Gazpacho

Summertime is sun…..

Unless you were on the West Coast this year!

And summertime is Tomatoes.  Nice big, red, juicy tomatoes.  And what to do with them?  Why Gazpacho of course.

Gazpacho comes from the Andalucia region of Spain.  And it is a typical summer soup in most homes.  As such, you can imagine that there are numerous variations.  Some have bread, as a thickener, some don’t.  They almost all have the basics that are tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.  But there is even a white Gazpacho that is made with bread and almonds.

I prefer the traditional red gazpacho.

Gazpacho

5 large ripe tomatoes, or 10 ripe plum tomatoes

1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (reserve the other half for the garnish)

1/2 green bell pepper (save the other half for the garnish)

1 clove of garlic

2 tablespoons of lemon juice or light vinegar, your preference

a drizzle of really good olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Check for seasoning.  Pour through a strainer to catch the tomato skins and seeds.  Serve very cold with a garnish of the peppers and cucumbers diced very small.

It is a really easy way to celebrate the bounty of a summer garden.

Sadly, I lost the picture I took of the final product….alas, I will just have to make it again.

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Baked Crepes

Crepes can be extremely versatile.  they can be deserts or they can be main courses.  You can buy the crepes pre-made but they are so easy to make from scratch.

Mix 1 Cup of flour with 2 eggs beaten. Add a pinch of salt.  Then gradually add 1 Cup of milk.  The consistency must be that of a think pancake batter.  Add more milk if it is too thick.  Let the batter sit for about 1 hour.  Check the consistency again before you make the crepes.  In a non stick pan, add a slice of butter and melt over medium heat.  Add a ladle full of batter and swirl the pan around to coat the bottom.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the crepe is loose from the pan.  Turn over and cook the other side for another 2 minutes.  Place on a plate.  Place parchment paper between crepes so that they don’t stick.

Once cooled, you can fill them with cheese, ham, spinach or what ever you would like.  Roll them up and place them in a oven proof dish.

Cover with the Bechamel sauce and sprinkle some cheese on top.  Place in a 300 degree oven until the top is browned.  Serve hot.

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Italian Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I really don’t like regular Mac ‘n’ Cheese.  I guess the whole Velveeta just throws me.  Plastic is for buying food, not making food.

I do like baked pasta, and after all that’s what it really is.  So why can’t it be made with good cheese, like Parmesano reggiano  and Gorgonzola.  Top it with some crispy prosciutto and now we’re talking!

These baked pastas are really easy.  All you have to do is boil the pasta type you want until it is “al dente”.  In the meantime make a Bechamel sauce.  Add some Parmesano and Gorgonzola.  Combine the pasta and the sauce.  Place in an oven proof dish, sprinkle cheese on top, put in the oven at about 350 and bake until the cheese is melted and slightly brown.  Crumple crisp prosciutto on top just before serving.    Now that’s real food.

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Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup

Nothing can be easier and more satisfying than a supper of soup and sandwiches.  And if the soup is made from scratch…even better.tomato soup

Peel and seed 6 tomatoes and then chop.  Chop one onion  and 2 garlic cloves.  Saute in a bit of oil and then place in a blender.  Blend until the consistency of a nice creamy soup.  Add enough milk to achieve this.  Taste for salt and pepper, sprinkle a few parsley leaves over the top and serve with toasty grilled cheese sandwiches.

butter

I like to make my sandwich with thin slices of good cheese.  I don’t think the bread needs any mayonaise , but others may disagree.  I then fry it in butter.grilled cheese sandwich

The key is to do it with low heat and lots of patience.  My children can attest to how hard this can be, since they have had to endure many a burnt sandwich.Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup

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Clyde’s

There is a nice restaurant that is in Washington DC.  I really like it because they have a great Lobster special.  I went looking for my Lobster fix recently, but alas….. there was none.   Oh, well.  Next time.

Clyde's

So I did the honorable thing….I ordered Crab cakes.  They were very good.  Lots of good lump crab and no filler.  They were served with a nice sauce.  Not lobster, but still good.

Crab cakes

Another great dish that we had there was the  Butternut Squash Ravioli.    It was a great fall dish, delicious and colorful.

Butternut squash

This was a great meal with wonderful company, but next time….I want my lobster!

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Garlic Shrimp- Camarones al ajillo

Shrimp

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 pound raw, peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 4 small dried chile de arbol or your favorite dry chile
  • 1/2 cup Sherry
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil.  Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes.  Do not let it brown or the garlic will become bitter.   Add the shrimp and the chili pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes then turn the shrimp over and cook another 2 minutes.  Pour in the Sherry and cook for a few more minutes.  Be careful not to over cook the shrimp.  Add the parsley and serve.  Make sure you have some good bread to soak up the yummy sauce.

 

Meat balls with 5 spice

It is always fun to entertain with just small plates or tapas.  It does not need to be Spanish in theme.  It can be an “eclectic” mixture of dishes.

meat ball

  • 1 pound of ground beef, chicken or lamb
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 5 green scallions chopped
  • 2 tablespoons 5 spice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Form into small balls about the size of walnuts.  Saute in a drizzle of oil until brown.  Place in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Serve with tomato sauce.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Mix together and place in a bowl.

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Blanched tomatoes

  • 15 ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/3 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
  • 3 ounces lump crab meat (check for shells)
  • salt and pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Set up a bowl of ice water.  Cut a small X in the bottom of the tomatoes.  Blanch the tomatoes in the water for 10 seconds and then place in the ice water.  When they cool, slice off the tops remove the skin and hallow out the seeds.  Set aside.

hallowed out tomatoes

In a bowl combine the mustard, parsley, mayonnaise, olive oil, and  vinegar.  Fold in the crabmeat. Salt and pepper. Stuff the tomatoes with the crab mixture and serve.

stuffed tomato

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The best thing about Risotto is what you can do with the leftovers.  I’m not sure what I like better, the risotto or the arancini.  This is also known as Suppli al Telefono for the long strings of cheese the are evident when you cut them.

raw aranciniLeft over risotto (see previous post)                                                                                                                                               Mozzarella  cheese, cut into 1/2 inch dice                                                                                                                                            flour, beaten egg and dried bread crumbs for dredging

Form the risotto into walnut size balls.  Using your finger, make a hole in the ball and place the mozzarella.  Shape the ball around the cheese.  Dredge the balls first in the flour, then the egg and finally the bread crumbs.  Fry them in hot oil until browned.  If you don’t want the oil, you can bake them in the oven but they sure taste better fried.  Serve while still hot and the cheese is still melted.

cooked aranciniarancini and salad

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Borscht

Borscht is a staple of Eastern and Central Europe.  It can be served hot or cold, with meat or vegetarian.  Some can be smooth and some chunky.  In general beets are the foundation component in this soup, but not always.  Poland even has a white version that is served for Easter.  But the one standard is that it is a bit acidic.  The vinegar does give it a nice bite. Maybe I should make the different variations and post them.
But for now, I made the basic recipe that my mother made for us.  My husband says that I am missing the vodka, which may very well be true, but then again, we were children.
Beets Basic Borscht
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions chopped
4 leeks, only the white part chopped
1 celery rib, diced
1 medium turnip or potato
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound fresh trimmed or 3 1/4 pound drained canned beets diced
5 cups beef or vegetable broth
6 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
salt and pepper
sour cream or yogurt

Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the vegetables.  Cook until they are soft.  If you are using canned beets add them after the other vegetables are soft.  Add the broth, the vinegar and check seasoning.  Serve either hot or cold with sour cream or yogurt.

Borscht

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