Andalusian Gazpacho

I made several trips to Spain the year I was an au pair in Germany. I had a good friend from college au pairing in Madrid and a couple of other friends teaching English in southern Spain, oh and there was a hen weekend to Barcelona in there too! One of the trips I did started in Malaga, and wound up through Andalusia stopping in Granada, and smaller towns like Cabra and Antequera, making my way up to Madrid.

Among the many memorable things from the trip is a meal that my friend (who I was visiting) and I had in Antequera, a meal prepared for us by and in the home of the director of the school my friend worked for, a meal I’ll never forget. She so easily whipped up a shockingly simple and delicious lunch including an amazing gazpacho simply of tomato and bread, and she delivered some of the best fried artichokes I’ve had. I have remembered it all this time and it’s funny to go back to my blog from that year and see how the soup they made is exactly what I saw in this month’s Spain issue of Food & Wine magazine.

From Adventures in Deutschland: “they made us this amazing Andalusian soup thing for lunch. It is raw tomatoes blended with some garlic, pepper, olive oil, vinegar and bread. It is eaten kind of like soup, and you dip a lot of bread in it as well…”

From Food & Wine: “Salmorejo is a classic soup made primarily with tomatoes and bread. It’s best with a splash of sherry vinegar, but Andalusian tomatoes pack a good hit of acidity, so they often omit it in Spain.”

Yum Yum.

Obviously after all the Spanish inspiration in the September issue, I now want to have a Spanish dinner party, but for now I’ve started with this soup as a way of using my pounds of tomatoes that just keep coming. It’s refreshing and spicy with the raw garlic, and so so smooth, this ‘soup’ is hard not to love. I topped it with a corn & poblano salad/salsa and a poached egg, which was delicious. I loved the contrast that the texture of the raw veggies provided against the creaminess of the soup. I made it in the morning and let chill to have the whole thing for lunch. It took me right back to Spain and got me so excited about traveling, trying new foods and the endless tomato possibilities that await.

 

Salmorejo (Andalusian Gazpacho), serves two (originally from Food & Wine) Continue reading

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Spring Crostini with Burrata, Snap Peas and Asparagus

Oh Spring! It’s when the farmers’ markets start to get exciting: berries, peas, asparagus, artichokes… the bounty is plentiful and I so enjoyed going this past weekend. I was reminded of what a nice way it is to start my Sundays and how much fun it is to be inspired by seasonal offerings when creating a meal. I had signed up to bring an appetizer to dinner club, and was originally going to make stuffed mushrooms, but when I saw what was at the farmers’ market I knew right away that I would be changing my dish.

A while back I had a similar appetizer to this at The Tipsy Pig and was inspired to try it on my own. I’m pretty sure there was mint and some salad mixed in, which would be a nice twist to this dish as well, and I was further reminded this was a good combination of flavors, when Bon Appetit featured a recipe for Snap Pea Salad with Burrata from April Bloomfield in the May issue. I was pretty sure that I couldn’t go wrong making these Spring crostini with out using a specific recipe.

They were a HUGE success. Everyone at dinner club loved them (because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love something with burrata on it?!) and I loved them too. If you don’t know already, burrata is mozzarella with a cream and cheese mixture inside the ball. In this dish it is the perfect creamy texture and rich flavor against the crispness of the toasts and fresh veggies. Next time I would use a little more balsamic reduction and maybe rub a little raw garlic on the toasts when they come out of the oven, but for the most part, the simplicity and freshness of this dish is what makes it amazing.

crostini

Spring Crostini:

  • 2 smallish handfulls snap peas
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • 4-6 scallions, thinly sliced or mandolined, white and light green parts
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano (or mint, if that’s your thing)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 slices baguette, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 ball of burrata

Snap off the end of the peas, and slice diagonally into 3-4 slices. Cut through the outer shell and peas all in one. Snap of fibrous ends of the asparagus and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute unit bright green and barley tender. Slice into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal.

Mix peas, asparagus, thinly sliced scallions and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer balsamic vinegar in a shallow pot or pan, until it starts to thicken slightly. I just used a couple of tablespoons because it was all I had, and it only took a couple of minutes. I don’t imagine it would take that long for 1/4 cup, but keep an eye on it!

Place baguette slices on a baking sheet. Bake or broil until lightly toasted, approx 3-4 min on each side. The dinner club oven was set at 400 and I did 4 minutes on each side, so really you can just pop in with whatever you are already cooking for dinner- if you have garlic, you could cut a clove in half and rub the cut end on the warm toasts when they come out of the oven. This is common practice with most bruschettas and would have been a great added flavor here.

Cut the burrata into 12 wedges. Place one wedge on each crostini. I left the creamy side up so I could press the peas/asparagus on and they would stay. Top with pea/asparagus mixture. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, to taste. Season with more salt if needed.

Roasted Carrot Soup

Pureed soups continue to be one of my favorite things to make at winter time. They are so easy, always loaded with flavor and obviously soup is comforting when it’s rainy and blustery outside. This carrot soup is no exception.

This past week, I found some time to cook on a week night (shocking, I know!) and absolutely loved the way it turned out. You have a creamy slightly sweet hot soup, countered with the tart bite of cold yogurt and the crunch and smokiness of the dukkah spice mixture. You simply roast carrots in the oven, then blend with broth, heat through and you’re done. I have made butternut squash soup many a time before and while I love that, I did love how this was sweet without being overly so, and that you can mix as much or as little of the yogurt and spice into each bite.

It’s just the right way to warm and spice up a cold night.

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Roasted Carrot Soup, adapted from Bon Appétit here

  • 1/2 cup unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt plus more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 larger carrots)
  • 1/2 white onion, largely chopped
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • Low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 425. Place the carrots and onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with melted butter, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast until the carrots are tender and just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Let the carrots cool slightly.

While carrots are roasting, toast pistachios in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, until golden brown about 6 min. Remove from pan, return to heat. Toast sesame seeds, coriander and cumin 1-2 min until fragrant. Transfer to bowl with pistachios,  add 1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper. When cool, transfer to mortar and pestle and corsely grind.

Transfer carrots and onions to a blender with broth and blend until very smooth. You may need to do it in 2 batches. When smooth transfer to a medium saucepan and heat through.

Serve soup with a dollop of yogurt in the middle and sprinkle with the dukkah spice mix.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I’ve wanted to try making stuffed squash blossoms for a while now. I picked some up at the farmers market last year, but didn’t quite get around to fixing them up, not to mention I was slightly intimidated by the thought of deep-frying them. I saw them again this year and thought I’d give it a go. We have a ‘doughnuts’ chapter coming up for The Breakfast Book project so I figured I’d better try my hand at frying before that next chapter.

And you know what? It really wasn’t that bad! I bought a thermometer, kept the oil at temperature, and it all worked out. The greatest part is that my stuffed blossoms were AMAZING. I loved the crispness from the tempura-like batter and the ricotta center was a delightful, creamy contrast to the exterior. The blossoms are really just a vessel with minimal taste to themselves, so it’s important to have the right in (and out) sides.

I consulted a couple different recipes, and one had parmesan in addition to ricotta and another added lemon zest, I think both would be great additions. I’d also love to try them again with a melty-er, stringy-er cheese – I’ve had a couple different varieties in restaurants and they are all good. While you have to be a little delicate with the flowers as you’re filling them, these are definitely worth the little bit of effort – oh, and the tomato sauce is SO amazing. The slightest kick from red pepper flakes, and pure tomato goodness, it’s the perfect summer combination.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Tomato Dipping Sauce

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in pan, add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds until garlic is light brown. Add rest of ingredients, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Simmer uncovered for 25-30 min until thick, stir occasionally.

Squash Blossoms:

  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp cup finely chopped mint
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
  • About 3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Stir together ricotta, yolk, mint, 1/3 cup parmesan, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Carefully open each blossom, remove stamens, and fill with ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling. (You may have filling left over.)

Whisk together flour, remaining 1/3 cup parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and seltzer in a small bowl.

Heat 1/2 inch oil to 350°F in a 10-inch heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, dip the blossoms in batter to thinly coat. Fry coated blossoms, turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes total. To maintain the temperature, you may need to do a few batches, so you don’t crowd the pan. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. Season with salt. Serve with tomato sauce.

Original Recipe here

Bastille Day: Moules à la Marinière

Happy Bastille Day! I know it seems a bit odd of a holiday to be celebrating, but this day will always hold a special place in my heart because it is my parents’ wedding anniversary. 33 years (that’s right, 33 years!) ago today, my parents tied the knot, which was just the beginning of a long-lasting, loving relationship and inspiration.

Billie Jean and Russell back in the day

My mom is a high school librarian and my dad is retired, so they have the pleasure of taking an immense summer vacation every year. The typically road trip. Through Spain, through the south east US, and this year, through eastern Canada. With stops in Montreal, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. PEI is very well known for their mussels and I was a bit disappointed when my dad said he didn’t have any there. While I’m not the hugest shellfish fan, I have developed a love for these little suckers over the years.

So with Bastille Day, my parents’ trip to PEI, and my upcoming trip to France later this summer as the inspiration for my weekend feast with my sister, I turned to Julia Child and the book I shamefully have never cooked from. I wanted something simple, light and easy for our mid-day meal, so when my eyes fell on Moules à la Marinière (mussels steamed in wine and herbs) I knew I’d found it. A one pot meal oh so appropriate for the holiday, the anniversary and my vacation day dreams.

This recipe was amazingly easy and super delicious. I couldn’t believe that when I opened the pot after just five minutes I had actually created mussels, that they actually opened, and that they actually tasted like they would in a restaurant. The flavorings are simple and let the shellfish shine through, and the serving liquid (a combination of white wine and mussel juices) was divine. I highly recommend giving this a try because I know you will be just as pleasantly surprised as I was at the results.

Moules à la Marinière* (serves 2)

  • 1.5-2 lbs fresh mussels**
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in a large pot, add the shallots and garlic, cook for a few minutes to soften. Add herbs and pepper cook for 30 seconds or so to release flavors. Add wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol and reduce volume slightly.

Add mussels and cover tightly. Boil over high heat for about 5 minutes until shells are open and mussels are done. During the five minute cooking time, frequently (every minute or so) grasp the pot, thumbs clamped to hold on lid and give a quick toss to mussels, up and down motion, so they change levels and cook evenly.

When done, ladle mussels into shallow soup bowls, and ladle liquid over. You can let the liquid settle for a minute, if you are worried about sand (the sand will settle on the bottom while resting). Enjoy!

** Scrub mussel thoroughly and remove and ‘beards’ between the shell halves. Soak them in water for 1-2 hours  so they will disgorge sand and lose a bit of the saltiness. FYI floaters are ok – about half of my mussels floated in the soaking water, while the others sank. They were all tightly closed still, but opened up while cooking. Discard and open non-cooked mussels, or any non-opened cooked mussel, as these are bad.

* recipe slightly adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Sweet Potato Bread

So often I feel like I am bad about letting things go to waste. On occasion there are things in my CSA box that I just don’t manage to squeeze in, or I make too much for one person and have to toss things that aren’t consumed in time (or more likely, I chuck out the rest of what I’ve made that not good for me, because were it to remain in my house I would eat copious amounts of it and either a) get sick b) fat – yes, I’m still working on self control). This past weekend though, I decided to take full advantage of having leftovers and made a sweet potato bread with mashed sweet potatoes I had previously taken to dinner club.

Scallops were on the dinner club menu, so I made a bed of sweet potatoes for then. I added butter, cream, and just touches of brown sugar, lemon and chili, and while the overall result was rich it was also relatively mild – making them the perfect addition to some sort of other dish. I wanted to go a totally different direction with then, so I found a pumpkin bread recipe and subbed the canned pureed pumpkin ingredient with my potatoes. It worked out delightfully and ended up being the perfect breakfast on a cold rainy morning.

The bread was light and not as dense as a pound cake, super moist and had subtle notes of ginger, which I really enjoyed. There was a great crust from the massive amount of sugar in the recipe and yet the bread itself was not overly sweet. I doled out slices to friends (in an effort to not waste, yet again) and the feedback was that it didn’t even make it 24 hours before being gobbled up.

I hope you’ll take some inspiration the next time you have some leftovers and try to think outside the box (or pan) about what else they may be able to do for you. You’d be surprised at just how versatile your dishes can be!

BEFORE

AFTER

Sweet Potato Bread*

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (or left over mashed sweet potatoes)
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray (I also lined mine with parchment, spraying the pan and the paper).

Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger in a small bowl.

Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute – scrape down the bowl a couple times.

Add the pumpkin puree, mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

*Recipe very slightly adapted from Bobby Flay recipe here

Game Day: Elevated Pigs in a Blanket

Um, these are kind of amazing, no no, like really amazing. As much as I love gourmet food and making things from scratch, there are some oldies but goodie that are pretty fantastic as is – add a couple of extra ingredients and they just might blow you away. I’ve been in love with lil’ smokies in a blanket since I made them for a 70’s party several years ago (I went with a snack from the era) and since then I’ve made them for many a house party because they are so easy and such a crowd pleaser. The thing that makes these great for hosting is that you can tuck in the piggies ahead of time, keep them on baking sheet in the fridge and pull out when you are ready to bake. I also love how this particular recipe doesn’t need a dipping sauce, so they are clean and easy for game day viewing.

What makes these elevated is the home-made spicy mustard, apple and sharp cheddar. The apple, cheese, meat combo is a classic that I’ve applied here and here. I am a huge fan of how the lil’ smokies and crescent roll are slightly sweet and are balanced by the crisp apple and the sharpness of the cheddar and mustard. Also, if you are wondering why I went crescent roll over puff pastry for my special smokies – I just think they taste better. I like the bread texture, and I think they maintain texture and flavor better than puff when cooled. When rolled all together these little piggies are hot, melted  and I know everyone will love them.

{cut each crescent roll in half and spread with spicy mustard}

{layer on thinly sliced apple and cheese – don’t slice too thin because they need to hold their own against the sausage and the roll}

{add the lil’ smokie – it looks high, but it’s so worth it}

{wrap ’em up tight, bake with the apple on the bottom}

{bake on parchment paper at 375 for 12-15 min until golden and melted}