites such as a dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner or Torrontes.

 

Smoked Salmon Wrap with Goat Cheese, Cucumber & Dill

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Smoked Salmon Wraps Served with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Smoked Salmon Wraps Served with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Inspired by: One of my favorite breakfasts – a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tortilla
  • 4-6 thin slices of smoked salmon
  • 2 tablespoons spreadable goat cheese
  • 2-4 thin slices of cucumber (1/4 x 1/4 inch slices – this keeps them crunchy but also easy to roll)
  • 1 teaspoon of dill (dried or fresh)

Preparation:

  • Lay the tortilla in front of you and spread the goat cheese on the bottom third
  • Sprinkle the dill over the goat cheese
  • Add the salmon over the dill
  • Add the slices of cucumber in a narrow band across
  • Starting from the bottom, roll the tortilla tightly with all the fillings
  • Spear with a toothpick through the middle to help hold it together, or wrap in foil

Note: For party sandwiches, cut into 4-5 slices. You may need to cut off a tiny bit of the ends. This is awesome dipped in a yogurt dill sauce.

Wine Suggestions: Good matches with the smoked salmon include off-dry wines such as Viongier, Condrieu, Riesling or light bodied reds such as a California Pinot Noir or Red Burgundy.


Yogurt Dill Sauce

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Yogurt Dill Sauce with Raw Veggies

Yogurt Dill Sauce with Raw Veggies

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 10-12 as a dip

Inspired by: various yogurt sauces used in combination with spicy cooking – I was looking for a nice flavor balance with some curried chicken kabobs and have since found that this sauce is fabulous with so many different things!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried dill (dried dill infuses much more flavor than fresh)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (optional – I often skip this and almost always skip it when I’m making the dip a day or two ahead as the garlic tends to get too strong)
  • 1-2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (optional – but I love pepper – it goes in most everything!)

Preparation: Mix all ingredients well in small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: Lasts for a while in the refrigerator but the garlic gets stronger over time so if you plan to keep it for a while, I suggest using little or no garlic.

Serve With: Curry chicken kabobs, any other spicy meat or poultry, fabulous on salmon or as a dip for a smoked-salmon wrap, and great alone as an appetizer dip with raw veggies or bread.

Yogurt Dill Sauce with Smoked Salmon Wraps

Yogurt Dill Sauce with Smoked Salmon Wraps


Turkey Wrap with Yummy Mustard

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Turkey Wraps with Yummy Mustard

Turkey Wraps with Yummy Mustard

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Inspired by: Trying to make a pretty “finger food” for a party and knowing that this mustard makes everything taste fabulous. I think this wrap has pretty holiday colors (red and green) when cut into small sandwich bites.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tortilla (I prefer the green spinach tortillas or something like these made with roasted bell pepper and chili)
  • 4-6 thin slices of peppered turkey from your local deli
  • 1 – 2 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1 handful of spinach leaves
  • 2 thin strips of roasted red peppers (roast your own or from a jar is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon yummy mustard

Preparation:

  • Spread the mustard on the tortilla – leave the top inch mustard free (so it doesn’t squeeze out when you roll it).
  • Add the following in layers so they are spread evenly across the bottom third to half of the tortilla – spinach leaves, turkey, cheese, roasted red pepper.
  • Then roll the tortilla and all the fillings starting from the bottom.
  • Spear with a toothpick through the middle to help hold it together, or wrap in foil

Note: For parties these make great bite-sized sandwiches if you cut the wrap into 4-5 slices and secure each with a toothpick. You may need to cut off the ends.

Wine Suggestions: To balance the spiciness of the mustard, the best matches would be an off -dry or fruity white such as a Viognier, Torrontes, and possibly a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc, or a medium bodied spicy red with some good ripeness such as a Southern Rhone Syrah-Grenache blend.


Hummus (Traditional & Spicy)

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Hummus

Time: 5-10 minutes

Serves: 12 as an appetizer

Inspired by: When I first decided to learn to cook, I started with all Armenian foods I had as a child. Although hummus wasn’t actually something I discovered until I was an adult, it seemed like one of the basics that I should know how to make and include in my “Mediterranean-themed” meals. I’ve come to love the simplicy of making it and how healthy it is as snack or appetizer with raw veggies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans (15 oz cans)
  • Juice of 1 to 1 ½ lemons (ideally, just a tiny bit more than ¼ cup)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup Tahini
  • ½ to ¾ cup water (usually needs at least ¾ cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (can add up to 3 teaspoons of cayenne to make a very spicy hummus)
  • Salt to taste (usually between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Garnish: light olive oil, paprika and parsley

Recipe:

  • Drain garbanzo beans and rinse well in colander.
  • Blend garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, Tahini, 1/2 cup water and spices in food processor until smooth and to your desired thickness. Add salt to taste – usually at least ¼ teaspoon. Add additional water a little bit at a time until it is your desired consistency.
  • Serve in a low, wide dish. Drizzle with a high-quality olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. If available, garnish with parsley.

Wine Suggestions: A crisp white or light red. If go heavier on the garlic, a light red such a Spanish Rioja is perfect. If you go really spicy, then a medium-bodied, spicier Syrah-Grenache based Southern Rhone could be nice or even an off-dry white to balance the flavors.


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