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Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

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Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

Time: 45 – 60 minutes (ideally with a couple of hours cooling time for the grilled veggies midway). Grilled veggies and dressing can be prepared ahead.

Serves: 6

Inspired by: My friend Rikke who always makes delicious food brought this to a party recently. I made just a few modifications. The dish was fabulous and will be something I make often.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 small bell peppers (red, yellow, orange) – about 1 pound, stemmed, seeded and quartered
  • 5 slender zucchini (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut lengthwise in half
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to toss the peppers and zucchini in before grilling
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers, halved, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or English cucumber… or if you use another type, remove the seeds and some of the peel)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 4 ounce square of feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground sumac to sprinkle on top

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic crushed (optional)

Preparation:

  • Heat your grill (medium).
  • Toss or rub zucchini and peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill peppers and zucchini until slightly charred and just tender, turning often, about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate if you are preparing this ahead.
  • To make dressing: whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, cumin, and optional garlic in small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut peppers lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips, then crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Cut zucchini lengthwise in half, and then into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Put zucchini, peppers, cucumber, tomato, olives, mint and parsley into a large bowl and toss with dressing.
  • Add feta and toss gently.
  • Transfer to a large, shallow bowl. Sprinkle ground sumac over the top.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some spice and earthy flavors is ideal. The first time we made this, it was with a vegetarian dinner of spiced lentils. A red burgundy, or earthy rustic Italian red or Southern Rhone would all be good pairings.


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 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.


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™

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.


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.


Crab Cioppino

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Crab Cioppino

Time: 60-75 minutes

Serves: 4  – just the two of us had this tonight with fresh whole grain bread and roasted brussel sprouts. We could have easily had two more people join us – we ate way too much and we’ll still have awesome leftovers for tomorrow.

Inspired by: It’s the end of December and for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing Dungeness crab at the fish counter. I’ve been thinking that I must get some of these before the season is over! I LOVE crab and it brings with it a lot of memories for me – mainly related to my dad. I remember as a child going out for crab with my family, and my brother and I would leave the restaurants still playing with the claws. I also think of my dad ordering crab cioppino at restaurants and wearing a bib because it was so messy. When I started thinking about what I wanted to have for dinner tonight, crab and tomatoes came to mind… and that got me googling crab cioppino recipes. The first one I found was “Judith’s Dungeness Crab Cioppino Recipe” from Food and Wine (Judith was chef Michael Mina’s late mother-in-law who apparently used to make it for Christmas Eve dinner). It looked great and easy, but I had to make a few modifications based on ingredient availability and the fact that I was cooking for 2, but it turned out so amazing, I’ll do it exactly the same way next time! This recipe makes a very thick soup with a LOT of kick! Yum.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper – chopped
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno – minced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves (2 minced; 2 whole)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of fire roasted organic tomatoes – diced
  • 1 10 oz can of whole baby clams
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 – 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 steamed Dungeness crab
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 littleneck clams
  • 12 shrimp – shelled and deveined
  • some small scallops or halibut pieces (optional)

Preparation:

  • In a large soup pot, sauté the onion for about 2 minutes on high heat. Add the red bell pepper and sauté for about 2 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and jalapeno and sauté for another 6 minutes or until it is all very soft and beginning to brown.
  • Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaf and cook for another 5-10 minutes – until thickened.
  • Add the can of clams with their broth and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile – in a food processor – combine the basil leaves, whole garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes – chop well. Add 1/8 cup of olive oil and puree until smooth. Then prepare the crab by removing the top shells and the flap on the undersides – pry out any brownish insides and feathery lungs and discard. Rinse the crab bodies in cold water and break them up into pieces that are a few inches in length – or however you’d like to see them presented in your dish when serving.
  • Now it’s time to add the clams, mussels and shrimp to the pot – be sure to push them into the hot broth. Once the shells of the clams and the mussels open (about 2 minutes), add the crab pieces and push into the broth as much as possible – put the lid on the pot and continue to cook for another 2-4 minutes until everything is hot.
  • Use tongs to take out all the shellfish and distribute evenly into bowls – then scoop out broth evenly into bowls.
  • Drizzle/spread the basil puree over the top of each and serve with fresh bread.

 

Notes: I would have liked including some scallops, but they weren’t available. White fish, such as Halibut, would have been good too. If you like your broth thinner – replace the can of clams with 16 oz of clam broth (I wasn’t able to find it – the stores were probably sold out from Christmas, but it’s what the original recipe called for). I’m sure you could also double the diced tomatoes without losing flavor – this is a VERY flavorful and spicy dish! It can also be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Wine Suggestions: We drank this with a 2003 La Spinetta Barbera d’ Asti Superiore. It needed some decanting, but it was a fabulous pairing with the rich tomato and spice of the dish.


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