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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.

 


Blackened Salmon

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 2

Inspired by: I can’t even remember the first time I had blackened fish, but it was one of the first ways that I enjoyed fish. This is so fast and easy and I love how crispy the outside of the fish gets, yet stays so moist inside. I also think this seasoning really enhances the flavors of salmon.

Supplies: Cast iron skillet

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound salmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil is a good choice for high heat cooking)
  • Approximately 2 teaspoons of Spice it Up …by Karen™

Preparation:

  • Heat your cast iron skillet so that it is searing hot (approximately 7 minutes over a gas stove). Make sure you have a powerful hood/fan or you might set off your smoke alarms and get a visit by the fire department!
  • Coat the fish lightly in olive oil and sprinkle on the spice.
  • Add olive oil to the hot skillet, let it heat up for about 30 seconds, and then place the salmon in the skillet.
  • Cooking time depends on the thickness and type of salmon (some are much more oily than other and more forgiving with the time). Sear each side for 4-5 minutes until blackened, crisp and just barely cooked through. Alternatively, my favorite method is to blacken each side for about 2 minutes and then finish off in a 350 degree oven.  Approximately 10-12 more minutes in the oven – and if you turn the pieces on their sides for baking, the top and bottom areas that were seared will stay crispy. For thiner cuts or wild salmon that is lean, cut baking time to 6-8 minutes.

Wine Suggestions: Red burgundy is typically my preference with salmon. But any medium bodied red with some good fruit and a bit of spice on it would be a perfect pairing with the spice.  For a fattier salmon, it could also hold up well to a softer Bordeaux blend or other bigger reds that have softened with some age.


Spicy Shrimp Salad

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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.


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.


Spicy Shrimp – Grilled

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Time: 5 minutes to make marinade, 20 minutes to sit in marinade, 4-8 minutes on the grill

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned but with shells
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Spice it Up …by Karen™ (as an alternative: 2 teaspoons paprika, ½teaspoon cayenne)
  • ½ teaspoon course salt

Preparation:

  • Wash and drain shrimp (leave shells on).
  • Mix all the other ingredients together.
  • Toss the shrimps into the mix and cover well for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the grill to about 400.
  • Skewer shrimps and grill for a approximately 2-4 minutes on each side depending on whether they are medium or jumbo in size.

Notes: The shells get salty and spicy and finger-licking good! If the shells are tender, they can be yummy to eat as well. These shrimps are so good healthy served over any salad. Try the mango-mint quinoa with them too!

Wine suggestions: Light to medium bodied spicy reds such as a spicier Grenache or Southern Rhone blend, or an off-dry aeromatic white such as a Riesling or Condrieu.


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.


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