GAZPACHO – Chilled Soup For A Hot Day!

gazpacho textSummer’s here and sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking….but I want a homemade meal. Gazpacho is the answer! It takes only a few minutes to prepare, NO COOKING, extremely low in calories, and it uses ingredients that are fresh from the garden (or farmer’s market).

This soup is best served icy cold, so I like to make it the day before.

I’ve included a recipe for garlic croutons for you adventurous souls up for a wee bit of cooking, but you can always purchase them, if you like.

GAZPACHO – makes about 6 cups

  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1½ large beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion (such as Maui, Vidalia, or shallots), diced
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2½ cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce (use more or less depending on taste)

Into a large glass or ceramic bowl combine the vinegar, salt, and black pepper.

Slice tomatoes in half around the equator. Remove pulp and seeds by poking them out with your finger. Chop pulp and flesh into bite-sized pieces. Place all of the tomatoes into the bowl (including seeds).

Cut off and discard stem, seeds, and filaments of red pepper. Chop pepper into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Cut cucumber in half. Remove skin from one half. Slice both pieces lengthwise in half. Scoop out and discard seeds by scraping them with a spoon. Cut cucumber into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Add pressed garlic and diced onion into the bowl. Stir all together and let set 5 minutes.

Stir in tomato juice and Tabasco. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

GARLIC CROUTONS – makes 3 cups

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups 1/2″ bread cubes (cut from Italian or French loaf, or purchased)

In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, and salt. Let set 20 minutes. Strain into mixing bowl, discarding garlic.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Add in the bread cubes and stir to coat cubes. Pour onto a jellyroll pan, spreading them out. Bake until lightly browned – about 15 minutes, stirring now and then.

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SPICY CORN FRITTERS – Crispy Pancakes With A Sweet & Sour Kick!

corn fritter textCorn on the cob is great, but sometimes one wants to enjoy fresh corn without having to floss our teeth before smiling afterwards.

SPICY CORN FRITTERS to the rescue! Yes, they’re a little more work than dropping an ear of corn in boiling water, but once you try one…or more of these crispy pancakes, you’ll agree that they’re worth the effort.

SPICY CORN FRITTERS – makes about 11, depending on how big you make them

  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup + 1½ tsp sugar, divided
  • 1 red jalapeño chili, minced (or serrano, if you like to kick it up a notch)
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 T cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 8 oz (2 ears, about 1½ cups) – fresh, frozen, or canned
  • vegetable oil for frying

Make the sweet & sour sauce by combining vinegar, 3/4 cup sugar, chili, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, uncovered. Continue at a hard boil until sauce is reduced to 2/3 cup total. You don’t have to stir, but keep an eye on it so you don’t reduce it too much. This takes about 5 minutes, depending on how high your burner is. Cover and set aside until ready for use.

If you’re using fresh corn, like I do in the summer, remove raw kernels. This is quite easy – rest one point of the shucked ear at a diagonal, holding it away from you, and run a sharp knife from midway downwards. corn de-kernalFlip the cob and repeat. Boil kernels in a little unsalted water for about 2 minutes, until done (adding salt at the beginning of cooking can lead to tough corn). Drain.

If you’re using frozen corn, thaw.

If you’re using canned corn, drain.

Into a blender (preferably the small pitcher that comes with some blenders), place the cilantro, garlic, black pepper, and water. Blend until pureed.

In a medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, rice flour, 1½ tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and baking powder. Stir corn and cilantro mixture into flour.

Heat 2 T vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet (yes, you have to oil nonstick pans) over medium/high heat. When hot, pour in 1/3 cup amounts, spreading out batter to about 4″. Cook until well browned on bottom. Flip and cook other side.

Serve immediately, spooning on Sweet & Sour Sauce.

 

ZUCCHINI TRAPANESE: Spiralize The Gluten And Calories Away!

zucchini trapanese textSpring beckons backyard gardeners to the nursery in hopes of a bountiful crop. Summer brings the realization that, once again, we have an abundance of fresh vegetables that will rot if we don’t use them soon.

Zucchini, in particular, seems to be a particular problem since it keeps growing…and growing. Just how many loaves of zucchini bread can one eat?!

Enter the spiralizer. With a few twists of the hand-crank, that zucchini (or apple, sweet potato, carrot, etc) is transformed into spaghetti-like strips. You just boil them briefly, top with a pesto or marinara sauce, and – voila! – a low calorie ‘pasta dish’.  I couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was. zucchini spiralizerThere are many brands of spiralizers – I bought the Paderno and am extremely happy with it.

I chose a trapanese pesto to top my zucchini noodles in keeping with the fast, easy, and low calorie theme. It also had the added benefit of using up another summer crop – cherry tomatoes.

Note: Though we’re treating the zucchini like a pasta, it behaves like a vegetable in terms of size. While pasta plumps when boiled; zucchini shrinks (just like spinach or mushrooms). So plan on at least 1 lb of zucchini per person. Don’t be fooled by how massive it appears raw.

ZUCCHINI TRAPANESE

Trapanese Pesto – about 3-4 servings

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2½ cups sweet cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T deli-sliced jalapeño peppers (I use ‘tamed’ spice level – but if you want more kick, go to ‘hot’)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a good quality)
  • 1/2 cup (+ extra for sprinkling) Parmesan cheese, grated

Into a blender or food processor, place the almonds, tomatoes, basil, salt, red pepper flakes, jalapeños, and Parmesan. Pulse until blended – about 10 times. Add in the olive oil and blend about 5 seconds.

Zucchini

  • 1 lb zucchini per person

Spiralize zucchini according to directions. Bring a couple of inches of salted water to a boil – you don’t need as much as you would for pasta. Add in zucchini and let boil about 1 minute, 15 seconds. Pour into colander and serve immediately. Top with trapanese pesto. Sprinkle on Parmesan.

 

 

BIBIMBAP – A One Bowl Meal…With A Kick!

bibimbap textBibimbap is a mouth watering Korean veggie/rice dish topped with a fried egg. (The egg is optional.) It even tastes good the next day…and the next – this recipe makes a lot!

As with many Asian recipes, the prep takes the longest. Even though there’s time while cooking the individual veggies, I strongly suggest you concentrate on stirring rather than chopping since the stove is on a high heat.

BIBIMBAP – makes about 8-9 cups

  • 2 cups raw Chinese rice, unrinsed
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup go-chu-jang (it’s a bottled sauce in the Asian section – picture below)
  • 4 T sesame oil
  • 2 T + 2 tsp sugar, divided
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 6 T soy sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 15 oz carrots, shredded
  • 16 oz shiitake mushrooms, discard stems, coarsely chopped
  • 20 oz spinach, coarsely chopped
  • eggs – as many as you want

In a saucepan, combine rice, 2¼ cups water, and salt. Bring to boil, reduce to keep a simmer, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn off heat but leave pot on burner, covered.

While rice is cooking, use the time to prepare the sauces and veggies:

In a bowl put the go-chu-jang, sesame oil, 6 T water, and 2 tsp sugar. bibimbap11Whisk to combine and set aside. bibimbap7In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine 1 cup water, soy sauce, garlic, 2 T sugar, and scallions. (The measuring cup makes it easier to see how much you need.) bibimbap13Shred the carrots – use a food processor, if you have one. Otherwise, use a box grater. Place in a bowl.

Thoroughly wash mushrooms. Cut out and discard stems. (This can be done easily with kitchen shears!) bibimbap8Coarsely chop and place in a bowl.

Thoroughly wash spinach and coarsely chop. Place in another bowl. bibimbap9Time to get cooking!!!

Heat 2 tsp oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add in the carrots and 1/3 of garlic water. Stir until water has evaporated.bibimbap10 Transfer carrots back into bowl.

Heat 2 tsp oil in now-empty Dutch oven over high heat. Add mushrooms and 1/3 of garlic water. Cook until liquid has mostly evaporated. bibimbap3Pour back into bowl.

Heat the final 2 tsp oil in the Dutch oven over high heat. Add in the spinach and remainder of the garlic water. bibimbap4Cook until wilted. I’ve found the water doesn’t evaporate completely, so just go by the look of the spinach. (It’s amazing how that giant amount of spinach wilts down to nothing!)bibimbap5Pour back into bowl.

Into the empty Dutch oven place the rice. bibimbap6Add the carrots, mushrooms, and spinach. bibimbap1Pour in the go-chu-jang sauce and mix. bibimbap2If you want to top with fried eggs, cook them in skillet either sunnyside-up or over-easy. Add these to individual bowls.

SAWDUST PIE – An Unfortunate Name For Such A Dreamy Pie!

sawdust pie textI hate wasting food! So, as the self-proclaimed Queen Of Freeze, I’m constantly freezing little bits of leftover this or that for future use. And it’s paid off many times.

One thing I always seem to have a plethora of is egg whites because so many dessert recipes call for yolks only. Unfortunately, aside from meringue (which I still have yet to perfect), there aren’t that many recipes in which to use them…..until now.

While watching a baking competition, I was ecstatic when a home cook from Kentucky made a Sawdust Pie that called for 7 egg whites! First of all, it looked amazing. And, second of all:  7 egg whites!!! I found and followed an online recipe. While I liked the general idea, I didn’t care for the coconut, wanted to change the consistency so it was firmer, add a variety of chips, and embed the pastry crust with graham cracker crumbs. I altered the recipe and made it my own.

This is a fast and easy pie to assemble, but needs to refrigerate at least 8 hours to firm up so it doesn’t gush when sliced. Thus, plan ahead!

By the way, I’m guessing the name “Sawdust” Pie comes from the abundance of graham cracker crumbs in the filling.

Note:  I strongly encourage you to make your own pie crust. Honestly, it’s simple and so much tastier (not to mention cheaper!). But, you can purchase one, if you must. I’ve included my recipe for you adventurous souls.

SAWDUST PIE

Single pie crust

  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crisco shortening, chill if it’s a hot day
  • 4 – 5 T ice water
  • 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs – about 2 rectangles

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

You can either use a food processor or a pastry cutter to mix the Crisco and flour. (I prefer to use the pastry cutter since it’s easy and I hate to wash the food processor just for this.)

For the pastry cutter method, put the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix with the pastry cutter. sawdust10Add in the Crisco and use the cutter to combine the flour and Crisco. sawdust11 Work until it resembles a coarse meal.sawdust12For the food processor method, put the flour, salt, and sugar in work bowl and pulse a couple of times. Add in the Crisco and pulse several times, until mixture forms a coarse meal. Empty into a mixing bowl. You are NOT adding the water in the food processor – your dough will be tough!!!

Sprinkle 4 T ice water into the flour mixture. Using a fork, gently slice with the side of the tines to mix. The goal is to use enough water to incorporate all the flour so it forms a ball, but not be too wet. You may need a little more water – I usually do. Don’t overwork the dough or it will be tough. sawdust5Form the dough into a tight ball and chill at least 30 minutes to make it easier to roll. sawdust6Sprinkle flour, then 2 T graham crackers on a flat surface to prevent the dough from sticking. sawdust7Place the dough ball in the center. With floured hands, push down the dough with one hand while pressing in the sides with the other. This will help keep the edges from fraying. sawdust8Sprinkle some flour on the flattened dough and spread it around so the rolling pin doesn’t stick. sawdust1Using a floured rolling pin, begin rolling the dough from the center out in all directions. When it gets to be about 8″ in diameter, push in the edges again – they’ll probably be fraying again. Lift up the edges and brush the graham cracker crumbs underneath. sawdust2Roll until the diameter is about 12½”. Sprinkle 2T graham cracker crumbs over the top of the pastry and lightly press them in with your fingertips. (Don’t use the rolling pin – the crumbs tend to stick to it.)sawdust3Place the pie pan next to the circle. Fold dough in half towards you, then carefully lift it to pan. Unfold and center it, gently adjusting pastry so it fits into the corners.  If the dough splits, just overlap it and press it together. Leaving a 1/2″ overhang border from the pie pan edge, cut away excess dough with kitchen scissors. Crimps edges by rolling this 1/2″ border in on itself, then pinching with thumbs and forefingers. sawdust4Cut a piece of waxed or parchment paper about 2″ longer than diameter of pie pan. Place on top of pastry and fill with pie weights or raw beans (that’s what I use). Very gently work the paper and beans into corners so the beans weigh down the entire bottom. sawdust14Parbake at 425º F for 7 minutes. Remove the paper and weights by pulling one corner of the paper slowly towards the center, then the opposite corner towards the center, then one of the other corners, and the final one. Grab all 4 and lift it out in a rolling motion – don’t pull straight up or the center may still be stuck. Bake another 5 minutes, then remove and cool.sawdust13 Filling

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs – about 5 oz (10 rectangles)
  • 1/2 cup raw oatmeal (OR 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1½ cups walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

NOTE:  The oats or flour are a thickener. Either will do, but I prefer the oats just a wee bit.

If using oats, grind them finely in a food processor or blender.sawdust9Using an electric mixer or rotary egg beater, beat egg whites until frothy on medium/low  speed about 30 seconds – just to break them up.

Add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground oats (or flour), brown sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed just to blend.

Stir in walnuts, milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, and butterscotch chips.

Pour into pie crust and bake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes. I find 28 minutes is perfect for my oven. You’re looking for a slight wobble in just the center, not the whole top. sawdust15Cool on rack completely, then refrigerate at least 8 hours.

 

 

 

 

CHEESE SCONES: An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up!

cheese scones textWhat could be better when that late afternoon hunger hits than a nice cup of tea and a freshly baked scone?

You might think scones are time consuming and difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a food processor, then they’re even faster.

My favorite is a cheese scone. Traditionally, they’re circle-shaped, but you can also cut them into large wedges, if you prefer.

Note:  Due to my frugal nature (yes, I’m cheap), I use a 2½” diameter diced chilies can with the top and bottom removed, rather than buy a cutter.  scone6CHEESE SCONES – makes 10 circles or 6 large wedges

  • 1¾ cups (8 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 T butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk (the richer the milk, the richer the scone)

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit, rack in center position.

Place metal blade in food processor. Add in flour sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a couple of times to mix.

Cut butter (make sure it’s cold) into 1/2″ cubes (you don’t have to be exact) and add to work bowl. scone1Pulse 10 times to form a coarse texture. scone2(If you don’t have a food processor, then crosscut the butter into small bits using 2 knives.)

Into a measuring cup (use a 2 cup size so you don’t splatter), crack eggs. Beat with a fork to break them up. Add in cream to the 3/4 cup mark (you’ll need about 1/3 cup). Beat well with a fork to blend. scone3Empty flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour in all but 1 T egg mixture (you’re going to use the reserved liquid as a wash) and stir gently to blend. (You don’t want to overmix or the scone will be tough.) scone5Lightly flour a flat surface and dump dough onto it. With floured hands, pat the dough into an 8″x5″ rectangle if cutting circles, or a 6″ diameter circle if cutting wedges. scone7If you’re making circles, dip circle-mold in flour then press straight down into dough. Don’t twist. Dip into flour each time before cutting a circle. If making wedges, slice 3 lines, intersecting in middle to form 6 equal wedges.

Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Place cut-outs, spacing them apart as much as possible. Brush on reserved egg wash. (If you forgot to save some of the egg mixture, then just use a little milk.) scone8Sprinkle on a few strands of cheese, if you like. scone9Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown – about 12 minutes for circles, 13-15 minutes for wedges. Remove to a wire rack to cool a bit, then serve.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – A Lovely Summer Salad!

1/2farro asparagus salad textApparently, there’s yet another new-to-me ancient wheat grain called farro. It’s kind of similar to brown rice, but heartier with a nutty taste. As a gal who gets around (well, at least, is nearby) I figured I’d give it a try. After all, I’ve jumped on board the couscous, quinoa, barley, sorghum, and Israeli couscous bandwagons. May as well sample this.

Thank goodness for my adventurous spirit. Farro is FABULOUS! I randomly picked a brand of organic farro which, fortunately, was the right kind: Italian pearled farro. Other kinds need to be soaked overnight. Also, make sure the farro you purchase in NOT instant. Look at the ingredients – it should only contain farro. (organic or not – it’s up to you)farro salad 5Don’t follow the package directions for cooking. A better way is to cook it in a large pot of water, then drain it (like pasta). This alleviates the possibility (and, for me, the almost certainty) of burning when the water runs out.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – makes 7 cups

  • 1½ T salt, divided
  • 1½ cups Italian pearled farro, raw
  • 6 oz asparagus (about 8 stalks), cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 6 oz sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 2 T shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried dill, (or 3 T fresh)
  • 3 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 oz grape tomatoes, cut in half

Rinse farro. Boil 2 quarts of water. (It doesn’t have to be precise, but should be close due to the salt – if you have too little water, the farro will be too salty.) Add in 1 T of the salt and the farro. Uncovered, bring to back to a boil, then reduce flame to keep a low boil for 15-20 minutes (17 minutes works for me) – until the farro is cooked, but still has a bit of chew. Stir now and then – especially at the beginning.orange rice salad prep2While the farro is cooking, in another pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add in 1 tsp of the salt, the snap peas, and the asparagus. Boil for 2 minutes. Tip:  SET TIMER SO YOU DON’T OVERCOOK!!! – You want the veggies to have a crunch. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Note: If you don’t want to dirty the second pot, wait until the farro is done, and cook the asparagus and snap peas in that pot.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, Dijon, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, and dill. Set aside.farro salad2Once the farro is done, drain in a sieve and then pour onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Spread out evenly in order to cool and dry the farro. This should take 15-20 minutes.farro salad1To assemble the salad, place the tomatoes, asparagus, snap peas, and Feta in a large bowl. Add the farro on top (this way the dressing will be absorbed into the farro). Whisk the vinaigrette briefly and drizzle on. Stir the ingredients to blend.  Let set about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD is best served the first day. It’s still tasty after that, but a bit drier since the dressing has been absorbed.