Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Gazpacho

I made a brilliant discovery this summer, watermelon and tomatoes actually go well together! Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, you have to try it first. The sweetness of the watermelon compliments all the other savory ingredients of a typical gazpacho (cold, tomato soup) so it was much easier to love-most are way too salty for me. It also has a bonus for all you onion haters out there-I don't use ANY in this recipe...which is tough to find for gazpacho.

This soup was inspired by a wonderful watermelon-tomato salad that I made for a party with my girlfriends purely because I stumbled upon it while browsing and the picture was captivating.  Whether it tasted good or not would be irrelevant because of its beauty, I thought. Turns out, it was surprisingly delicious and addicting so that I craved it for weeks before I collected enough of the ingredients to have it again. The next time I made it, I had leftovers so I made it into a great summer gazpacho. I really suggest making the salad first and then having the gazpacho the next day-so you get the best of both worlds. Isnt' it pretty?

This cold soup is fun in that the spicy-heat of it makes you forget it is actually a cold soup you are eating. Despite that, it really isn't as good unless you serve it really cold (this means chilling it for a couple hrs before serving or else pouring over ice cubes). As with all cold soups-use mini portions and you'll enjoy it more.

I even had it one day with lime-marinated shrimp on top, which was awesome! It made me think of having ceviche at a Mexican resort on the beach.

Ingredients for Salad:
tomatoes of different colors
2 TBSP lime juice
Fresh herbs (I used mint and tarragon, but cilantro would be awesome too)
(cut each fruit/vegetable into chunks and arrange on plate, sprinkle with lime juice and herbs)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
(mix into flask and drizzle onto the salad right before eating)

To make Gazpacho:
Any leftover watermelon/tomato salad
2 cloves garlic
1/2 jalepeno (seeded)
1-2 TBSP of dressing (see above)
lime-marinated shrimp (optional)

Put all ingredients into a blender (reserving a few small chunks to use as a garnish). Chill, and serve.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Minestrone soup

I love this time of summer when people hand out fresh produce from their gardens like candy (they taste much better than candy, though). Someday I will have my own beautiful garden of produce, too. I'm starting small with two tomato plants in pots on my tiny back porch this year. They are alive and actually producing so I feel accomplished. I'm not the best at growing but I can sure cook and use up produce quickly. Here is one of the easiest ways to use the tomatoes and zucchini hanging out on your counter.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp margarine
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot (or 10 baby carrots), chopped
4 C chicken broth
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 can kidney beans
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 C zucchini, chopped
1 C ditalini pasta
1-2 tsp each of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
salt and pepper

Sauté margarine, onion, and garlic in a big soup pot for 3 min. Add broth, carrot and celery and simmer for 5 minutes. Add everything else. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Kind of hard to mess up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Egg Drop Soup

Ever get a head cold in the middle of a hot summer? Ever need a quick meal with minimal effort?  This was my delicious solution today. Normally I don't go for the Chinese takeout version of this soup because it is too thickened and a little blah. I learned that it doesn't need much thickening and that minimal addition of ginger gives new life to this old staple among soups.

2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp cornstarch whisked with 2 tsp water
1 egg (beaten smooth)
a few slices of fresh ginger (or if you must, use a few shakes of ginger powder)
white pepper and scallions (optional)

Put chicken broth and ginger in small pot and bring to a boil. Add in cornstarch mixture and whisk. Turn down heat and stir in circular motion while pouring in beaten egg so it makes strands. Simmer for 30 seconds until egg is cooked. Garnish with pepper and scallions if desired.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chicken and Rice Soup

Ever heard of an elimination diet? Since my gut seems to be very unhappy with me for a while now for some unknown reason, I have decided to put myself on this kind of special diet. That means I have to stick to only a few foods that are least likely to be causing any issue before I can slowly add other foods back in. Two of those simple foods happen to be chicken and rice so that's what we are having for many of our meals. Tonight's menu is the soup form.  Anyone else that may need a simple or nourishing recovery soup, here is your recipe.

Hopefully soon, I will get back to all my plans for fresh soups using all that garden produce or beachfront seafood that I'm craving. 

Have any family members that complain about eating leftovers? This is also a great way to re-purpose extra chicken or rice hanging around. Doing that will also cut your cooking time down considerably. Remember that even though we are going simple, it doesn't mean it has to be unflavorful.

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, sliced
5 baby carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 small chicken breast, cut in small chunks
1/2 C uncooked long grain rice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil or thyme
1/4 tsp celery salt 
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Start by a quick saute of the garlic, onion and carrots. Add in herbs, celery salt, bay leaf and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, while cutting chicken. Season chicken with little salt and pepper, then drop into the soup. After a minute or two, add in rice and boil for about 15 min. Serve.

p.s. If you are using precooked rice, only add 1/4 cup. Then only boil 3 min.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Miso Soup

We love Asian cuisine at our house. Lately we've been on a Japanese kick, which means I actually have ingredients like miso paste, nori, bonito flakes, and dashi  in my cupboard. This is very helpful when I get the urge for miso soup. (if you don't happen to have them at your house, they are pretty cheap at any Asain market or grocery stores that have an international food section).

For those days when I am ill or recovering from something, this simple, mild soup can hit the spot. Think of it as a chicken noodle soup with an Eastern flair.

4 cups water
2 tsp dashi granules (1 packet)
2 1/2 TBSP miso paste (I used white but some people prefer red or brown)
8 oz firm tofu
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp salt

Wrap tofu in 2 paper towels and let rest for 10-15 min. (this pulls out the excess moisture so it keeps its shape). Bring water, salt and dashi to a boil. Turn down heat to a bare simmer, whisk in miso paste. Cut tofu into small cubes, add to broth along with green onions. Let sit for 10 min with minimal heat (do not boil) so the tofu soaks up more flavor.