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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!

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:

  • 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.


Green Beans with Toasted Almonds & Manchego

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspired by: Green beans are one of my least favorite vegetables, but when they are dressed up with things I like such a nuts and cheese, it changes everything.

Ingredients / Preparation:

  • Green beans for as many as you are serving.
  • Wash beans and snip off ends.
  • Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Saute over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (depending on the texture you prefer). Sprinkle with grated Manchego (or any hard salty cheese) and toasted almonds.

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 high acid, unoaked wines that can compliment herbal flavors such as Sancerre, Verdejo or my favorite would be a Gruner Veltliner that seems to pair well with most anything.


Chilled Shrimp with Basil Ponzu Sauce

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 8 as a finger food appetizer

Inspired by: The mother-in-law of one of my closest friends, Judy Sellers. Judy is food and wine savvy as well as being incredibly adventurous, fun and interesting – someone I’m thrilled to know. One thanksgiving when we hosted dinner, she and her husband joined us and brought this as an appetizer. Everyone loved it and I still make it for parties because it’s so yummy. That was my first introduction to Hugh Carpenter and this recipe is from his “Fast Appetizer” cookbook. After that a few of us girls took a “How to Cook Fish” class with him that was really well done.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw medium to large shrimp (deveined and peeled, but with the tail still on)
  • 2 tablespoons thin or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flavorless cooking oil (I use an extra light olive oil)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (I’ve been using Thai Kitchen roasted red chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger (don’t forget this – it’s a key ingredient)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (I substitute with Italian parsley when I can’t get fresh basil)

Preparation:

  • Fill a bowl with water and some ice to make very cold.
  • Boil water in a large pot and cook shrimp about 1.5 to 2 minutes – until done but don’t overcook.
  • Drain shrimp in colander and add to bowl with ice water so they don’t continue cooking.
  • When it’s cooled down, drain again.
  • Mix the basil Ponzu sauce ingredients together in a shallow glass bowl (this can be made up to 10 hours before serving).
  • When ready to serve, toss the shrimp with the sauce – can serve with toothpicks as “finger” food.

Notes: I purchased Hugh’s cookbook so this is the original recipe, but I recommend doubling or tripling the Ponzu Sauce ingredients so it covers the shrimp a bit better, or if you wanted to put some on the side for dipping. The shrimp taste best when they are freshly covered or dipped in the sauce.

Wine Suggestions: Because there is a slight sweetness and spiciness to this sauce, a slightly off-dry wine such as a Riesling is a nice pairing. Depending on what chili you use, if the sweetness and spiciness is only slight, the ginger and other aromatics make it a nice pairing with dry, aromatic whites such as a dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner or Torrontes.

 

Creamy Zucchini Soup

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Time: 1.5 hours total; 20-30 minutes of prep, about an hour to simmer, and another 5 minutes to puree.

Serves: 10-14

Inspired by: I took an eight-day cycling trip to Piedmont, Italy in September of 2008. We tasted nearly 20 different wine varietals in that short time. The overall food and wine experience was exceptional – as was the cycling with 40-50 miles a day and some awesome climbs! One day we stopped for a couple of hours to have a multi-course lunch at a beautiful winery  (it was very difficult to get back on the bike after that – even with all the food – I think we had even more wine!). The soup was amazing and we all asked about what was in it because it was so rich and creamy, but when it was described to us, it sounded so healthy! As soon as I got home I tried something similar and this was the result.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 large potato
  • 6-8 medium zucchinis
  • 70 oz chicken broth (4, 14 oz cans) – organic preferred, do not used reduced fat or salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped basil (or Italian leafed parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or curry powder (optional – I love the “kick” this gives but skip this if you don’t want a spicy soup)
  • 1 additional teaspoon of salt (if you aren’t sensitive to salt, you might want to add this at the end to bring out the flavors)

Preparation:

  • Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil and butter until soft and translucent (approximately 5-8 minutes).
  • While sautéing the onion, peel and dice the carrot and potato, dice the zucchini and celery, and chop the basil.
  • Add the above items (except the basil) to the pot and stir/cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid, and cook for about an hour or until all veggies are soft.
  • Put into a food processor and blend (I have the large 14 cup kind and do this in two batches). If you want the soup to be thicker, strain out some of the broth before blending. You can always add it back in.
  • Add additional salt as needed.

Wine Suggestions: Contrast with a crisp white such as an Chablis, White Burgundy or Albarino or compliment with a creamy white such as a barrel fermented (rich, buttery) California Chardonnay. If you add the spice you might even consider a light to medium bodied spicy red such as a Southern Rhone or Rioja or an off-dry white such as a Riesling.


Herbed Feta Walnut Spread

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 8 as an appetizer

Inspired by: A Persian friend of mine made this for a party and I loved all of the flavor nuances in it. I believe this is a combination of her recipe and others I’ve read on the web and then my own refinements. The Persian name for this spread is nan-o panir-o-gerdu.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ pound feta cheese
  • 2 cups shelled walnuts (Whole Foods or Trader Joes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh scallions – chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil  – chopped
  • 4  tablespoons fresh mint – chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pita bread or lavash (soft or crunchy) or raw veggies

Preparation:

  • Chop scallions and basil and mint leaves by hand or in your food processor. Don’t chop too fine. Remove from food processor.
  • Don’t clean food processor – toss walnuts in and whirl until finely chopped.
  • Add the feta to the nuts and chop/blend the two.
  • Then add garlic, pepper, lime juice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mix well.
  • Taste and then add salt if needed and add additional olive oil for flavor and texture – but if you like the thicker consistency, don’t add too much oil.
  • Remove mixture from food processor and hand mix with the scallions and herbs.

Note: I saw an identical recipe recently that also included 2 tablespoons of tarragon.

Serve with: Use as a dip with cut up pita bread or raw vegetables, or as a spread on lavash or crackers.

Wine Suggestions: The herbs in the spread pair well with herbal, aromatic whites such as a Spanish Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc  – although many Sauv Blancs will be too herbatous or grassy and that could take away from the beautiful delicate flavors in the spread. If you are going for a Sauvignon Blanc, a White Bordeax is probably your best option. A Grüner Veltliner could also be a good option or any light crisp white such as an Albarino, Chablis or a light White Burgundy.

 


Ginger Chicken Lettuce Cups

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Ginger Chicken Lettuce Cups

Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Inspired by: Yummy flavors of ginger-infused meals in so many Asian-style restaurants. I read about ten “ginger-chicken” recipes one day and then used the one I liked the most (by blogger Joey Randall – The Village Voice) because it seemed to be the healthiest. I may have modified it slightly.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons grated ginger (fresh)
  • 1-3 gloves crushed garlic (fresh)
  • 3 tablespoons organic soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup sliced red pepper
  • 1 cup sliced yellow pepper
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1 cup broccoli in very small pieces
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 (8 oz) can diced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Butterhead lettuce (like Boston or Bibb) for 4- 6 servings

Recipe:

  • Cut chicken into thin strips.
  • Combine soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and cornstarch. Pour over chicken to marinate while prepping vegetables.
  • Heat wok or large skillet. Pour in olive oil and heat. Remove chicken from marinade and carefully add to pan. Cook until tender – about 5 minutes.
  • Pour marinade over chicken. Add the veggies. Cook 3 minutes or until sauce slightly thickens, stirring often.
  • Remove from heat. Add almonds.
  • Spoon 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken mixture into lettuce leaf and roll up.

Wine Suggestions: An aromatic white that is slightly off-dry will work well with the ginger and spice of this dish. We drank a dry, 2006 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner and while it’s one of my favorite Grüners with beautiful aeromatics, I think a fruiter or slightly-off dry wine would have been a better pairing. Here are a few suggestions starting with off-dry and ending with dry.

  • Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc (California)
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling (Washington)
  • Slightly off-dry Riesling (Germany or Austria)
  • Torrontes (Argentina)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (California or New Zealand)
  • Grüner Veltliner (Austria)

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