Pasta, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Foolproof Marinara Sauce

Over the years, I kept adjusting my recipe for a true, delicious Marinara sauce. You know, that classic staple of Italian cuisine, a base for many Italian dishes. I love this marinara sauce in lasagnas, with meatballs, or, when adding a ground beef you can turn it into Bolognese. Why would you bother, when you can buy a ready to go jar of sauce from multiple brands? Well, maybe if you’re watching what you eat, like me, and want to eliminate unnecessary sugar, different preservatives or chemicals from your diet. Plus, making it yourself allows you to use organic ingredients and control the taste.

Marinara takes time, but it’s not difficult to make! You can even make a large amount, split into containers and freeze. With an extra bonus of the lovely aroma in the kitchen.  Mix with zucchini noodles and you have got a delicious Paleo or Keto meal!

 

Foolproof Marinara Sauce

Yield: 4-5 portions

  • 2x 28oz cans of whole tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano, any brand)
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes

    San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, cut into similar size cubes
  • Dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato paste
  • ½ cup white wine (dry Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, do not use cooking wine)
  • ½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes
  • tablespoon of butter (optional)
  • Big bunch of fresh basil
  • Rim of parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat up oil in a large pot, and sauté onions, garlic, hot pepper flakes, oregano, carrots, and celery for about 3 minutes on medium low heat, or until nice and aromatic. Most delicious dishes start with some variety of soffritto, which is also the base of this sauce. I personally like smaller pieces of veggies, but the cut is completely up to you, as long as they’re a similar size for even cooking.

Season with salt and pepper. In the meantime pour whole tomatoes into a food processor and pulse a few times (for small chunks of tomatoes in your sauce). If you don’t like chunks in your sauce, then process completely until tomatoes turn into a puree.

 

When the veggies start to soften up, add tomato paste and mix well to caramelize the paste. Cook for a minute with vegetables and pour white wine over everything. Let the wine evaporate, and when almost dry, pour in tomatoes with all its juices. Add water. I often pour little water into tomato cans and splash to make sure every bit of the tomato juice went into the sauce.

Cut a big chunk of basil, wash, leave whole and add to the sauce. Mix, turn the heat to simmer low, and let the sauce cook for about 1-2 hours, or until it reaches desired consistency. If using, add the parmesan rim for a flavor. The sauce will reduce about 1/3 of its original amount.

When the sauce is to your liking, taste for seasoning, and eventually add more salt and pepper. If too acidic, add a tablespoon of butter and let dissolve in the sauce. Fish out the big chunk of basil that was cooking with the sauce and the parmesan rim.

Slice up a handful of fresh basil and add to the sauce when you already took it off the heat. Now you’re ready to use your aromatic sauce as it is, with meatballs, in lasagna or whatever you desire. Enjoy!


 

All recipes paired with wine, Healthy and tasty condiments

Make your own Ghee

If you are into healthy eating, I’m sure you heard of ghee. I got used to this delicious golden goodness as I’m cooking more and more Indian cuisine.  Ghee is a fantastic replacement for oil or butter when you need to cook or fry on higher temperature – its smoke point is more than double of the typical cooking temperatures (which is about 200°F). Yes, so is coconut oil, but some people don’t care for the added flavor of coconut in their dishes that some of the coconut oils provide. Ghee really is clarified butter – when the fat is separated from milk solids.

I was told by a rabbi once that ghee is naturally kosher (when you make it yourself, ), acceptable for people with dairy allergies because with removed milk solids, there is a minimum trace of dairy in the ghee (although I’m not a doctor so please take this as my opinion based on experience, with a dose of skepticism).  Ghee is naturally easier to digest, have a longer shelf life than regular butter and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Mine sits on the counter because I cook with it a lot. It’s also an SOS solution to use instead of butter in case you forget to take the butter out of the fridge, and it’s too hard to spread on the bread.

When you leave ghee out, it stays either liquid or soft, ready to be added to my Bulletproof coffee or to accommodate my morning omelet.

But don’t make the same genius mistake I made when I first attempted to make ghee years back! I did what everyone does – searched the Google for an answer. I found one recipe that I tried. It was good (I guess), but the recipe didn’t say which part of the separated liquids and solids is supposed to be strained into the jar. In other words, which one is the GHEE???!!!! I’m afraid I threw out the ghee and kept the solids. A disaster.  Yeah, the milk solids to throw out are the white stuff, and the beautiful golden liquid is what you want :).

These days the popularity of ghee grows and you can get it anywhere – but why not make your own? It’s really easy and you know exactly it’s clean and clear with only ingredients you want to add to it.

I know two ways how to make it – but usually go for the second, much easier way. If you’ve time and patience though, you can try the traditional way to make ghee.  Let’s start with buying a good, organic butter from grass-fed cows. Or, Kerrygold Irish Butter (that I swear on) which is not organic, but the quality, in my opinion, is much better than what’s available as an organic butter on the American markets. Trust me on this. Just open them side by side, and compare the color. High-quality milk doesn’t create white butter.

So, in the traditional prep method, you heat up a butter in the stainless steel pot, stirring on medium-low heat, until the butter starts to separate and create foam (which you remove), and you’ll keep going and doing the same until all the milk solids are gone and all you’re left with is a golden ghee. It takes 15-30 minutes, depends on how high your heat is. Making ghee this way creates a lovely, nutty flavor of ghee – but there are few negatives to it. You have to stand by it and attend it the entire time. It’s quite easy to burn it and ruin the whole thing. But, some people swear that this is the proper and only way to do it.

Well, I make my ghee usually while I’m cooking other, multiple dishes, and can’t stand above the stove, watching ghee. So here is my super simple way: preheat the oven to 250°F. Place two whole Kerrygold Irish Butters (I use unsalted but it’s up to you) into an ovenproof dish that’s big enough for the butter but also good to hold when the hot ghee is ready to be strained and poured into a jar. From 2 bars of butter (or 4 American split ones) you will get 16 oz of liquid ghee.

Place the dish with butter into the oven, turn the timer for 2 hours and go do other things. No need to check on it, or attend it in any way, until the timer beeps and you take it out of the oven. Strain the ghee into a designated glass jar (it’s going to be super hot, so don’t even think about plastic), and you’re done! Whatever stays in the strainer – I use a strainer lined with a piece of white cloth I only use for ghee, so all the milk solids stay in there – then gets thrown away.

I also started gently seasoning my ghee – by adding 3-4 cloves, or 1-2 bay leaves and enjoy the very mild, gentle flavor. Just imagine how great your next Chicken Tikka Masala will taste!!! And please, let me know how it went!

 

 

 

 

Loaded Recipe Series, Poultry, Veggies based & Vegetarian

THE.BEST.Cauliflower.side.dish. EVER

For some reason, cauliflower wasn’t always a superstar. Yet one of the most favorite vegetables for me. We grew cauliflower in our family garden, and I loved it prepared many different ways. It surprised me how many people had reservation about this beautiful “white flower” and had no idea how to make it tasty.

 

 

Long before Atkins or Paleo was hot, I enjoyed cauliflower based dishes as a replacement for the meat. Fried, sauteed with sausage, onion, and eggs,  as cauliflower fritters or as my multiple veggie mixes. Later, when everybody started going avocado about the low carb diets, cauliflower was suddenly IN. Cauliflower fried rice, mashed cauliflower “potatoes”, cauliflower steak,  cauliflower dough for low carb pizza – and I must admit, these were exciting new ideas for me too. Cauliflower is delicious and super rich in nutrient on top of that. What’s not to love?

This recipe is one of the most fun, fast, easy and super tasty way to prepare a side dish with cauliflower. It screams SUPERFOOD!!!! Cooking for cancer patients, I have developed several recipes that are loaded with all the anti-cancer properties, boosting immunity and of course, tasting good. Here is one of them:

 

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Zucchini

 

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 medium green zucchini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon curry
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cumin (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • As much finely chopped or grated ginger root as you like
  • sea salt and freshly grated pepper to taste
  • a handful of cilantro, parsley or sliced scallions for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large deep bowl whisk together oil with all the seasoning. Cut cauliflower into similar size pieces and thoroughly rinse in the colander (not too small). Let it air dry, while you wash and cut zucchini into thick chunks (zucchini cooks much faster). Don’t know about you, but I don’t care for mushy.

Add both vegetables into the seasoning mixture and shake the bowl until everything is perfectly combined and every piece is coated with seasoning. It’s easy to see because turmeric and curry made everything bright yellow.

Spread vegetables on a large baking sheet. Make sure all the veggies are in one layer. Spoon the rest of the seasoned oil on the vegetables if there is anything left in the bowl.

Bake in the oven until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Time vary based on your oven and the size of the pieces you cut, so check after 15 minutes. Carefully poke a small knife into the thickest part of the cauliflower to check for doneness.

When ready, garnish with your chosen herbs and enjoy!

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower and Zucchini

I wanted to take a different picture of the full dish of this beauty, but it disappeared as soon as I took it out of the oven. I guess I’m not the only one who loves it!

Did you try this recipe? Do you have a different recipe you want to share? Let me know in comments!

 

Wine pairing:

I have opened my 2016 Muga Rose for this dish. It’s a rich, crisp and nicely dry rose that goes smoothly with the components of our dinner. Any other unoaked white would be a good match – try a Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All recipes paired with wine, Poultry

Honey Orange BBQ Chicken

A while ago, I was searching for recipes with some sweetness to it (since that’s what one of my clients enjoys). I found this recipe on Food Network website, courtesy of Patrick and Gina Neely.

The ingredients sounded promising, I tried it, loved it and so do my clients. It’s  in my repertoire ever since. There are never enough of good chicken recipes, right?

Honey Orange BBQ Chicken

Here is what do you need:

For Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 chicken cut into 10 pieces – or chicken cutlets (how many you need)

For Glaze:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) organic butter’
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (I am not a big fan of sweet, so I put little less)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I use Annie’s Naturals Organic BBQ Sweet & Spicy Sauce from Whole Foods)
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Mix the orange juice, olive oil, hot sauce, mustard and orange zest together in a large bowl. Pour into gallon zip lock and add the chicken (washed and patted dry with paper towels). Close and shake well so everything is covered with marinade.

If you GRILL: Prepare the grill to medium direct heat. Let the chicken come to room temperature before grilling.

If you cook it on top of the STOVE: If making chicken cutlets, I made them on top of the stove, in cast iron skillet.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Grill on each side for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to medium-low and cover the lid of the grill. Continue cooking the chicken until it’s cooked through, about 25 minutes more.

STOVE: The same goes here. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. I have then cooked the cutlets on high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, then placed the skillet in an oven, preheated to 350˚F, for about 10 minutes.

GRILL: While the chicken is grilling, melt the butter in a small saucepan o the grill. Whisk in the honey, orange juice, BBQ sauce, zest, mustard and allspice. Reserve a bigger half of the glaze in a small bowl for serving.

STOVE: You can do the same on top of the stove, melt the butter, then take off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Reserve a bigger half of the glaze in a small bowl for serving. You don’t need that much for glazing, and when you dip it in the glaze afterwards on the plate – hm hm hmmmm.

GRILL: Brush the chicken pieces with glaze, then flip the chicken, glaze side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Brush second side of the chicken with glaze and flip again. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill to a platter and serve with reserved glaze.

STOVE: Take the pan out of the oven, brush the chicken cutlets with glaze and put back for about a minute. Then take out again, flip glaze side down, brush the other side and finish cooking for about 2 more minutes.

Instead of opening and closing oven, you can  also take the pan out of the oven, return it to the stove, and do the glazin’  and flippin’ on top of the stove. Don’t forget that the pan is super hot – better use oven mitts! You can add little more glaze into the pan as the chicken will get this beautiful brown caramelized color!

I have served it here with quinoa pilaf, but you can make roasted wedged potatoes, just grilled vegetables, rice, couscous – whatever you desire! Hope you enjoy this dish!

Honey Orange BBQ Chicken

I paired this dish with super dry, Austrian Grűner Veltliner from Weingut-Groiss and it worked great for me. Good Grűner Veltliner such as this one (my house wine, it comes in 1L bottle) is probably the most versatile wine you can find. It pairs with almost anything! And, one other important thing, if you don’t plan to finish the whole bottle – Grűner Veltliner practically doesn’t change its quality if you close it back and put it in the fridge. Even few days doesn’t make a difference. You can’t say that about most of the wines – 2 days usually are the most you can keep them. And some start falling apart even after 24 hours.

If you prefer red wine, I can imagine it may work but I would stick with lighter body wine, such as Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. Something young, fresh and fruity. Cheers!

 

 

All recipes paired with wine, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Simple Indian dish, all roasted in oven

Although I am not a vegetarian, I occasionally enjoy meatless dinner options without even thinking twice. And having this demand from my clients, I am constantly searching for more and more options and various cuisines to make my menus more interesting. Flipping through old Food & Wine magazines, I found this recipe, created by Grace Parisi. It had all the ingredients I like. Here is my slightly adapted version of

Curried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Spinach

Curried eggplant

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • 1 dried, crumbled chili if you like to add heat
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch pieces (I did not peel the eggplant)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and washed in colander
  • 1/4 cup finely julienned fresh ginger
  • Freshly ground pepper and Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 5-oz bag baby spinach
  • Warm naan and Greek yogurt, for serving

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. On a work surface, mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a large bowl, mix the paste with the curry powder and vegetable oil. Cut eggplant into similar size cubes, mix with onion, chickpeas and ginger, season with salt and pepper. Toss well together with the dressing so every piece is coated with seasoning and oil.

Spread the vegetables in an even layer and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the eggplant and onion are tender. Take out of the oven, stir in the spinach (mix so it’s covered with roasted vegetables) and roast just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve with warm naan and yogurt.

Curried eggplant, chickpeas and spinach

Seasoned yogurt:

  • 3 full tablespoons of Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly cut mint and parsley

Mix together and enjoy with curried eggplant dish.

Curried eggplant