Bonne Maman Jar Gazpacho

gazpacho
Not tomato juice, but chilled, drinkable soup

I’ve always been wary of gazpacho. Bad batches can end up tasting like salsa or tomato juice. Often, you have an urge to over spice it. Tomatoes, some mild veggies, a little bit of salt and vinegar – how could these ingredients be enough for a flavorful, satisfying soup? But if you start adding a little bit of heat or some extra garlic you begin to veer dangerously close to Bloody Mary sans vodka territory. No one wants a virgin Blood Mary.  Lots of Americanized recipes list bread chunks or croutons in their ingredients, in order to add a little bit of thickness and texture. Or worse, they leave the soup chunky. This is called salsa. And while it’s better than a virgin Blood Mary, you don’t want to sip on salsa.

Every time I make gazpacho I get nervous. Nervous that the nice farmer’s market tomatoes I paid a pretty penny for are going to go to waste. I could easily whip together bruschetta or a simple tomato salad instead. Perfectly ripe, local tomatoes are a summertime gem! And they should not be wasted. I was relieved to find that this gazpacho recipe by Julia Moskin, is not a waste. Trust in this recipe. So long as you buy quality ingredients and follow the directions you will end up with a soup that is creamy, refreshing, and full-flavored. Use some heirloom beauties to give your soup a lovely hue.

Ingredients:

  • Roughly 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 cubanelle pepper (or another long, light green pepper), cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small mild onion (red or white) peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil + extra for drizzling

Directions

  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion, and garlic in a blender. You can also use an immersion/hand blender and do this is a deep bowl. Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides as you blend.
  2. While blending, add the sherry vinegar and salt. Slowly drizzle in olive oil. The mixture should become emulsified, like a salad dressing. If the mixture still seems a little watery add more olive oil.
  3. Strain the mixture. You can do this through a food mill. We used a cheese cloth/colander combo, squeezing the mixture through a couple cheese clothes in batches. Throw out the solids. Transfer the mixture to a bowl or pitcher and refrigerate. It will taste best if you keep it in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours. Refrigerating in a metal container will cut the fridge time.
  4. When ready to enjoy, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary (more salt and/or vinegar). Serve in glasses. Drizzle quality olive oil for an extra nice touch and a little additional flavor.

Details: Makes 8-12 servings.

Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad

farro salad
A salad to celebrate spring

Charlie Bird is one of those New York restaurants. It’s been around for over ten years!! That’s a feat in New York. And it still manages to have a newfangled feel. Lots of fresh ingredients, incredibly inventive dishes. The food is delicious. But…Charlie Bird is one of those New York restaurants – small plates, not so small prices. Luke and I have been only once and it was when my parents were in town. Special dinner for a special occasion. Our lives and salaries don’t really warrant dinners at Charlie Bird. Prior to our dinner, having done my research, I knew the farro salad was a Charlie Bird favorite. But sitting down for dinner and perusing the menu, there were so many other amazing options. Farro, being a humble grain, just wasn’t all that appealing! I don’t regret this decision. Dinner was perfect. And thanks to Melissa Clark, we were able to replicate the farro salad at home. Though we could never claim that our version is as good as Charlie Bird’s, we both were able to enjoy very sizable portions!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 TBS olive oil
  • juice of 1 small lemon (about 3 TBS)
  • about 1/3 cup shaved parm (you can use a vegetable peeler to shave)
  • 2 big handfuls of arugula
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup mint, roughly chopped
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring farro, apple cider, water, salt and bay leaves to a simmer. Simmer until farro is tender (it will still have a little bit of chew) and the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes. If the liquid evaporates before the farro is done cooking, add a bit more water. Let farro cool and then discard the bay leaves.
  2. In a salad bowl, make the dressing. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Add cooled farro and cheese and mix well. This mixture can sit for a couple of hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge. When ready to eat, mix in the arugula, herbs, tomatoes, and radishes. Top with flaky sea salt, to taste.

Details: Serves 4-6. This is a hearty salad and can be eaten as a main course! Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side.

 

Spicy Pan-Roasted Cauliflower

cauliflower
Cauliflower with a kick

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable. Cauliflower can be steak. It can be mashed potatoes. It can even be pizzaCauliflower rice is sneaking into recipes everywhere, turning carbohydrate laden meals into gluten-free miracles. But cauliflower is also delicious just as cauliflower. It needs no Hollywood movie before and after transformation. This recipe, courtesy of The New York Times, highlights cauliflower’s inherent sweetness and adds some kick. When cooked perfectly (which is easy to accomplish), you’ll have beautifully browned florets, tender but with a little bit of crunch. Quick and simple to make, we’ve been enjoying this recipe as a healthy weekday veggie meal. It’s also great as a sneakily addicting and seriously impressive side. Take a night to celebrate cauliflower for being cauliflower! It’s a star vegetable, all on its own.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 red fresno chile, thinly sliced (optional, for a spicy garnish)
  • extra lemon, for serving

Directions:

  1. Quarter the cauliflower and cut out the core. Cut the quarters into 1/2-inch thick slices. Chop down the larger slices so that they are all about floret size.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add cauliflower, tossing to coat in the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Continue to stir and flip the cauliflower, letting the slices brown as they cook. Watch the heat – you want to keep the cauliflower pieces sizzling but not scorching. Cook until tender and can easily be pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Add crushed red pepper, garlic, rosemary, parsley, and lemon zest. Stir well to coat and cook 1 minute more. Garnish with sliced chile, if you like spice, and serve with lemon wedges.

Details: Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main. Can easily be doubled to serve more!

Pasta alla Norma

pasta-alla-norma
Norma is not your normal pasta

We like heavy pastas in our household. Ragù. Spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta alla Gricia. We love the slow simmer, building of flavors, and richness of these dishes. And, yes, pasta is carbs. Carbs are comfort food. So why not, while you’re already eating something deemed “unhealthy,” pile on the prosciutto, guanciale, and sausage? But this vegetarian pasta, recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman, holds its own against our meaty favorites. Staring eggplant, it makes for a delicious, refined, and relatively quick dinner. And with a grating of ricotta salata and a sprinkling of freshly chopped herbs, it has an unbeatable fresh flavor. Enjoy as you’re easing out of summer! Save those heavier pastas for the upcoming cold.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into thin slices (bit thinner than 1/2 inch)
  • salt & pepper
  • lots of olive oil, up to 1/2 cup
  • 1 TBS chopped garlic
  • 2-3 tsp chili flakes (depending on spice preference)
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 pound long pasta
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley or basil (or combo)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta salata (or, if you must, pecorino Romano)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Sprinkle eggplant slices with 1-2 tsp salt and let drain of excess moisture. We do this by layering the slices in a colander and then placing a small plate weighed down with a can or big glass of water on-top, pushing down on the eggplant. We’ll let this sit for 20 minutes, patting the eggplant with paper towels afterwards. There are some other methods! This will prevent your eggplant from being soggy and bitter.
  3. After drying slices, arrange on a large, well oiled baking sheet. Brush with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes flipping at least once. You’ll went the eggplant slices to be nicely browned, soft, but with a good crisp.
  4. While eggplant is roasting, make the sauce and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large, deep skillet heat 2-3 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Once shimmering, add garlic and chili flakes, cooking until garlic has browned a bit and is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and juice, squeezing the whole tomatoes with your hand to crush, and oregano. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer while eggplant and pasta finish cooking.
  5. Cook pasta until al dente. While cooking, cut the eggplant slices into strips. Transfer 1/4 of slices into simmering sauce. Set the rest aside.
  6. Add cooked pasta to tomato sauce.* Dress with remaining eggplant strips and a generous topping of freshly grated ricotta salata, basil, and/or parsley.

Details: Serves 4-6.

*Note: We like to keep the pasta and sauce separate and let people prep their own plates according to their sauce to pasta ratio preference. Not so traditional of us, but we are sauce-y people!

French Tomato Tart

IMG_4789
Tomatoes and the tart! Perfect for a picnic.

Luke’s dad Scott is a masterful tomato grower. In a small community garden plot in Philadelphia Scott has harvested many pounds of tomatoes, a combination of varieties he carefully selects – Speckled Peach, Amish Paste, Marmande, Golden Honey Bunch are a few of his favorite. He’s truly perfected the science of tomato growing, even conducting taste tests. In past summers, Luke and I have had the privilege of enjoying Scott’s tomato bounty, making oodles of bruschetta, homemade tomato sauce, Caprese salad – gustatorily transporting ourselves to Italy. This year, in accordance with fairness and good governance, Scott’s community plot has been ceded to another gardener. And sadly, without Scott’s crop, Luke and I have completely forgotten to enjoy any of summer’s tomatoes! Thankfully, that changed this weekend. We selected three beautiful farmer’s market tomatoes and journeyed from Italy to France. This fresh, bright tomato tart makes a perfect summer lunch or light dinner. Bring to the park for a Provençal picnic!

Recipe courtesy of David Lebovitz – a classic food blogger, but new favorite!

Ingredients  – Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 9 TBS chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 TBS ice water

Ingredients – Tart filling:

  • 2-3 TBS dijon mustard
  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, cut into slices
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS minced fresh herbs (thyme, chives, tarragon)
  • 6 oz goat cheese, cut into rounds
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions – Dough:

  1. Tart dough: Mix flour in salt in a medium sized bowl. Add the butter and use your hands or pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  2. Mix the egg with 2 TBS of cold water. Make a well in the center of the dough and add the beaten egg mixture. Stir the mixture with your hands until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add an additional TBS of water.
  3. Form dough into a ball and transfer onto a big sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for an hour (or up to 24 hours).
  4. Remove dough from fridge and let thaw out slightly. On a lightly floured service using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough. Rotate the dough and add more flour to surface, as needed, to ensure dough doesn’t stick. Roll out dough so that is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch removable tart pan.
  5. Transfer the dough to your tart pan and press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of your pan.

Directions – Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Spread an even layer of mustard over the bottom of the tart pan and let sit for a minute or so to soak in.
  3. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a single layer (a little overlap is ok). Sprinkle with 1 TBS of fresh herbs and drizzle with olive oil. Top with salt and a freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Arrange the goat cheese slices on top and sprinkling with remaining herbs.
  5. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned around the edges. Let cool for ten minutes, then enjoy! Perfect for a summer lunch.

Details: Makes 1 9-inch or 10-inch tart

Summer Vegetable Soup

summer soup
summa summa sixteen

It is finally officially summer! The farmers’ market is overflowing with luscious fruits and vegetables begging to be turned into a delicious seasonal feast. And there is no more archetypal summer meal than soup. Oh-kaaaayso that’s a completely sarcastic statement, but Luke and I both feel this soup deserves serious summer status! 1) It requires no oven use whatsoever 2) It includes many of summer’s best bounty aaand 3) This soup manages to be light and healthy (entirely veggie!!) but also extremely flavorful and nuanced (especially when parm broth is used). Luke and I strongly advise that you blast “Summer Sixteen” while chopping up all of these veggies. Making this delicious soup is an ideal way to celebrate summer.

This recipe is adapted from Mimi Thorisson’s soupe au pistou, which can be found in her cookbook A Kitchen in France.

Ingredients – Soup:

  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 medium carrots, minced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, minced
  • 8 oz green beans, cut in half lengthwise
  • 4-5 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, and chopped (or 1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes, with juices partially drained)
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 TBS herbs de provence
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-6 cups water or preferred broth (chicken, vegetable, parm)
  • 8 oz kidney beans (pre-soaked or from a can)
  • 8 oz white beans (pre-soaked or from a can)
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni

Luke and I topped our bowls with a simple mix of basil, garlic, olive oil, and a touch of salt, mashed with a mortal & pestle:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, leek, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes,  and garlic. Saute for 5-8 minutes, stirring to make sure the vegetables cook evenly. Add the basil, herbs de provence, and salt and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes more.
  2. Add your chosen liquid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered.
  3. Add the uncooked macaroni and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes, and then stir in the beans.

Serve immediately! If you like, top with basil mix and shaved parm.

Details: Makes lots of soup! Six hearty servings.

Eggplant Bruschetta

unnamed
Explore beyond the classic bruschetta

In the summer months, when our lil’ AC window unit is bumping, Luke and I love making bruschetta. Nothing tastes better on a hot summer’s day, especially when we use farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil. And most importantly, bruschetta requires no oven use. Which is a requirement for almost all of our summer meals. Our tiny apartment can’t handle any oven heat! Disclaimer: this bruschetta recipe does require oven use. But, it’s an excellent and simple way to use summer’s eggplant bounty. Luke and I are enjoying these eggplant toasts a little early in the season because they are so delicious. And because I’m already dreading NYC’s looming heat and humidity.

Shout out to one of our favorite ladies Deb Perelman for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 TBS olive oil + additional for oiling baking sheet
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 TBS parsley *optional
  • 8 slices of bread, 1/2-1 inch thick (a baguette works nicely, we go for a more rustic bread for slices with more surface area)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Toss eggplant with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on baking sheet. Place in oven and roast for about 25 minutes. Check the eggplant a couple times while it roasts and give em a good shake to prevent sticking. This will also ensure even browning.
  3. Remove eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.* In a small bowl, mix the eggplant cubes with red wine vinegar, feta, scallions, and parsley. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To make toasts, raise oven temperature to 450ºF. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and place in oven. Let bake for about 5 minutes, or until just brown around the edges. We find, for this dish, it’s best to not let the toast get too toasty. Makes bruschetta eating a bit more difficult.
  5. Assemble the toasts! Spoon the eggplant bruschetta onto the toasts. You can rub the toasts with a garlic clove before piling on the eggplant if you like.

Details: Makes about 8 toasts

*Note 1: This salad is also very delicious at room temp or even cold! So you can let the eggplant cool longer if you like before mixing with the other ingredients.