My entire life I’ve been navigating being a first generation American. At an early age I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I’d never be able to completely wash away my unique Egyptianess. As a teenager I refused to eat all my mother’s ethnic food, recipes from Cairo, Alexandria, and Beirut. I wanted pizza, cheeseburgers, fries, and toast. Even as the delicious scent of garlic and corriander teased my senses I fought it because I wanted to be a real American, just like all my friends.
The reality is, I was a real American after all. I was part of the tapestry of color and taste and tradition that makes the US country the greatest on earth (yes, I’m very patriotic). I don’t fight my mother’s cuisine anymore, but rather learn from it. In this menu I’ve infused each meal (except for dessert) with flavors and ingredients that have been handed down from ancestors so long gone their faces blurred by the passage of time. Yet, their souls live on in the creative art of cooking. This five course wine pairing menu takes each of the flavors in consideration. I hope you enjoy Ancestral Spices, and we say say in arabic “May each bite bring you happiness and health”.
Greek Caprese Salad … Paired with Valdemonxes Albarino, Rias Baixas, 2012
Steps for Greek Caprese Salad
This dish takes the classic Caprese Salad and turns it into a much tangier version. I’ve used an olive tapenade instead of basil and melted Kasirri cheese instead of Mozzarella.
- Slice tomatoes. You will need two to three slices per plate (depending on how high you want the dish to be)
- Slice Kassiri cheese in pieces large enough to cover the slices of tomatoes
- In a small pan, melt about 1 tablespoon of butter and arrange Kassiri in the pan, allow to sizzle but not melt too much (Kassiri is a tough cheese and it will hold. Even if it looks a little melted it will pull back together once it cools.)
- To plate lay a slice of tomato first, spread olive tapenade on it, and then top with a melted slice of Kasirri. See steps for olive tapenade.
- Drizzle dressing on top of the stack before serving. See steps for dressing.
Ingredients for Kalamata Tapenade
- 1 cup of kalamata olives
- 1 tablespoon of capers
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup of parsley (flat leaf)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Steps for Kalamata Tapenade
- Put put about all ingredients in the blender.
- Only blender in pulses, checking on consistency. Should look chopped. You don’t want a runny black paste. You can refrigerate this for a week.
Steps for Dressing
- In a bowl whisk the following ingredients together: olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard (1 teaspoon per cup of dressing), salt and pepper to taste. You may add cayenne pepper for heat. I did, and it was great, but it isn’t necessary.
Egyptian Shrimp & Rice with Tahnini Sauce … Paired with Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2012
Ingredients for Egyptian Shrimp & Rice with Tahnini Sauce
- 1lb of medium size shrimp (you can buy fresh or frozen. I like to buy deveined and tail-off)
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- cumin (about 4 tablespoons)
- coriander (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup of lemon juice
- 1 cup of tahini paste (you can find that at most local grocery stores, will be next to nut butters)
- 1 cup of uncooked white long grain rice (this will make about 6 small servings). I like Uncle Bens
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1 onion diced
Steps for shrimp
- After cleaning/rinsing shrimp, drain and place in a bowl.
- Mix the shrimp with 1/2 cup of olive oil garlic, 2 tablespoons cumin, coriander, and 1/2 lemon juice. You can let this sit in the fridge overnight or cook it on the spot. The longer you marinate, the better.
- You can either grill the shrimp or sear in a pan with a little olive oil. The shrimp is cooked when it curls up and turns pink. This will take about eight to ten minutes.
- To plate this dish grease a small ramekin, pack the rice in it and turn it over. You will have a nice mold of rice. Drizzle tahini sauce over the rice and arrange two to three shrimps on top.
Steps for rice
- Melt 1/2 stick of butter and fry onion until brown.
- Add uncooked rice until rice is fully coated.
- Add 2 cups of water, the tomato paste, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to low heat. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Keep checking on the rice and taste it. Add salt if needed. The rice should taste buttery and be a little sticky.
Steps for tahini sauce
- In a blender mix, tahini sauce, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of cumin, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, salt to taste.
- Blend until mixture is homogeneous. Set aside. You can refrigerate for up to a week.
Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Rollatini, Cabernet Fig Sauce … Paired with Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013
Ingredients for Chicken Rollatini, Cabernet Fig Sauce
(makes approximately 8 to 10 servings)
- Goat cheese (about 8 ounces)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons Garlic powder
- 1 cup of flour
- 4 to 5 chicken breasts
- Dried Fig
- Beef Demi Glaze. I like to use Williams and Sonoma, but you can use beef stock. You will need about 2 cups of stock.
- 2 cups of cabernet wine (don’t use cooking wine. It’s just not the same).
- 3 shallots diced
- 3 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- variable amount of port wine (see explanation below)
- balsamic vinegar
Steps for Chicken Rollatini
- Wash chicken breast thoroughly.
- Slice chicken breast lengthways to create thin slices. Note: most recipes call for pounding the chicken thin. But I find this process messy and lengthy. With a good knife and steady hands you can slice the chicken very thin, avoiding the pounding.
- Spoon goat cheese on the chicken and roll. Secure the rolled up chicken with a toothpick. Note: the cheese will melt out, so put extra goat cheese in the rollatini. Also, before you put the chicken in the oven, you can add some more goat cheese.
- Prepare three bowls, one with flour, one with Italian bread crumbs and one with eggs beaten with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Dip rolled chicken in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in this order.
- Fry in canola oil and bake on 350 for approximately 30 minutes. Ovens vary so check to see that chicken is thoroughly cook or isn’t overcooking.
- Ladle Cabernet Fig Sauce over the chicken. See recipe below for Cabernet Fig Sauce.
Instructions for Cabernet Fig Sauce:
- This step can be done ahead of time and the paste can be frozen for up to 6 months. Combine figs, vinegar, and port wine in a slow cooker and let cook for 3 hours or until figs are soft and falling apart. You need to use enough wine to cover the figs. Use balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness of the port wine. You can use any port wine you like as long as it is red.
- Let mixture cool and puree in blender
- Put mixture through stainer to get rid of fig seeds
- Set mixture aside to be used in the sauce.
- Saute shallots and garlic in butter until yellowish brown.
- Deglaze the pan with 2 cups of Cabernet wine. Bring to a boil
- Add 2 cups of beef stock or 3 tablespoons of beef demo-glaze and 2 cups of water.
- Add 1/4 cup of fig paste
- Salt to taste. You may not need salt because the beef stock is salty so taste before you salt.
- Bring to a boil
- Add 1 cup of heavy cream, thicken and set aside.
Penne Bolognese Béchamel … Paired with Monte Bernardi, Chiani Classico, Retromarcia 2012
Ingredients for Penne Bolognese Béchamel
- 1 lb ground sirloin
- tomato paste (1 small can. I like Contadina)
- 1 large onion
- 1 tablespoon of allspice
- 1 lb of penne pasta
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Steps for Penne Bolognese Béchamel
Note: this is one of the dishes that I grew up eating. My mother made it in a baking dish for
- Boil penne, drain, add butter to keep from sticking. Do not use fresh pasta for this. It will get too soft when baking.
- Stir pasta with cooked bolognese sauce. See steps for bolognese below.
- Scoop the pasta and sauce into large ramekins, leaving about an 1.5 inches for the Béchamel layer.
- Add a layer of béchamel over the top of the pasta. See steps for Béchamel below.
- Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until bubbly
- Broil for about 5 minutes until you get a slightly charred top, like in the picture.
Note: Careful not to dry this dish out. You want to have a nice creamy texture to each bite so check on it while in the oven often.
Steps for Bolognese Sauce
Note: this is not a classic bolognese. It’s simply made with ground beef.
- Chopped onion and saute in butter until dark yellow
- Add ground sirloin, salt, pepper, and allspice.
- Cook your ground beef mixture, taste and salt to taste.
- Add about 6 cups of water.
- Stir in the tomato paste
- Let sauce simmer for about 45 minutes on medium
Note: this sauce should cook until it is thick and the tomato sauce darkens. Don’t be afraid to overcook the sauce. As long as it doesn’t burn, you are good. You don’t want it to be runny.
Steps for Béchamel
- In medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted.
- Add the flour and stir until smooth.
- Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil.
- Add Parmesan
- Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside until ready to use. Note: if you are making it the night before make it just a little runny. Don’t cook it to desired thickness. The next day you can thicken.
Caramel Strawberry Trifle
Ingredients for Caramel Strawberry Trifle
- Caramel (fresh or bought). See recipe below.
- Vanilla cake (fresh or bought). See recipe below.
- Freshly slices strawberries
Steps for Caramel Strawberry Trifle
- Using a glass or trifle bowl (I like to use margarita glasses, but for a big party you can use a trifle bowl). Layer caramel, cake, and strawberries in that order.
- Refrigerate and serve cold.
For the cake and frosting recipe go to http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/classic-vanilla-cake.html
I used a straight recipe for the caramel from website below. I only added a teaspoon of vanilla in addition to the recipe. I also left out the teaspoon of salt at the end. http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-salted-caramel-recipe/