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Fresh Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms

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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.


White Bean Pesto Dip

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Pesto Oil & White Bean Pesto Dip

Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 8-12 as an appetizer

Inspired by: One of women in my book club, Nancy Beth Garrett, made something very similar to this recently with a pesto sauce from Trader Joes. I couldn’t stop eating it and stuffed myself before dinner!

Ingredients

  • 2, 14 oz cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
  • Juice from about ½ a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2-4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Pesto – Wash and dry basil leaves; put into food processor and chop a bit first. Add olive oil, crushed garlic, grated fresh Parmesan and salt. Chop/blend well. Pour the pesto into a bowl or jar to store (you will only use some of it).

Dip – Without cleaning the food processor, add the beans and 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice and pulse chop to your desired consistency OR instead, you can just hand mash this in a bowl. Unlike when I make hummus, for this dip I like the beans to keep some texture and lumps, but you can also make this very smooth and creamy. If you want it to be smooth and creamy, continue the rest of this with the processor. Otherwise, put the mixture so far in a bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of pesto and mix by hand. Add a little at a time and taste to get it to desired intensity. Add additional pesto oil, salt or lemon juice as desired. Garnish with drops of basil oil, basil leaves or flowers.

Notes: Serve with crackers, pita bread or raw veggies such as celery and carrots.  You can skip a step and purchase your favorite pesto sauce instead of making your own pesto oil.

Wine Suggestions: Yummy with light, crisp whites and aromatic whites such as Grüner Veltliner, Sancerre, Albarino, Verdejo, Chablis or other lightly oaked White Burgundy. Although I’ve heard that Cabernet Sauvignon is a good pairing with Pesto, and I can see how that could be the case, I think the whites are much better matches flavor and weight-wise for this fairly light dip.


Baba Ganoush

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Baba Ganoush

Time: 45-75 minutes (10-15 minutes to make once the eggplant has been cooked and cooled)

Serves: 10-12 as an appetizer

Inspired by: When I began cooking my theme was often “Mediterranean” because I always loved the foods prepared by my Armenian grandparents. I thought some sort of eggplant dip was something I should at least try to make. I found one in an Armenian cook book and then began modifying it slightly as I made it more and more often. I especially love the flavors of this when the eggplant is grilled and gets a bit charred – it adds a fabulous smokey flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons Tahini
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ bunch parsley, minced (garnish)
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds (garnish)

Recipe:

  • Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, score the face with a knife and brush each face with olive oil.
  • Put eggplant face up on cookie sheet and place under pre-heated broiler (40-60 min at about 350), or grill eggplant face down over medium heat (20-30 min). Cook until thoroughly cooked – slightly charred outside and soft on inside.
  • Cool.
  • With spoon, remove eggplant from the skin and mash thoroughly (can do this in a food processor).
  • Then add the Tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt and continue to mix well until creamy.ly.
  • Spread the dip in a large, round platter. Sprinkle with parsley or garnish with parsley sprigs. Dribble with olive oil (optional). It’s pretty if sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Notes: The grilling/broiling step is the key to this recipe as it makes the eggplant taste rich and smoky. This can keep for a couple of days but the garlic flavor gets stronger each day so if you don’t plan to eat right away, use a little less garlic.

Wine Suggestions: Any white or light red works well with this dish as well as other middle-eastern “mezzas”. Try a creamy white such as a rich California or Australian Chardonnay, and for crisp – try a Chablis or other unoaked White Burgundy, Sancerre, Gruner Veltliner or a Spanish Verdejo. Also a light red with a bit of oak tannin such as a Red Burgundy or Rioja is a good accompaniment if you go heavier on the garlic.


Lemon-Herb Chicken Kabobs

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Lemon Herb Chicken Kabobs

Time: 30-35 minutes active, 4.5 – 8.5 hours total. Approximately 15 minutes to prepare marinade, 4-8 hours for marinating, 5 minutes to skewer, and 10-15 minutes to grill.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: This is probably the most common Armenian marinade for chicken, beef and lamb. My family used this marinade for kabobs when I was growing up and would add bell peppers, onions and tomatoes to the kabobs to make them yummy and beautiful.

Marinade Ingredients:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup snipped parsley

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds chicken
  • 1 onion, cut into pieces that are easy to skewer, tossed in olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper of each color, cut into pieces, tossed in olive oil
  • Optional: cherry tomatoes, tossed in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 lemon

Preparation:

  • Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  • Cube the chicken and add it to the marinade. Keep in the refrigerator for 4 – 8 hours.
  • Skewer chicken and veggies and grill at about 400 approximately 5-6 minutes each side – you should see grill marks – check to ensure it is cooked through – with metal skewers and fairly high heat – it will cook fast. Even though they look pretty to put the chicken and veggies on the same skewer –  for more cooking control, it is easier to skewer the onions together, the bell peppers together, the chicken together, etc.
  • Remove the chicken and veggies from skewers into a serving bowl. Toss with freshly chopped parsley and drizzle with lemon juice for the perfect final touch.

Notes: This is great with any meal, but nice to incorporate into a mediterranean-themed meal such as hummus or baba ganoush as a starter, and served with armenian rice pilaf and greek salad.

Wine Suggestions: This will go well with creamy, crisp or aromatic white such as a California Chardonnay, White Burgundy or Sauvignon Blanc, or a light bodied red such as a Pinot Noir or Red Burgundy. We found a simple Rioja that also pairs well. I especially love this with a very lemony, high-acid White Burgundy.


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).

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

  • 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.

Supplies:

  • 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)

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

  • 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.


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