Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lisa’s Gazpacho

Lisa’s Gazpacho
Gazpacho--note the drizzled olive oil
Oh my, there are so very many ways to make gazpacho – the salad in a soup bowl. I have followed numerous recipes but always come back to this one and always to rave reviews. During the long, hot summers, the Andalucía region in Spain cools itself down with chilled gazpacho, a hearty and pungent thirst-quenching soup. It is a raw, cold soup – never cooked – and always served cold. Gazpacho is fresh, textured and light – a delicious summer treat. I like CRUNCH in my gazpacho – I will not use the food processor nor will it ever see the blender. I love the even chunks of garden goodness with each bite and avoid the blended concoctions. It takes a bit more time to do the chopping, but the end result is well worth it.
The most important ingredient!
Lisa was my roommate while I was a medical student, many years ago. One of us would make this often and eat it regularly, especially in the hot Boston summers. It is best made with vine-ripened fresh tomatoes from your farmers market – most any kind or color will work. If they are unavailable or it’s the dead of winter – this is still stunning with all canned tomatoes. Just please get a good quality Italian San Marzano brand. Luckily, they are readily available in most markets. So while this harkens to many hours of studying, at home or in a library (where I had to hide the food), the soup is so spectacular that I had to share. It is so easy to make – actually better the next day – and served cold. What a great summer healthy treat!

  • 3 or more large garlic cloves, peeled & split
  • 4 C Tomato juice
  • 2 small green or red bell peppers, seeded & evenly chopped
  • 3-4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 16 oz canned diced tomatoes – I prefer Italian brands
  • ½ C finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and evenly chopped
  • ¼ C evenly chopped celery
  • 1/3 C evenly chopped zucchini (optional)
  • 2+ Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2+ Tb red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 6 or more drops hot sauce (e.g., Tabasco)
  • Garnishes: cilantro, sour cream, avocado, chunky bread, or shrimp

Cut 3-4 garlic cloves longitudinally and impale each half on a toothpick. Most important, count, and remember, how many garlic clove-toothpick combos you actually create. You will want to retrieve them later before serving. This is a wonderful way to imbue the garlic flavor without risking biting into a raw garlic clove.
Garlic on a stick...makes it easy to find them later
Evenly chop (about 3/4-inch dice) 2 small green or red bell peppers, 3-4 large vine-ripened fresh tomatoes, 1 medium sweet onion, 1 large cucumber, 1-2 stalks celery, and, if using, 1-2 zucchini. Using a large bowl, gently mix 4 C tomato juice and 16 oz canned diced Italian tomatoes. If fresh tomatoes are unavailable, double the amount of canned diced tomatoes. Gently add all chopped vegetables and 2 Tb red wine vinegar, 2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tsp kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste and 6 drops of hot sauce. Taste – go ahead take 2!  Now is the time to adjust seasoning by adding additional salt, hot sauce and red wine vinegar. Carefully add the garlic clove-toothpick combos and gently stir throughout. Allow the soup to sit in refrigerator for several hours, or overnight, before serving. This allows to the flavors “to marry” and blend as well as imbuing the soup with garlic flavor.
More tomatoes....
Chopped veggies for the gazpacho

The most important part before serving is to carefully remove the garlic-toothpicks from the soup. Now it is handy to remember exactly how many you actually added in the beginning! Serve cool from the refrigerator – with 1-3 garnishes. Our favorites are cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, avocado or grilled shrimp or bread. Serve with a drizzle of wonderful olive oil.
Toothpick hunt...find them all before serving! 
This is a bright, refreshing and surprisingly filling salad in a soup bowl, which would work well for lunch or dinner – as starter, side dish or entrée! Gazpacho is a high-acid dish that can kill many wines. A salad with vinaigrette is about the biggest anti-wine dish you can come up with. Gazpacho, given the tomatoes and red wine vinegar, is no different. The acid is so high it makes the wine taste sour. To counteract that, you need something with that kind of acid level. As silly as it might sound, Champagne or perhaps a Vouvray will work because of their high acid levels. In Spain, glasses of chilled fino or Manzanilla sherry are common and a wonderful pairing.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Oven Roasted Cauliflower
Oven roasted cauliflower
This dish will convert anyone to loving cauliflower and is so very simple. Cauliflower is an annual plant that reproduces by seed and of the same family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens. They are low in fat, low in carbs but high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, thereby packing a whollop of nutritional density. In this recipe it serves as a spectacular vehicle for olive oil, lemon and garlic.

Be sure to select a heavy-for-its size cauliflower at the market with tight florets and no discoloration. If there are leaves they should be bright and intact, not withered and funky. Store the uncooked cauliflower in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week. To prevent moisture from developing in the floret clusters, store with the stem side down.
  • 1 large white cauliflower, about 2 lbs, cut into 1 ½ inch flowerets
  • 1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 2½ Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly cracked white pepper
  • 1½ tsp minced garlic 
Preheat your oven to 375 degree F. To prepare your cauliflower, pull the leaves away from the base of the head and toss them. Trim any brown discoloration that may exist on the edges. Cut away any of the remaining protruding leaf-base. Wedge a knife into the core from the bottom, and split the core in half, using your hands to pry it apart if necessary. Slice through the core of each half. This will give you four quarters, each with much of the core exposed. Next, slice the thickest part of the core away from the quarter. Discard the core and thicker stems, or slice them thinly to cook with your florets. Like broccoli stems, cauliflower stems have a beautiful tender texture when cooked. Now just pull the florets apart with your fingers.
Fresh cauliflower
Fresh rosemary
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (see above) except the garlic. Toss to mix well and place in a large baking dish or shallow roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast the cauliflower, turning once or twice, until tender and caramelized around the edges, about 30-35 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir the garlic into the pan.
Mixing the ingredients
Remove the pan from the oven and serve immediately. I know that both you and your guests will be both surprised and delighted by the “new” taste imparted from roasting the cauliflower. I could eat this and this alone and be happy. If you agree, add a glass of Riesling or Pinot Gris.


Friday, July 20, 2012


I posted this recipe long ago, with pics that really didn't do it justice. So I am reposting after serving it again at a dinner party with new photos. It was a huge hit, especially for a summer evening with a refreshing chilled soup. The crunch and taste of the almonds combined with fresh white corn is truly marvelous!
Chilled corn soup
  • 6-8 ears of corn, yellow, white or mixed
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 1 large Vidalia onion 
  • 2 chopped med shallots
  • 1½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 C heavy cream (or less, optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped marcona almonds 
Slice the corn off 6-8 ears of corn. (I used white corn this time, which accounts for the lighter color of the soup in pics). This is most easily done by placing an ear on a Bundt pan while slicing so kernels fall into the pan and not all over your kitchen. Put cobs in a large pot with 6-8 C water, just to submerge the cobs.  Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 min.  This will become your broth!
Corn cut off the cob
In another pan, melt 3 Tb butter, add 1 large Vidalia onion chopped and 2 chopped med shallots.  Sweat for about 10 min to soften but do not brown. Add the corn kernels, toss in mixture to coat for 1-2 minutes.  Add reserved corn broth and simmer for 20 minutes.
Ready for the blender
With slotted spoon, transfer corn and onions to a blender with 2 – 3 C of the corn cob broth. Puree until completely smooth.

Transfer to a clean container and add 1½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.  Thin with additional cooking broth if needed.  Could also add optional 1 C of heavy cream.

Chill for at least 3 hours.  Can be made the day before or frozen. Serve with garnish of roasted chopped marcona almonds (Or other nut of your choice, such as walnuts).


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Poaching Salmon again! With Arugula, Snap Peas & Avocado Sauce….

Poaching Salmon again!  With Arugula, Snap Peas & Avocado Sauce….
Poached salmon with arugula, snap peas, and avocado sauce
I am at it again….just could not resist poaching one more salmon fillet and building another very healthy sauce around it. Try to get all fillets about the same size so they poach evenly. The process is unchanged from the two previous postings: “Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce & Fingerling Potatoes” and “Poached Salmon with Peas and Morels” – both in May 2012. This recipe is great cold or room temperature and would be a fabulous lunch or picnic! Chill the wine – this is a one-course meal.

Recently a reader requested substitute for salmon – she loved it, but her husband did not. There are many fish that poach easily and well: halibut, mahi mahi, orange roughy, artic char & turbot. It is best to have a hefty boneless fillet to cook comparably - but if worried it will fall apart in the poaching liquid - you could wrap in cheesecloth, tie off the ends, and poach. The timing depends on both size and type with fish fillets thick fillets 5-12 min, thin fillets 3-6 min. If you are a beginner in this arena, the best way to make sure you don't overcook fish is to keep your eye on it. Fish changes color as it cooks. Most types of fish turn from translucent to opaque, or from bright to pastel. Also, don't be afraid to touch the fish. Especially when you poach fish, you need not fear getting burned. Gently put the flat part of the first joint of your forefinger on the fish. Don't use your fingertip; it might not be sensitive enough. Cooked fish should be firmer and more resilient, not too soft or overly flaky.
  • 4 – 6 oz center cut salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 20 fresh Tarragon leaves (divided)
  • 1 C dry white wine
  • 2 C stringed trimmed sugar snap peas or snow peas
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted
  • 1 C plain low-fat yogurt (prefer Greek)
  • 2 Tb fresh lime juice (or more)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 C arugula
  • 20 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tb minced shallots
  • 1 Tb & 1 tsp Olive oil
  • 2 Tb thinly sliced fresh chives (Hint: I use scissors to cut them!)
  • 4 lime wedges

Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Place in a dish and scatter 10 tarragon leaves over the fish.  Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or in refrigerator for up to an hour.
The perfect salmon!
Salmon with tarragon leaves
The first step is to poach the salmon, which guarantees a moister fish compared to the barbequing or broiling. In a deep skillet bring 1 C dry white wine, 2 Tb kosher salt and enough cold water to cover the salmon by ½”. Bring all to a simmer over medium heat covered.  Once simmering, immediately reduce temperature to medium-low, uncover, and gently poach salmon until just cooked through and barely opaque in the center, about 6 minutes, depending on thickness. Using a spatula, carefully transfer to a plate and chill.

Cook 2 C sugar snap peas in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer peas to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Let cool; drain and leave on paper towels to dry. Cut larger snap peas in half on a diagonal.
Boiling the snap peas
Scoop the flesh from 2 avocados into a food processor or blender. Add 1 C yogurt, 2 Tb lime juice and 1 tsp ground cumin; puree. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lime juice, if desired.
Avocado sauce
 Spoon about ½ C avocado puree into the middle of each plate. Mix remaining 10 fresh tarragon leaves, sugar snap peas, 4 C arugula, 20 halved grape or cherry tomatoes, and 1 Tb minced shallot in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 1 Tb olive oil, season with lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss; divide among plates. Top with salmon and 2 Tb sliced chives; drizzle each fillet with ¼ tsp olive oil. Serve with lime wedges.

Gorgeous greens
The final product!
 Salmon can be served with both red and white wines – but this summer cool dish featuring a poached salmon would best match with a white wine: a buttery California Chardonnay, a wonderful German Riesling or your favorite Sauvignon Blanc.  If a red wine is a must – I would recommend a young Oregon Pinot Noir.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Honey Caramel Peach Pie

Summer Honey Caramel Peach Pie
Summer Honey Caramel Peach Pie 
The finished product!
Summer – warm days and nights, fresh fruit – all kinds – but especially peaches. There is nothing like it. I could not wait for the peaches to come in season and then could not wait to share my favorite peach pie on the blog. Today, I made the most scrumptious peach pie – ever. No kidding. I was listening to the radio – oldies station, they were playing Rickie Nelson and Frankie Avalon. The combination of a warm day, the music and the smell of fresh peaches being cut…reminded me so much of my mother. Seems she made thousands of fruit pies when we were kids.  Likely it was not quite so many pies but the smell of cinnamon, fresh fruit and pie in the oven are wonderful childhood memories. For me, the flavor combination of honey and peaches opens a window of summertime and great love for all of my family – then and now.

I think the honey and caramel addition in this recipe gives it the WOW factor. Any kind of mild honey will work beautifully here. It will cook into a rich caramel, which coats the peaches and deepens their sweetness. Make this pie with local honey and the best peaches you can find. I made this pie with a lattice top – but a traditional top piecrust will work just as well. I will explain both as well as share my recipe for All-Butter Pastry Dough.
  • 4 pounds ripe peaches
  • 4-5 Tb potato starch or 4 Tb pulverized instant tapioca
  • 1½ Tb all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ C plus 1 Tb sugar, divided
  • ¼ C honey
  • 2 Tb water
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • All-butter pastry dough (to follow)
  • 1½ Tb whole milk or cream
Peel 4 pounds of peaches. This can easily be done with a serrated peeler (see pic). If that is not available, cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch the peaches in batches in boiling water for 15 seconds.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch thick wedges. Toss peaches using a rubber spatula, gently with 4-5 Tb potato starch or pulverized tapioca, 1½ Tb flour, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, ½ tsp cinnamon and ¼ tsp salt in a large bowl. All fruit pies require some sort of thickener to bind the juices released by the fruit; otherwise, the pie would be a soupy mess. There are a wide range of thickeners however different thickeners work best with different types of fruit and styles of pie. For pies in which the fruit breaks down more and thickens the juice, like peach or blueberry, I prefer instant tapioca or potato starch. Both are widely available. Look for potato starch in the kosher section of your grocer. If you use tapioca, for the smoothest texture, pulverize it in a food processor or spice grinder before adding it to the fruit.
Magnificent peaches!
Serrated peeler
Peach wedges
Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degree F. Bring ½ C sugar, ¼ C honey, and 2 Tb water to a boil in a 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water (see pic). Boil without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 3 Tb unsalted butter, swirling pan until the butter is melted. Pour all over the fruit and toss gently. The caramel may harden slightly but will melt in the oven.
Washing down the sugar crystals
Boiling caramel to a golden brown
OMG! Caramel plus peaches
Roll out a 1 piece of all-butter pastry dough (keep remaining piece chilled) into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. It is simplest to roll it into a circle by turning the dough a quarter turn every few strokes of the rolling pin – thereby rotating the dough on your board and evenly extending the edges. Once done, loosely roll the dough around the rolling pin, lift and unroll over the pie plate. Lift the dough around the edges and gently press it down into the corners of the pie plate. Leave any dough that overhangs and refrigerate the shell while rolling out the remaining dough.
Pie shell
For the lattice top, roll the dough into a rectangular shape, about 11 x 14 inch, and ¼-inch thick on a piece of well-floured parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Using a pizza cutter, sharp knife and a ruler, cut the dough into 1¼-inch wide strips – you will need 8-10. Separate them slightly and freeze on the baking sheet until very firm, about 15 - 20 minutes. For the traditional top – roll out dough in a similar fashion as the bottom crust- refrigerate until ready to use.

Transfer peach filling to bottom pie shell, mounding it. For lattice top, use the firm chilled strips of dough and lay 4-5 parallel strips about 1-inch apart, over the filling. Weave the remaining 4-5 strips, one at time, over and under the first ones, gently lifting them to facilitate weaving. Once done, trim the overhanging edges of the dough to ½-inch. Press the edges of the bottom crust and lattice strips together and tuck underneath and into the pie dish. Crimp the dough evenly around the edges of the pie.  For the traditional top: loosely roll the top crust around the rolling pin, then gently unroll it over the filled piecrust bottom. Trim all but ½-inch of the dough overhanging the edge. Press the top and bottom crusts together, tucking underneath, and crimp evenly.

Peach slices in the shell
Creating the lattice...no you don't have to do this part!!

Brush the top lightly and evenly with 1½ Tb milk, then sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Cut three steam vents in top of traditional piecrust with a paring knife.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375-degree F. Continue to bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, 3-4 hours, before serving. The Honey Caramel Peach Pie is best stored at room temperature. Refrigeration would turn the crisp crust gummy. It should last up to 2-3 days if wrapped well in aluminum foil.
The final product
I truly hope you will give this pie a try and add the recipe to your repertoire. It is always amazing to me how one bite can conjure a vivid memory. We all have these taste memories; specific flavors that, when we experience them, remind us of a time or place or a person. Close your eyes when you take the first bite.  Feel those peaches melt into you. Sometimes a pie is much more than just a sweet end to a meal.



All-Butter Pastry Dough
  • 2½ C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes (1 C)
  • 1/3 C plus 1-4 Tb ice water
Whisk together 2½ C flour, 2 tsp sugar and ¾ tsp salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Cut two cubes of unsalted butter into ½-inch cubes and blend into flour mixture with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Drizzle 1/3 C ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough.  If it does not hold together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork the dough, or pastry will be tough.
This is how the dough should look before you roll it out
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 portions. With the heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball. Divide in half and form into 2 discs. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stir-Fried Bok Choy & Mushrooms

Stir-Fried Bok Choy & Mushrooms
Serves 2-4
Stir-Fried Bok Choy & Mushrooms 
Bok Choy is one underestimated vegetable in the typical American diet.  What a shame it is such a misunderstood and underappreciated gem. We are fortunate in that it is available year-round in almost all grocers. Recently my Farmers Market Bag from Specialty Produce (http://www.specialtyproduce.com/fmb) included a large bunch of baby bok choy, which created the perfect opportunity to create a quick stir-fry to share on my blog. I am hoping it will stimulate your interest in taking a chance on this amazing vegetable. This only takes a few minutes to cook once the mushrooms have rehydrated.
Gorgeous bok choy!
More bok choy!

Although a member of the cabbage family, bok choy resembles leafy greens, especially chard. Unlike many leafy greens, it does not shrink down to nothing when cooked. The stalks are crisp and fleshy – like celery but not stringy. It is fat free and low in calories as well as loaded with vitamin C, K, calcium and potassium. When selecting your bok choy, avoid wilted, broken or spotted leaves, limp stalks and discoloration. Bok Choy will keep for a few days unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

  • 0.5 oz Dried Mushrooms: Shitake or Porcini
  • 1 Tb canola oil
  • ¾ lb. baby bok choy (halved lengthwise if large)
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • Kosher salt

Put 0.5 oz. dried Porcini or Shitake mushrooms into a medium bowl and soak in hot water for 1- 2 hours.  Drain and squeeze out any excess water from the mushrooms, cut off stems, and slice into ¼ inch thick slices.
Cut shitaki mushrooms
Heat a 14-inch wok (or stainless steel skillet) over high heat until wok begins to smoke.  Add 1 Tb canola oil around the edge of the wok and swirl to coat the bottom and sides. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
Cooking the mushrooms
Return wok to high heat until it begins to smoke. Add ¾ lb baby bok choy, if cut lengthwise, put cut-side down, along with 2 Tb water, and cook, without stirring, until water evaporates, about 1 minute. Add ½ tsp sugar and season to taste with kosher salt. Vigorously stir and toss bok choy until it’s bright green and wilted, about 1 more minute.

Return the mushrooms to the wok, toss to combine, and cook until the flavors meld, about 30 seconds. Transfer mushrooms and bok choy to a serving platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Trust me – this is definitely worth a try and takes so little effort. Why not?  You’ll love it.