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, Poultry

Turkey sacks with tropical fruit

Turkey sacks with tropical fruit

This is one of those recipes that looks unusual, surprise people and taste good. Maybe you can prepare this as a celebration of the beginning of the school year, something that let us “play with our food”. Or as a little farewell to a beautiful summer… what ever the reason might be, it’s worth to try!

Turkey sacks with tropical fruit


6 pc of turkey breasts
1 cup of chopped pineapple
1 cup of sliced kiwi
2 banana
1 cup light cream or half & half
1/2 lime
1 tbs corn starch
¼ cup sliced almonds, roasted (unsalted)
salt and pepper

Clean turkey breasts and pat dry with paper towel. Put meat in between sticky foil (or use a larger ziplock) and tenderize the meat into thin slices, as round shape as possible. Season each slice with salt and pepper on both sides.

Chop pineapple and kiwi into small pieces. Mix together. Place the fruit mix with a spoon in the middle of each turkey slice. Gather edges of the meat above the fruit with thread.

In a large pan bring a water (or chicken broth) into boil (about 1/3 of the pan), place a colander on top and let steam your turkey sacks for about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to the oven proof pan.

Mix bananas and light cream in a food processor, transfer to a pan and bring to boil on medium heat. Stir cornstarch in a little bit of cold water and add to the bananas to thicken the sauce. Add juice from ½ lime, grated lemon peel and roasted almonds.

Season with salt and pepper (taste). Add sauce to the baking pan and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

Remove the thread before serving and pour the banana sauce over the meat.

Wine pairing suggestion:

The combination of delicate turkey meat and fruit made me immediately thinking of a new vintage of Peter Lehmann’s Layers, I just recently tried. This wine offers layers of tropical fruits flavors that matched so well with this dish. Richer, buttery Chardonnay would work too with the creamy sauce.

All recipes paired with wine, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Cauliflower fritters

Cauliflower frittersThis has been favorite dish in our family since I was a child. I don’t know what it is that we love so much about it, but till today, if I make it, we eat it until it’s gone. So I don’t make it too often… You can skip sausage/ham in this recipe and have a nice vegetarian version of the dish.

Cauliflower fritters

1 cauliflower
3 full tablespoons of farina (uncooked cream of wheat)
3 full tablespoons of VONDRA flour
2 eggs – separate yolks, egg whites beaten into firm foam
1/2 cup of finely chopped polish kielbasa or ham – optional
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

Take cauliflower florets apart, wash in colander and cook in salty water until soft. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside to cool. In large bowl mash cooked cauliflower with fork or potato masher.

Add meat, farina, flour, 2 egg yolks, seasoning and chopped parsley. Mix everything together. As last carefully incorporate firm egg whites – turning into mix with a wooden spoon. You will get a nice, fluffy dough.

Bring oil in a frying pan to hot and carefully add a spoon full of the cauliflower dough directly to the hot oil. Form small fritters (about 3 inch. in diameter) with the spoon in the pan. You must correct the edges a little with the spoon and leave each fritter about half an inch thick; otherwise they tend not to hold together.

Fry fritters on one side on medium heat until firm (or when you see the edges on the bottom getting brown) and carefully flip over with spatula. Have patience, and do not try to flip fritters too early – they can break easily! Place cooked fritters on paper towel to soak the excess oil.

I love my cauliflower fritters with mashed potatoes and tartar sauce, but that’s totally optional…

Wine pairing suggestion:
I paired this dish with a very unique French wine I just recently tasted for the first time, called Les Rials. The more I learn about it, the less I am surprised that it is considered to be among some of the best wines under $10.00 on the market.I loved to sip it on its own, but it also worked very well with this dish.

All recipes paired with wine, Fish and Seafood, Pasta

Angel hair pasta with spicy seafood

Angel hair pasta with spicy seafood99% of time when we feel like pasta in our household, spaghetti or similarly shaped pasta wins. But this simple and tasty recipe goes well with any other kind of pasta you personally prefer.

Angel hair pasta with spicy seafood

1/2 pound Bay scallops, cleaned
4 – 6 extra large shrimp, peeled, deveeined and chopped into chunks similar to the size of scallops
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium green zucchini (thinly sliced on mandolin into long strips)
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Pelago Spicy Seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil

Bring water in a large pot into boil, add tablespoon of salt and cook your pasta “al-dente”. Drain, sprinkle a little bit of olive oil into cooked pasta so it wouldn’t stick, and mix. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water for your sauce.

In the meantime, heat up the butter until melted in deeper pan, add olive oil and slices of zucchini. Sprinkle with a little bit of the seasoning mix and saute, stirring regularly, on medium hot until soft (about 2-3 min.). Take cooked strips of zucchini out of the pan with fine mesh spoon and set aside.

Add all the seafood to the hot oil and butter, and sprinkle with seasoning. Add pasta water, mix together and quickly saute, stirring it regularly, until shrimp is pink on all sizes (about a minute). Add chopped garlic and cooked zucchini strips. Combine and pour over cooked pasta.
Buon Appetito!

Wine pairing suggestion:
With this meal I opened a new vintage of Alta Vista Torrontes from Argentina and it was delicious together. Some of you, Vera Wine Club’s members may remember this wine from our Argentinian Luncheon at Fleming’s – few years ago. It was quite a success. If you didn’t taste it yet, you got to try a bottle.

All recipes paired with wine, Beef

Philly Cheese steak Panini

Philly Cheese steak Panini
Great idea for an easy and inexpensive Sunday dinner, when you don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen. This semi-cooking will give you an extra time to do whatever you desire, and still serve a delicious meal that everybody loves.

Philly Cheesesteak Panini


¼ cup sandwich toppers sweet pickled peppers – chopped
1 tablespoon hot pepper rings pickled – chopped (you can use fresh hot pepper instead or skip it, if you don’t care for heat)
1 6oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon sliced green olives
1 chopped medium size dill pickle
1 loaf frozen garlic bread (12 inch long) thawed
½ lb sliced lean roast beef
4-5 slices Finlandia Swiss cheese (or American cheese)

Preheat a Panini press or a cast-iron griddle. In a small bowl, combine the finely chopped pickled peppers, artichokes, olives and pickle. To speed up the preparation, you can also mix it in food processor for few seconds. Start with biggest artichokes, pickle and add peppers. Just pulse for a few times, so it’s not mashed.

Open the loaf of garlic bread and scrape off most of the garlic spread with table spoon – keep it aside.Spread evenly pickle mixture on the bottom half of each loaf. Top with the roast beef and cheese and close the sandwiches.

Spread the reserved garlic spread on the outside of the loaves. Grill loaves in the Panini press until the cheese is melted and the bread is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.

If you don’t have Panini grill, you can also set a loaf on a griddle and top it with a heavy skillet. Use heavy can in the skillet for additional pressure. Cook over moderate heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

Carefully flip over, cover with the skillet again and cook until the cheese is melted, about 3 more minutes. Cut each loaf into four pieces and serve with salad of your choice. This recipe servers 2 people.

Wine pairing suggestions:

Even though the star of this dish is a roast beef, the mix of pickles, artichoke and olives calls for low tannin, younger red wine. I picked Italian Di Majo Norante Sangiovese from Molise, not a “small wine”, and it matched very well.