There’s a fine balance between the light flavors of summer and the earthy flavors we love to taste all year long. After a busy 6 weeks of summer I decided to make something cool, scrumptious, and yet comforting. My muses were both summer trips I took to Italy in July of 2016 and my most recent trip to Egypt in the June of 2017. Vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and arugula are ubiquitous in Egypt. The mint used in the salad is also used in savory yogurt sauces and hot tea. The Arancini is an Italian rice ball, but I served it with stuffed with lamb instead of ground beef and served it over eggplant noodles and goat cheese, my version of Mediterranean fusion. Each dish was paired with a wine that best balances the flavors, courtesy of Salute Market in Palm Beach Gardens. Enjoy!
Quinoa Salad in a Mint Shallot Dressing … Honig, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford
Ingredients (Recipe makes 4 appetizer salads):
- 2 zucchinis
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa
- 1 seedless cucumber
- 1 shallot
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped mint
Steps for Quinoa Mint Salad:
- Let cooked quinoa cool to room temperature
- Peel zucchinis and slice wide strips, longways. (Reference video for help.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptA3wlLnoKY
- Pan sear zucchini strips in a few drop of olive oil and salt for about 30 seconds on each side. The goal is to make the zucchini malleable but not mushy. Refrigerate seared sliced until cooled.
- Dice seedless cucumber (do not peel)
- In a blender mix, shallot, vinegar, salt, pepper, and mint.
- Mix cucumber into quinoa and top quinoa with the dressing. Mix thoroughly and put in refrigerator to cool. This can be prepared a day ahead and left in a glass bowl until it is time to plate.
- Before serving, plate a scoop a quinoa salad and with the zucchini slices carefully mold a cup around the salad. Garnish with dry mint and a balsamic glaze or left over dressing.
Lobster in Cognac Sauce … Domaine Serene “Yamhill Cuvee” Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley
Ingredients (Recipe makes 4 plates):
- 4 slices of lightly toasted French Bread
- 2 cups of Arugula
- 2 lobster tails cooked and sliced (cook lobster tail in oven until pink with garlic, butter, and salt, then chop)
- Mushrooms (I usually get a gourmet blend)
- 2 tablespoons of chicken demi-glaze (I love Williams and Sonoma)
- 1 cup of Cognac
- 1.5 cups of heavy cream
- 1 finely chopped shallot
- 2 crushed cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Steps for Lobster Cognac:
- Melt butter in a sauce with olive oil, when sizzling add garlic and shallots.
- When the shallots and garlic have turned yellow add mushrooms.
- Let mushrooms cook until they look dry and somewhat seared at the edges (This is important! The mushrooms should not be wet when you move to the next step. The pan mush be hot and the mushrooms must be dry!)
- Deglaze the pan with the Cognac.
- Once the Cognac, mushroom mixture is boiling, add the Demi-glaze.
- Still in Demi-glaze and add the heavy cream.
- Add lobster. Turn off the heat once the lobster has been added so that the lobster doesn’t over cook.
- Let the mixture thicken and taste. If the sauce tastes bland, add for Demi-glaze, do not salt.
- Before serving heat the bread so that it is toasted but not too hard. You want the bread to be soft enough to soak up some of the cognac sauce.
- Top the bread with a handful of arugula, then ladle the lobster cognac mixture on top.
- Serve immediately.
Lamb Ropa Vieja Arancini over Eggplant Noodles … Rocca di Montemassi “Le Focale” Sangiovese
Ingredients (Recipe makes approx. 20 Rice Balls):
- 2 cups lamb Ropa Vieja. (see instructions below)1 4-pound bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed
- 2 medium Cubanelle or Anaheim peppers, finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of allspice
- 1 tablespoon of turmeric
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground pepper, divided
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
- 10 cups cold water
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 cups of red wine (preferably a Cabernet)
- 3 cups cooked Risotto for Arancini (rice balls) (see instructions below)
- Arborio Rice
- 2 cups parmesan cheese
- 3 cups white wine
- 5 cups chicken Broth
- 1 large onion
- Bread crumbs
- Dried Basil
- 6 ounces of goat cheese
Steps for Lamb Ropa Vieja:
- Rub lamb with salt, pepper, allspice, clove, and turmeric. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a heavy, 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the lamb and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Add wine, water and bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and simmer, turning the lamb a few times, until the lamb is extremely tender and falling off the bone, about 3 hours.
- Remove the lamb to a clean cutting board, reserving the broth. When it is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and shred it finely with your fingers.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and the shredded lamb; then add tomatoes, tomato sauce, cloves, 2 cups of the lamb broth and the remaining salt & pepper. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer; cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from heat.
- Let it cool in preparation for the arancini (rice ball)
Steps for Arancini (rice balls):
- In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth hot.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 3 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute.
- Add 1/2 cup hot broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next.
- Cook the rice until tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Let the risotto cool.
- Put the bread crumbs in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the risotto, bread crumbs, Parmesan, basil, and eggs. With damp hands, using about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture, form the mixture into 1 3/4-inch diameter balls. Make a hole in the center of each ball and insert a pinch of rope vieja mixture. Cover up the hole to completely enclose the lamb. Roll the balls in the breading to coat.
- In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/3 of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (If you dont have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 2 minutes.) In batches, fry the rice balls, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Steps for Eggplant Goat Cheese Noodles:
- Peel eggplant
- Cut eggplant into thin strips (resembling noodles)
- In a skillet, heat olive oil and add eggplant noodles
- Once the noodles have softened, add about goat cheese.
- Still softly until the cheese is melted into the noodles
- Remove from heat and serve with one arancini on top.