curried lamb meatballs

Delicious as a tapas dish:

Mix 1/4 cup whole-wheat panko (finely ground) breadcrumbs, 2-3 tsp of Dijon mustard, 1-2 tsp of prepared curry powder* to taste, a dash of cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt, and freshly cracked black pepper into 1 lb of ground lamb.

*You can mix your own curry powder using cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon (listed in decreasing quantity of addition). Maybe a dash of paprika.

Form 16 lamb meatballs.

Sautee on the stovetop over medium-high heat until all sides are browned and the center done to your liking. These would also be great prepared on the grill.

Serve with yogurt-cumin dipping sauce.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: Lamb happily pairs with most any red wine. The cumin in curry gives an earthy sweet-spicy flavor; so I would compliment that with an earthy wine. A Spanish red such as Rioja or Ribera del Duero would be a lovely pairing and nod to the tapas tradition. Hermitage (Syrah), Irouleguy (Tannat blended with Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon), Greek reds, or reds from other Mediterranean regions would all pair beautifully. Cheers!

yogurt cumin dipping sauce

This is a great complement to Middle-Eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean-style dishes. I especially like it with lamb.

Whisk the juice of one small lemon wedge, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of cumin (or to taste), and a little bit of olive oil (about 2-3 tsp, just enough to thin the yogurt a bit) into about 1 cup of Greek yogurt.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: If serving this sauce with Mediterranean fare, try a wine from the region – I’ve had interesting reds from Lebanon and Morocco. Greece produces some amazing reds and whites in both native and traditional European varietals. Try a wine from the Nemea region. Wines produced in India are becoming more common in the West as well. Cheers!

tostones

We recently returned from Puerto Rico where we indulged in some winter sun and delicious cuisine. Tostones are frequently served as a side and they are so easy to make:

Peel green plantains by cutting off the ends and slicing down and removing the skin – the fruit will be waxy. Slice into about 2-inch pieces.

Fry in about 1″ vegetable oil over medium to medium high heat, cut ends down, about 5 minutes per side – the plantains should turn light golden brown.

Remove from oil and let cool for 5 minutes.

Using a flat-bottomed implement (a large glass, plate, or a tortilla press works perfectly), press the plantains (oriented vertically) so that the insides squish out until they are about 1/2 the original width (1/2-1-inch after cooking). You should have a pancake with a circle of plantain end visible on each side. You can flatten multiple pieces together for larger tostones.

Return the flattened plantains to the hot oil and fry for 1-4 minutes more on each side, watching closely for browning. Depending on how long the second frying time is, the tostones will range from just slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside to nearing crunchy (leave them in too long and you will have made plantain chips!).

Remove from oil when golden brown and salt generously while still hot.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: I would pair these fried plantains with a crisp Spanish white such as Albarino. A sparkling wine, like a Cava from Spain, would also be a great contrast to the fat in the tostones. Of course, I wouldn’t hestitate to serve these with Medalla, the beer that almost always accompanied them in Puerto Rico! Cheers!

choufleur gratin

This recipe is from Ruth Van Waerebeek’s Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook. Philippe bought this book – his maternal family is Belgian, both Flemish and Walloon. I like the story that goes along with the recipe; the author tells how cooking vegetables in cheese was her mother’s trick to get the children to eat them!

Cook the florets of 1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower in rapidly boiling, salted water for 7 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Drain, “refresh” under cool water, and set aside.

Make a roux of 1.5 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp flour over medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup of milk and the reserved 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and some freshly-grated nutmeg.

Pour about 1/3 of the cheese sauce into the bottom of a casserole, top with the cauliflower. [Variation: add 1 cup of frozen peas, rinsed and drained.] Pour the remainder of the cheese sauce on top.

Top with with 1/3 cup of grated gruyere.

Bake in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and starting to brown.

Serve as a side (great with lamb or beef) or with crusty bread and a green salade as a meal. Any leftovers are great reheated in the oven and spread over crusty bread.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: This gratin pairs well with cool-climate white wines. I like it with Sauvignon blanc. It would also be great with Riesling, Chardonnay from Bourgogne, Alsacian or Oregonian Pinot gris, or Grüner Veltliner. Cheers!

cauliflower cheese soup

Cauliflower is one of my favorite winter vegetables, and one of the most under-appreciated. This soup comes together in minutes:

Sautee one small or 1/2 large chopped onion and 1-2 chopped celery ribs in about one Tbsp each olive oil and butter over medium to med-high heat until the onion is translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium and add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and 1-2 chopped dried or fresh chilis (We used 2 dried Thai chilis from our garden, the fat in this soup cuts the heat significantly). Sautee for 1-2 minutes more.

Add 6-8 cups of water (use chicken or vegetable stock for a richer soup), enough to cover the cauliflower florets. Bring to a boil.

Add the florets of one large cauliflower. Cover and boil for 7-10 minutes, until the florets are tender.

Drain the liquid into a separate container. Add the vegetables to a blender (this may take more than one batch) and bring to 3/4 volume with liquid. Blend and repeat with subsequent batches. This should use most or all of the liquid. Taste and correct seasoning.

In the same pot the vegetables were boiled in, make a roux by melting 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter then adding 2 Tbsp flour and mixing to form a paste. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. I also add some freshly-cracked pepper to the roux.

Add one cup of milk (we used whole) and whick until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add one cup of grated cheese (we used Druck’s cheddar, gruyere or Ementaler would be excellent) and stir until melted.

Add the cauliflower puree, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, and some freshly-grated nutmeg and whisk to thoroughly combine. Heat through.

Serve with fresh chopped parsely and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: Cool-climate white wines come to mind, like Riesling, Chardonnay from Bourgogne, Alsacian or Oregonian Pinot gris, or Grüner Veltliner. Cheers!

herb-smoked pork chops

After pruning my perennial herbs today, I tossed a couple of handfuls of the cuttings into the grill – rosemary, lavender, sage, and thyme. Use any combination of woody herbs from the garden, farmer’s market, or grocery.

Stir a little bit of olive oil and white wine (about a tablespoon total) into 3-4 Tbsps of Dijon or whole-grain mustard. Add a pinch of chopped fresh or dried herbs.

Coat 2 pork chops, ours are about 1.5″ thick 1-lb chops, with the mustard mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.

After pouring the coals in the grill, place the herbs on top of the coals and let them smoke for a couple of minutes.

Add the pork chops and cook (covered for smoking) until desired doneness, turning once or twice to char the outside. For medium doneness, we remove ours at about 150F.

Let the chops rest for 5 minutes and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Wine pairing: I love Albarino with pork. Any medium-bodied, crisp white wine (Sauvignon blanc would be lovely) or rose would pair well. The smokey flavors would also pair with earthy, smokey reds, such as many Bourgognes, Malbec, and Tannat. Cheers!

broccoli soup 2 ways

I was looking at soup recipes for inspiration to enhance my broccoli soup. I found a Gordon Ramsey recipe that used only broccoli, salt, and water. He served it over walnuts and ashed goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. It looked amazing. So I decided to keep it simple, and here are the two versions I came up with:

Version 1: fresh

Sautee one finely chopped shallot and celery rib in a little bit of olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Season with a little bit of salt and black pepper.

Prepare broccoli by chopping into large florets and peeling and chopping the tender part of the stalks.

Add enough water to the sauteed vegetables to cover the volume of broccoli that you are going to add. Bring to a rapid boil. Salt generously.

Add the broccoli, the water should still be at a rolling boil, cover the pot, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the florets are al dente – a sharp knife cuts through them easily (not mushy!).

Immediately strain the liquid into another container, and transfer the vegetables to the blender. Add some of the liquid. About 1/2 the volume of the blender for a thicker fresh soup and more (a couple inches below the top) for the creamy version.

Carefully blend the hot ingredients until smooth. (To avoid scalding, try this method: put a towel over the top and press down, pulse the blender a few times to mix ingredients, then blend.)

Taste and correct seasoning. The soup is ready to serve and tastes fresh and light. Phil thought it would also taste great cold, I agree and would add a handful of parsley and/or cilantro to the blender if I was serving it cold.

Garnish with fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro), Greek yogurt or sour cream, and a drizzle of olive oil, preferably really young, fresh, green, extra virgin olive oil (from Cortona if you can get it!).

Version 2: creamy

If you decided to make the creamier version, add about 2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil back to original pot over medium heat. Stir in 2 Tbsp flour to form a paste.

Add 1 cup of milk (or 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup cooking liquid) and stir until thickened.

For broccoli cheese soup, add 1/2-1 cup shredded cheese (white cheddar, fontina, a good mild melting cheese) and stir until melted.

Return the pureed vegetable soup to the pot and heat through.

Add 1/2 tsp ground coriander. Taste and correct seasonings.

Garnish as above with fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro), Greek yogurt or sour cream, and a drizzle of really good olive oil.

Bon appétit!

Wine pairings: This soup would pair beautifully with many whites – Viognier, Albarino, Pinot grigio, Soave, stainless or lightly-oaked Chardonnay. Avoid heavily oaked or malolactic whites. A rose or light-bodied red would also be nice – Pinot noir, or try a red from Austria. We paired the soup with a Anton Bauer 2004 Wagram Cuvee No 10 – a Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend. Cheers!