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Chilled Shrimp with Basil Ponzu Sauce

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 8 as a finger food appetizer

Inspired by: The mother-in-law of one of my closest friends, Judy Sellers. Judy is food and wine savvy as well as being incredibly adventurous, fun and interesting – someone I’m thrilled to know. One thanksgiving when we hosted dinner, she and her husband joined us and brought this as an appetizer. Everyone loved it and I still make it for parties because it’s so yummy. That was my first introduction to Hugh Carpenter and this recipe is from his “Fast Appetizer” cookbook. After that a few of us girls took a “How to Cook Fish” class with him that was really well done.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw medium to large shrimp (deveined and peeled, but with the tail still on)
  • 2 tablespoons thin or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flavorless cooking oil (I use an extra light olive oil)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (I’ve been using Thai Kitchen roasted red chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger (don’t forget this – it’s a key ingredient)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (I substitute with Italian parsley when I can’t get fresh basil)

Preparation:

  • Fill a bowl with water and some ice to make very cold.
  • Boil water in a large pot and cook shrimp about 1.5 to 2 minutes – until done but don’t overcook.
  • Drain shrimp in colander and add to bowl with ice water so they don’t continue cooking.
  • When it’s cooled down, drain again.
  • Mix the basil Ponzu sauce ingredients together in a shallow glass bowl (this can be made up to 10 hours before serving).
  • When ready to serve, toss the shrimp with the sauce – can serve with toothpicks as “finger” food.

Notes: I purchased Hugh’s cookbook so this is the original recipe, but I recommend doubling or tripling the Ponzu Sauce ingredients so it covers the shrimp a bit better, or if you wanted to put some on the side for dipping. The shrimp taste best when they are freshly covered or dipped in the sauce.

Wine Suggestions: Because there is a slight sweetness and spiciness to this sauce, a slightly off-dry wine such as a Riesling is a nice pairing. Depending on what chili you use, if the sweetness and spiciness is only slight, the ginger and other aromatics make it a nice pairing with dry, aromatic whites such as a dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner or Torrontes.

 

Chipotle-Lime Halibut Kabobs

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Time: 30 minutes active; 2.5 hours total. 10 minutes to prepare marinade and fish, 2 hours to marinate, and 20 minutes to skewer and grill kabobs.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: A friend of mine years ago, Linda, had me for dinner and made these kabobs. They are so easy, healthy and with awesome flavors!

Marinade Ingredients:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle powder
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil

Kabob Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 pounds of halibut steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, 1 small Japanese eggplant, 8-12 mushrooms  (or use your favorite veggies for grilling)

Preparation:

  • Mix marinade ingredients well and then put the fish into the marinade for about 2 hours.
  • When fish is ready, preheat your grill (or oven), cut the veggies and toss lightly with some of the marinade.
  • Put the fish and veggies on skewers (you can put them all on the same skewers alternating colors so they look pretty).
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and put on a 350 degree grill for 12-15 minutes (alternatively you can bake these as well).

Wine Suggestions: I like this most with a Red Burgundy or California Pinot Noir, but the spicy contrast with an off-dry white would also be nice.


Blackened Chicken

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Blackened Chicken

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.


Creamy Zucchini Soup

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Time: 1.5 hours total; 20-30 minutes of prep, about an hour to simmer, and another 5 minutes to puree.

Serves: 10-14

Inspired by: I took an eight-day cycling trip to Piedmont, Italy in September of 2008. We tasted nearly 20 different wine varietals in that short time. The overall food and wine experience was exceptional – as was the cycling with 40-50 miles a day and some awesome climbs! One day we stopped for a couple of hours to have a multi-course lunch at a beautiful winery  (it was very difficult to get back on the bike after that – even with all the food – I think we had even more wine!). The soup was amazing and we all asked about what was in it because it was so rich and creamy, but when it was described to us, it sounded so healthy! As soon as I got home I tried something similar and this was the result.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 large potato
  • 6-8 medium zucchinis
  • 70 oz chicken broth (4, 14 oz cans) – organic preferred, do not used reduced fat or salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped basil (or Italian leafed parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or curry powder (optional – I love the “kick” this gives but skip this if you don’t want a spicy soup)
  • 1 additional teaspoon of salt (if you aren’t sensitive to salt, you might want to add this at the end to bring out the flavors)

Preparation:

  • Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil and butter until soft and translucent (approximately 5-8 minutes).
  • While sautéing the onion, peel and dice the carrot and potato, dice the zucchini and celery, and chop the basil.
  • Add the above items (except the basil) to the pot and stir/cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid, and cook for about an hour or until all veggies are soft.
  • Put into a food processor and blend (I have the large 14 cup kind and do this in two batches). If you want the soup to be thicker, strain out some of the broth before blending. You can always add it back in.
  • Add additional salt as needed.

Wine Suggestions: Contrast with a crisp white such as an Chablis, White Burgundy or Albarino or compliment with a creamy white such as a barrel fermented (rich, buttery) California Chardonnay. If you add the spice you might even consider a light to medium bodied spicy red such as a Southern Rhone or Rioja or an off-dry white such as a Riesling.


Smoked Salmon Wrap with Goat Cheese, Cucumber & Dill

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Smoked Salmon Wraps Served with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Smoked Salmon Wraps Served with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Inspired by: One of my favorite breakfasts – a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tortilla
  • 4-6 thin slices of smoked salmon
  • 2 tablespoons spreadable goat cheese
  • 2-4 thin slices of cucumber (1/4 x 1/4 inch slices – this keeps them crunchy but also easy to roll)
  • 1 teaspoon of dill (dried or fresh)

Preparation:

  • Lay the tortilla in front of you and spread the goat cheese on the bottom third
  • Sprinkle the dill over the goat cheese
  • Add the salmon over the dill
  • Add the slices of cucumber in a narrow band across
  • Starting from the bottom, roll the tortilla tightly with all the fillings
  • Spear with a toothpick through the middle to help hold it together, or wrap in foil

Note: For party sandwiches, cut into 4-5 slices. You may need to cut off a tiny bit of the ends. This is awesome dipped in a yogurt dill sauce.

Wine Suggestions: Good matches with the smoked salmon include off-dry wines such as Viongier, Condrieu, Riesling or light bodied reds such as a California Pinot Noir or Red Burgundy.


Armenian Lentil Soup

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Armenian Lentil Soup

Time: Approximately 30 minutes of prep time and 3 hours of cook time.

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: I’ve always enjoyed lentil soups and they can be so healthy. Many Armenian and Turkish versions of lentil soup include apricots. I love the concept of that, but often find they use too many and overpower the soup. After experimenting a bit, I like this version because it adds some depth and interest to the flavor without throwing it out of balance.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 small onions or one large onion)
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 medium tomatoes chopped (or 1, 28 oz can organic fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes)
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups lentils (any color)
  • 6 cups water to start (you may add another 3-6 cups while it’s cooking)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • ½  teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (could use a curry powder instead or for part of this to change flavor a bit)
  • ½  teaspoon crushed ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Garnish – Finishing Touches:

  • Fresh parsley – chopped
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I typically add another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice

Preparation:

  • Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  • Add lentils, tomatoes, apricots, water and spices.
  • Simmer for 3 hours, or until the lentils are completely soft. Add hot water as needed to keep the soup to your desired thickness.
  • Add additional salt & pepper if still needed.
  • When serving, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and garnish with paprika and parsley.

Note: You can of course skip the lime and the other garnishes, but I love lime juice drizzled on this lentil soup – I think it brings out a beautiful flavor.

Wine Suggestions: This soup has a spicy kick to it, but also a hint of sweetness. A medium bodied red with some nice fruitiness and/or a bit of spice on it would be perfect such as the 2006 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel (45% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Counoise) or a similar Southern Rhone blend. I’d probably also try a Rioja or a lighter-style Zinfandel (something like Hartford Court is nice). If you prefer white, the best match would be something off-dry such as a Kabinett Riesling. I had an inexpensive Riesling from Washington recently that was actually a very good pairing – Eroica from Chateau St. Michelle. What I enjoyed about this one is that it’s only slightly off dry. Eroica is the result of a winemaking collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau and famed Mosel winemaker Ernst Loosen.


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