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White Bean Pesto Dip

Pesto Oil & White Bean Pesto Dip

Pesto & White Bean Pesto Dip

Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 8-12 as an appetizer

Inspired by: One of women in my book club, Nancy Beth Garrett, made something very similar to this recently with a pesto sauce from Trader Joes. I couldn’t stop eating it and stuffed myself before dinner!


  • 2, 14 oz cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
  • Juice from about ½ a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2-4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Pesto – Wash and dry basil leaves; put into food processor and chop a bit first. Add olive oil, crushed garlic, grated fresh Parmesan and salt. Chop/blend well. Pour the pesto into a bowl or jar to store (you will only use some of it).

Dip – Without cleaning the food processor, add the beans and 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice and pulse chop to your desired consistency OR instead, you can just hand mash this in a bowl. Unlike when I make hummus, for this dip I like the beans to keep some texture and lumps, but you can also make this very smooth and creamy. If you want it to be smooth and creamy, continue the rest of this with the processor. Otherwise, put the mixture so far in a bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of pesto and mix by hand. Add a little at a time and taste to get it to desired intensity. Add additional pesto oil, salt or lemon juice as desired. Garnish with drops of basil oil, basil leaves or flowers.

Notes: Serve with crackers, pita bread or raw veggies such as celery and carrots.  You can skip a step and purchase your favorite pesto sauce instead of making your own pesto oil.

Wine Suggestions: Yummy with light, crisp whites and aromatic whites such as Grüner Veltliner, Sancerre, Albarino, Verdejo, Chablis or other lightly oaked White Burgundy. Although I’ve heard that Cabernet Sauvignon is a good pairing with Pesto, and I can see how that could be the case, I think the whites are much better matches flavor and weight-wise for this fairly light dip.

Baba Ganoush

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.


  • 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)


  • 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
  • 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


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.


  • 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


  • 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.

Green Beans & Shitake Mushrooms

Green Beans & Cremini Mushrooms

Green Beans & Cremini Mushrooms

Time: 20-25 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspiration: Tony Khalife taught me so much about the basic cooking of beautiful foods. He also taught me that sautéing an onion to start off a dish makes the house smell beautiful and rounds out the flavor and texture of many pan-fried vegetable dishes like this one. I love all kinds of mushrooms. I typically do this dish with Shitake mushrooms, per the recipe below, but last night I couldn’t find them and bought Cremini’s instead (photo above).


  • 1 small white or red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Green beans
  • Shitake mushrooms (can do equal parts beans/mushrooms or vary it by your taste)
  • Salt and pepper


  • Wash mushrooms and green beans and snip off the ends of the beans.
  • Cut the onion in half, and then slice thin.
  • In a skillet or wok, sauté the onion with olive oil until it is caramelized (about 10 minutes).
  • Cook shitakes until they begin to soften.
  • Add green beans, salt and pepper to taste, and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are at your desired firmness. You can also cover them for the first 5 minutes or so to speed up cooking as they will steam a bit.

Notes: If you use Cremini’s or other fast cooking mushrooms instead, add the green beans before the mushrooms. Cook until they are about 5 minutes away from being finished, and then add the mushrooms for the last five minutes or so.

Wine Suggestions: You’ll probably select a wine that goes best with your main course, but if you are considering wines that are most complimentary to green beans, good pairings are Sancerre or Gruner Veltliner. A light, earthy red such as a Red Burgundy is a fabulous pairing with the mushrooms – you might consider that if you go very heavy on the mushrooms and light on the green beans.

Eggplant-Zucchini-Tomato Bake


Time: 30 minutes active; 1.5 hours total. Approximately 30 minutes to prepare and layer the ingredients and 50-60 minutes for cook and cool time.

Serves: 8-12 as a side dish

Inspired by: My friend Samantha Lincoln who is creative and always makes beautiful food. She served this one night for a dinner at her house and told me she just made it up. She used lavender salt, which sounds awesome! I use sea salt since that’s what I keep around, but would love to try that sometime to see how it enhances the flavor. The flavors in this dish are very Mediterranean and go so well with many of the dishes I love to make such as curry chicken kabobs, Armenian rice pilaf and Greek salad – in fact – that’s a perfect combo for a dinner party. Sometime I’d like to make this with thick layer of garbanzo beans to have as a lunch/meal, rather than just as a side dish.


  • 9 x 13 x 2 inch glass baking dish
  • Turkey baster (not required, but it’s helpful to have something to easily remove the water that accumulates in the dish from the veggies while cooking)


  • 2 small Japanese eggplants or 1 large eggplant
  • 1 – 3 zucchini depending on size
  • 4 – 8 tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil (or you can substitute with fresh Italian parsley)
  • ½ – 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Approximately 3 teaspoons sea salt
  • Approximately 1-2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Approximately 1-2 teaspoons white pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice eggplant and zucchini into 1/8-inch rounds and slice tomatoes as thin as possible so they hold together (so soft middle doesn’t fall out).
  • Lightly coat the inside of your baking dish with olive oil or non-stick olive oil spray.
  • Lightly brush the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil.
  • Layer the eggplant in the bottom of baking dish, then zucchini, and then tomato (do this twice so you have six layers – save the prettiest tomato slices for the top layer). Between each layer, lightly sprinkle salt, white and black pepper, chopped basil and parmesan cheese.
  • Cover with foil and cook for about 30 minutes, then remove some of the water that has accumulated in the bottom of the dish (a turkey baster works well for removing water).
  • Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes – watch so that the cheese and basil on top don’t burn.
  • Remove any standing water in the bottom of the dish, and let it rest and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wine Suggestions: You’ll probably select a wine to go best with your main course, but if you were just pairing with this dish, a lighter style Sangiovese or Grenache blend would be nice, possibly a Red Burgundy, or a crisp, aromatic white such as Sancerre or Gruner Veltliner.

Asparagus Sautéed with Lemon


Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish

Inspired by: My love for asparagus, lemon and quick turn cooking when I’m in a hurry but want to eat healthy!


  • 1 bunch asparagus – ideally thin tender ones
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Begin to heat a sauté pan or cast iron skillet.
  • Wash and drain the asparagus. Snap the tough ends off the bottom.
  • Grate the peel of the lemon with a fine grater (approximately 1 tablespoon of zest).
  • Put the olive oil and the asparagus into the hot pan and toss well.
  • Cook until you begin seeing the outside char but still firm.
  • Squeeze lemon over the asparagus and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook asparagus just a bit more until it is your desired firmness; toss with lemon zest just before removing from skillet to serve.

Wine Suggestions: You might select a wine that goes best with your main course, however, Asparagus is one of those foods that has certain chemicals in it that can make your wine taste green and vegetal. Charring the asparagus on the grill or as in this recipe can help reduce that effect quite a lot, as can cooking with thin spears (which have less of these chemicals). Cheesy sauces and dressings help too, but I prefer to eat lighter and taste the asparagus! A few rules of thumb are to stay away from wines with lots of tannin and oak and choose crisp aromatic varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Pinot Gris or Gruner Veltliner and maybe an unoaked Chardonnay. Fruity, spicy and off dry whites such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer are good too, and Champagne is always a great option. With the lemon flavors in this dish I think the best pairing are high acid wines such as Champagne, an unoaked Chablis, White Burgundy or Sancerre.

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