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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.


Radish Salad

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Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 8

Inspired by: I like the crunch and spiciness of radishes. This is a salad I’ve started to make more often because it has a fabulous combination of spicy and sweet with the acid of the dressing and goes well with just about any other combination of fish and vegetables that we enjoy.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 8 handfuls of Arugula and/or other peppery greens
  • 2 cups radish sprouts
  • 4-8 radishes sliced 1/8″ thick
  • Nectarine or pear sliced into 1/8″ thick pieces
  • Persian cucumber (optional) sliced into 1/8″ thick pieces
  • Toasted almond slices

Dressing Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove crushed garlic (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a shaker. I like the simplicity of this lemon dressing for this salad.
  • Toss the greens with the dressing first.
  • Add the radish, fruit, cucumber and toss well.
  • Top off with the radish sprouts and toasted almonds.

 


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.


Artichoke Sourdough Bisque

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Time: approximately 90 minutes (20 minutes to prepare the artichokes, 20 minutes to chop the other vegetables, 20 minutes to saute, 20 minutes to simmer, 10 to simmer with the bread and then puree the mixure).

Serves: 8

Inspired by: I love artichoke soup. One of my favorites is from Duartes Tavern in Pescadero, CA. For years I’ve wanted to learn to make it, but most are full of cream and not very healthy. Then I saw Chef Tony Baker of Montrio Bistro in Monterey, California demonstrate this soup on a cooking show and it has no cream or butter – just a bit of olive oil and sourdough bread to thicken it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 extra large artichokes
  • ½ cup virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chopped sourdough bread
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 fresh sprig of thyme
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or substitute with vegetable stock) – lower sodium is best so you can season it yourself
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Using a sharp serrated knife, trim the artichoke all the way down to the heart (keep the stem). Use a spoon to scrape away the fuzzy part and discard.  Peel the stem and use that in the soup as well, since the stem is an extension of the heart.  After the artichokes are clean, roughly slice.
  • Wash and roughly chop all of the vegetables and garlic.
  • Heat the oil in a large thick-bottomed pan.
  • Sweat (sauté without color) the artichokes, onion, leek, garlic, celery and thyme, until tender.
  • Add the chicken stock. I used Sheltons all natural chicken broth with salt and spices but if you might prefer low sodium so you can  add your own in at the end.
  • Gently simmer the soup for 20 minutes.
  • Add the roughly chopped sourdough bread and sage and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • In small batches, puree the soup using either a blender, food processor or immersion blender. A conventional blender should produce a nice smooth creamy soup.
  • Place all of the soup into a clean saucepan, reheat, and check the seasoning.
  • Season with salt and pepper. (I added in another 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of both salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper).

Tabouli

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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.

Seared Scallops

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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


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