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Roasted Tomatillo Soup with Shrimp

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Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 5 – 6 tomatillos
  • 1 large Anaheim pepper
  • 1 very small Jalapeño pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned with shells removed – you can leave tails (or substitute black beans, white beans or shredded chicken)
  • Cilantro or another green for garnish (I’m not a fan of Cilantro, but had some arugula)

Preparation:

  • Roast the tomatillos and peppers at 375 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes. Turn half way through roasting. They will be done when soft, lightly browned, and oozing liquid.
  • Meanwhile, sauté leek and onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until they are well cooked, but not browned. Add approximately ¼ teaspoon of salt while cooking.
  • Put all of the above ingredients into a blender and purée. Return to soup pot. Add the chicken stock and cumin and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-20 minutes covered.
  • Add the shrimp 2-3 minutes before serving (if the soup is boiling, medium-sized shrimps will take approximately 2 minutes to cook). Rock shrimp or other small shrimp will likely cook in a minute. Previously cooked shrimp, beans or chicken will heat through in 2-3 minutes. If chicken is your protein of choice, you can add a chicken breast when the soup comes to a boil. It should get cooked through in about 20 minutes. You can remove it, shred it with a fork, and put it back into the soup.

Notes: This will likely be relatively spicy with the roasted peppers and pairs well with an off-dry or dry riesling. It should also pair well with any white wine with nice acid – either light and crisp or full and round. It went really well tonight with a beautiful Chassagne-Montrachet.


Butternut Squash White Bean Purée

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Time: After soaking the beans in water overnight, the soup preparation takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes (45 minutes to cook the beans; at the same time you can clean and cut the squash and onions, and sauté the onions; then an additional 45 minutes to cook and purée the soup.)

Serves: 14-16 as a first course.

Inspired by: I saw this recipe in Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food”. It sounded good, hearty and healthy, and although she doesn’t purée the soup, I’ve been curious about how white beans would work as a thickening agent for a soup that was puréed. It worked perfectly! I look forward to trying this concept with other vegetables… carrot and fresh ginger, broccoli, zucchini, mushroom… perhaps roasted red pepper. I like that it adds protein and that it’s creamy without any butter or cream. Potato can be a nice thickener for veggie soups, but the white beans make it much creamer and healthier.  This version is doubled from the original Alice Waters recipe.

Supplies: Large soup pot and a sturdy vegetable peeler.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried white beans (such as cannellini, haricot blanc, or navy beans)
  • 6 cups chicken broth (or try vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian)
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small onions (sliced thin)
  • 6-8 sage leaves (or 4-6 teaspoons dried sage)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium butternut squash, approximately 3 pounds each (peel with a vegetable peeler, scrape clean of strings and seeds, and dice into ½ inch pieces)
  • Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

Preparation:

  • Soak 2 cups of beans overnight in 8 cups of water.
  • Drain and put in large pot with 6 cups chicken broth and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook until beans are tender (about 45 min). Season to taste when cooked.
  • While the beans are cooking, in large heavy bottomed pot combine 4 tablespoons olive oil, 4 onions sliced thin, 3-8 sage leaves and 2 bay leaves. Cook over medium heat until tender (about 15 min).
  • Stir in the cubed butternut squash and some salt to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then drain the beans (keeping the liquid) and add 12 cups of their cooking liquid to the squash and onions. Cook at a simmer until the squash starts to get tender. Add the beans and keep cooking into the squash is very soft.
  • Purée several cups of the mixture at a time – adding salt and pepper to taste in each batch – and then pouring into a large serving bowl. For a slightly thicker soup, remove approximately 2 cups of the liquid before you purée. You can always add it back in if you want to thin it out a bit.

Wine Suggestions: Contrast with a crisp, high-acid white such as Champagne, Chablis or White Burgundy  or compliment with a creamy white such as a barrel fermented (rich, buttery) California Chardonnay.


Seared Scallops

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Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Inspired by: The first time I had scallops cooked perfectly, they became a favorite food! Unfortunately many restaurants don’t cook them hot enough and then overcook them so they don’t get that yummy glaze and can be rubbery. I’ve also found that they are phenomenal without very little seasoning – just a bit of salt and pepper. This is about as easy as it gets… The photo above shows them served with a spinach salad with mango vinaigrette.

  • 3/4 of a pound of wild scallops – ideally fresh but if they’ve been frozen they are almost just as good
  • 1 cup of spinach leaves or other greens (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan on high heat. Once it is very hot, add the scallops. If they are medium to large – cook them 1.5 – 2 minutes on each side. They should get nice and browned (that’s from the very hot pan) quickly. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste and use tongs to serve on a bed of greens or with your favorite salad.

Wine Suggestions: I love scallops with a crisp, high-acid wine with a lot of minerality.The Albariño that we had them with tonight (photo below) was beautiful (2008 Bodega Fundada Rias Baixas). A Chablis or White Burgundy with no or light oak would be beautiful as well. Some love a creamy, buttery chardonnay to match the creaminess of the scallops. The photo above shows them served with a spinach salad with mango vinaigrette, and because of the texture of the scallops and sweetness of the salad dressing, the pairing with this viscous, minerally and fruity Condrieu was perfect!

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops


Fresh Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms

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Fresh Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Fresh Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspired by: Eating at Madison & Fifth with my good friend Jeanette. We LOVE the pasta/mushroom dish there – it’s much more decadent than what I make because it has truffle oil and butter – but that dish really just reminds me that I love fresh pasta with any kind of sautéed or grilled mushrooms on top! This is about the easiest dish to prepare – no recipe required really – but I’m posting this as a reminder to myself to make this now and then.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh pasta – I prefer Pappardelle or any thin, wide fresh pasta noodle
  • Approximately 3/4 of a cup chopped mushrooms per serving – I think all mushrooms rock – these are cremini in the photo but I’ve used all kinds and often many kinds all together (grilled Portabellas are another favorite)
  • Butter or olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh minced garlic (optional)
  • Fresh parsley chopped (optional)

Preparation: Wash, slice and sauté mushrooms in butter or olive oil  – add salt and pepper to taste. I think salt is the key to bringing out the flavors of the mushrooms. Mushrooms are also best when not overcooked – keep them firm and juicy – probably about 5-8 minutes on a medium heat for cremini’s – this varies quite a bit per type of mushroom. If you love garlic, add some minced garlic a few minutes before the mushrooms are finished cooking. When the mushrooms are just about finished, take them off the heat. Cook the pasta according to instructions, usually about 2 minutes. Drain pasta and immediately toss in olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Add some chopped parsley if you like. Pour the mushrooms and their cooking juices over the top and toss lightly.

Notes: I recently made my favorite grilled vegetable lasagna and had a couple of packages of fresh lasagna sheets left over so I cut them into 3/4″ strips and they were awesome as pasta noodles. The fresher the pasta, the more easily the noodles stick to each other so add some olive oil to your cooking water, stir pasta immediately after dropping into the water, and add some salt for flavor. Continue stiring a bit to keep the noodles separated while cooking. After draining, toss immediately with olive oil to keep noodles separated.

Wine Suggestions: I love an earthy Red Burgundy with anything mushroom! My next choice would be a high-acid white to cut through the butter such as a Chablis or White Burgundy. Because this is buttery, many people would also love a rich, buttery and creamy California Chardonnay.


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.


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