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Green Beans & Shitake Mushrooms

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Green Beans & Cremini Mushrooms

Time: 20-25 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspiration: Tony Khalife taught me so much about the basic cooking of beautiful foods. He also taught me that sautéing an onion to start off a dish makes the house smell beautiful and rounds out the flavor and texture of many pan-fried vegetable dishes like this one. I love all kinds of mushrooms. I typically do this dish with Shitake mushrooms, per the recipe below, but last night I couldn’t find them and bought Cremini’s instead (photo above).


  • 1 small white or red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Green beans
  • Shitake mushrooms (can do equal parts beans/mushrooms or vary it by your taste)
  • Salt and pepper


  • Wash mushrooms and green beans and snip off the ends of the beans.
  • Cut the onion in half, and then slice thin.
  • In a skillet or wok, sauté the onion with olive oil until it is caramelized (about 10 minutes).
  • Cook shitakes until they begin to soften.
  • Add green beans, salt and pepper to taste, and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are at your desired firmness. You can also cover them for the first 5 minutes or so to speed up cooking as they will steam a bit.

Notes: If you use Cremini’s or other fast cooking mushrooms instead, add the green beans before the mushrooms. Cook until they are about 5 minutes away from being finished, and then add the mushrooms for the last five minutes or so.

Wine Suggestions: You’ll probably select a wine that goes best with your main course, but if you are considering wines that are most complimentary to green beans, good pairings are Sancerre or Gruner Veltliner. A light, earthy red such as a Red Burgundy is a fabulous pairing with the mushrooms – you might consider that if you go very heavy on the mushrooms and light on the green beans.

Eggplant-Zucchini-Tomato Bake

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Time: 30 minutes active; 1.5 hours total. Approximately 30 minutes to prepare and layer the ingredients and 50-60 minutes for cook and cool time.

Serves: 8-12 as a side dish

Inspired by: My friend Samantha Lincoln who is creative and always makes beautiful food. She served this one night for a dinner at her house and told me she just made it up. She used lavender salt, which sounds awesome! I use sea salt since that’s what I keep around, but would love to try that sometime to see how it enhances the flavor. The flavors in this dish are very Mediterranean and go so well with many of the dishes I love to make such as curry chicken kabobs, Armenian rice pilaf and Greek salad – in fact – that’s a perfect combo for a dinner party. Sometime I’d like to make this with thick layer of garbanzo beans to have as a lunch/meal, rather than just as a side dish.


  • 9 x 13 x 2 inch glass baking dish
  • Turkey baster (not required, but it’s helpful to have something to easily remove the water that accumulates in the dish from the veggies while cooking)


  • 2 small Japanese eggplants or 1 large eggplant
  • 1 – 3 zucchini depending on size
  • 4 – 8 tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil (or you can substitute with fresh Italian parsley)
  • ½ – 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Approximately 3 teaspoons sea salt
  • Approximately 1-2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Approximately 1-2 teaspoons white pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice eggplant and zucchini into 1/8-inch rounds and slice tomatoes as thin as possible so they hold together (so soft middle doesn’t fall out).
  • Lightly coat the inside of your baking dish with olive oil or non-stick olive oil spray.
  • Lightly brush the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil.
  • Layer the eggplant in the bottom of baking dish, then zucchini, and then tomato (do this twice so you have six layers – save the prettiest tomato slices for the top layer). Between each layer, lightly sprinkle salt, white and black pepper, chopped basil and parmesan cheese.
  • Cover with foil and cook for about 30 minutes, then remove some of the water that has accumulated in the bottom of the dish (a turkey baster works well for removing water).
  • Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes – watch so that the cheese and basil on top don’t burn.
  • Remove any standing water in the bottom of the dish, and let it rest and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wine Suggestions: You’ll probably select a wine to go best with your main course, but if you were just pairing with this dish, a lighter style Sangiovese or Grenache blend would be nice, possibly a Red Burgundy, or a crisp, aromatic white such as Sancerre or Gruner Veltliner.

Asparagus Sautéed with Lemon

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Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish

Inspired by: My love for asparagus, lemon and quick turn cooking when I’m in a hurry but want to eat healthy!


  • 1 bunch asparagus – ideally thin tender ones
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Begin to heat a sauté pan or cast iron skillet.
  • Wash and drain the asparagus. Snap the tough ends off the bottom.
  • Grate the peel of the lemon with a fine grater (approximately 1 tablespoon of zest).
  • Put the olive oil and the asparagus into the hot pan and toss well.
  • Cook until you begin seeing the outside char but still firm.
  • Squeeze lemon over the asparagus and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook asparagus just a bit more until it is your desired firmness; toss with lemon zest just before removing from skillet to serve.

Wine Suggestions: You might select a wine that goes best with your main course, however, Asparagus is one of those foods that has certain chemicals in it that can make your wine taste green and vegetal. Charring the asparagus on the grill or as in this recipe can help reduce that effect quite a lot, as can cooking with thin spears (which have less of these chemicals). Cheesy sauces and dressings help too, but I prefer to eat lighter and taste the asparagus! A few rules of thumb are to stay away from wines with lots of tannin and oak and choose crisp aromatic varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Pinot Gris or Gruner Veltliner and maybe an unoaked Chardonnay. Fruity, spicy and off dry whites such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer are good too, and Champagne is always a great option. With the lemon flavors in this dish I think the best pairing are high acid wines such as Champagne, an unoaked Chablis, White Burgundy or Sancerre.

Lentil Tacos

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Time: 45 minutes to prepare initial batch of lentils; 5 minutes to make a taco meal.

Serves: approximately 20 tacos – lentils stay fresh in the fridge for 5-6 days.

Inspired by: I surf more than 100 days a year in Mexico. Years ago I wanted to figure out an after-surf meal that was healthy, full of protein, and that would only take minutes to prepare when I was super hungry. I made a large batch of lentils and picked up fresh corn tortillas that morning. After experimenting with adding various combinations of veggies and flavors to the lentils, I ended up with something simple, delicious, and that uses ingredients I can always find in the local stores. I know the canned Jalapeños may sound suspicious! I don’t “do” cans! But the salt and vinegar used in the pickling process are what create this delicious flavor and probably help preserve the lentils for a while in the fridge.


  • Large pot to cook the lentils
  • Large bowl with lid or plastic to store lentils in the refrigerator after preparation
  • Strainer
  • Taco holders – optional, but they make it much easier to serve the tacos


  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1, 12-15 ounce can of diced Jalapeños
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeños minced (optional for those who like a good kick)
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • Romaine lettuce or other greens
  • Lime
  • Your favorite cheese, shaved or crumbled
  • Fresh corn tortillas


  • Add 4 cups of water and 2 cups of lentils to a large pot and bring to a hard boil.
  • Drop the heat to a simmer and cover with a lid for 25-30 minutes. Don’t add salt or any other seasoning as it will make the lentils tough. Start checking on them at 20 minutes. When the water is absorbed and lentils are cooked through they are done. If they begin to get too soft and there is still water left, you can strain them. If too much steam escapes while cooking, you may need to add a bit more water.
  • While they are cooking, mince the fresh jalapeños and dice the tomatoes. Strain out excess water from the tomatoes.
  • Strain liquid from canned Jalapeños as well.
  • When lentils are finished cooking, transfer them into large bowl and let them cool. Then add the diced tomatoes, minced fresh Jalapeños and canned Jalapeños Stir well. You can store these in the refrigerator for 5-6 days.
  • When you are ready to serve the tacos, warm your lentils in a microwave or small pan over the stove. You can even add a bit of cheese to this mixture to help it hold better together in the taco.
  • Chop some romaine lettuce or other greens and drizzle with lime.
  • To serve – warm the tortillas over the fire of a gas burner and transfer into your taco holders. Add the limey greens as a first layer, then the warm lentil mixture, and top with your favorite cheese. Serve with a Pacifico. Even better if you can make/eat after several hours of surf in the warm waters of Mexico!

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