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Gazpacho

Gazpacho.  Cold soup.  Not much of a selling point is it?  But for those of you who have had gazpacho, you know just how refreshing it is.  Gazpacho is a Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup.  It originated in the sunny southern region of Andalusia as a fresh, cool meal to combat the summer heat.  There are many different versions, though this one is my favorite.  For those of you who are hesitant to eat a cool soup, I can only say this: give it a try– I guarantee you’ll make this one every summer as the temperatures get above 90 degrees.  It’s one of the most refreshing dishes you’ll ever taste.

The soup is a combination of the all the wonderful usual suspects from your late-summer garden or farmers’ market– cucumbers, red peppers, purple onion, garlic, and fresh tomatoes.  They’re finely chopped in a food processor and then combined with tomato juice,  a bit of white wine vinegar, and a really good olive oil.   For gazpacho, you’ll definitely want to go with the best olive oil you have as it’s flavor is central to the soup.  I also used my homemade, canned tomato juice, though as my stock is running low (canning tomatos will be available soon!) I can’t lend you an extra jar.  If you can juice, use it as you’ll notice the difference in the final flavors.  As an alternative, several grocery stores carry high-end juices which should work well.  If you instead use a nation-wide brand, use Sacramento.  I personally think it tastes better than any of the other well-known brands.

Gazpacho is the perfect make-ahead dish.  It tastes better the longer it sits– the flavors have a chance to meld together.  I like to make some homemade croutons to top it all off with.  Hope you enjoy!

The Recipe:  Gazpacho

2 medium-sized garden cucumbers, halved and seeded, but not peeled

2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded

5-6 Roma tomatoes

1 red onion

3 large garlic cloves

3 cups good quality tomato juice

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

scant 1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes for a little heat, if desired

For the Croutons:

2 – 3 cups crusty bread, such as a baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

To make the croutons: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Toss cubed bread pieces with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until they have reached your desired crunchiness.

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into small pieces, roughly a 1-inch cube.  Put each vegetable into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, separately.  This is important for texture.  Pulse until it is coarsely chopped.  Make sure not to over-process.

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mix well and chill before serving.  The longer it sits, the better it will be.  Before serving top each bowl of soup with a handful of homemade croutons and some torn basil, if desired.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Thanks for stopping by!

Laurie

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I have been craving steamed mussels for a few weeks now.  The culprit was a visit to our favorite gastropub a month or two ago, where we shared steamed mussels with sliced chorizo sausage and had a few local craft beers.  It was a good night.  I love seafood, but don’t get a chance to eat it as much as I’d like here in the Upper Midwest.  A week later, as if to taunt me, the most recent issue of ‘Fine Cooking’ had a steamed-mussel recipe that looked similar to what I’d recently loved while out on the town.  Then I saw another variation on this theme on her blog.  Obviously this was a sign, so I headed down to Coastal Seafoods to buy some shellfish.

No, this is not a “local” dish.  I wish it were.  But fresh walleye is about as close to local seafood as I’m going to get in Minnesota, and this dish definitely won’t work with fish.  Now, back to the mussels.  I can’t believe I don’t make these more often!  They turn an ordinary middle-of-the-week dinner into an exciting and new meal.  Did I mention that they’re incredibly easy to make?  That they taste amazing?  That they’re relatively inexpensive?  How about this:  the whole process– start to finish– takes less than 30 minutes.

The mussels flavor is best described as a “briny goodness.”  The chorizo adds a little spice and contrasting texture.  I chose ground chorizo specifically because of this textural variation– and because we have a local (Yay!) brand that competes for the best I’ve ever tasted.  You can certainly use a Spanish-style, rather than ground, chorizo if you’d like.  Just slice it up 3/8 -inch thick.   The ramps (see here for a discussion on ramps), garlic, and smoked paprika combine nicely with the chorizo.  The dish is completed with a a small amount of white wine.  I made this with a Spanish Albariño– it’ll never lead you astray when matching with seafood.  The dish tastes spicy and divine.  Serve it with the garlicky croutons, pour a glass of that delicious wine, and settle in on the patio for the night.

The Recipe:  Steamed Mussels with Chorizo, Ramps, and Smoked Paprika

Serves 2, generously

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, 2 minced and 2 thinly sliced

1/2 bunch of ramps, chopped  (white and green parts, only)

1 cup dry white wine,  an Albariño worked nicely (though I’m intrigued by how a minerally wine, like a Sancerre or even Chablis would change the flavor)

1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

1/2 pound ground chorizo

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh)

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 baguette, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Microgreens (for garnish, optional)

Combine the olive oil and the 2 cloves of minced garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

Position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high.

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, brown the chorizo until fully cooked.  There should be a bit of oil leftover from the chorizo in the pan, if not add a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the garlic and ramps and saute along with the chorizo for just a few minutes, until soft.  Add the smoked paprika and cook for 30 seconds longer.  Add the wine and thyme and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the mussels, coating them with the sauce mixture.  Cover and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, until the mussels have opened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and brush them with the garlic oil, dividing the bits of garlic evenly among the slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then broil, rotating the baking sheet as needed, until evenly browned and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.  Make as many as you like.

Discard any mussels that have not opened.  Serve the mussels with the sauce, croutons, and microgreens.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Make sure to come out and support the National Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday.  Proceeds to support Share Our Strength.  Our local gathering in Minneapolis/ St. Paul is at the Midtown Global Market –920 East Lake St. Minneapolis.  The hours are 11:00am – 4:00 pm.  Check to see if your city is having one.

Thanks again for stopping by– I appreciate all of your kind comments.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Laurie

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