Stepping up the Gazpacho Game

I have a recipe for Simple Gazpacho that I blend up in just a few minutes and which I make several times a summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. However, for something to really knock your socks off, a few additional steps can mean a world of difference.

Roasting the garlic and onion deepens the flavors and takes out any harshness from having them raw. I also added roasted cashews as a thickener and for a hit of protein. You could use almonds instead.

Additionally, I used Aleppo pepper here for a lovely pepper taste without adding much heat but you can use a pinch of cayenne if you’d rather. As the flavor intensifies the longer it rests, don’t add so much seasoning you can’t eat the leftovers!

It is so pretty and oh, so delicious! Summertime never tasted so good!

Roasted Gazpacho


1 small head garlic (about 5-8 cloves)
1 small onion
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 lbs tomatoes – about 4 good sized
1 large cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 slice bread, torn into chunks
1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup cashews
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 cup V-8 or tomato juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and seal the foil around the bulb. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. Squeeze out the softened garlic and let cool.

Quarter the onion and separate the layers. Toss generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven with the garlic. Roast until the garlic is done, flipping layers over once during baking.

Wash the tomatoes and cut small x’s in both ends. Place in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to an ice water bath. Peel off skin, core and quarter. 

Peel cucumber, scrape the seeds out with a spoon and cut the cucumber into chunks. Core and seed the bell pepper and cut into large pieces.

Soak the bread in the sherry vinegar. While adding the bread isn’t necessary, I find it thickens the soup and mellows the flavors.

Pulse the cashews in a food processor until they become a fine meal.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic in the food processor with the nuts and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add in the sherry vinegar soaked bread, then drizzle in the remaining olive oil, salt and Aleppo pepper until well combined. Add just enough V-8 or tomato juice until the soup reaches the desired consistency. It should not be thin or watery but neither should it be the consistency of a smoothie, either.

Chill for several hours or overnight. Taste for seasoning before serving. Serve with fresh bread.

Michelle made a gorgeous loaf of crusty bread to go with our soup.

Yummy! I’ll see if she’ll give me the recipe for blogging.

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Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

These sweet potato fries are some of Michelle’s favorite. She likes the seasoning blend a lot but she also likes how they are like thick cut fries but are so soft and tender.

I like ’em because I can pretend I’m eating healthy when I have them.

Either way, you should give these a try next time you have a craving for sweet potatoes.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

3 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix all the spices together in a bowl.

Slice sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch wedges. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss with 3 teaspoons of the spice mixture (remaining spice mix can be stored in an airtight container).

Use remaining olive oil to coat a large baking sheet. Place sweet potato wedges in a single layer on baking sheet, skin side facing the same way (to make it easier to know which you’ve flipped later). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn wedges over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. They are done when soft and tender.

 

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

We had some cherries that we needed to do something with, so Michelle made a pie filling base with them by pitting and boiling them with some water, lemon juice, and sugar. She did this the night before so it would be chilled before adding to the top of the warm cheesecake.

We then used as a stepping off point the basic no-bake recipe from the Punta Clara Kitchen Cookbook on Cherry Cream Cheese Delights. If you’re ever in Point Clear, Alabama stop by for some of their delicious candy.

As Michelle doesn’t really care for sweetened condensed milk (I think she’s actually from another planet), we went with a more traditional baked cheesecake with Greek yogurt. We added two hits of chocolate with some semi-sweet morsels and some sweet ground chocolate.

While I’m not usually a fan of combining (adulterating) chocolate and fruit, these are a perfect match of deep chocolate flavor with creamy cheesecake and sweet-tart cherries!

Cherry Pie Filling

4 cups fresh pitted cherries, about 2 1/2 pounds
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.

Cool slightly before using as a topping.

We used a little more than half the recipe of cherry filling in the bars. The rest we are putting in the Chocolate Pound Cake!

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

1  cups graham crackers
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 recipe (or can) of cherry pie filling

Melt the butter in an 8×8 dish as the oven warms to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the melted butter and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter the chocolate morsels over the warm crust to begin melting.

Beat together the cream cheese and ground chocolate. Mix in the Greek yogurt, egg, vanilla and salt. Beat in flour. Pour over graham cracker crust and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before covering the top with the cherry pie filling. Cool in the fridge before cutting and serving.

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I had a craving for peanut sauce. What better way to get the stuff to your mouth than spring rolls?

The last time I had boiled a pot of shrimp, I made a couple of snack bags of the peeled leftovers so I could have shrimp to toss into things. They were perfect little bites in the rolls.

You can use most any veg in them but I like the coolness of the mint and cucumber and the crunch of carrots. This is especially handy if you get the peanut sauce too spicy!

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon honey

Thin the peanut butter with the hot water. Whisk in remaining ingredients and then taste for seasoning. Add more hot water if it needs further thinning. Make at least 4 hours ahead and taste again for seasoning before using.

The recipe is based on the number on shrimp I had and the number of rice paper wrappers in the package, so we knew we could make eight spring rolls.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

35 small shrimp, pre-cooked
1 cucumber, seeds removed
2 carrots
half package rice noodle vermicelli
bunch of mint
package of spring roll rice paper wrappers

Prepare the vermicelli according the package directions. Slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick sized pieces. Chiffonade the mint leaves.

Wet the rice paper wrappers in lukewarm water. Set the softened paper on a plastic cutting board. Place some rice noodles down and then a few cucumber and carrot slices beside and on top of the noodles. Sprinkle on some mint leaves. Make one tight roll. Set down the shrimp and continue to roll, folding in the ends before the final roll.

Set on a plate covered with a damp towel until ready to serve. Don’t stack as they will stick together. They are best eaten soon after rolling but can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a couple hours if necessary.

Yogurt and Aleppo Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken

I’ve jumped on the Aleppo pepper bandwagon with both feet. It is a less hot and almost fruity pepper that has a slow build of heat. It makes a great marinade for chicken (and, I’ve heard, for vegetables). I like that I get flavor without burning myself.

It was a rainy afternoon but that didn’t stop me from getting out and grilling. The chicken was tender and juicy and the mild spiciness of the marinade/sauce made our mouths happy. Heck, Michelle wants me to make more sauce for her to use on chicken tenders.

If you don’t have Aleppo pepper (and you really, really should get some), substitute crushed red pepper flakes and sweet paprika. Combine 4 teaspoons of each in the bowl with 4 tablespoons warm water as the first step.

Yogurt and Aleppo Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken

3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus zest from 1 lemon
1/3 cup honey
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

4 bone in chicken breasts (or leg quarters)

In a large bowl combine 3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper with 2 tablespoons warm water. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes for the water to be absorbed.

After the pepper has soaked, place remaining ingredients except the chicken in the bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve 1/2 cup of the marinade in a small container and refrigerate. Add the chicken to the large bowl (or pour the contents in a zip top bag) and thoroughly coat. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.

Set the grill for indirect cooking.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Arrange the chicken skin side up on the cool side of the grill with the thickest part nearest the coals. Grill for 30-45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the largest piece registers 160° -165 degrees F.

Drizzle the chicken with the reserved marinade and serve.

I served the chicken with couscous.

Pretzel Rolls

We had some beer brats that we were going to cook for dinner and needed something to go with them. I decided to made pretzel rolls as pretzels go great with German sausage. I used an eight loaf mini loaf pan to form the shapes although you can shape them with your hands as well.

They tasted great with lovely, soft interiors to hold plenty of mustard and the brats.

Pretzel Rolls

1 1/4 warm water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1-1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Add first 6 ingredients to bread machine in order given. Select dough cycle. When dough cycle completes, remove dough from pan to a floured surface.

Divide dough into 8 portions and make into ovals. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat conventional oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, prepare water bath by bringing the 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add baking soda – it will foam up but when it subsides, drop rolls into the boiling water. Cook 30 seconds, then flip and boil for another 30 seconds.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to drain and then move to a well-greased cookie sheet or mini loaf pans. Use a sharp knife to slice a line into the top of each roll about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating pan midway through. Rolls will be golden brown on top and will sound hollow when done.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Peach Pops

Michelle’s parents have some very fruitful peach trees and after she had sliced and frozen 20 quart bags and 24 pint bags and dehydrated another 6 pint bags of peaches, there were still plenty left. She gave two 5 gallon buckets worth to a cousin and I decided to use some of the very ripe ones to make a frozen treat.

These pops taste like peaches and cream but are made with milk and Greek yogurt. This recipe can be made with 2 cups frozen peaches, just thaw them out to chop some and dice the others.

Adjust the agave nectar up or down depending on the tartness of the peaches and how sweet you like your pops.

Peach Pops

1 cup of peaches, roughly chopped
½ cup peaches, diced
6 tablespoons milk
2/3 cups Greek yogurt
 – I used plain but vanilla is good, too
2 tablespoons agave nectar

In a blender, puree the 1 cup of chopped peaches. Add milk, yogurt and agave nectar and blend until smooth.
 Stir in diced peaches. Fill your pops molds.

Freeze at least 4 hours.