Refreshing Gazpacho Soup: Ole Tomatoes!

Hot Hot summer days mean I need a cool soup recipe. One with minimal cooking: that is easy and tasty.  Plus I want to use some of my garden produce.  This classic Spanish soup called gazpacho is perfect for all of that and my family loves it. It absolutely must be made with ripe summer tomatoes, never ever attempt it with any less than the best vine ripened fruit.  You can get great tomatoes at farm stands, farmer’s markets and even the grocery store; look for the grown local label for the best flavored tomatoes. Please do not use greenhouse tomatoes grown far away and shipped while not really ripe. Your soup will not be full of tomato flavor and it will taste disappointing.  These ripe locally grown tomatoes are vital to the flavor of gazpacho.

I make my gazpacho in the blender but I believe a food processor works okay too.  No heat,  minimal fuss.

My version allows you to add chopped raw veggies in the amount you prefer just before you slurp it down. I prefer its fresh pure flavors to those soulless restaurant versions that are gelatinous and crammed full of a wide assortment of chunked veggies…uggh.

I once had a version of gazpacho similar to mine in a Philadelphia restaurant made with golden yellow tomatoes which was beautiful looking and quite tasty too.

Warning: you do need to peel the tomatoes but that goes pretty fast.  I heat about a wide sauce pan filled 3 inches deep with water to a boil and pop the ripe tomatoes in for 2 to 3 minutes. I put in 4 at a time; done in a couple batches.  Let them cool a bit and then peel off the skin and cut out the blossom end (top) and they are ready to use.

One more important instruction: gazpacho HAS to chill really good; make it early in the morning to serve as a late lunch or better yet; for supper. The colder the better, I actually put my soup bowls in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes and yank them out just before filling and serving this cold summer delight.

It is a flexible recipe; depends on the size of your tomatoes. This should make close to 60 ounces or just shy of 2 quarts; cut in half if you don’t want too much. But you will wish you had made more…I promise!  It will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

gazpacho and pork steak 004

tomato juice for thinning the soup

gazpacho and pork steak 003

skinned tomatoes ready for soup making

gazpacho and pork steak 006

I am about to press the puree button!

gazpacho and pork steak 007

Still in blender, just pureed soup.

Summer Chill Gazpacho

Soup ingredients:

8 to 10 ripe fat tomatoes (large ones)

About ¼ cup EVOL; best you can afford

2 slices white bread (GF if you have celiac)

1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 to 1 ½ tsp. sea salt

Toppings:

2 large tomatoes diced, heirloom if possible

1 cup diced burpless cucumber

2 scallions, sliced thin, green and white parts

Directions: peel the tomatoes as described above.  When I peel them I do it over a bowl to capture the juices and seeds. I save them, strain off the seeds and I add back the juice as needed to thin the finished soup.    Put 4-5 tomatoes in the blender; add a slice of bread broken up, 2 tbsp. olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and one garlic clove.  Put the lid on and blend well.  Note: do not fill the blender more then ¾ full. Taste; add salt; ½ to ¾ tsp.

Repeat entire process with the rest of the ingredients and thin with reserved tomato juice – it should be thick but not porridge thick.  Mix the two batches together in a big glass bowl; never metal because of the acidity of tomatoes and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Then chill it at least 3 to 4 hours.

Serve with bowls of toppings to sprinkle on top of the thick soup; diced ripe tomatoes, scallion slices and cucumber ( preferably burpless) cut in small dice.  If you want to guild the lily, top with croutons (gf ones if you have celiac), I don’t bother.

 

Note: gluten free bread often gives a slightly different texture to the soup; somewhat less smooth in the look of it and the taste.  It’s okay as it doesn’t affect the flavor: it still is delicious and a bowl of it is so very refreshing on a hot day.  Serve with a sandwich and you have a perfect summer lunch.

I used some chunks of gf sourdough as my croutons in this bowl. Used zucchini not cucumber in topping.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Eggplant and Raw Veggie Caponata

This heat…I hate to run the oven.  But sometimes it is just worth it. This only bakes 30 minutes tops in a hot (450*) oven. I used boneless thighs. So I did  them a few minutes less than 30. No long marinading although I did put the cubed eggplant in salted water for a couple hours.  I had 3 Japanese eggplants from my garden and ripe  homegrown tomatoes galore. Chicken bought from Aldi’s. I found this recipe on Pinterest. I am so glad I tried it. The freshness of the raw and pickled vegetables in the caponata are what makes it so good. The chicken roasts on the sheet pan surrounded by the eggplant cubes tossed with olive oil.  While it roasts make the raw component. I am not really sure I will make this in the winter as summer tomatoes are just so superior in raw preparations like this delicious dish.

Here below is a link to the recipe. I will give the ingredients below. so you know what is needed to make it.  I promise you will love it.  I used some awesome paprika my goddaughter bought me in Germany.  Superior flavor. I used less red pepper flakes as I like most foods not too spicy.  I served mine with some small roasted potatoes I grew myself. So tasty.

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/sheet_pan_chicken_with_roasted_eggplant_caponata/

tomato caponata salad

This is my slightly different version:

Sheet Pan Chicken with Eggplant and Raw Caponata

Ingredients: 

Chicken: 4 boneless chicken thighs

Rub: 1 tsp. sea salt

1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil.

Eggplants:

2 lbs of cubed eggplant, 1 Tbsp olive oil

Caponata:

2 cups chunky fresh tomatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes or sliced cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced green olives

2 stalks celery sliced thin; hearts are best

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley chopped fine

2 Tbsp tiny capers

2 garlic cloves minced

Dressing: 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar; 2 Tbsp. EVOL and  1/2 tsp honey

I loved the fennel seeds in the roasted chicken and the raw salad. Enjoy!

roasted chicken and raw caponata

 

 

 

 

Ratatouille Is Summer on A Plate!

Summer time is the best time to cook with garden produce; makes the most sense, that’s when they are at their peak of quality and variety. I love to make this dish every year in the late summer particularly when I have most of the vegetables growing in my garden.  Ratatouille is a French dish made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lots of olive oil and basil. To me it tastes more Italian with all those veggies and the olive oil and basil. It’s a great side dish with grilled meats or fish and I love it inside an omelet or alongside a slice of quiche.  And yes, I know there was a kids movie out in 2007 by the same name.  Disney even came out with their own recipe for ratatouille!

Lots of veggie chopping for this delicious dish and then you should stir it carefully as the mixture cooks in a big pan. I like to make it in a wok or paella dish. I have a Teflon paella dish that I use these days; holds a lot and things don’t stick to it.

Tips: The amounts are somewhat fluid; I don’t really measure the veggies; just use an approximate amount. Be sure to cook the eggplant until it is mostly done before proceeding to the next step or your dish will be less than stellar.  You can use red, orange, yellow or green bell peppers and yellow summer squash works just as good as zucchini. I used a huge pale green bell pepper in my photographed version. Just makes sure all your vegetables are fresh and best quality.

 

 

 

 

Ratatouille  by Angela, makes about six servings

Ingredients:

2 medium onions

4 tbsp. olive oil divided

1 large eggplant – cut into rounds and then across into ½ in slices (don’t peel)

1 med zucchini  – cut into 1/3 inch rounds and halved

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 large red or green bell pepper- cut into long slices, can half them

1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. brown sugar, optional

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. sea salt (to taste)

Directions:

Put 3 tbsp. of the oil in a large frying pan; 16 inch or wok works well. Add the eggplant slices and toss the slices around to evenly soak up the oil.  Fry turning occasionally; try to get them at least half done and then add the zucchini half moons.  Keep frying until both are just about done.  Turn out into a big bowl.  Add the rest of the olive oil and when it is hot; add the onion bits. Cook about 5-6 min until softening.  Add garlic and cook a minute.  Add the sliced pepper and cook 5-6 minutes until softening.  Add the diced tomato.  Stir well.  Cook about 5-6 minutes and add the tomato paste and sugar, stir well, add back the zuke/eggplants and  until mixture looks mostly done; maybe 10 min.  Add the basil and salt and cook another couple of minutes. spicy tomato jam 006  Great cold the next day; aging in the fridge melds the flavors together.

Originally posted in  September 2016, minor changes in text.

Aldi’s New Fresh Pasta: Perfection!

Recently I bought some of the new Aldi’s products including fresh fettuccine. I paired it with a cremini mushroom and tomato sauce and it was just perfection. The taste and texture of the pasta was spot on and I can’t wait to use the package of linguine I also purchased. The price was about $3.45 for 8 ounces. Not a bad price for fresh pasta. It has a use by date several weeks away so I am sure I will be able to enjoy it almost as fresh as if I made it myself. Don’t have time for that right now so I am super pleased with this great addition to the Aldi gluten free line. It is everything you could want in a gf fresh pasta.

This is a riff on a mushroom sauce I often make; just more simple.

mushroom linguini

Angie’s Mushroom Red Sauce with Fettuccini (3-4 servings)

 

1 8 oz package of cremini mushrooms

2-3 Tbsp. EVOL

1 medium onion diced (optional)

1 large garlic clove

1 14.5 oz can petite cut tomatoes

2-3 Tbsp heavy cream or half and half

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz fresh fettuccine

1 Tbsp fresh parsley or basil

 

Directions: Slice the mushrooms which you have cleaned; I washed mine briefly to get all the dirt and dust off. My slices were thick and meaty. Heat the EVOL in a wide saucepan. I used my mini wok. When it is fairly hot add the onion and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes until both are soft and mushrooms look fairly cooked. Add the garlic clove, minced. Stir. Add the can of tomatoes, stir well. Turn down heat and cook 10 minutes. Add cream, stir. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and then add the pasta which you have cooked according to the directions (Do not overcook pasta; always best to subtract one minute from directions to allow for a minute in sauce.) Stir well and cook one minute; top with grated cheese. Enjoy!

Eggplant and Potato Curry

Lots of September eggplants mean I am looking for great recipes to enjoy them to the fullest. This happens to be one of my favorite ways to do just that.  It is a vegetable curry, now don’t be put off by that; no long list of spices: only a couple and some fresh ginger in it and it isn’t too spicy or wild tasting. I have simplified it a bit and as a bonus I give you my best eggplant frying tip. Yeap, it is vegetarian but that can be a nice change of pace from all that meat. I serve it over brown rice and it is very satisfying. You can feel virtuous enjoying this savory entree and use all that fresh fall produce.

This recipe came from my favorite Indian cookbook Indian Cooking for Pleasure by Charmaine Solomon.  This 70’s bible for Indian cookery is out of print and very pricey to buy on line. I have used literally dozens of recipes from it. She knows her spices and chooses great recipes that always work.

You can use big fat eggplants as I did this time or smaller ones; you will just need more of them. These days there are many interesting smaller eggplant varieties; any will work here; just cube, no need to peel.

Eggplant and Potato Curry

1 medium eggplant

2 large potatoes

2 decent sized tomatoes or most of a can of chopped tomatoes

1 large onion diced

1 small red pepper and 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced.

1 bunch spinach or a big handful of roughly chopped kale

3-4 Tbsp. mild olive oil

1 ½ tsp. grated ginger, I freeze mine and just grate it frozen

½ tsp. cumin seeds, crushed in a pestle

½ tsp. ground turmeric; I did a rounded measurement; a tad more than level

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. brown sugar

Directions: Slice eggplants into ½ inch rounds and cut into cubes. Peel and dice the potatoes into a bit less than ½ inch rounds. Chop the tomatoes. Chop the onion. Seed and chop the peppers (you can use any level of spicy pepper you like; the original recipe said green chilies). Wash and chop the spinach or kale (I used kale this time; subs in great)

Heat 3 Tbsp. mild oil in a large frying pan. Fry the cubed potatoes until golden; you will need to turn them a few times. Remove from pan. Add the eggplant and fry until cooked; once the oil is soaked in I wait a half minute and add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan; let the water steam off and the eggplant should be done; if you have to do that again; go ahead. This trick saves adding a lot more oil to keep the eggplant from sticking/burning. When mostly done remove from pan.  It will cook more later so it is okay if edges and bits are not fully done.

Note: you could fry the eggplant at the same time in a separate pan to save a few minutes if you are in a hurry; might take a touch more oil that way; worked for me.

Then, add a touch more oil to the same (now empty) pan and pour in the chopped onion and fry until soft and turning golden. Add the cumin, turmeric and grated ginger. Fry for a minute, stirring. Add the chilies, tomatoes and salt, stir well and add back the eggplant and potatoes. Tip: when I make this in a wide 12 inch frying pan I don’t have a big enough lid; I use an upside down metal pizza pan and it makes a great lid.

Top with the spinach or kale. Stir after a minute, cover and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the spinach is soft, adding up to ½ cup water to keep it from sticking/burning. Add the brown sugar and cook the curry uncovered until it is thick; no more than 8-9 minutes. Serve with Indian bread or brown rice. As I haven’t really found time re-create my favorite Indian breads I served mine over brown rice.  eggplant curry on plante