All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat, Lamb, Summer Grilling

Shish kebab with Eggplant Hash and Tzatziki Sauce

Shish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzaziki sauceO.K., this may not be the most authentic Shish kebab recipe. I got inspired by a traditional Turkey dish, and tried to re-create the combination I experienced few years ago in Greece. I hope it’s not a sin to take the best from each cuisines, combine it together and make your own twist on it – as long as you love the result, what do you think?

During my research I found out that the secret of moist and tender shish kebab is to mix the ground meat with diced lamb-tail fat. I didn’t want to go that far – and used Crème Fraîche instead. It supported the rich flavors of lamb meat and was absolutely melting in our mouth!

Shish kebab with Eggplant Hash and Tzatziki Sauce

1 pound of ground lamb
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoon Crème Fraîche
4 large shallots – peeled, halved lengthwise, root ends trimmed but kept intact
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 roasted pepper (optional)

For eggplant hash:
1 small eggplant
1/2 finely chopped red onion
1 garlic clove diced
1 can of whole tomatoes
4 small bay leaves
4-5 whole allspice
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

For Tzatziki sauce:
1 Greek yogurt
3 scallions finely chopped
2/3 English cucumber – peeled, seeded and diced or grated (squeezed in hand for an excess liquid)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar
2 garlic cloves diced
dill or fresh oregano (optional) – mix together

Start with eggplant hash – it needs to cook through to get the right texture. Slice your eggplant into thick slices, skin attached. Spread slices over paper towel and season with salt. Let it sweat for few minutes, than pat dry with paper towel. Chop into similar size cubes.

In large heavy skillet heat the oil and stir in chopped onion on medium heat. Cook for a minute and add garlic and red pepper flakes, stir and let cook for few seconds (be careful, garlic can quickly turn brown and bitter). Bring up the heat and add all eggplant cubes. Season with salt and pepper and mix to coat all eggplant pieces with oil.

Add white wine and stir. Let wine almost evaporate on high heat and add whole tomatoes with a juice, crushing them carefully with your hand or spatula. Add bay leaves and allspice and stir into mixture. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft, on low heat. Finish with generous amount of chopped parsley.

In a medium bowl, gently mix the Crème Fraîche, seasoning, garlic, sliced roasted pepper and parsley into the ground lamb. Roll the mixture into similar size balls. Place all your meatballs on metal skewers and the onions together on separate one.

(I have done the mistake to mix it together – the meat took only few minutes to grill, and I ended up with undone onions, so trust me on this one.) Light a grill and let meatballs sit in room temperature for a few minutes, so the flavors can combine.

Grill kebabs over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned on the outside. depends on the size of your balls – but it only took about 3 minutes on each side and they were done. You don’t want to dry them through. Transfer to plates, and serve with eggplant hash and dipping Tzatziki sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Wine pairing suggestions:
I was just tasting a new Spanish red from Priorat when making this dish. It worked great with the rich taste of the lamb and spicy eggplant hash. Priorat wines are usually priced over $20.00 a bottle, but this one could be just a pleasant exception to the rule.

Bodegas La Cartuja is a modern, sexy blend of Garnacha, Mazuelo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that just received 90 points from R. Parker. It’s my pleasure to recommend it with this week’s dish.

All recipes paired with wine, Beef, Ground meat, Summer Grilling

Bison Burgers with Cabernet Onions and Wisconsin Cheddar

Photo: K.J.Koskin

This recipe was send to me by one of my friends, food and wine lover Ken. I have yet to make it, but the recipe sounds delicious. If you make it first, please let me know how you liked it!


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups sliced onions (about 2)
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
1 pound ground bison (buffalo)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4 organic hamburger buns
6 ounces sliced Wisconsin white cheddar cheese
Dijon mustard
1 small head of escarole, leaves separated

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium- high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until tender and golden brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until very tender and well browned, about 15 minutes longer. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.
Preheat broiler. Gently mix meat and next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook until well browned, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Open buns and arrange, cut side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Place cheese slices on bun tops. Broil until cheese melts and bottom halves are lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Spread bottom halves with mustard. Top each with a few escarole leaves, then burger. Spoon onions atop burgers, dividing equally. Cover with bun tops; press lightly.

Makes 4 servings

Bison meat is very lean and is best served rare or medium-rare.

Wine pairing suggestion:
Time for a big, juicy red, the caramelized onions in wine, I would even pick some more fruity reds, like Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre – all of it above combined in GSM blends like Cotes du Rhône’s wines. A great example is Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhône – one of the oldest family in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

But also their “entry” red wine, called simply Solitude de Cotes du Rhône, is a great bottle of rich, Grenache based fruity blend, for much less money than the King of the Rhône wines.

All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat, Nero D'Avola

Stuffed peppers

I know that this dish is often made in Italian households. But it was also very traditional meal in my parents house. Funny part is that I hated it, when I was little. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t stand even the aroma of cooked peppers, not to mention the combination with red sauce.

Today I totally love this dish – it pairs well with wine and it was a hit when I made it for my friends.

To stuff the peppers take some patience and effort, but you will be rewarded with really delicious dinner. Baked sweet peppers give this meal a juicy feel, it’s lovely on its own as a dinner or sliced into rings, and served as a warm appetizer.

Stuffed peppers

8-10 Italian sweet peppers
1 pound of mixed ground pork, beef, turkey
1 pack Italian sausage
1 egg
½ red onion
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup of rice
1.5 cup of chicken broth
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 can of diced tomatoes or 1 cup of Italian baking sauce
Salt and pepper

First, cook ½ cup of rice in chicken broth until soft. Let sit aside and cool.

Cut off top of each pepper so you wouldn’t break the body, throw out the stem and put the rest of the pepper’s tops in food processor. Add red onion and garlic and process pulsing, until finely chopped.

Mix the veggies with all the meat together, season with salt and pepper. Add 1 whole egg and at the end cooled rice. Work the mixture with your hands to combine all the ingredients together.

Holding the pepper, stuff each pepper with your hands, push down carefully, so it fills the whole pepper through but it doesn’t break.

Place stuffed peppers in dry oven pan, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and pour over the whole can of diced tomatoes (including the liquid). If you use baking sauce, pour a little over the peppers and the rest on the bottom of the pan. You can use any Italian red sauce you like.

Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes and take off the foil. Bake additional 30 minutes or until peppers are slightly browned and meat cooked through.

Serve in tomato sauce and pasta. You can also slice each pepper into a thick rings, arrange on plate  and serve as an appetizer. It’s delicious!

Wine pairing suggestion:
I have picked a Sicilian Ajello Majus Nero D’Avola wine to pair with this dish. The rich flavors of ripe fruit that you get from this wine, were a great compliment to juicy Italian sausage and all the flavors of this dish. This wine is unbelievably good for the price. Loved it!

All recipes paired with wine, Beef, Ground meat

Shortcut Drunken Chili

BTW - this picture with that huge dollop of sour cream - that's how my husband served himself!

I love chili – but the real deal means to spend a few hours in the kitchen. It’s worth it, but who has the time? Well, I was craving some comfort food last night and remembered that I just bought a package of Pulled beef in Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce in Costco.

That could be a great base for chili, I thought. So I added couple of cans of beans and diced tomatoes (I always have stuff like that on hand), combined with some peppers and voila! Delicious chili was on table sooner than 30 minutes! So now you know why shortcut.

And why drunken? Well, as the Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce wasn’t enough, I added some red wine to the sauce as well. And, than you need some to drink with the meal …. so enjoy!

Shortcut Drunken Chili

1 lb of pulled beef in Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce (Costco)
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of any kind of beans you like (I used black and small red)
½ medium onion finely chopped
1 jalapeno chopped
1-2 green peppers, seeded and chopped into small pieces
1/2 McCormics Original Chili seasoning mix
1-2 cups of red wine
Olive oil

Heat an oil in the large pan and stir in onion. Cook on medium heat until soft. Add chopped peppers, season with mix and keep cooking for a minute. Add whole can of diced tomatoes with its juice to the pan and let simmer on low heat.

Add whole package of Pulled beef in Jack Daniel’s Barbecue sauce incl. the liquid. (I never had it before so I tasted it before I added it to the pan. The sauce was a little sweet which worked great with the heat of jalapeno and the acidity of tomatoes). Break chunks of the meat with wooden spoon so it dissolves in the veggie mix. Keep simmering on low heat.

In the meantime drain beans in colander and rinse under running water. If you live in Texas, I guess you skip this step – but I personally love my chili WITH beans. Add beans to the pan, mix together and add about a cup of red wine (any kind is good, I used leftover of my Cotes du Rhone). Let simmer, uncovered, until it thickens. Add more wine if needed and simmer till the flavors combine and peppers are soft.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips. I cut wedges of Indian naan bread, brushed it slightly with olive oil and warmed up in toaster oven for about 10 minutes. We loved it!

Wine pairing suggestion:
Well, I usually have my chili with Corona beer and lime. This time I wondered if the big flavors of this chili would stand up to a medium body Spanish red I just discovered recently – I am talking about Las Valles red blend from the region of Cariñena.

You know, the common rule says that big bold dish like this should be paired with big bold red. And this red is nothing like that, the wine wasn’t even aged in oak. But I knew it had a spice to it and a lot of fruit, so it should pair great. My expectation was proven right! Try it, you will be truly surprised!

All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat, Lamb

Not so Greek Musaka

This meal is not so easy to arrange nicely (sorry for the pic) but trust me, super delicious to eat!
Yeah, my apology to Greek’s traditionalists, I dare twisted the famous Greek meal. I know that the original musaka is layered with a thin slices of eggplant like lasagna. Not that it wasn’t good enough for me, I just wanted to try something different.

I have to say, it came out so good, we couldn’t get enough of it! Super comfy food especially now, in this cold and snowy weather. If lamb meat has too strong a flavor for you, you can mix it half and half with beef. I had 100% lamb and it was divine!

Twisted Musaka

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 medium size eggplant chopped into little cubes
3 tbs dry oregano
1 cup red wine
1 tbs Cinnamon
salt and pepper
Fresh thyme – few sprigs
1 large can of crushed tomatoes in puree
1/2 lb small shape pasta (your choice)
olive oil

Spread chopped eggplant onto baking sheet, covered with paper towel, season with salt and let sweat for 10-15 minutes. Pat dry with another paper towel.

In the large heavy bottom pot heat olive oil and saute onions until soft, for few minutes. Add all the meat and breaking it up with a wooden spoon, brown the meat until cooked. Add finely chopped garlic and spices.

Pour in red wine, mix together and let cook for a minute. Add tomatoes (break them up in your hand) and cubes of eggplant. Let mixture cook, uncovered, for at least one hour or until reduced (to about half) and thickened.

In the meantime bring water to boil in the large pot, season with salt and cook about pasta to “al dente”. Drain, add a table spoon of olive oil and mix together. Set aside.

When the sauce is cooked, reserve 1 cup of meaty sauce on the side. Pour pasta into the sauce and mix together so the hot sauce coat the pasta well.

Pour the pasta mixture in a prepared large baking dish. No need to grease it first.

For a cheesy cover:
1 table spoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup of Greek yoghurt
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

Cook flour on melted butter and mix, creating the roux. Pour in milk and mix until thick, making Béchamel sauce. Add almost all the Parmesan cheese, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix and let cool. Add 2 whole eggs to warm (not hot) sauce and reserved cup of meaty sauce. Mix in Greek yoghurt. Stir and pour all over the meaty sauce with pasta in the baking dish.

Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour in oven. Serve in the baking dish and let all your guests dig in right away and help themselves. You don’t want to miss that amazing aroma when you first cut into the cheese crust and it opens the layers of delicious, cooked lamb mixture with wine and all the spices.

As I said at the beginning, this dish isn’t easy to arrange for photo shoot. But trust me, you will be reaching for a second serving!
It makes my mouth watering just writing about it. I wish somebody invented a pictures on web with aroma attached.

Wine suggestion:
You can open any big red that you were longing to drink for a very long time. It’s a comfort food time! Spicy Malbec, delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, Brunello, Barolo, GSM – many choices here. I have paired this dish with one of the best Syrah based wines I ever tasted – Finca Sandoval from Manchuela, Spain. The pairing with rich flavors of lamb and spices of this dish was out of this world!