Tomato Gazpacho

What’s one of the recipes you can make using the abundance of summer tomatoes? Gazpacho!

So let’s make gazpacho! Everybody’s doing it recently, including Cooking with Kyler, which is hosted by my husband’s cousin and his daughter. It’s appealing because it is simple, refreshing, and customizable.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of cold soups in general, but I’ve recently warmed to the idea of a good gazpacho (see what I did there?) Especially when you add crunchy toppings.

Gazpacho is simple because you can basically dump everything in a blender or food processor. However, it’s a bit messy – be forewarned. It’s likely you’ll have to transfer the mixture back and forth between different containers since it won’t completely fit in the blender. Then you strain it–unless you don’t mind a little texture. The resulting soup is a unique color (which will splatter all over your counters as part of the process) and fun to serve presented in clear drinking glasses.

I wish the 2 pounds of tomatoes made more of dent in my harvest. Here’s what I collect every couple of days!
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Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho

Adapted from Julia Moskin’s New York Times Cooking recipe

Approximately 2 lb ripe red tomatoes,

1 green pepper, such as bell pepper, Italian frying, or Anaheim pepper
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long
1 small onion (white or red)
1 garlic clove
2-4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
, to taste
Salt to taste
½ Cup extra-virgin olive oil
, plus more to taste and for drizzling

Optional and recommended toppings:
Hot sauce
Croutons-make your own with stale bread, butter, garlic and salt
Almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
Avocado, cut into cubes

Prep your vegetables: seed and chop pepper, peel and chop cucumber and onion, and core and roughly chop tomatoes.
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The onion in not shown because I had a leftover portion of a red onion in the fridge that I ended up incorporating.

The onion in not shown because I had a leftover portion of a red onion in the fridge that I ended up incorporating.


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Combine as much of the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic you can in a blender. It’s highly likely you’ll need to work in batches, so have a large bowl handy for transferring portions back and forth.

Initial batch: I made it through the cucumber and most of the tomatoes before I was at the top!

Initial batch: I made it through the cucumber and most of the tomatoes before I was at the top!


Ingredients batch 2.

Ingredients batch 2.

Blend at top speed until the mixture is very smooth. This may take a few minutes. A rubber spatula is great for scraping down the sides as needed.

Add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt. If your appliance allows, do so while the motor is running.

You can add more vinegar later, but I will tell you now that 2 teaspoons was not enough for me!

Pour in the olive oil slowly. The smooth mixture will become an orange-pink color and look like a salad dressing. dsc_4403
Additional olive oil can make the texture more creamy if it is watery.

Press the mixture through a strainer or run through a food mill to extract all the liquids and discard the solids. I was less than enthused about the idea of discarding the nutritious solids, but using my food mill resulted in such minimal solids that I felt OK with sending it to compost.

It's one of the few times year this gets used!

It’s one of the few times year this gets used!


Transfer to a large pitcher, preferably glass, and refrigerate until very cold. This could be done overnight. In the meantime, prepare any toppings. I used some very old cubes of bread from the freezer, cooked in butter with garlic.
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When you are ready to serve, taste to adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. Serve in glasses. You can serve over ice or even chill the glasses for the best effect.
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Present with toppings: chopped almonds, garlic croutons, olive oil and Tabasco all worked great for me.
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Why not enjoy outdoors?

Summer Soups – Roasted Corn and Chilled Zucchini

Wasn’t August delightful? For those of us with access to fresh vegetables like corn, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and more, this late summer time feels special.

New recipes, of course, can take some time to explore. And of course, the past few weeks of August were a bit packed for me. Let’s just say there were a fair number of tomato sandwiches. When I did some cooking prep for the first time in awhile, I was so rusty I even sliced my finger while chopping onions!

I was faced with the reality that if I wanted to do my work, complete my final class assignment with any degree of quality, fulfill other obligations, AND prepare myself healthy meals, they were going to have to be fairly simple. The corn soup I made with leftover roasted corn? Not so simple. The chilled zucchini soup I made the following week was more reasonable. Though you might guess which was more delicious in this case. I’ll describe both here, in case they appeal to you.
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Starting with the zucchini soup: the recipe has wonderfully few ingredients, all of which I could get my hands on at home. I had almost forgotten about the garden zucchini in my fridge, which I acquired in a trade with my mom; she snagged some of my own garden tomatoes.

Chilled Zuchinni Soup
Adapted from the James Beard Foundation’s Isabela Wojcik

2 large zucchini
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced and divided
scant 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 Cup stock
, chicken or vegetable
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 Cup plain greek yogurt
(or other dairy such as sour cream or milk)

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Mise en place! Prep onion and oregano. To prepare the zucchini, trim, split in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half-moons.
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While slicing the zucchini, a couple of things dawned on me: my food processor could probably do this even faster, and the slices would be great for ratatouille. Next time.
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In a medium sauce or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the sliced onion, half of the oregano (about 1/2 teaspoon), and red pepper flakes.

Careful with the red pepper flakes.

Careful with the red pepper flakes.


Cook until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
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Drop in the zucchini and cook through for several minutes, on lower heat. As soon as it starts to look dry, pour in the the stock.
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Let the mixture cook until the zucchini is tender and the stock is boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Take off the stove and transfer to a blender or food processor. Purée.
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Add yogurt and blend. Taste and add more salt.
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Chill, and then serve with other seasonal foods and a hunk of bread. You could also eat it warm. I won’t judge.
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Roasted Corn Soup with Guacamole and Bacon
Adapted from Epicurious, Lourdes Castro

Soup
3 Cups of corn kernels, I used 2 Cups from 3 ears of leftover roasted corn and 1 Cup frozen, divided
1.5 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 to 1 Cup water
, as needed, for extra liquid
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Topping
1 slice of bacon, cooked until crisp (separate)
1/2 Cup roasted corn kernels (from above)
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/2 avocado
1 Tablespoon shallot or red onion
, minced
zest and juice from 1/2 lime
Cilantro, if you have it!

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If using whole corn, remove kernels from cob.
This is one of those recipes that uses the leftover corn cob to infuse a soup with more corn flavor. Everybody’s doing it! The corn itself was leftover from a picnic, and I removed the kernels for the soup. So while prepping other ingredients, get your corn cobs simmering low in your broth plus some extra water.

This is how I keep broth on hand!

This is how I keep broth on hand!


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If using fresh corn, roast at least half of it in the oven at 450°F, on a lined baking sheet. Reserve some of the roasted corn for the topping, and put the rest in a blender.
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Cook the bacon and prepare the avocado, onion, pepper, and lime for the remaining topping.
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In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onion, and jalapeno.
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Season with salt and pepper, cook until soft, at least 5 minutes.
Transfer to a blender with the corn.
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Pulse to combine.
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Remove the cobs from the stock and if possible, squeeze any liquid out of them. Transfer the corn mixture into the liquid and combine.
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Bring up the temperature to a boil while stirring frequently, and then lower heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. You may need to add additional water at this point. Don’t worry–the flavor’s still there.

Ladle into bowls, garnish, and serve!
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See how dark it is? This took awhile to make.

See how dark it is? This took so long to make.

Bok Choy, Bean, and Tomato Stew

I keep meaning to make soup. It’s so simple and productive for using up leftovers. For some reason, I continue to be intimidated. I wish I could be more like my Mom, who, hours after I had left her with a bunch of green tops from leeks, produced a lovely puréed leek green soup.

In my defense, I recall bad experiences cooking soup. I added a variety of ingredients, mixed things in at different times, seasoned initially, and what was I rewarded with? Bland taste. I’m also a big texture person–I love some crunch and chew to most of my meals. So I’m not necessarily drawn to the idea of cooking down my pantry to mush. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are ways to achieve texture in a soup. And if you don’t incorporate crunch in the soup itself, you can always get satisfaction from the toast you serve alongside!

Speaking of soup, check out this Edible Manhattan article about the ladies of the Soup Club. “Formalized food-sharing,” how great is that? If I started a soup club, I’d probably get pretty comfortable with making soup.

Last week I had my eye on some CSA bok choy that I had blanched and frozen in the fall. I was also scraping the bottom of a bag of dried Great Northern beans I wanted to use. Time to get creative! Except I couldn’t resist the urge to scan the internet for recipes using bok choy with beans. The selected recipe inspiration happened to help me use up some green onions, tortillas, and cheese too!
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Bok Choy, Bean, and Tomato Stew with Homemade Tortilla Chips and Gruyere
Adapted from The Kitchen Paper

1 tsp olive oil
2/3 sweet onion
, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic
, minced

Diced heirloom carrots I had to use up.

Diced heirloom carrots I had to use up.


2 Cups stock, (I used chicken)
1/2 Cup dried Great Northern beans , cooked and then incorporated with the bean broth(about 2 Cups cooked beans)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
¾ tsp ground coriander
⅛ tsp ground cloves
2 corn or flour tortillas
, or prepared restaurant-style tortilla chips
3 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp white pepper
salt to taste
about a handful of sliced bok choy
, fresh or previously blanched
2 green onions, sliced
Gruyère, gouda or sharp cheddar cheese for topping (at least 1/2 Cup shredded)

If you’re starting with dried beans, you’ll need to start well in advance to have them cooked. I did both my soaking and cooking the day before, and had the cooked beans in their broth ready to go.
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In a Dutch oven or large soup pot set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes.

I didn't realize that the purple in the carrots would be so dominant!

I didn’t realize that the purple in the carrots would be so dominant!


Stir in the garlic. Saute for a few more minutes to soften the vegetables. Pour in your stock.
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Add the beans, tomatoes, ground coriander, and cloves.

Raise the temperature to bring the soup to simmer. Taste for seasoning and add a little salt. At this point, I also added a little dried basil and oregano.

This would be an excellent time to toss in one of the Parmesan rinds you have in your freezer. Of course I forgot. I might need to resort to the old post-it-note-reminder-stuck-to-the-stove-hood trick!

While the soup simmers, cut up your tortillas in to wedges to cook.
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Turn the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or coat the tortillas with a little olive oil and put on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, checking frequently and turning once, halfway through.
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Remove and sprinkle with salt.

Taste the stew and add more salt and pepper. Add the bok choy and bring up to temperature to finish.

Yep, that's an interesting color.

Yep, that’s an interesting color.


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Top with some shredded cheese and a few tortilla chips.
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Leek and Squash Soup

I’m still here! It’s been a busy time. Shall I fill you in? For starters, after two years in a job that didn’t inspire me, I made the switch. The old job happened to come with a short commute and hours that afforded me a generous amount of free time to cook and clean and socialize. Now, I’m commuting from the suburbs to the city, a hub of activity and excitement. It requires a bit more time and energy, but I was ready for it. While I’m still young, I’m going to go where things are happening!

September is a special month, filled with birthdays and wedding anniversaries (such as my own, for both), including a new anniversary established by one of my sisters, who married at a lovely ceremony on September 6. September also has the unique feature of containing two of the most pleasant seasons, summer and fall.

Along with all the events and occasions and changes, it’s harvest time. Tomatoes and zucchini and peppers continue to stream in from the farm share, plus new crops of potatoes and squash. It’s a good time to stay home and cook!

Yet Matt and I also took an overdue trip to visit some of my family in Vermont. We enjoyed a lovely September weekend that included exploring a number of farms in the region by bicycle. (Almost 30 miles of biking…I was almost too exhausted to fully appreciate the agricultural wonders!) During the visit, I made a casual comment about how much I like leeks. I noted that because my farm share so rarely includes them in the weekly offering, and I never buy them because I have plenty of vegetables, I don’t enjoy them at home as much as I think I would. My sister proceeded to pull a bunch out of her garden and send them home with us. So exciting! First I grilled a couple along with zucchini and added walnuts and a lemon dressing with parsley as per this recipe. I knew I wanted to use a bunch of them in a soup. Then the acorn squashes on the counter called my name.
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As usual, I sought out a recipe for validation. Like many soups, however, this is one that you could totally wing. I realized well after the fact that it was especially appropriate to make a squash soup at the end of September around my anniversary, because we served little cups of butternut squash soup for one of the courses at our wedding four(!) years ago!
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Acorn Squash and Leek Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine

3 1/2 pounds acorn squash (about two small) or similar, halved
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large leeks
, white and tender green parts, roughly chopped
5 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried
4 Cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
1 teaspoons salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional toppings:
About 5 Tablespoons sour cream
About 2 Tablespoons chives
, chopped
2-4 slices of bacon (to taste), cooked and crumbled

Set the oven to 350°. Prepare the squash by slicing in half.
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The recipe I followed said to scrape out seeds AFTER the halves are cooked, but I would recommend scraping them out at this point. Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet.
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Roast until tender, checking at 30 minutes. Allow to cool so that you can handle the squash.

In the meantime, prep your leeks by washing thoroughly in a few changes of water. I took my green parts and tossed them in my freezer bag of vegetable scraps; I recently read that they contribute nicely to well-flavored vegetable stock.
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Chop up the white and light green parts.
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Set your large heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven over low heat. Add the butter and melt. Toss in the leeks and thyme and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 40 minutes.

Before...

Before…


After!

After!


Discard the thyme sprigs.

When your squash is ready to handle, separate the flesh from the skin. If you waited until this point to scoop out and discard the seeds, do this now, taking care not to toss out too much of the delicious roasted flesh.
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Then scrape the squash from the skin. Get all the good stuff!
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Stir the stock and squash into the leek butter mixture.

Simmer for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth.
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Season with the salt and pepper.

Spoon the soup into bowls and top each with 1 Tablespoon sour cream, a sprinkling of the bacon, and 1 teaspoon fresh chives if you have them, for garnish. Serve with toast to round out the dish.
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Italian-American Wedding Soup

This recipe is brought to you by the letter E…for escarole. Escarole, that vegetable that makes me groan, because it tastes so bitter raw. Which means I have to make an E for effort to cook it, and when I do, I always feel the need to do something complicated instead of simply sautéing it. Yes, I know this is MY problem.

I was surprised to discover that escarole is a fairly normal ingredient to add to Italian Wedding Soup. The Italian-Style Wedding Soup flavor of Campbell’s used to be one of my favorites as a kid. Yet I’m not sure I have had soup by the same name since then, and I had never made it at home. Of course, it is just a name, and there’s a good chance I have had a chicken-broth-based-vegetable-soup-with-meat-and-sometimes-pasta. Did you know that “wedding soup” was a mistranslation, and the original Italian phrase actually meant “married soup,” because of how well meats and green vegetables marry together? Now you know.

I really enjoyed how this came out using the slow cooker. The meatballs were so tender. Each vegetable added something interesting to the overall flavor. And with the chicken broth base, it definitely came out tasting like comfort food.

Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

DSC_6095Because I only had 1 pound of ground beef instead of 1.5, I scaled most of the entire recipe down by 25%–including using 3/4 of my 2 beaten eggs. I’ll spare you that silly instruction on the ingredient list (I probably could have gotten by with just 1 egg).

Besides keeping close to recommended ratios for keeping meatballs together, the recipe is, of course, flexible. If you increase the greens, like I did, be sure to compensate with added broth.

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used panko run through the food processor, but it would have probably worked in its original form)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
(I used 1 pound, as mentioned earlier)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
(I used 6)
3 large carrots, chopped (I used 3/4 Cup)
2 pieces of celery, chopped (I used 1/2 Cup)
1/2 onion, chopped (I used 1/4 Cup)
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed (I used 1 tsp dried)
3/4 teaspoon dried basil (I used 1/2 tsp)
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (I used 1/2 tsp)
2 bay leaves (I used 2 small Long Island bay leaves collected during a foraging tour with Wildman Steve Brill)
1 small head escarole (8 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch strips (I used 6 ounces sliced escarole and 3.5 ounces of a mysterious green from my CSA I believe was mustard greens)
1 cup small pasta (I used whole wheat orzo because I had it – 3/4 Cup)
Fresh oregano sprigs (optional)

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Escarole

Escarole

Mustard greens?

Mustard greens?


In a large bowl, combine eggs, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
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Add ground beef; mix well.
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Shape mixture into about forty 1-1/4-inch meatballs.
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Now it is time to choose your method for browning the meatballs. One possibility is to use a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil, and brown meatballs, half at a time, draining on paper towels. I tried this for the first half, and turning the meatballs was a challenge. It was much easier to bake them in oven at 350, turning once, for 10-15 min total.

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine broth, carrots, dried herbs and spices, if using (oregano, basil, garlic powder etc.) the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently add meatballs.
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Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 hours, or on high-heat setting for 3 hours, stirring in fresh oregano (if using), pasta, and greens during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
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Ladle into bowls. Garnish if desired. Sit back and enjoy.
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Soup’s On

Something tragic happened earlier this month. My oven stopped working.

It was the day after my birthday, and I had plans to make pizza. I wanted to top it with barbecue chicken, because not long ago someone (who may or may not have been my husband) opened a second jar of barbecue sauce when we already had an open one in the fridge…but there’s no need to get into that.

The oven was failing to heat up on multiple settings, so as I grieved, I improvised by using the outdoor grill as an oven.

The oven failure comes at a time when we are starting to feel the chill outdoors. That means it is time to start baking, right? I read a lot of summer seasonal recipes in which people reference the fact that “you may not want to turn on your oven!” because of the heat. Honestly, I think I use the oven almost equally in summer and winter! I don’t think I’ve consciously decided not to use my oven because of the weather…perhaps I’m not discouraged because we have central air conditioning and cool tile floors. But how quickly I forget! Now I’m flashing back to the apartment I lived in right out of college, the top floor of a converted house, and how I survived one Long Island summer without air conditioning. I’m pretty sure I avoided the oven then.

Anyway, the point is, I don’t necessarily gravitate to the oven in fall. The thing I start thinking about when it comes to fall is SOUP.

Of course, soup is a great way to incorporate miscellaneous vegetables. So later that week, I found a recipe that utilized CSA peppers and eggplant, along with leeks. With the help of the immersion blender, Matt was persuaded to eat and ENJOY something with eggplant! Pretty much any roasting vegetable could be incorporated in a soup like this.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious
Makes 4 servings

1 eggplant (about 1 pound), halved
~12 ounces red bell peppers
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
, chopped
~1 Cup/1 leek, halved lengthwise, dunked in cool water to remove grime, and thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 1/4 Cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 Tablespoons fresh basil
, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Parmesan cheese shavings

As you can see, Matt pulled out his tools and made a fair attempt to diagnose and potentially repair the oven. Now a week and a half later, the repairman came, only to say he has to order a part and come NEXT week to see if that fixes it.

As you can see, Matt pulled out his tools and made a fair attempt to diagnose and potentially repair the oven. Now a week and a half later, the repairman came, only to say he has to order a part and come NEXT week to see if that fixes it.


This is where an oven WOULD have come in handy–the original recipe called for roasting the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 450°F. I once again turned to the grill, cranked up high to try to keep it over 400.

Pierce eggplants all over with fork. Transfer, cut side down, to baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
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In the last 15 minutes of the eggplant’s cooking time, char bell peppers over a flame or in a broiler until blackened on all sides.

The blacker they get, the easier they are to peel.  These were a challenge.

The blacker they get, the easier they are to peel. These were a challenge.


Carefully add to a ziplock bag, sealed, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Allow eggplant to cool slightly, then remove and discard peel. Chop eggplant into large pieces. Rinse pieces under running water. Drain well and set aside.
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Take out peppers, and peel, seed and coarsely chop.
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Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leek and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.

Stir in eggplant, peppers, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Stir in basil and thyme.
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Either cool slightly before using a blender to puree the soup in batches, or turn off heat and use an immersion blender to blend in the pot. Once blended, season with salt and pepper, and add butter and lemon juice (general side note: if you are making soup and upon tasting think it is missing something, try lemon juice). Warm over low heat if soup has cooled too much.

Transfer to bowls, and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.
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