Monday, August 1, 2016

Cold Tomato Soup

With summer entering it's last weeks, fresh tomatoes are plentiful. Turning ripe tomatoes into a cold soup for these hot days is a sure winner. If you can, visit a local farmer's market and get the ugly tomatoes. Trust me. Heirloom tomatoes may be misshapen and have split tops, but they have the best flavor. Sometimes you can find nearly over-ripe tomatoes at a discount. If so, grab them up. They're perfect for this soup.

Inspired by a recipe by David Tanis, this chilled soup is a winner. I served it will grilled cheese sandwiches and it made a very nice, light, meal. Toast with avocado would be a nice accompaniment, as well. If you can't get good, fresh tomatoes, this soup also works well with canned tomatoes. Use a 24 oz can, with juice.

Makes 4 servings
Take about 1 hour, including time to chill.

For the soup
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbl sherry vinegar
Pinch of cayenne
1 tsp salt, more to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish
1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl chopped fresh parsely, or 2 tsp dried
1 Tbl chopped fresh chive, or 2 tsp dried
Salt and black pepper to taste

Put all of the soup ingredients (not the garnish!) in a blender and blend on high speed for 1 minute or until very smooth. Add more salt, pepper, and cayenne, if needed to taste. Put in a non-reactive bowl and chill for one hour or more.

About thirty minutes before serving, mix the ingredients for the garnish together, and refrigerate until needed.

To serve, divide soup evenly between four bowls, and place about 2 Tbl of garnish in the middle. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Watermelon Gazpacho

In the midst of a heat wave the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven. Second only in kitchen aversion is using my stove. We don't have central AC in this tiny apartment, and so turning on the oven is akin to turning the entire kitchen into a sauna, and not the good kind. The ambient heat, having sapped my will to live, has come into conflict with my gluttonous desire to eat good food. Cold food is a must for these steamy days. Fortunately, both tomatoes and watermelon are in season.

Tomato and watermelon are surprisingly good together. This recipe, based on one by Anya von Brezmen, is surprisingly sparse on ingredients, for a gazpacho, but is perfect for hot summer nights. I think it works better as an appetizer, or aperitif, but it can pass as a light supper when served with cold sandwiches. Make sure you get fresh, juicy melons and tomatoes for this dish, and don't forget the celery. It's heightens the flavors and really brings things together. Don't worry, my friends. Flavorful refreshment is on the way.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes  10 minutes to make, and at least 2 more hours to chill.

4 cups cubed, seedless watermelon, about 1 1/4 lbs
1 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil, more for dizzling
2 Tbl lemon juice, or more to taste
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 tsp Salt. more as needed
1/4 ground black pepper, or more, to taste
Thin celery sticks for garnish

Working batches, puree all of the ingredients except the garnish in a blender for at least two minutes, until smooth and frothy. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed to make the flavor pop. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours. Serve in individual bowls or mugs, garnishing with celery sticks. If there are any leftovers, which there probably won't be, they'll keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil

Corn is at the height of it's season, here in Utah, and so I'm always on the lookout for new and tasty ways to prepare it. This summer pasta dish, based on a recipe by Melissa Clark, features corn in a surprisingly tasty way. The corn flavor, which takes center stage, is kicked up by green onions and basil. Off season, I would use frozen corn, because it's what I usually have on hand, but it would be even better with fresh corn, cut from the cob. If you do use frozen corn, thaw and drain it, first. I don't normally keep fresh basil hand, so I used dried. If you have it, though, use 1/3 cup and toss it in at the end, omitting the dried basil and parsley. This sauce cooks quickly, so you will be able to make it at the same time you're cooking the pasta. Just start on the sauce after you set the water to boil, keeping an eye on the pot so you know when it's ready to add the pasta.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes 30 minutes to make.

12 oz. dried pasta such as farfalle, orcchiette, or small shells
1 Tbl neutral oil, such as canola
1 bunch green onions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced, keeping the greens and whites divided
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 Tbl butter
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbl fresh minced flat leaf parsley leaves
1 Tbl lemon juice, or more, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper, as needed

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbl salt and the pasta. Cook until just 1 minutes shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

In the meantime, Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the scallion whites and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1 3/4 cups of corn, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup. Simmer until the corn is heated through and almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, slightly. Puree the mixture in a blender, adding more water as needed to form a thick, but still pourable, sauce.

In the same skillet, add the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the reserved 1/4 cup of corn, along with the dried basil and red pepper flakes, if using.  Cook until the corn is tender, about 2 minutes. Don't stir it more than once. Letting the corn, and the butter, brown will make it all the more flavorful, just don't let it burn. Add the corn puree and heat through for about 30 seconds, just to combine the flavors.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, returning the pasta to the same pot it was cooked in, if needed, add the sauce to the pasta along with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Toss to coat and cook over medium heat for 1 minute more. Add more of the reserved water as needed if the mixture seems too thick.

Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Add additional salt and black pepper, to taste. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, remaining sliced green onion, and a drizzle of olive oil, if using.