But first…Wine. – Part 1

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For all its richness and complexity, wine is essentially fermented grape juice. However, much of the pleasure of wine lies in its infinite variety. The five basic types of wine are red, white, rosé, sparkling and fortified wine.  Most of the world’s great wines are wines of place, made with grapes of particular vintage and from particular vineyard. Climate, location, soil and grape varieties all affect the quality of wines, as do the various vine-growing and winemaking methods.

How to taste wine

The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. It takes time to describe what you taste, so always take any chance to try new wines.

pouring wine

The first step of tasting starts with pouring the wine into a nice and clear glass. It should be clear so that the color and the clarity of the wine can be appreciated. It should also be large enough to swirl the wine without spilling it, releasing the aromas which are so important in tasting.

LOOK

Tasting a wine begins with your eyes. What does it look like? Hold the glass against a white background to get a true idea of the clarity and color, which should be brilliant and clear in a red wine, and limpid and bright in a white wine. Wines from hot climates usually have a deeper color than wines from cool climates. Older wines usually have less intense color than young wines. Any cloudiness or discoloration may indicate wine defects.

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SWIRL

The next step is to swirl the wine in the glass. This introduces oxygen into the wine, which helps release the wine’s essential aromas. A young wine should be swirled fairly vigorously, while an older wine should be treated more gently.

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SMELL

Put your nose over the rim of the glass and take a long, deep sniff. Really expand your nostrils to take in the smell. Try to think what memory you associate with the smell. You may want to repeat this process several times. What did the wine smell like? Let your imagination loose here and don’t limit yourself to standard terms. Younger wines usually have stronger, more aggressive aromas, while older wines are generally more subdued and subtle.

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TASTE

Fill your mouth about half full and swirl the wine around thoroughly. Two things are happening now: first, more aromas are being released into the nasal cavity, which is where the real tasting happens; and second, you are covering all parts of your mouth, tasting with the whole palate to gain a complete impression of the wine.

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SPIT OR SWALLOW

Now you may either swallow the wine or spit it out. Spitting is a must if you are tasting a number of wines in a formal tasting situation. When you swallow the wine pay attention to how it tastes as it slips down your  throat. How long does the aftertaste linger? A good wine is all about harmony. The wine should be full of flavor, with all the elements – fruit, tannin and acid.

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You should definitely try one of my personal favorites – Cotes de Provence Minuty 2015 – Amazing aroma. Light and dry with strong acidity taste. Pale pink in color.

TASTING NOTES

It is helpful to write down a few notes while tasting a wine. The notes don’t need to be formal – a simple description of your impressions of the wine’s aroma, taste and finish should suffice.

TASTING TERMS

  • Acidity – A natural element of grapes, acidity helps carry the lively, refreshing flavors in wine.
  • Balance – This refers to the relationship among different elements of the wine, such as acidity, fruitiness, tannin and oak.
  • Body – The weight of the wine in the mouth, this is a combination of factors such as tannin, fruit concentration, and alcohol.
  • Bouquet – The smell of a wine, particularly a mature or maturing wine that has spent some time in bottle, is called the bouquet.
  • Earthy – Reminiscent of the smell of fresh loam and leafy forest floor, this is usually considered as positive term.
  • Finish – This is the taste that lingers after you had swallowed the wine.
  • Flowery or floral – These terms are used to describe aromatic white wines such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
  • Oaky – If you can distinguish an excessive taste or smell of oak in wine, it is “oaky” and out of balance.
  • Tannin – A substance found in the grape and also in new oak barrels; some tannin is necessary to give wine structure and balance, particularly red wines, but too much can be a defect.

Food and Wine pairing

Pairing the right wine with food creates something greater than the sum of the parts. A complementary wine can enhance and add new dimensions to food. Matching food and wine is fairly recent concept. In the past, people simply served the local foods with whatever wine was available, especially in wine-producing areas – an evolutionary, though not conscious, pairing. Over the years, the teaming of good food with fine wine has become an art form. The next few parts of this topic will explain the basic principles, and suggests wines to accompany foods of categories.

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There’s more to matching cheese and wine than you might think. Many cheeses are too strong to match with fine or mature red wine. In fact, white wines are often better with cheeses than reds. Sweet white wines taste good with sharp, salty blue-veined cheeses.

 

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Pairing sharp cheese with sweet fruits like pear and honey is a great combination. Match those flavors with light and dry white wine.

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Pairing pasta with wine is easy. All you need to know is what kind of sauce are you using for your dish. Tomato sauce goes great with red Rioja or young Cabernet Sauvignon. Creamy, buttery sauces match amazing with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Pesto sauce is asking for slightly sweet, medium body red wine.

Hanger steak

Hanger steak (and all kinds of steak) cannot be paired with any other kind of wine, but red. My favorite wines that make my steak twice good are French Bordeaux and Argentine Malbec. Cabernet from Sonoma makes your steak dinner a classic combination.

 

There is always something you can learn about wine. If you are a real wine enthusiast, challenge yourself with trying a new kind of wine every time you are in a mood for it. Try the tasting techniques you learn today and try to describe it. Enjoy it slowly, cook yourself a nice dinner and pair them together. Join me next month again, so we can keep exploring together this amazing wine art. But first…wine. 🙂

 

 

Summertime Sadness

“Summer is almost over”. I keep hearing these four words from the beginning of August. No, it’s not.  Summer temperatures in Boston continue until the end of September. Besides, we can enjoy the best fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood in August. My grandmother used to pick the most delicious pink tomatoes in the late summer.

Summer is the time to try new things, explore new places, go to vacations, meet new people, enjoy sunsets and soak up the sun. The next three recipes are inspired by all of these things and they are meant to create new memories, scents and flavors in our minds. Those memories that we gonna keep in our hearts until next summer.

GARDEN BRUSCHETTA

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Ingredients (for 6):

  • 2 fresh tomatoes (If you have any home grown garden tomatoes, use them)
  • 3/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

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Dice tomatoes in very small cubes. Add first minced garlic, then the fresh one and mix well in a bowl.

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Add the chopped basil and mix again. Continue mixing while adding the rest of the ingredients. Cover the bowl and leave on side for 1 hour.  Prepare the baguette. Slice it and brush it with olive oil and minced garlic. Toast until golden and crispy. When ready, top the tomato mixture over the bread. Garnish with fresh basil on top. ( I like to sprinkle some parmesan cheese as well) Serve with a glass of peach rosé sangria (see the recipe below).

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AVOCADO BOWL

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Ingredients:

  • 4 avocados
  • 1/2 chopped cucumber
  • juice from 1/2  lemon
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups mayo
  • 3/4 cup minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup chopped scallion
  • 4-5 thin slices smoked salmon
  • fresh dill for garnish

Directions:

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In a large bowl combine the plain yogurt with mayo. Add the chopped cucumbers and scallions as well as lemon juice and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Slice the avocados in half. Scoop half of the avocado and add it to the mixture. Transfer it to a blender. Blend until you get a smooth texture. If its too liquid, just add more mayo. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Carefully pour the yogurt mix into the avocado half using a spoon. Use 1 slice of smoked salmon to shape a tiny rose and place it on top. Garnish with a sliced tomato and fresh dill.

Enjoy the perfect summer appetizer!

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PEACH ROSE SANGRIA

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Ingredients (for a pitcher):

  • 1 bottle of rosé wine
  • 1/2 cup peach liqueur
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced peaches
  • 1/3 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup champagne

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Directions:

In a pitcher mix wine, peach liqueur, strawberries, peaches and triple sec. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over ice and top with champagne. Garnish with a slice of peach.

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Now its the time to invite your friends over and treat them with these amazing foods while sipping on sangria and watching the sunset. I call it summertime sadness.

 

 

 

 

Irasshaimase!

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Upon entering a traditional Japanese restaurant, you may be welcomed with the traditional salutation “Irasshaimase” by the sushi chef. If you never had experienced this cuisine before, prepare yourself with patience and excitement because there are so many things you can learn, try and share.

I always thought I know just enough about sushi, so I can fully enjoy it. However, two years later, after my first real sushi experience, I still surprise myself. I love mixing different kind of textures – soft shell sushi, tempura style sushi, pickled veggies sushi, nigiri or sashimi. The combinations are numerous. All you need to know is the basics and then you can go to your favorite sushi place and start exploring this delicious and almost completely healthy cuisine.

Types of Sushi in Japan

Sashimi

Sashimi is a piece of meat, not necessarily seafood and not necessarily raw, typically served over a garnish like daikon, shredded carrots, lettuce etc.  Sashimi is served with sauce on side like soy sauce, ponzu sauce or wasabi paste and ginger.  The best seafood that you can get as a sashimi is: king crab, octopus, mackerel, shrimp, scallop, tuna, salmon and sea urchin.

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Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna and striped bass in a sashimi platter

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3 pieces of tuna sashimi

Nigiri

Nigiri / Nigiri Sushi  is a hand-pressed sushi rice (cooked with vinegar) that comes with a piece of meat or vegetable on top. If needed, it can be gently wrapped in seaweed (nori) stripe. The presentation is very important in the Japanese sushi cuisine, so slicing the raw fish for nigiri is very precise. The best knife for slicing fish is called yanagi ba . It needs to be very sharp, so the meat is not torn.

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Mackerel nigiri and salmon caviar sashimi

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Nigiri plate with a tuna roll

Gunkanmaki

This is a special type of nigiri where the topping, commonly raw fish, is prevented from falling off by a strip of nori around the sides. Some toppings include quail eggs, sea urchin, salmon caviar and tobiko. Instead of nori, sushi chefs also use cucumber skins and lemons as well.

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Salmon caviar/ Ikura sushi

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Salmon, tuna, eel/avocado sushi, tobiko and a spicy tuna roll

Inarizushi

Typically a pouch of fried tofu filled with sushi rice. This is very popular with vegetarians who still want to enjoy a sushi experience. Most of the Japanese restaurants offer at least one vegetarian sushi entrée and they are usually very tasty and healthy.

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Vegetarian platter includes tofu skin, avocado, shiitake mushroom, tofu, Japanese eggplant, pickled burdock root and asparagus nigiri and a avocado cucumber roll.

Chirashi

Chirashi is also called “scattered sushi”. This is bowl of sushi rice topped with raw fish and vegetables.

Makizushi

This is the most popular type of sushi. Its basically sushi that has been rolled with a bamboo mat. The rice and filling is typically wrapped in seaweed and cut up. If you don’t like the taste of the seaweed, you can always replace it with soy paper which is a lot more softer. If you decide to try a naruto roll, you should know that the fish is wrapped in thin slices of cucumber instead of rice and seaweed so it has less calories.  The variations are so many, that you need a lot of free time and appetite to taste different kind of maki rolls.

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California roll

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Rainbow roll / Kiss of Fire roll **Photo taken at Haru sushi restaurant, Boston

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Gramercy Park Roll, Rainbow Roll, Kiss of Fire Roll **Photo taken at Haru sushi restaurant, Boston

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Philadelphia Roll

Oshizushi

Oshi type of sushi is usually a marinated or boiled fish on top of rice shaped in rectangular wooden molds, then cut into small pieces. It looks like slices of cake but smaller.

How to eat sushi

For the most rewarding sushi experience, sit at the sushi bar/ counter, where you can get a front-row view. There, you will be given a wet towel oshibori, rolled on a wooden dish. If you sit at the bar, order directly from the itamae (sushi chef). Pour soy sauce into the dipping bowl. Sushi can be eaten with fingers or chopsticks. Sashimi, on the other hand, should be eaten with chopsticks. Sushi is meant to be eaten upside down. Invert the sushi so that the fish, not the rice, meets the taste buds first. Japanese people enjoy their sushi dinner with a bowl of miso soup.  Don’t forget to eat the slices of pickled ginger between bites of sushi as a palate cleanser.

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Variety of maki rolls **Photo taken at Haru sushi restaurant, Boston

If you are not fan of uncooked raw seafood but you like the experience, try a tempura style sushi roll. Shrimp tempura and soft crab shell tempura are very popular and also tasty. The sushi is usually wrapped as a maki roll, dipped in batter and then deep fried.

If you are not a fan of sushi rice or seaweed but you love the raw seafood taste, try any kind of tartar – toro, tuna, salmon tartar are absolutely amazing appetizers. Preparation includes chopping the fish in small cubs and mixing it with a sauce – citrus sauce, miso vinaigrette and topping it with a quail egg.

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Tuna tartar

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Salmon tartar

Japanese cuisines offer a large variety of dishes and specialties.  A great attention is attached to fresh ingredients, gentle methods of cooking and authentic flavors. A sushi restaurant is a great place for a first date because the couple can truly enjoy and share this variety of colors and tastiness.

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Yellowtail scallion roll

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I don’t know about you, but while writing this post, I’ve already opened 3 food delivery pages and I’m ready to order my dinner.

 

Spicy Beef Tostadas

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Summer is finally here. And you know what this means – lobster roll, steak on the backyard fire pit, frozen margaritas, tacos and tostadas. Yes, tostadas.  In Spanish, the word “tostada” means toasted – and in Mexican cuisine , a tostada usually refers to a flat or bowl-shaped tortilla that is deep fried. They are delicious in any way you decide to make them – with chicken, beef or your favorite seafood.

My recipe is super easy and super delicious if you love Mexican food. Just don’t forget the margaritas.

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef, lean
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayenne
  • 1/2 cup chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 sliced avocado (optional)

Directions:

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  1. Start with the ground beef by adding salt, black pepper, cayenne and 1 raw egg to it. Mix well and leave on side.
  2.  Chop all of the vegetables in small cubes.
  3.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and chopped garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts browning, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, freshly squeezed lime juice, cayenne and red pepper flakes.
  5. Place a tostada shell on a flat work surface and carefully spread a large spoon with the cooked mix.
  6. Cook the rest of the eggs in another nonstick skillet until sunny-side up. Place them over tostadas and add cheddar cheese.
  7.  Top with shredded lettuce, avocado, scoop of sour cream and cilantro.
  8. Serve with lime wedges.

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P.S. Please don’t mind my side of homemade fries with feta cheese. Its just something I can’t resist. 🙂

Nutella Crepe Cake

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If there was something that I really loved as a kid when I was spending my summer at grandmother’s house, would probably be the time when I’d wake up in the morning and I could smell the freshly cooked crepes on the table next to a jar of strawberry jam and a cup of warm milk. How I miss these precious times!

The time when you wake up and you have nothing to worry or to plan for the day except your meals and the time when you go out and play with your friends. All day long! So 16 years later, I decided to have a Sunday off spent with my friends while cooking crepes, making cake out of them, while sipping on espresso martinis and enjoying the lazy day. Basically, an adult version of my great childhood memories. Well, it was one of those days when you know that you’ll never forget. And yes, the crepe cake was just perfect.

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Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 pinch of salt
  • 2-3 cups of milk
  • 3-4 drops vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 jar nutella
  • 1 cup  fruit preserves or 1 cup honey
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • fruit sorbet (optional)

Directions:

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In a blender, combine milk,eggs,flour,salt,vanilla extract,vegetable oil and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a crepe pan (regular large pan works great too) over medium heat, use cooking spray and coat the pan evenly. Pour a cup or less (depending on the pan) of the batter and spread with spatula. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover. Repeat to make about 18 crepes.

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When all the crepes are done, cover with lid and leave them in the fridge for another 2 hours.

Choose a  bigger plate where you gonna put the crepe cake. Spread Nutella evenly on the first crepe and add mixed berries by your choice. My first idea was wrapping individually every crepe in a shape of a cone. Then I decided to make a classic crepe cake. You can choose your own way but remember: if you wanna make the first option, you need a lot more than 18 crepes.

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Nutella Crepe Cake (option 2)

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My first idea of a crepe cake made of cone shaped crepes

 

Repeat with the rest of the crepes and place them one over another. Switch between nutella crepe and a fruit preserves crepe. Mix strawberries,raspberries,banana and blueberries between crepes.

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When you are done with the last one, spread nutella on top of the cake and arrange the rest of the fruits. Cover with lid and refrigerate for the night. Serve with a scoop of fruit sorbet or whipped cream.

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And please, don’t forget to invite your friends and brew some coffee while enjoying this cake.

 

Pear and Almond Croissants

After the last two recipes, I knew it was about time to publish my first dessert recipe. I am so proud and excited for this one, because it’s my very own and it came out better than expected. It’s fresh, it smells like summer and it goes perfectly with a cup of espresso. Enjoy!

Pear and Almond Croissants

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Ingredients (for 8-10):

  • 3-4 small pears
  • 1 Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup  butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  •  2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups water
  • honey drizzle

Directions:

The hardest part for me was definitely making my first pear preserve. But it was so easy too. Cut the pears  in small cubes and place them in the a large pot. Add 1 cup of water and turn on the heat to medium-high. Add sugar and lemon juice, and cover with lid. In 10-15 min  turn down the heat to medium and start stirring the soft pears.

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In another 20 minutes, the pears should start getting softer and sugar should start turning into caramel. That’s the time to add another cup of water so the pears can cook longer. The pear preserve will be ready in another 10 minutes of stirring.

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When its done, put the pear preserve in a big jar and refrigerate for an hour.

I would totally advice you to make your own croissant dough, because its easy, there are plenty of ideas “how” online and it’s gonna taste amazing. I didn’t have enough time when I was making all of the last three recipes, so I decided to buy those premade “crescent rolls”. The croissant dough should have a triangle form. You take it, put it over some flour (so it won’t stick while rolling), put 1 spoon of your ready pear preserve, make a little cut with a knife on top of the dough, and start rolling the split ends together while trying to keep the pears inside.

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When you are done with all of them,place them on a baking sheet and heat the oven to 350°F. Croissants are tasty when they are slightly crispy and buttery on top. So next step is mixing the eggs and the melted butter together until you get a smooth texture. Using a pastry brush, apply it on top of the croissants, sprinkle with almonds and let them bake for 10-15 minutes.

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You are going to know by the smell when they are ready. Place on a small plate, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the rest of the almonds.

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Don’t forget to brew a fresh cup of coffee and to share with your family!

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Spring Zucchini Pie

I bet you loved that Thai Curry-Coconut & Lemongrass soup! It’s perfect for this season and its the ideal first course meal – light and full of flavors. Now its time for the main course.

Spring Zucchini Pie

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Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 medium-sized yellow and green zucchini
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dried basil leaves
  • black pepper
  • bunch of fresh dill
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups  feta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat the oven to 375°F. In 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini, basil leaves, salt and pepper and cook for another 7-8 minutes. Zucchini don’t have to be completely cooked, just golden.

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In the meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the eggs, feta cheese and parmesan cheese. Beat until you get a nice, thick and smooth texture.

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Turn off the heat. Put a baking sheet over your 12×8-inch (2quart) glass baking dish. Add 1 layer of the sauteed zucchini. Then pour a layer of the eggs&cheese mix. Repeat until use all of zucchini and the mix.

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Bake 20-25 min until golden. Serve and sprinkle with fresh dill on top.

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Bon Appetit! Try, share and comment these awesome dishes! Don’t forget to stay tuned for the last part.  A delicious homemade dessert is on your way! 🙂

 

 

Thai Curry-Coconut & Lemongrass Soup

Hello, passionate readers! This week I decided to make a 3 course spring meal which is perfect for family dinner, unexpected guests or a planned friends party. If you have vegetarians in your party, don’t worry! I got your back. All you need is a couple free hours, good music in the back and a passion for cooking. Let’s get started.

Thai Curry-Coconut & Lemongrass Soup

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Ingredients (4 servings) :

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp thai green curry paste
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 5 scallions (thinly sliced)
  • 6 cups mixed sliced vegetables( I used bell peppers and portobello mushrooms )
  • 3 cups lemongrass paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 8-9 small shrimps (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • steamed white rice (optional)

Directions:

Start with the preparation of your veggies. Cut them(scallions, bell peppers, portobello mushrooms) in medium size cubes, mix them and leave on side.

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Warm the vegetable oil in a large stockpot over a medium-high heat. Add the green  curry paste and the minced garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Then add the mixed sliced veggies and the lemongrass paste and cook for another 5 minutes.

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Once it starts smelling good, add the veggie stock and the coconut milk. Cover with lid and stir it every now and then, about another 5-6 min. I decided to add shrimps for flavor, but you can totally substitute it for chicken, noodles or just steamed white rice. I seared the shrimps in olive oil for extra flavor before adding them to the soup. (about 3-4 min).

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Add the cooked shrimps and heavy cream and let it all simmer together.  Add the salt, black pepper and more curry paste or powder, if desired.Cook and stir until the mushrooms and bell peppers are completely soft and the broth is thicker.

Serve right away with some lime or lemon wedges on side or top it with fresh cilantro.

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Wine Guide Part 2: France

parisdrinks3-largeFrance is one of the oldest wine producing regions. On average, France produces more than 6 billion bottles of wine per year. Ellegant, well-dressed, showing an appreciation for the good things in life but never to excess – that is the style of a good French wine. Currently France is the second in wine production, but the fact that today the quality of even the least expensive French wine has improved impressively, means that there is a whole new range of wines open to wine drinkers.

French wine has a huge part of the French identity and pride, as demonstrated by the wines having more of a regional than a national identity. Different regions have their own classification systems, grape varieties and production methods, which make them complex but unique.

If you are a wine beginner, the first thing you should know about French wines, is where exactly they are coming from. So here are the main French wine regions:

  • Alsace
  • Bordeaux
  • Burgundy
  • Champagne
  • Cotes de Rhone
  • Languedoc-Roussillon
  • Loire Valley
  • Provence
  • Corsica
  • South West

French wines can be confusing because they rarely put the name of the grape on the bottle. Instead, they put a controlled place name, appearing on the label as the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system is overseen by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, or INAO. It regulates the boundaries of each region, as well as yield, winemaking and viticultural methods, ripeness and alcoholic strength, and grape varieties .Why put the place on the label instead of the name of the grape? Many people would say that it’s because of the notion of terroir. Essentially, terroir is the wine’s expression of the place from where it came. When winemakers speak about terroir, they’re talking about a variety of things that influence the wine, including the type of soil it’s growing in, the slope and elevation of the vineyard, as well as the climate and weather.

Alsace

Alsace is right on the German border with France.Over the last few hundred years, France and Germany have alternated possession of the area and a unique blend of each country’s wine heritage remains. The most popular grapes in the region, called noble grapes, are Riesling, Pinot Gris,Gewurztraminer and Muscat.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux is the planet’s largest source of fine wine, the model for Cabernet Sauvignon- and Merlot-based wines around the globe. Bordeaux wines are considered by many wine connoisseurs to be the world’s greatest reds. The majority of Bordeaux wines are the dry, medium-bodied reds that made the region famous. The finest, and most expensive, come from the great chateaux of the Medoc. Merlot is the dominant red wine grape in the vineyards of Bordeaux, followed closely by Cabernet-Sauvignon and then Cabernet-Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Bordeaux’s white wines are generally blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.

Burgundy

Burgundy is located in the east-central part of France. It may be small in size but its influence is huge in the world of wine. The two key grape varieties of Burgundy are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here, I’d like to present you my favorite wine from this region.

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Petite Chapelle Pouilly-Fuisse Vieilles Vigne Reserve 2011

Young white Burgundies like this one have aromas of fresh apple and pear, citrus, mineral overtones and sometimes toasted hazelnut notes from barrel aging. Try white Burgundies with delicate seafood dishes, like salmon or scallops, roasted chicken or spring vegetables.

Champagne

The heart of Champagne region lies 90 miles northeast from Paris near the Belgian border. Champagne is the name of the world famous sparkling wine we all know. By French and European law, the mention of “champagne” is submitted to a strict regulation and the term champagne can only be used for wines, produced in this region. Here is one of the most popular (and expensive) champagnes in the world.

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Dom Perignon Champagne Brut 2006

The 2006 Dom Perignon is beautifuly balanced,rich,voluptuous and creamy. This champagne is a graceful, minerally version, featuring rich notes of smoke, mandarin orange peel and chalk that lead to subtle accents of toasted almond and espresso.

Côtes de Rhône

You might have heard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Hermitage: those appellations are in the Rhône. The Rhône River starts up in the Alps and flows down through Valence and Avignon, ending in the Mediterranean Sea in the area near Marseille. The area is generally split into two main parts: the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône.

The Northern Rhône is the birthplace of syrah and where many wine lovers find it reaches its height of expression – full bodied, savory and elegant. The Southern Rhône region has a Mediterranean influence in culture and climate. If syrah is the big boy of the North, Grenache is the king in the South and forms the foundation of the area’s popular blends.

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Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhône Grande Rèserve 2012

This is a very easy drinking wine, packed with smooth notes of cherry and earth with a slight herbal finish. Perfect for beginners. Perfect for any occasion.

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Côtes du Rhône Les Violettes 2013 Moillard

If you like rosè, this is a great lively wine with fresh, black fruit flavors, some spices and just the right amount of tannins. A nicely balanced food wine. Pairs great with beef, lamb, spicy food and hard cheese.

 LANGUEDOC AND ROUSSILLON

Languedoc and Roussillon are two large regions that lie on the coast of the Mediterranean. Red and rosé wines from these areas are generally a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, with other indigenous and international varieties making an appearance. White wines are less common, but when you see them they are also usually blends that include Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Muscat, and sometimes other grapes.

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is France’s most diverse wine region, producing exemplary wines in every style. Popularity of Loire Valley wines with sommeliers and wine writers has been growing steadily for the last ten years because for all their variety, refreshing acidity and minerality.

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Durand Rèserve Sancerre 2014

This is one of my favorite white wines I’ve ever had. Crisp, appropriately acidic, and aromatic, this wine is an amazing experience on both the nose and palate. It also tends to be more expensive compared to a Sauvignon Blanc bottle of wine – but not necessarily without good reason. This wine pairs well with nearly all kinds of seafood and salad greens. The classic pairing of Sancerre with grilled goat cheese is quite possibly the best thing to put in one’s mouth.

Provence

When we think of Provence, we first think of rosé. They make a lot of it here, usually a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. No summer afternoon is complete without a little bit of the pale pink/orange wines from Provence. These light and crisp rosès have just the slightest touches of bright berry flavors and can complement a meal perfectly or be delightful on their own.

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MiMi Côtes de Provence Grande Rèserve 2014

This is the perfect summer wine. It may be not complicated or heady, but it’s certainly lovely. It is bright flavored, with crisp acidity and light touches of tart red berries and citrus fruit.

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Luc Belaire Rosè Rare

This is a classy rosè. You certainly will taste strawberries and peaches. Lovely feminind salmon color, wheat aroma and sharp bubbles. It has great balance between sweetness and tartness. Works well as a pairing for light deserts, beef, spicy foods and cheeses.

Corsica

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located between the southeast coast of Provence and the west coast of Tuscany. Despite its remote location, Corsica’s winemakers have amassed an impressive portfolio of grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Barbarossa grow alongside one another.

South West

Known as “France’s Hidden Corner” the South West region is tucked away between the Pyrènèes Mountains and Spain to the south, Bordeaux to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. If you like Bordeaux but not the prices, or love to discover new varietals that scream ‘terroir’, then the South West region is calling you.With some unique grapes in the mix, this is one exciting region for wine lovers.

P.S. I hope you find at least one great wine from France. Wait a minute… there is no bad French wine! You should know this already. Now, its time for a dinner and a glass of Sancerre. Bon Appètit!

 

Honey almond pappardelle pasta

Hello spring!

It’s the beginning of March and all I’m thinking is adding more vegetables and fruits to my menu. Eating light and clean is the golden rule of a good diet. If you are sick of steaks, beef stew, fries, chicken, and if you are thinking of new ways to eat healthy,  then you should try this amazing recipe for a spring pasta dish.

Honey Almond Pappardelle Pasta

pasta done

Ingredients ( for 2 servings ):

  • 8-9 ounces pappardelle pasta
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/2 pound of brussel sprouts
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil for the veggies and 1/2 cup for the sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup of sliced/ chopped almonds
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • curry powder
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yoghurt

Directions (Total time: 45-50 min):

  1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil on high. Cook the pappardelle pasta 10-12 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F. Cut the zucchinis into small cubes, mix with olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper and put on a baking sheet. Clean the brussel sprouts, cut in half, and again mix with olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper. Place them on the same baking sheet separate from the zucchini.
  3. Bake the veggies for 20-25 min until golden or brown (however you like them).

broussel sprouts zucchini

3. While waiting on veggies,  you should start preparing your sauce. In a food processor put together 1 tbsp honey, the chopped almonds, add 1 tbsp olive oil and squeeze the lemon. Blend together until you get a nice and smooth paste. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil and blend again.

4.  Place your nonstick skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic with the remaining olive oil until golden. When the pasta is ready, gently place in the skillet and add salt and pepper. Be careful while stirring, because you don’t want to break down the pappardelle. Add the blended sauce of honey and almonds and stir for another 4-5 min.

pappardelle

5.  By that time, the zucchini and brussel sprouts should be ready so take them out of the oven.  Mix them with the pasta.

6.  Sprinkle extra almonds on top of the pasta. If you want to make your dish feel even lighter, add 1 tbsp yoghurt on top or just serve it on side. Enjoy!

Tip: If you are looking for a glass of wine to pair, try a dry riesling. 

two bowls pasta closer