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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.


Lemon-Herb Chicken Kabobs

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Lemon Herb Chicken Kabobs

Time: 30-35 minutes active, 4.5 hours total. Approximately 20 minutes to prepare marinade, 4 hours for marinating and 10-12 minutes to grill.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: This is probably the most common Armenian marinade for chicken, beef and lamb. My family used this marinade for kabobs when I was growing up and would add green bell peppers, onions and tomatoes to the kabobs to make them yummy and beautiful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup snipped parsley

Preparation:

  • Cube the chicken.
  • Mix all of the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and then add the chicken.
  • Marinate in the refrigeratore for 4 hours. Skewer and grill at about 400 approximately 5-6 minutes each side – you should see grill marks – check to ensure it is cooked through – with metal skewers and fairly high heat – it will cook fast.

Notes: This is great with any meal, but nice to incorporate into a mediterranean-themed meal such as hummus or baba ganoush as a starter, and served with armenian rice pilaf and greek salad.

Wine Suggestions: This will go well with creamy, crisp or aeromatic white such as a California Chardonnay, White Burgundy or a Sauvignon Blanc from any region, or a light bodied red such as a Pinot Noir or Red Burgundy. I especially love this with a very lemony, high-acid White Burgundy.


Curry Chicken Kabobs

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Time: 45 minutes active, 6 hours total. Approximately 20 minutes to make the marinade and cube chicken, 5-6 hours to marinate, and 25 minutes to skewer and cook.

Serves: 6-10

Inspired by: I’ve always loved a lot of Indian chicken dishes that use yogurt marinades to tenderize the chicken and various curies for fabulous flavors. I just started experimenting with various ingredients and have found that I like just about any similar combination. I took notes once so I could share this with friends.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (mine is very spicy – select type according to how spicy you want it)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 lemon (add 20 minutes before cooking)

Preparation:

  • Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.
  • Mix all rest of the ingredients well (except lemon) in large bowl.
  • Add the chicken to the mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours.
  • Put on skewers, and drizzle with fresh lemon juice about 20 minutes before cooking.
  • Cook on grill at about 400 approximately 5-6 minutes each side – you should see grill marks – check to ensure it is cooked through – with metal skewers and fairly high heat – it will cook fast.

Notes: This is even good warm or cold for a picnic with greek salad, and pita bread for sandwiches and yogurt dill sauce. It’s easy for dinner parties and super easy for larger parties as you can serve it as finger food with toothpics and the yogurt dill sauce for dipping.

Wine Suggestions: Spicy, medium bodied reds and off-dry whites.


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.

 

Spanish Almond Cookies

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Spanish Almond Cookies

Spanish Almond Cookies

Time: approximately 90 minutes from start to finish

  • 20 minutes to prepare and mix the ingredients
  • 30 minutes to chill the dough
  • 20 minutes to prepare the cookies on the sheet
  • Approximately 10-14 minutes to bake

Serves: makes about 45 cookies

Inspired by: I was hosting a Spanish wine tasting one evening and scrambled to come up with some interesting tapas and desserts. I found several recipes on the web for cookies called “Perrunillas” – typical of Extremadura in Western Spain. I have since fine tuned the recipes and experimented a bit. If you use white flour, they are similar in taste and texture to almond biscotti. Whole-wheat flour makes them a bit denser, but also softer. Almond flour is heavier and causes them to flatten out so you will likely bake them a couple of minutes less, and they may turn out slightly chewy.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour (If you substitute wheat-flour the recipe doesn’t change. If you substitute all or part almond flour, use an extra 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of almond flour substituted – for example, if you use three cups of almond flour then you will use 1 teaspoon of baking soda instead of 1/4 teaspoon in the original recipe.)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (you can substitute raw sugar, but this will make the cookies heavier, they will flatten out more, and you will bake them a couple of minutes less – see picture at the end of this post)
  • 1 cup lightly flavored olive oil (extra virgin olive oil is also fine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • ½-1 teaspoon crushed/ground aniseed (I’ve only found seeds so I hand grind with a mortar and pestle)
  • 1 cup sliced or slivered raw almonds
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with a few drops of water
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup granulated white sugar to sprinkle over top

Preparation:

  • In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar, beat in the oil, and then add lemon peel and aniseed.
  • Begin stirring in the dry ingredients until a soft dough has formed. Fold in the slivered almonds.
  • Chill the dough for 30 minutes (I’ve found that when using the whole wheat flour, the dough is easier to work with unchilled or very slightly chilled).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll dough into 1 ¼ inch balls and flatten them slightly to a thickness of ¾ inch. Place on an ungreased, nonstick baking sheet about 1 inch apart. (Do not flatten if you’ve used raw sugar or almond flour as substitutes – they will flatten more rapidly while baking on their own.)
  • Brush tops of cookies with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle generously with sugar.
  • Bake until cookies are just lightly golden – approximately 12 minutes, but I usually start checking them at 10. It is very easy for the bottoms to burn quickly once they are done so check frequently and immediately remove them from the hot cookie sheets with a spatula to cool on a wire rack.

Notes: I’m classifying these as “moderately healthy” only because they are relative to most desserts/cookies! Except for the sugar, the ingredients aren’t that bad – especially if you substitute almond flour. If you use whole-wheat flour, the dough will be more crumbly so you’ll have to squeeze the cookie dough together harder when you are making the round shapes – but they will stay together. They also stick a bit more to the cookie sheet. Per my notes above, if you substitute almond flour, don’t forget to use an extra 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of almond flour to help make up for the heaviness of the almond flour. Also, I’ve found that when I use almond flour, I use just a bit less than a full cup of olive oil so the batter doesn’t get too runny. Lastly, if you substitute raw sugar for the white sugar in the cookie dough – this will also weigh them down a bit so they will become flatter (spread out a bit more) and may cook a bit faster.

Wine Recommendations: These cookies are nice with wine because they aren’t super sweet. It should be easy to find a white dessert wine that is nice, but not over the top sweet, and has some oxidized and almond nuances that would match fabulously with the cookies! An aged Sauternes would be perfect, but try a Vin Santo, late harvest Riesling, Muscat or Amontillado Sherry. If you must go red… perhaps a Tawny Port?

Gluten-Free Almond Cookies


Baklava

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Baklava

Baklava

Time: approximately 2.5-3 hours from start to finish

  • 15-30 minutes to melt and clarify butter, chop nuts and make syrup
  • 60-75 minutes to assemble and cut
  • 60 min to bake and cool
  • 15 min to put into pastry cups

Serves: yields 30-50 pieces – depending on how you cut them

Inspired by: my Armenian grandmother. I grew up with “Paklava” as she pronounced it. I’ve since adopted “Baklava” since that is how I hear the rest of the world pronounce it. It was always one of my favorite desserts around the holidays. Although I never learned to make it from her, my mother did so I was able to learn from her. I have since modified the recipe a bit. I prefer pistachios instead of walnuts. There also used to be a cup of hot Crisco poured all over it halfway through cooking, but after trying the recipe with and without, I can’t figure out what it was meant to do so I removed it. I’ve seen some recipes that combine the clarified butter and the Crisco. Perhaps it is supposed to hold it together better, or perhaps some marketing person at Crisco years ago told all of these Armenian and Greek women that it was a key ingredient that they needed to start using!

Supplies:

  • Damp dish towel and plastic wrap (to keep the dough from drying out while working with it)
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking pan, approximately 13” x 9” x 2”
  • Small sauce pan

Main Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 box frozen phyllo dough (thawed according to package instructions)
  • 3 cups finely chopped unsalted pistachios – raw or dry roasted (my grandmother used walnuts, and my mother has added cinnamon to the walnuts which is awesome, but pistachios are now my favorite)
  • ¼ cup sugar

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¼ of a lemon

Preparation:

CLARIFY BUTTER: Melt butter over low heat or in microwave. Let sit for 10 minutes and then skim creamy foam off the top and discard. If you also find creamy residue at the bottom, try not to use that part, just dip the pastry brush into the clear butter at the top. Clarified butter won’t spoil – this way the baklava won’t go bad sitting at room temperature for a couple of weeks. (If you run out of butter while assembling, cover everything and make some more or start with an extra stick – you can never use too much butter on baklava!)

PREPARE NUTS: Chop the nuts very fine in a food processor and add a little sugar for flavor depending upon how sweet you like them. If you are using walnuts, consider adding in a bit of cinnamon like my mom does – yum!

MAKE SYRUP: While you are waiting for the butter cream to rise, make the syrup. In a small sauce pan, mix the sugar and water and the ¼ of a lemon and simmer for about 10 minutes. By the time you are done the butter will be ready to be clarified.

PREPARE DOUGH: After you have clarified your butter, open out the dough and cut in half. Ideally your sheets of dough will be approximately the size of the baking dish. If they are smaller, then alternate where you layer them so the dough is fairly even when you are finished. If the sheets are larger than the pan, after every 10-15 sheets of layering, you can cut the excess away around the edges with a knife. To keep the dough from drying out while you are working with it, you can cover it with plastic wrap and lay a damp towel over the plastic.

LAYER DOUGH WITH BUTTER AND NUTS: Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Dip your pastry brush in the clarified butter and butter the bottom and sides of your pan. Lay the first piece of dough in the pan and brush it with butter, then the next, and do this until you’ve used a little more than half the dough. Be generous with the butter – brush over all the dough, but not so heavy that you’d have excess butter standing in the pan.

Then layer on the chopped nuts with sugar (if you feel the layer is too thick with nuts, you don’t need to use them all).  Then start again with layering the dough again on top of the nuts, brushing with butter in between. But don’t butter the very top layer of dough or it will burn when baking!

Alternatively, you can layer one third of the dough, half the nuts, another one third of the dough, the other half of the nuts, and then the last one third of the dough. I’m finding that after it’s finished, it may hold together better this way. Some even separate this into five layers of nuts with dough in between.

CUT INTO DIAMONDS: You can cut these into squares also – but diamonds look pretty and from what I’ve been told, it is one of the most traditional for Armenian “Paklava”. To cut diamonds, start first by cutting lengthwise down the baking dish, about 1 inch a part or a bit less – probably about 7-8 rows. Then, cut across those cuts on a diagonal – again 1 inch or less apart. Start by cutting a small corner on a diagonal and then just keep going until you get to the other corner. Cut thicker strips for big pieces. I prefer the smaller pieces because they are so rich and because it makes it easier for one pan to serve a large group of people.

Baklava Cut into Diamonds

Baklava Cut into Diamonds

BAKE: Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. It will turn a light golden brown. Watch it carefully in last 5 minutes or so to ensure it doesn’t get too dark.

When Baklava is still slightly warm, and syrup is lukewarm and thickened, pour syrup to cover and soak down into the grooves. I have found that you might want to use about half the syrup while drizzling it very slowly – wait a little bit before drizzling on the rest to ensure it gets into the top layers as much as the bottom. You might not need to use all the syrup. There shouldn’t be a lot of syrup just sitting in the bottom of the pan, but a little is okay.

SERVE: Serve in pastry cups or cupcake papers. It will keep well for a couple of weeks. In a very dry climate, it helps to lay a loose piece of plastic over the top, but in a moist climate, wait until they are thoroughly cooled and cover loosely with wax paper to let air or they will get soggy.

Notes: I have found that when the layer of nuts is too thick the baklava falls apart more easily in the middle where the nuts are. I’ve only recently started layering the dough so that there are two or more thin layers of nuts and it does seem to hold together a bit better. I think in this photo the dough was split into thirds. The top layer will always look puffier.

Wine Recommendations: This is a sweet dessert! I’d recommend skipping the wine, but if you are trying to find a dessert wine to enjoy this with, try to find a white that is sweeter than the dessert – I love most anything with botrytis.


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