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Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 12-15 as an appetizer / party finger-food

Inspired by: I’ve always liked crispy chicken tenders/nuggets/strips, but wished there was a non-greasy version that had real chicken inside that was safe to eat. I thought it might be fun to use my blackening spice for this and try making them for a small party. I love the crispiness, and the spice gives them an awesome kick!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) of crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of Spice it up …by Karen™ (more if you like super spicy)

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (or if you have a good toaster oven, there is no need to preheat, but you will need to cook these in batches)
  • Get a non-stick cookie sheet or rub a bit of olive oil on a cookie sheet so your chicken will not stick as it cooks
  • Lightly beat the eggs with a fork or whisk, and mix with the olive oil in small bowl
  • In a low, wide bowl (such as a soup bowl), mix the bread crumbs well with the spice
  • Cut chicken into strips – approximately 1.5 inches wide by 3 inches long
  • Dip the chicken into the egg/olive oil mixure to coat and then roll in the breadcrumb mix
  • Lay the chicken strips a half inch to an inch apart on the cookie sheet
  • Bake until golden brown – probably at least 12 minutes, possibly as long as 20

Notes: Because these are getting so much more surface area covered with spice than making blackened chicken with whole or half chicken breasts, these can get pretty spicy – so if you like spice, but not too much, I suggest using a bit less spice and a bit more of the bread crumbs. For parties, I have prepared these on the cookie sheet early in the day and kept them refridgerated and then took them out to bake when ready to serve. You can bring them to room temperature first, but it really isn’t necessary.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some good fruit and spice on it would be perfect. A Syrah or Southern Rhone blend, Zinfandel or a spicy older Barolo. Off dry whites are often a fantastic pairing for spicy foods such as a Riesling or Viognier/Condrieu.


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.

 


Blackened Salmon

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 2

Inspired by: I can’t even remember the first time I had blackened fish, but it was one of the first ways that I enjoyed fish. This is so fast and easy and I love how crispy the outside of the fish gets, yet stays so moist inside. I also think this seasoning really enhances the flavors of salmon.

Supplies: Cast iron skillet

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound salmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil is a good choice for high heat cooking)
  • Approximately 2 teaspoons of Spice it Up …by Karen™

Preparation:

  • Heat your cast iron skillet so that it is searing hot (approximately 7 minutes over a gas stove). Make sure you have a powerful hood/fan or you might set off your smoke alarms and get a visit by the fire department!
  • Coat the fish lightly in olive oil and sprinkle on the spice.
  • Add olive oil to the hot skillet, let it heat up for about 30 seconds, and then place the salmon in the skillet.
  • Cooking time depends on the thickness and type of salmon (some are much more oily than other and more forgiving with the time). Sear each side for 4-5 minutes until blackened, crisp and just barely cooked through. Alternatively, my favorite method is to blacken each side for about 2 minutes and then finish off in a 350 degree oven.  Approximately 10-12 more minutes in the oven – and if you turn the pieces on their sides for baking, the top and bottom areas that were seared will stay crispy. For thiner cuts or wild salmon that is lean, cut baking time to 6-8 minutes.

Wine Suggestions: Red burgundy is typically my preference with salmon. But any medium bodied red with some good fruit and a bit of spice on it would be a perfect pairing with the spice.  For a fattier salmon, it could also hold up well to a softer Bordeaux blend or other bigger reds that have softened with some age.


Baked Salmon all Spiced Up

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Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2 for a dinner main course

Inspired by: My love for eating a beautiful healthy meal even when I have minimal time to prepare something. I have even prepared this for a late breakfast/early lunch when I know I have a full day ahead and want a more substantial morning meal.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Preheat oven to 400 degrees or, if you can use a toaster oven, there is no need to preheat. Rub salmon lightly with olive oil, sprinkle spice over top. If you are cooking a fatty Atlantic Salmon, bake it for 12 minutes at 400 degrees and then broil for another 3-5 minutes to crisp the top. For a thin tail piece or for leaner Wild Salmon, drop the cooking time by several minutes.

Wine Suggestions: Red Burgundy is my favorite. A fattier salmon also holds up well to a medium bodied red as well such as as an aged Bordeaux, and of course any medium bodied spicy red such as a Grenache/Syrah blend or Syrah or Rioja – as long as it isn’t too big. I’ve also found that a high-acid white with beautiful aromatics such as a Condrieu, White Burgundy or Gruner Veltliner can be a nice combination with the salmon and spice.


Blackened Chicken

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Blackened Chicken

Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

Inspired by: My love for spice and chicken that is cooked well, but still very juicy! I think this is one of the best ways to really sear in the juices and cook chicken fairly quickly.

Supplies: Cast iron skillet

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  • Heat your cast iron skillet so that it is searing hot (approximately 5 minutes).
  • Pre-heat oven to 375-400 or if you have a good toaster oven you can use that and skip the pre-heat.
  • Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise if they are too large for a single serving.
  • Coat the chicken in olive oil and roll it in the spice until it is completely covered.
  • Add olive oil to the hot skillet, heat for about 30 seconds, and place the chicken breasts in the skillet.
  • Sear each side for 3-5 minutes until blackened and crisp and juices are locked in.
  • Remove from skillet and place in oven.
  • Cook smaller breasts for approximately 15 minutes and larger ones for approximately 20.

Notes: Slice into strips and server over salad.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some good fruit and a bit of spice on it would be perfect. We just had this last night with our friends Katie and Joe and drank a Southern Rhone blend – Chateau Pesquié Cotes du Ventoux Terrasses. It was fun because, coincidentally, they were at Chateau Pesquié last year. A spicier Rioja, Barolo or Zinfandel, or an off-dry white would be other great options.


Prickly Pear Cactus Sorbet

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Time: 30 minutes to prepare (chill overnight); 10-20 minutes in sorbet maker.

Serves: 6 – 10 single small scoops.

Inspired by: My long time friend Emmett Lynch brought some goodies from nearby orchards. One bag he said was “dangerous” and not to stick my hands into. I peeked inside and saw those beautiful prickly pear fruits that I grew up with in the Arizona dessert! I had a dinner planned with some friends with multiple courses, so decided to use them to make a beautiful deep purple sorbet with lots of lemon and lime. My plan was to serve it as a palate cleanser, or as a transition between the last dinner course and dessert, so I made it a bit more tart than sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 pounds of large prickly pear fruits
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cointreau (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Preparation:

  • Make a simple syrup by simmering the 1/2 cup water with the 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Cool mixture in refrigerator.
  • Use tongs to hold the fruits over an open fire (gas stove) and burn off the needles (without burning the fruit).
  • Cut off the outside layer of skin and preserve as much fruit as possible. Use a non-staining plastic cutting board and gloves if you don’t want purple stains on your hands and board.
  • Put fruit in blender with the simple syrup, pinch of salt, zest, and half of the lemon and lime juices. Puree well and taste.
  • Add additional lemon and lime juice until you get your desired level of acidity.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds and any pieces of skin.
  • Chill in refrigerator overnight if possible – or at least for several hours.
  • Run this through a sorbet maker. Freeze for a few hours if you would like a harder consistency.

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