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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.


Spinach Salad with Mango Lime Puree

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Spinach Salad with Mango Lime Puree

Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 12

Inspired by: I’m always reworking spinach and mango to come up with something just a little different. This is definitely my new favorite spinach salad. It is excellent with anything spicy such as blackened chickengrilled spicy shrimppan fried spicy shrimp, grilled vegetable lasagna, and I love it with seared scallops as well.

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spinach leaves for 12
  • 1-2 cups of roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 2/3 of a mango diced into 1/4 or 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 English cucumber diced into 1/4 or 1/2 inch cubes (or can use Persian cucumbers)
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sliced almonds or pistacios

Dressing Ingredients:

  • The other 1/3 of the mango (scrape fruit off of the seed and use the riper, soggier, less pretty pieces)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing Preparation:

  • Peel mango, remove seed, and dice fruit into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.
  • Put about 1/3 of the mango into the blender to make the dressing (about ½ cup).
  • Add the juice of 1 lime and a dash of salt and pepper to blender and puree/blend well. Then start adding the juice of the second lime until you find the balance of sweetness/acidity you like.
  • Pour the mango puree into a small pitcher and add in 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well.

Salad Preparation:

  • Wash spinach leavees, remove stems, and spread into a wide salad bowl.
  • Wash fresh mint, roughly chop, and sprinkle over spinach so it’s mixed evenly.
  • Slice cucumber into thin slices (or dice into pieces the same size as the mango).
  • Pour dressing over the spinach leaves and mint and mix well – the dressing should be relatively thick so mix until the leaves are lightly coated everywhere.
  • Add the diced mango, cucumber, crumbled goat cheese and sliced almonds and mix well.
  • Optional – top with blackened chicken, spicy shrimp or seared scallops.

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 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


Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

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Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

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
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) of crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of Spice it up …by Karen™ or your favorite spice blend

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 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown

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.


Curry Chicken Kabobs

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Time: 45 minutes active, 6 hours total. Approximately 20 minutes to make the marinade and cube chicken, 5-6 hours to marinate, and 25 minutes to skewer and cook.

Serves: 6-10

Inspired by: I’ve always loved a lot of Indian chicken dishes that use yogurt marinades to tenderize the chicken and various curies for fabulous flavors. I just started experimenting with various ingredients and have found that I like just about any similar combination. I took notes once so I could share this with friends.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (mine is very spicy – select type according to how spicy you want it)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 lemon (add 20 minutes before cooking)

Preparation:

  • Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.
  • Mix all rest of the ingredients well (except lemon) in large bowl.
  • Add the chicken to the mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours.
  • Put on skewers, and drizzle with fresh lemon juice about 20 minutes before cooking.
  • Cook on 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 even good warm or cold for a picnic with greek salad, and pita bread for sandwiches and yogurt dill sauce. It’s easy for dinner parties and super easy for larger parties as you can serve it as finger food with toothpics and the yogurt dill sauce for dipping.

Wine Suggestions: Spicy, medium bodied reds and off-dry whites.


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