Soaking Up the Last Few Days of Summer – Gazpacho

September 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

September is upon us! I see many pumpkin cookies and spice lattes in my future (vegan of course – I’ll be experimenting). But for now, I’ve been soaking up the last few days of summer. We went away for Labor Day in an attempt to unwind and finally get a tan! Nothing like waiting until the last minute 🙂 We spent several days relaxing on the beautiful beaches of the Boca Raton Resort, where I got so relaxed I managed to stop checking email and in doing so lost my phone! Whether it got lost on the beach or was outright stolen while I lay dozed off in never never land is up for grabs. So, for the remainder of this post, I’ll just have to taunt you with sun drenched beaches instead of vivid veggies. I’m sure you’ll manage.

I had been such a good wife and stocked the kitchen full of delicious vegan lunches for my hubby’s second week of his vegan challenge, but sadly have nothing to show for it now. Before we left I also made gazpacho which is basically the epitome of summer. I’ve been ordering it wherever I can but had never made it myself. I remember my mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid and I didn’t like the cold soup she put in front of us – boy has that changed! I searched through recipes and settled on this one as my guiding light. However, as always, I can’t stick to a recipe. I always end up fussing with it and changing it up. While I really enjoyed the recipe I created, I want to go back and try this one fully one day as it looked so good.

So, I can’t show you this gazpacho, but I can tell you about it. I started by grilling the tomatoes – or more accurately trying to – which was a total waste of time. I often grill on a pan indoors (not always the best choice in the summer heat) so this was most ineffective with tomatoes. I was hoping for a smoky flavor, but it just didn’t work out. However, the onions and peppers grilled very nicely and lent enough of the grill flavor I was looking for.

As you blend the beautiful red tomatoes they turn a lush pink – it’s so pretty and decadent looking. Next blend the peppers and onions with the garlic, basil, olive oil, and some vinegar of your choice. Traditional gazpacho calls for sherry wine vinegar which I didn’t have so I used red wine vinegar like my mom does. The onion does add a strong flavor so if you’re not a fan of raw onion leave it out.

Season with salt, pepper, and paprika and that’s it! If you haven’t tried gazpacho at home yet you definitely should. It’s so easy and good for you, especially if you decide to make it all raw. I liked it with a little drizzle of very good olive oil and fresh cut basil or, which may be my favorite, served in a bowl over a handful of tortilla chips. Either way it’s delicious, cooling, refreshing, and will have you dreaming of gardening or sinking your toes in the sand.

Ahhh, goodbye summer, until next year…

Gazpacho

Inspired by Farm to Table Geek

Ingredients

  • 5 very good tomatoes
  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno (or whole depending on your taste)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup very good olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp spanish paprika
  • 12 basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Grill vegetables if desired.
  2. Prep all vegetables by slicing into chunks that will process easily in the blender or food processor.
  3. Blend tomatoes and pour into large bowl. Blend remaining ingredients (may require two batches) and then mix in with tomatoes.
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My Husband A Vegan (?!?!?) and Vegan Lunch Boxes

August 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole vegan “thing”. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m not convinced this is going to last for the long haul. I sat here on Sunday mindlessly watching TV – off daydreaming of eggs and parmesan cheese and thinking, have I had enough? At that moment Luis looked at me and said “I’m going vegan for 30 days” and gave me a high five.

Ummm….OK??????

Let’s be clear: this is a big deal. My husband is Guatemalan and a serious meat lover. Ropa vieja, carnitas, filet mignon, you name it. I remember a dinner out recently as I approached my 30 day mark, eating some sad and badly prepared veggies as he devoured a steak rooting me on to not to give up. I don’t even like steak but I wanted a bite that night – I was hungry!

So fast forward and I’m approaching two months, having the same questions and here Luis is saying he’s giving it a shot. He was even trying his best to convert his mom tonight – I’m sure she was thinking “Dios mio! What’s happened to my son? Quick call 911 and get him a steak!”

Well, I can’t give up now can I?

The biggest question my husband had in his new vegan quest – “What on earth will I eat for lunch?” He works for a hotel so lunches allow just enough time for a visit to the cafeteria, which will have a few daily options. I asked if he wanted me to make him lunch the first day which he said, no, no, don’t worry. But I knew we were in trouble as the texts started rolling in around 12:30 the next day:

Is mayonnaise vegan? –No

Is rice vegan? –Depends

Is chocolate vegan? –Only dark

There was only one thing to do. I had to create a vegan lunch box. So Monday night after we dined on that delicious summer tomato pasta (If I could have that every day, the beginning of this post would have been different) I set to work in the kitchen and prepared a few containers of flavorful lunches for his first week.

Raw corn and tomato salad – olive oil, balsamic, basil, salt and pepper

Pasta with peas – a little good quality fruity olive oil, basil, salt and pepper (cooked a whole package of pasta when I made the summer tomato pasta so this was a super quick fix).

Greek quinoa salad – red peppers, cucumber, scallions, and oregano vinaigrette

Lentil salad – One of my favs with red onion, cucumber, and lemon vinaigrette

All these can travel easily, don’t require refrigeration immediately, or reheating, making them perfect vegan lunch box options. A side of nuts and seeds, veggies and hummus and he was good to go.

Now, I’m still not saying being vegan is easy. But I’m also not saying it’s necessarily “hard”. It is just about making it convenient – thinking ahead and being prepared. Here’s to yummy lunches that leave you light and fulfilled – vegan or not!

Another easy vegan lunch recipe you may enjoy: raw zucchini pasta with chickpeas and tomatoes.

Learning to Love Tomatoes – Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta

August 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

I have never been one for tomatoes – you’d never find me snacking on them or making them the star of any meal. In fact, those individuals that could eat a tomato like an apple always perplexed me – why on earth would they do that? Even cooked tomatoes are sometimes too acidic for my liking – but all this changed within the last two months and I’m a new tomato fanatic. Me, tomato lover, can’t get enough of them…If my mother is reading this right now, she’s shocked.

There are two parts to my new-found tomato fanaticism. One: being vegan has definitely changed my tastes. Usually I’d crave an oozing piece of cheese pizza or a bowl of creamy pasta but not anymore. Maybe its summer but I think its more likely due to my changing diet. Eating more fruits and veggies has in turn made me want – well, more fruits and veggies.

The second reason for my new tomato cravings: I’ve finally tasted what a tomato should taste like. I’m not talking about those lifeless mealy barely red things you find at the grocery store. I’m talking about firm, juicy, bursting with fruity goodness, barely needs any seasonings, freshly picked from the garden tomatoes. I was recently treated to some tomatoes of this very nature and have been dying to get my teeth into some tomatoes similar to what I experienced, causing me to order anything that looks remotely close when I’m out and about.

No pizza or pasta for me, I’ll take the fresh tomato salad please! 🙂

Due to my recent tomato cravings I’ve ordered gazpacho at every restaurant I’ve been to that has it on the menu. My favorite was a charred green tomato gazpacho that I enjoyed at Park Grille in Chicago. As I sat and looked over the menu, the waiter greeted me and informed me this gazpacho was vegan if ordered without the crab – I didn’t even tell him I was vegan! Was quite a change from my Seattle trip. Ah, Chicago, how do I love thee. The soup was delicious – refreshing with a hint of smokiness due to grilling the tomatoes and let’s face it, the view didn’t hurt either.

I drug Luis to the farmers market this weekend with one thing in mind: yup, you guessed it, tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes, I really had my heart set on heirloom tomatoes, the more colors the better. While I didn’t find any at the farmers market, I found some standard tomatoes that the gentleman assured me would be sweeter and have more flavor than those in the supermarket. On the way home we stopped in Whole Foods for some necessities and I couldn’t resist the heirloom tomatoes sitting like royalty on stands. I can be a bit cheap at times, but let me tell you, I shelled out about $7 for these beauties. I got a large heirloom with a deep purplish green and red color combo and a small carton of tiny round and pear orange, yellow, and purplish tomatoes. They looked like a rainbow in a carton.

This pasta was a take on a pasta I saw here and have been thinking about for several weeks. I loved the idea of a fresh pasta that required little to no cooking in the summer’s heat.

Given how beautifully fresh these tomatoes were, I didn’t even see the need to marinate them but I began about 30 minutes before Luis got home so they did sit a bit.

All I did was slice, toss with some nice fruity Spanish olive oil I use for special dishes like this, and add a splash of balsamic for a little kick. A little salt and pepper for seasoning, and at the last minute I added one clove of minced garlic. Honestly though, I’m not sure the dish really needed it – you could easily do without it. Sliced basil tops it off and keeps the dish light and earthy.

At first I was worried the whole wheat pasta would be overwhelming for this dish but it was all I had on hand – and it turned out to be really good. I made sure to cook it al dente to provide texture against the soft tomatoes. Boil the pasta and allow to cool before mixing with the tomatoes. This dish is delicious cool and at room temperature – providing juicy freshness on a hot summer day.

Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 large heirloom tomato
1 carton small heirloom tomatoes
2 – 3 tablespoons fruity, good quality olive oil
a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sliced fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package of pasta of your choice

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil for pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Slice large tomato into several segments and smaller tomatoes in half.
  3. Toss in large bowl with several tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to generously coat tomatoes.
  4. Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, sliced basil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and set aside.
  5. Once pasta is finished drain well and set aside to cool. Once cooled, serve with tomato mixture over top.

Coincidentally Meatless Monday – Zucchini Fritatta and Tomato Mozzarella Salad

February 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

It’s not unusual for us to have meatless dinners in this house. I’m a carbaholic with an aversion to many meats so there are many meatless nights to be had here. I’ve actually been thinking more and more about adding additional meats to my diet. I have a strange relationship with meat – yes I admitted it – I like chicken, crispy cripsy bacon (note the double crispy) and spicy tacos. So, you’d think I would go for pork tenderloin or even a hamburger but nope, don’t like those. The reason I’ve been thinking of adding more meats to my diet is because of my husband. He loves meat and with the cooking shows constantly on in the background, I catch him drooling at the TV when he sees a good roast or steak. But I have to tell you, after the dinner we had this week which was completely meatless, there was nothing left to be desired.

I had briefly heard of this new movement, Meatless Mondays, an effort to get Americans to cut out meat at dinner once a weak to help us create healthier diets but was surprised when I saw a sign for it at a restaurant last Sunday afternoon – actually a burrito joint no less. Orlando isn’t a city that jumps on the bandwagon of many culinary trends so I was a bit surprised to see this had gained some attention locally. While I was intrigued, I wasn’t planning on going meatless the following Monday night. But Monday came, and that’s just what we did (in fact we went all out meatless by accident Sunday and Tuesday too so kudos to us).

Monday came, and I had a strong craving for an asparagus and egg dish I’d made a few months ago. You make delicate thin omelets almost like a crepe and wrap around cooked asparagus – its a light, delicious, and coupled with a glass of wine can feel very Parisian. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people that ever knows what’s in season – I can only tell once I get the store and see the prices. So wouldn’t you know I got my taste buds all jazzed up for this dish only to get to the store and see my lovely asparagus for $4.99 a package. I just couldn’t do it with the beautiful earthy green zucchini next to it for just $2.99. As I write this I’m laughing that $2.00 dictated my meal, but it did.

I also picked up some grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, crusty bread from the bakery, and Buittoni pesto. Once home, I unloaded my goodies excited to make my quick, healthy dinner. My husband greeted me and asked the usual “What’s for dinner” to which I replied, “eggs”. Now in his defense, I could have been a bit more descriptive but there was disappointment all over his face. You could see his high hopes for dinner just plummeting. I didn’t let this phase me though; I knew he’d be happy in the end. So, I got to cooking a zucchini frittata with a side tomato and mozzarella salad and some toasted bread with garlic.

I sliced the zucchini in half moons and sautéed in some olive oil and one minced garlic clove. To that I added a mixture of five beaten eggs with some milk, salt, pepper, and chopped scallions. I cooked the fritatta on the stove over medium heat until the egg was mostly set, moving it around in the pan with a spatula. Then I topped it with salty parmesan reggiano cheese and popped it under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese turned golden. To serve i stopped with some more freshly chopped scallions. I’ve made fritattas a few times. I always thought a fritatta just meant it was finished in the oven but after a little research, turns out a fritatta is the fluffy egg which results from whipping the eggs as opposed to stirring them as you would for an omelet. By whipping the eggs, you get air into the fritatta resulting in a beautiful fluffy, puffy, egg dish. While my fritatta puffed in the oven and I saw delicious peaks and valleys of cheesy goodness through the window, once removed it went poof! and fell. It was still delicious though, light, fluffy, and full of flavor.

On the side I made a yummy tomato mozzarella salad with the Buitoni pesto I had bought. I’ve used this pesto before and really love its intense flavor. While I’d love to make my own pesto, with one this good and ready to go, I can’t see why I’d bother. So, I took some help from Buitoni and mixed in some with my fresh grape tomatoes and mozzarella. The result was a perfect side salad to celebrate the coming of spring – crisp, juicy tomatoes with creamy mozzarella and herby pesto. For the bread, if you’ve never done this trick you need to try it – drizzle bread with a bit of olive oil and pop under the broiler until browned. Watch it closely as it can burn in a second. Remove the bread when its the color you want and rub with a garlic clove for a delicious, strong garlic flavor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired.

So what did my husband have to say about his dinner of “sad” eggs or so he had assumed? “Baby, you hit it out of the park!” He actually asked if I’d taken pictures for my blog which of course I hadn’t as this was just a quick fix meal – but after his praises I decided I might as well snap a few before digging in. The best part of the evening – aside from his glowing praises – was that this was such an easy meal to prepare and so satisfying and healthy, even without meat in the starring role. All in all I think it took just under half an hour to make – not too shabby if I do say so myself. I think the next time he hears eggs for dinner he’ll be quite pleased.

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