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Lentil Vegetable Soup

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Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 20 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound French green lentils (3-4 cups)
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped (3-5 cups)
  • 2 leeks (white part only), chopped (2-4 cups)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (+ add additional at the end to your desired taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional – adds a bit of a kick)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (1 – 1.5 cups)
  • 4-5 stalks celery with leaves chopped (3-4 cups)
  • 3 quart chicken broth
  • 2, 28oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens with tough ribs removed (or Kale), chopped (3-5 cups)
  • Juice of one Meyer lemon

Preparation:

  • Rinse and drain lentils.
  • In large soup pot, heat olive oil. Sauté leeks and garlic for 2 minutes. Add onions, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and optional red pepper flakes. Saute for another 5-8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  • Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juices, and lentils.
  • Cover and bring to boil. Then uncover and simmer for 1 hour, until lentils are cooked (French green lentils will still hold their shape and firm texture even when cooked through).
  • Add greens and simmer for another 5 minutes or so until they have softened.
  • Add the juice of one lemon and mix well.
  • Taste and add salt if necessary. If you are using a broth that already has the appropriate seasoning, you may need very little salt. But if you are using low to no sodium chicken broth you’ll likely want to add more salt.

Notes: This is a large batch, but it freezes well. The recipe is modified from one published by Ina Garten in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 1999.


Creamy Mushroom Soup

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Time: 40-45 minutes

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: I’ve always loved creamy mushroom soup and have thought about trying to make it, but prefer not to eat soups with a lot of cream. Once I tried my version of a healthy creamy zucchini soup that turned out well, I thought I’d use a similar approach to a mushroom soup – creamy without the cream! This turned out even better than I had thought it would. Wow! Yum! It’s amazing how much creamy texture yellow potatoes can add!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 small to medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth (don’t use low fat or low salt – get the ones with all the flavor or make your own)
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Approximately 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preparation:

  • Wash the mushrooms and let them drain in a colander.
  • Wash, peel and dice the potato.
  • Pour the chicken broth into a medium sized soup pot and add the diced potatoes (the broth should cover the potato). Simmer for about 15 minutes until potato is soft.
  • While potato is cooking, slice the onion and sauté it on medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil until it’s well cooked and translucent.
  • Once the onion is cooked, add it to the chicken broth and potato.
  • Slice and dice the mushrooms. In the same pan, sauté the mushrooms on medium heat with 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Remove 2 cups of the sautéed mushrooms and place in a bowl. Add the rest to the soup pot and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Using a cup or ladle, take about half the mixture from the soup pot, put it in a blender and puree – about 1 minute. Taste and add salt if needed and then pour into a large serving bowl. Repeat this with the rest of the mixture in the soup pot until it has all been pureed and salted to your liking. Add half of the reserved mushrooms to the soup and stir in.
  • Chop some fresh parsley.
  • Serve the soup into bowls, garnishing each with fresh parsley and the rest of the reserved sautéed mushroom slices.

Wine Suggestions: This would be fabulous with a Red Burgundy. Mushrooms and an earthy Pinot Noir are awesome! We drank this with a yummy older earthy Bordeaux last night and it was also a fantastic combination.


Seared Ahi Salad with Wasabi-Ginger Vinaigrette

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 2-4

Inspired by: My Armenian “sister” Michelle Babayan, who is a phenomenal personal chef and caterer. Michelle’s Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna) salad with a creamy wasabi dressing is to die for, and the 18 spice blend she uses to coat the Ahi before searing is amazing with fabulous flavors to bring out the flavors of the fish without being spicy hot and overwhelming the fish.  I love her spice blend on the Ahi and have now found that I love mine too!  When I use mine, I use it more like a rub – because it’s much spicier than hers. I like it to add beautiful flavor, but not overwhelm the fish. What’s interesting is that when I use my blend, I find that it tastes a lot different than when I use it in other dishes. It’s very chameleon-like! I really love both spices with this salad. This is one of my favorite meals.

Ingredients – Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi (I get it freshly prepared at the sushi counter at whole foods)
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients – Salad:

  • 1 pound sushi grade or searing grade Ahi tuna
  • 4 tablespoons Michelle’s 18 spice blend or 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • Mixed greens or watercress
  • Papaya or mango – cut into small pieces
  • English cucumber – sliced
  • Red radish – sliced (optional)
  • Red pepper – sliced (optional)

Preparation:

  • Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a shaker.
  • Put the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Rub olive oil on the Ahi and coat it with the 18 spice blend, or give it a good rub with my spice blend.
  • Heat a skillet to sear the fish (a cast iron skillet is best as it gets very hot) – add a tablespoon of olive oil, and then sear just a couple of minutes on each side – it should get crispy on the outside but not cooked through.
  • Slice the Ahi quickly so it doesn’t continue to cook – 1/4 to 1/8 inch slices.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing (but reserve a bit of it).
  • Lay the Ahi over the salad and then drizzle it some dressing over it.

Notes: I also love charred red pepper in the salad – especially when I want a warmer salad. You can cook that on one side of the skillet and the fish on the other  – but start it about 5 minutes before the fish. Spread that over the top of the salad along with the Ahi.

Wine Suggestions: My favorite with this salad is a California Pinot Noir or a Red Burgundy. I’ve also had it with a light Chinon that was really yummy. I’ve also found that when using my spice blend, it’s really nice with a slightly bigger red such as a Grenache/Syrah or a Rioja.


Stuffed Mushrooms

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 45 “bites”

Inspired by: I can’t remember when I first had these. I just know that I’ve always loved mushrooms of any type, and every time I’ve had these I’ve thought they were decadent. With something close to these ingredients as the stuffing, I don’t know how you can go wrong. I love that they are easy to prepare ahead for parties and I think they still taste good even when they cool off and are only at room temperature.

Ingredients:

  • 45 cremini mushrooms
  • 1 onion, chopped well
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped well
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 cup bread crumbs

Preparation:

  • Wash mushrooms; remove stems carefully to keep mushrooms whole – keep the stems
  • Slice off a very small sliver on the rounded side of the mushroom and lay them on a cookie sheet (that keeps them from rolling around)
  • Chop all the excess mushroom stems and pieces well
  • Melt the butter in a large saute pan and saute the onions, chopped mushroom stems and garlic  – about 10 minutes on medium heat
  • Add the chopped celery, parsley and black pepper – saute another 10-20 minutes until everything is cooked through
  • Add the parmesan and then begin adding some breadcrumbs until the mixture is your desired thickness for stuffing the mushrooms
  • Stuff the mushrooms so that they are very full and rounded at the caps
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes

Notes: You can prepare these and wrap them up well in the refrigerator a day ahead of cooking. It’s best to bring them to room temperature before baking. And a note to myself – I think chopping all this stuff should work just fine on “pulse” mode in the food processor. Every time I make them I think about that when I’m almost finished chopping.  It would save a lot of time!

Stuffed Mushrooms - Pre Baked

Stuffed Mushrooms - Pre Baked

Wine Suggestions: I love mushrooms with a Red Burgundy, but I think the flavors here would go well with most high-acid crisp whites (White Burgundy, Gruner Veltliner, Sancerre, Chenin Blanc), and light to medium-bodied reds (Red Burgundy/Pinot Noir, Rioja).


Spicy Shrimp Salad

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Spicy Shrimp Salad

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: I love salad. I love pan fried or grilled shrimp. I love spice! This just happened one night and is something we now make fairly often. It’s not a recipe that needs documenting, other than having it here it helps me think of something to make when my brain has turned off for the day! I don’t keep a lot of extra food in the house, but salad stuff and a bag of shrimp in the freezer are the most common to have around. This one is using my super fast and easy spicy pan fried shrimp recipe, but I love this with spicy grilled shrimp as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp (cleaned and with or without the shells – the shells actually have nutritional benefit and they are yummy to nibble on cooked this way!)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • Use any salad ingredients you’d like – these are just suggestions below:
  • 4-8 cups spinach or torn romaine leaves (you could add some parsley leaves as well)
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1/2 english cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced mango or papaya or tomato

Preparation:

  • Put your salad ingredients into a large bowl and toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lime juice. Then add a bit of the spice (to your liking) and toss again.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or sauté pan and 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. If you are including red bell peppers or other vegetables that you like cooked or hot – you can add them to the skillet as well. You might even want to start cooking them about 8-10 minutes before the shrimp if you like them charred (my favorite).
  • Top the salad with your pan fried shrimp and vegetables and serve.

Wine Suggestions: I love not having vinegar in salads – it is always more wine-friendly. This salad is fabulous with anything from a light red to a spicy or medium-bodied red. Our favorites are California Pinot Noir (especially if we add the papaya or mango because California wines tend to have much riper fruit than a Red Burgundy from France and will pair better with the sweeter flavors), or a Grenache-based blend from Southern Rhone or Spain, or even Bordeaux blend with a good portion of Merlot so that it is soft and not too tannic. If you prefer white, try a slightly off-dry white such as a Condrieu or Riesling or Chenin Blanc.


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.


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