Friday, July 29, 2011
Making this salad may have been the only publicly acceptable thing I did this week while left to my own devices. Paul has been away for work so I have fallen into crusty bachelorette mode. This involves a good deal of (a) eating while lying down; (b) watching Bridezillas in my underwear; and (c) sleeping diagonal across the bed (usually a and b happen simultaneously followed shortly thereafter by c). Though it has been a lazy and enjoyable enough week, I was thrilled to have him home last night, there are only so many days of sloth a gal can take without the habits starting to stick.
Though I’m generally not a fruit in salad kind of person, save for that one peach salad from a little while back, I have had the good old watermelon feta combo before and found it acceptable enough. I was “talking” to my friend the other day on chat and she was listing off this delicious salad that she had just eaten (because discussion of lunch comprises 70% of what we talk about, with the other 30% being made up of equal parts: sequins, Bel Biv Devoe and kitten videos). I realized that my very own lunch had all the same ingredients, with the only difference being that the watermelon was on the side, not in, my salad of arugula, avocado, corn and feta. So I cut a couple hunks up and added them to the mix, and my mind was blown. Now I’m completely hooked. This salad is textured, juicy and fresh and tastes so perfectly like summer you need to get up on this immediately.
ARUGULA, AVOCADO and WATERMELON SALAD
Corn on the cob (2), kernels chopped off cobs and reserved
Watermelon chunks (3/4 cup)
2 Scallions, chopped (or chives or mint if that’s what you have)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Wedges of lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
This is hardly a recipe so much as it is assembly. Combine arugula, avocado, corn, scallions, watermelon and feta, drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Salt and pepper well, toss together gently; serve with a lemon wedge for squeezing over. Make this salad now.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Don’t cook. Not tonight and probably not for the next few nights. This is the kind of weather that begs for simple, fresh recipes, that are mostly just assembly and very little else. This salad, which I brought to 4th of July as a side dish, fits the bill quite nicely. The original directions call for you to briefly sauté the chickpeas in olive oil, which, according to the directions, makes them “creamy.” I don’t really know if that happened or not. I did cook them, but I think, given the heat index and humidity levels bearing down on us, that you could easily skip that step, make this salad without so much as breaking a sweat and enjoy it with some cold sandwiches, or some grilled protein. If you have central air conditioning and the idea of turning your stove on doesn’t sound crazy, well then, keep the sautéing step and please do invite me over.
I was delighted with this salad. It seems very humble and I was a little worried that it would be a little too healthy and boring for my crowd, but it was terrific. My hope was that it would be a nice alternative to standard potato and pasta salads that grace every cookout buffet from Mem Day to September. I love the idea of substituting protein rich chickpeas for pasta or starch. It keeps the salad light, but still very satisfying. It’s tangy and bright, with some nice heat from the red chili. This salad now has place in my summer anti-cooking arsenal. It comes together in about 10 minutes, improves in flavor if you make it the day prior to serving, and travels perfectly. It would be the perfect thing to bring to a beach picnic or your next cookout. Or, just to eat sitting in front of the air conditioner with your underwear on. Do what you’ve gotta do.
CHICKPEA SALAD with RED ONION, FETA and MINT
(this is a Jamie Oliver recipe, as found on Serious Eats)
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 small fresh red chili, deseeded and minced
2-3 handfuls red or yellow cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
Juice of 2-3 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cans of good quality chickpeas, drained and rinsed*
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, roughly torn or chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, roughly torn or chopped
7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Combine the onion, chili, and tomatoes with their juice into a bowl. Dress with most of the lemon juice and olive oil to taste (you want a good amount of oil to counteract the zing of lemon); season with salt and pepper.
In a small skillet, drizzle a little olive oil over medium heat and add the chickpeas. Cook for a few minutes until hot and creamy and just beginning to color. Add them to the bowl and allow to marinate and cool. (If omitting this step, simply rinse well and drain your chickpeas). Once cooled, toss the herbs and season again to taste, adding any remaining lemon juice if needed. Serve with the feta cheese loosely crumbled on top. You can store this salad in the fridge until you are ready to eat. Because I was serving it the next day, I didn’t add the basil and mint until I was ready to serve, because I didn’t want the basil to turn black. You can serve cold or let come up to room temperature before serving.
*they say “good quality” I used Trader Joes, I think they have a nice chickpea, although some canned brands are gross. The two brands I can whole heartedly endorse are Traders and Progresso.
**Also, for the love of god, wear latex gloves, or some kind of gloves when you cut hot peppers. I thought I would be "fine" because I am "careful" and for the rest of the evening after I made this, every time I touched my face, I would have a searing hot spot of burn for a while. Learn from the idiots in your life. I am one of them.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A friend of mine used to go to Red Sox games with his little nephew and when his nephew asked what kind of juice he was drinking (beer) he called it “Uncle Ted’s Baseball Juice.” Since I always got a kick out of that, this sangria is Auntie Jessie’s Beach Juice, if I may borrow the phrase.
The only annoying thing about this sangria is that you have to pour your pureed watermelon through a fine mesh strainer. Oh, and the other annoying thing is that it tastes like juice but punches you in the drunk button like grain alcohol, so if you get annoyed by stuff like that, it might not be the drink for you. Personally, I think that’s okay in certain circumstances, but you just wouldn’t want to gun back a couple mugs of this if it was say, your new boyfriend’s niece’s birthday party and your debut to his extended family, stuff like that. If you, like me, were at a gathering with people who have known you since you were in diapers and withhold judgment on holiday indulgence, by all means, giddy up. OR, alternately, cut the punch with some cold seltzer water; I like to do that with most sangrias anyways.
2 lbs. seedless watermelon, peeled and cubed
1 bottle dry white wine or a light, dry rose
6 ounces vodka
4 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
2-4 oz. simple syrup (optional)
juice from lemon (optional)
I found an original recipe for this on Food and Wine and it called for citrus infused simple syrup to be added, namely, as much simple syrup as Cointreau. This will make your drink waaaay too sweet, since watermelon itself adds plenty of sweetness. Fortunately, having my suspicions about the amount of simple syrup and having a general distaste for too-sweet cocktails, I taste tested after adding only half the syrup the recipe had called for. WAY too sweet. I cut the sweetness by squeezing the juice from a lemon and an orange into the sangria to dilute it with a little tart-ness.
In a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon (in batches, if necessary) until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Add the wine, vodka, Cointreau (or triple sec) and the simple syrup, if using. Stir and refrigerate at least two hours, or even overnight. Pour over ice to serve, top off with soda water to add bubbles and dilute if it’s too strong for your liking. I never got a good photo of individual glasses of this sweet nectar, because I was too busy taking pictures of my mom leading a parade of youngsters singing Grand Old Flag (true life). But, on ice, garnished with a slice of watermelon or wedge of lime, it's just as pretty as it tastes. Summertime in a glass. Just remember: NOT JUICE.
Also, in light of the photo above, I just wanted to add that today is my mom's birthday. I've gotten many things from my mom: my zest for appetizers, man sized tolerance for white wine and love for having fun; but most applicable here, this woman raised me to love the kitchen, and for that I thank her very much. Love you Piz. xoxoxo
Friday, July 8, 2011
My relationship to gazpacho has been strained at times. When I was young and I first discovered it, I was obsessed. Then slowly, over time, I grew to dislike it quite a bit, I may have even claimed to hate it for a while there. Maybe I had some bad ones, I’m not sure. Ones that were too spicy and essentially felt like slurping on a bowl of Bloody Mary mix rather than a fresh to death bowl of summer bounty, which is what a bowl of gazpacho should rightly feel and taste like.
A few months ago my friends and I went out to the Brimfield Fair, which was seriously awesome. If you have a house to furnish or even just like looking around antique shops at all, you owe it to yourself to go at least once. It’s like cool stuff overload. The thing is the Brimfield Fair is stupid huge and you need two days to even try and see it properly. And you are on your feet all day, shuffling slowly and staring left, right, left, right to take it all in (we dubbed it “the Brimfield Shuffle”). All that work means lunch is truly important and needs to not only satiate your appetite, but also give you a little fuel to keep on shuffling through a few more stalls; or at least provide you with the energy you need to walk back to your car with a footstool hoisted over your head, like I did on day one.
While there, both days, we had lunch from a food truck called the Bistro Box. And HOLY. COW. We could not have chosen better. Their menu was small, simple, straightforward and delicious. Not to mention that the prices were completely reasonable. On day one, I had a tomato and basil Panini and some orzo salad that was out of this world. On day two, at 10 in the morning, Val and I bought a fresh berry shortcake as a snack and it seriously was so good that we hid (yes, hid) from the rest of our friends until we had finished it so we didn’t have to share. Proof:
Later on, for lunch, I tried their gazpacho. And it was so good I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I begged, by way of their facebook page, for them to share the recipe. They promised they will post recipes “soon” but I’m sure that they’re super busy making radical lunches for every county fair and flea market in the greater Berkshires area for the rest of the summer. So I searched on my own and found this Gazpacho Andaluz, which is a very traditionally Spanish preparation, if you omit the cumin and cayenne. It’s very good, and somewhat creamy, thanks to the addition of pureed country bread that has been marinated in sherry vinegar, tomato juice and olive oil. It’s not the Bistro Box, but until I get my hands on the real thing, this little import served me quite nicely.
(By Monika Kotus via thekitchn.com)
serves 4; easily doubles to feed a crowd
2 thick slices of day-old country bread, crusts removed and cut into small pieces
1 ½-2 lbs. ripest, sweetest most flavorful tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, minced
pinch of ground cumin (optional)
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 firm medium-sized cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small red (or yellow) bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
½ small red or Spanish onion, peeled and chopped
½ cup bottled spring water (optional)
Set aside small amounts of finely diced peppers, onion and cucumber.
Remove the crust from bread and cut into small hunks; place in a large bowl and drizzle with some olive oil, one teaspoon of your sherry vinegar and the juice from one of your tomatoes. Be careful, when you squeeze a tomato, you really have no knowing what the juice squirts are going to end up (for me, it was the window sill, the countertop, and my tank top, as well as onto the bread). Mix the liquids into the bread well and let sit for at least ten minutes.
While your bread is saturating, get to chopping your vegetables. Since I was doubling the recipe, I used two small white onions and two red peppers, one yellow and one green because I feel as though two whole green peppers would overwhelm. I like the mellow nature of yellow peppers, as well as their pretty color, when it comes time to garnish.
Once your ten minutes has passed, transfer the bread mixture to a food processor (or blender), add minced garlic, cumin and cayenne (if using) and process until very smooth. Add half the tomatoes, peppers, cukes and onion along with a generous pinch of salt and about ¼ cup of olive oil. Process until smooth and then transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with your remaining vegetables, in batches, adding generous drizzles of oil and big ole pinches of salt until everything is processed, adding each batch to your bowl. Drizzle in the remainder of your sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and maybe a touch more olive oil.
Taste and adjust as necessary. If your gazpacho is too thick, the original recipe called for bottled spring water to thin it out, but I didn’t find that it was necessary. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Gazpacho, like most of its soup related brethren, gets better each day (within reason). I made this the day before and the next day it was delicious, but I think an extra day of chilling would have even made it better. It’s such a great make-ahead appetizer to bring to a cook out. Easy to transport (I used a big drink jug) and a big hit with everybody. Not to mention that it’s pretty healthy, especially compared to the standard carbohydrates and cattle cookout fare we see everywhere in the summer. When you’re ready to serve, garnish each bowl with a little bit of diced onion, cucumber and pepper, and a tiny drizzle of good quality olive oil. Fresh, savory and delicious. It's good to be back together with gazpacho.