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Tabouli

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Tabouli

Time: Approximately 30 minutes of active time; 2.5 hours from start to finish.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Inspired by: My love for Mediterranean flavors. I don’t even remember having Tabouli as a child with any of my Armenian relatives, but I have had it made by Lebanese friends. There are so many different variations on this dish. I prefer a nearly equal ratio of parsley to bulgur (many recipes are mainly bulgur and just a little parsley). This is the recipe I’ve refined and ended up with after trying various versions over the years – I love some of the subtle flavor nuances. I also usually add cucumber to give it a bit of crunch.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • 1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups minced parsley (or just use one large bunch of parsley)
  • 1/4 cup minced mint leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced persian cucumber (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion (optional)

Ingredients – Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher if you have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Boil 3-4 cups of water. When it reaches a boil, add the bulgur, remove from heat, and let stand for 45 minutes. Once bulgur is soft, drain excess water and cool to room temperature.
  • Toss bulgur with parsley, mint, tomatoes and optional cucumber and green onions.
  • Separately, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cinnamon and crushed garlic.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well coated. If you plan to refrigerate before serving, hold off on putting the tomato in until serving as tomatoes lose flavor in the refrigerator.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Time: 10 minutes to prepare; approximately 15-20 minutes to cook.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: My good friend Jeanette brought these to the Thanksgiving dinner I hosted this past year. That dinner reminded me how much I love them and I’ve been making them much more often ever since. I don’t know why so many people turn up their noses to brussel sprouts. It makes me wonder if they’ve had them cooked properly. When they get roasted like this with olive oil, they get soft and even a bit sweet. I think the key is to cook them really well – I don’t even mind if they get pretty charred – yum!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss the halved brussel sprouts with the olive oil on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish – keep them spread out well.
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.
  • How fast they cook depends a bit on your oven. If one side seems to be cooking much faster than the other, you can flip them over with a spatula or thongs about half way through cooking.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

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Time: 40-45 minutes

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: I’ve always loved creamy mushroom soup and have thought about trying to make it, but prefer not to eat soups with a lot of cream. Once I tried my version of a healthy creamy zucchini soup that turned out well, I thought I’d use a similar approach to a mushroom soup – creamy without the cream! This turned out even better than I had thought it would. Wow! Yum! It’s amazing how much creamy texture yellow potatoes can add!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 small to medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth (don’t use low fat or low salt – get the ones with all the flavor or make your own)
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Approximately 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preparation:

  • Wash the mushrooms and let them drain in a colander.
  • Wash, peel and dice the potato.
  • Pour the chicken broth into a medium sized soup pot and add the diced potatoes (the broth should cover the potato). Simmer for about 15 minutes until potato is soft.
  • While potato is cooking, slice the onion and sauté it on medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil until it’s well cooked and translucent.
  • Once the onion is cooked, add it to the chicken broth and potato.
  • Slice and dice the mushrooms. In the same pan, sauté the mushrooms on medium heat with 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Remove 2 cups of the sautéed mushrooms and place in a bowl. Add the rest to the soup pot and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Using a cup or ladle, take about half the mixture from the soup pot, put it in a blender and puree – about 1 minute. Taste and add salt if needed and then pour into a large serving bowl. Repeat this with the rest of the mixture in the soup pot until it has all been pureed and salted to your liking. Add half of the reserved mushrooms to the soup and stir in.
  • Chop some fresh parsley.
  • Serve the soup into bowls, garnishing each with fresh parsley and the rest of the reserved sautéed mushroom slices.

Wine Suggestions: This would be fabulous with a Red Burgundy. Mushrooms and an earthy Pinot Noir are awesome! We drank this with a yummy older earthy Bordeaux last night and it was also a fantastic combination.


Papaya-Cucumber Salad

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Papaya Cucumber Salad

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.



Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried

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Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.


Seared Ahi Salad with Wasabi-Ginger Vinaigrette

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 2-4

Inspired by: My Armenian “sister” Michelle Babayan, who is a phenomenal personal chef and caterer. Michelle’s Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna) salad with a creamy wasabi dressing is to die for, and the 18 spice blend she uses to coat the Ahi before searing is amazing with fabulous flavors to bring out the flavors of the fish without being spicy hot and overwhelming the fish.  I love her spice blend on the Ahi and have now found that I love mine too!  When I use mine, I use it more like a rub – because it’s much spicier than hers. I like it to add beautiful flavor, but not overwhelm the fish. What’s interesting is that when I use my blend, I find that it tastes a lot different than when I use it in other dishes. It’s very chameleon-like! I really love both spices with this salad. This is one of my favorite meals.

Ingredients – Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi (I get it freshly prepared at the sushi counter at whole foods)
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients – Salad:

  • 1 pound sushi grade or searing grade Ahi tuna
  • 4 tablespoons Michelle’s 18 spice blend or 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • Mixed greens or watercress
  • Papaya or mango – cut into small pieces
  • English cucumber – sliced
  • Red radish – sliced (optional)
  • Red pepper – sliced (optional)

Preparation:

  • Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a shaker.
  • Put the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Rub olive oil on the Ahi and coat it with the 18 spice blend, or give it a good rub with my spice blend.
  • Heat a skillet to sear the fish (a cast iron skillet is best as it gets very hot) – add a tablespoon of olive oil, and then sear just a couple of minutes on each side – it should get crispy on the outside but not cooked through.
  • Slice the Ahi quickly so it doesn’t continue to cook – 1/4 to 1/8 inch slices.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing (but reserve a bit of it).
  • Lay the Ahi over the salad and then drizzle it some dressing over it.

Notes: I also love charred red pepper in the salad – especially when I want a warmer salad. You can cook that on one side of the skillet and the fish on the other  – but start it about 5 minutes before the fish. Spread that over the top of the salad along with the Ahi.

Wine Suggestions: My favorite with this salad is a California Pinot Noir or a Red Burgundy. I’ve also had it with a light Chinon that was really yummy. I’ve also found that when using my spice blend, it’s really nice with a slightly bigger red such as a Grenache/Syrah or a Rioja.


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