Summertime Gazpacho

GazpachoMy boyfriend and I visited Portsmouth, NH last summer and had a wonderful dinner at a lovely little tapas restaurant that we’ve since forgotten the name of. If I ever remember, I’ll update this post because it’s definitely somewhere that I’d recommend getting a bite to eat if you’re in the area. We sat on a gorgeously intimate patio for dinner and one of the dishes that we ordered was a deconstructed gazpacho.

It arrived as perfectly segmented purees (cucumber and tomatoes/red peppers) with a swirl of olive oil decorating the top of each. Since that time, we’ve tried to recreate a decent gazpacho at home for assorted parties and dinners to together. We always debate the consistency because I prefer my gazpacho a bit smoother with a texture similar to soup, while he prefers his to be coarsely pureed and the consistency of salsa. What usually happens is that we make it his way and I water my bowl down a bit.

The recipe below makes a coarser gazpacho but you can always add a bit of water or vegetable stock to adjust the consistency to your preference.

  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes (I usually use canned because it’s easier.)
  • 7 oz. diced red bell pepper (The color doesn’t actually matter, red is just the prettiest.)
  • 7 oz. peeled, chopped cucumber
  • 5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 or 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • vegetable stock (optional add for consistency)
  • garnish with a few leaves of basil (if you’re feeling fancy)
  1. Roast the garlic by cutting the top off about a third a clove of garlic and roasting it in the over at 350 degrees with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – wrapped in tin foil – for 30-45 minutes.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, chop the bell pepper and the cucumber, removing the seeds from both.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chopped red pepper, chopped cucumber, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to a food processor and blend just short of desired consistency.
  4. After the garlic has roasted, discard the foil and remove two or three roasted cloves with a butter knife.
  5. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor and blend to desired consistency.

One of the best things about gazpacho is that it presents beautifully and because of that people think it’s really difficult. It’s a great way to impress guests or a significant other.

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Sugar Cookies with a Lemon Glaze

Like all great recipes, this one comes from my grandmother.  Being the slovak that she is, if she could use lard for everything, she would.  Unfortunately for her, here in America, her doctor says no and the pescetarian in me thinks that is just gross.  But as far as I’m concerned, the real secret to fluffy sugar cookies is crisco.

Simple Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 C Shortening
1 1/2 C Sugar (I subbed Splenda this time around)
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla

As with all cookies, combine dry ingredients and then mix in the shortening, egg and vanilla.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  In my opinion, these cookies should be a tiny bit golden brown on the edges and never over-baked.

Lemon Glaze (simplest thing in the world and it sounds really fancy)
1 C Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp Lemon Zest
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 Drops Yellow Food Color (optional)

Just whisk this up in literally 30 seconds.  I added yellow food coloring just to make the cookies a little prettier but it’s definitely not necessary.  I usually take the lazy-man’s approach and wait until the cookies cool and then dip them directly in the glaze.   This is the least messy option.

I’m dying to try this recipe..

Holiday Detox: Crispy Skinned Halibut with Spinach and Tomato Sauce

by Michelle Zippelli

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 lb of Halibut (with or without skin)
  • Large can diced tomatoes
  • A few handfuls of spinach
  • Handful of chopped basil
  • One lemon (for zest and juice)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • Canola oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:
1 – Prep: turn on the broiler on high, pat the halibut skin so its dry, sprinkle some lemon juice over the fish
2 – In a saucepan, heat some canola oil on medium high heat. When hot add in garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes until onions are translucent
3 – Add tomatoes and lemon zest and some salt and pepper into pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the sauce until the fish is ready
4 – Heat canola oil in a sauté pan — highest heat
5 – When the canola oil begins to smoke, add the fish (skin side down) — then immediately transfer the sauté pan into the oven (even plastic handles are fine, because time in the oven is so short). If the pan doesn’t fit in the oven – just leave the oven door open, the broiler will do its thing regardless. The halibut will only take 3-6 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness of the fish, so keep an eye on it. Remove the fish from the oven when it is fork tender and sprinkle with some more lemon juice
6 – Add the spinach, basil and the remaining lemon juice to the sauce. This way the spinach doesn’t wilt too much before serving. Also add more salt and pepper if needed.
7 – Serve the fish on a heaping spoonful of the sauce

The whole process shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes!

Pretzel Rolls

I desperately needed to take a hiatus from the sweets.  No good for my diet or my taste buds…

So pretzel rolls.  I landed on that recipe because I’ve been wanting to make my own bread, but haven’t had the nerve to actually do it yet.  I don’t have a mixer or a breadmaker, so I need to come at it with a patient mind and strong arms.  Unfortunately, I have neither of these things naturally, so I decided to ease myself in with pretzels.

Despite my lack of experience in the dough-making department, these things are actually hard to screw up.  Which was a nice change since I was unexpectedly entertaining that night as well.

Please excuse the crazy plate. *Note to self: Buy my boyfriend new china.

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 ¾ cups flour
1 tablespoon, sugar
1 teaspoon salt (plus coarse sea salt for topping)
Vegetable oil
1/4 cup baking soda

Combine warm water and yeast in the bowl. Wait about 5 minutes until mixture bubbles. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt and add once yeast and water are ready. mix into dough for about 6 minutes (or as long as my girly arms can stand it).

Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl covered in oil and cover with a clean, damp dishtowel. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Knead dough on a floured surface for about 1 minute. Divide into 8 pieces and form into oblong balls. Place rolls on a baking sheet with oiled parchment paper and cut diagonal slashes across the top of each.

Cover with the damp towel and let dough rise for 20 minutes.  Heat the oven to 425°F and boil a large pot of water and stir in baking soda.  Boil two or three rolls for 2 minutes on each side.

Remove rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt and bake 12-15 minutes until crispy and golden.

even these directions bore me… but the result tastes delicious

Grilled Chicken with Chipotle Peach Sauce

I stole this recipe from Bon Appetit because it’s really easy and we want to get some good use out of our grill before the end of the summer.  The chicken ended up being really moist and delicious and I happen to love spicy stuff so I added a couple of the chipotles to the sauce for a little kick.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/3 cup peach preserves
  • 1/3 cup peach nectar
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
  • 3 large peaches, rinsed, fuzz wiped away, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin

Preparation

  • Coat grill rack with nonstick spray. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Stir preserves, next 3 ingredients, 2 teaspoons oil, and chopped cilantro in medium bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/4 cup dressing to small bowl.
  • Brush peaches, then chicken with oil and dressing from small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill peaches until slightly charred, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Place 1 chicken breast on each of 4 plates. Surround with peaches. Drizzle dressing from medium bowl over chicken and peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

The Long Awaited and Affectionately Named Crack Cookies

I know I’ve written about the “Crack Cookies” before so I am finally getting around to sharing the recipe.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup white chocolate chips

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees
– Mix all wet ingredients with sugars and cocoa powder
– Add baking soda, salt and flour
– Add chips

I like rolling them into golf-ball sized treats for when I’m just making them to have around the house, but if I’m taking them to a party or work I’ll use a melon baller to measure bite-sized yummies.  Bake time will vary based on the size cookie you decide to make, but it should take no more than 12 minutes for the larger cookies.  Just keep a close eye – even I can pay attention for 10 minutes.

If you love chocolate peppermint these cookies hit the spot.  You could exchange my white chocolate chips with regular chips if you’re not a fan but I would suggest you try it with the white chocolate first because it’s my absolute favorite.  Or if you’re like me and running low on chips all together you can do half chocolate, half white chocolate.  It is impossible to mess these up.