Friday, July 27, 2012

Urth Caffe' Gazpacho

A new twist on an old summer favorite from Urth Caffe' Gazpacho. The Basque shepherds reputed to have invented it, call gazpacho "a salad in a cup." So refreshing.Ole'



1-1/2 pounds tomatoes - peeled, seeded, chopped coarsely (4 tomatoes makes about 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups seedless Persian cucumber or any seedless cucumber, chopped coarsely
1 cup diced red onion (about 1/2 a whole)
2 stalks celery, cleaned, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (about 1/4 of a whole)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 cup tomato juice, more to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive
Creole seasoning or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tabasco sauce, or other hot sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chives or a palm full of minced cilantro


1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato juice, vinegar and oil. You may need to do this in batches. Puree, then pour into a medium bowl.  Puree minimally to keep a little texture to the vegetables if you like.

2. Add lemon juice, Tabasco, salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Creole seasoning to taste.

3. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

4. Before serving, dice avocado, mince chives or cilantro and stir into the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serves 6.

Bon appetit.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Oven Roast Tomatoes?

After reading my very detailed instructions on oven-roasting tomatoes, one of my friends didn't get it.
Can't you just cook and eat them? Do they have to get all shriveled up and dried out? Doesn't cooking this long rob tomatoes of their nutritional value?

All very good questions. But given that line of thought, why cook vegetables at all? The fact is, the vegetable you eat may have less nutritional value than you think.
A broccoli today is worth more than a broccoli tomorrow.   Vegetables have a set amount of nutrients when harvested and begin to lose them the minute they are cut off from their food source  Once harvested, they begin to consume their own nutrients in order to stay alive. This decline is hastened by the things we do to them.

Simply, the farther and longer from field to fork, the less nutrition.

Does this make oven-roasting tomatoes fruitless?

Quite the opposite.
According to an article in Scientific American exploring Fact or Fiction: Are raw veggies healthier than cooked ones,  many  vegetables supply more antioxidants to the body when cooked - carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers among them.

Tomatoes, in particular benefit.

According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cooking tomatoes actually enhances their nutritional benefit by breaking down the fruit's thick cell walls.

This aids the body's uptake of some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls, particularly lycopene, the red pigment associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.

So not only does oven roasting tomatoes intensify and preserve the flavor for a later time when tomato season ends, it's also heart smart.

Why do you roast tomatoes?

I'd love to hear why and how you use them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Now That's a Bagel!

Sunday morning bagels, tomatoes, sliced onion and lox was one of the food rituals I enjoyed in Chicago. I just can't recreate it in Texas.

Photograph by David Liebovitz

Seriously, Texas. There's more to a good bagel than a shiny crust and a hole in the center. The crust needs to be crunchy, the inside dense, moist, chewy and preferably warm. And they're boiled before baking.

I equate pretty much every bagel I've tasted here to Duncan Hines box cake.


I haven't had a decent bagel since my last trip to New York.

Of course, native New Yorkers old enough to remember "real bagels" before 1950 might disagree about where to get the best bagels just like I'd argue with them about deep-dish pizza which is the sine qua non of Chicago comfort food.

So imagine my food lust when I spied this display of bagels photographed by food writer, David Liebovitz, on a recent visit to Tel Aviv.

Pass me the schmear!

I'm not much of a baker, but the memory of a Bronx-worthy bagel may drive me to make them for myself.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Update: Summer Minestrone With Basil Pistou

I most often think of cold soups in summer. But an abundance of zucchini, tomatoes and basil in the garden begs for a summer minestrone. This one is brightened with a sprinkling of green beans and a dollop of pistou, French pesto. Serves six or eight at room temperature or just warm. 

Summer Minestrone with Basil Pistou


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 pound zucchini, diced
6 ounces green beans
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice)
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup vegetable stock
Bouquet garni - 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, Parmesan rind tied together or bundled into a piece of cheese cloth
1/2 cup soup pasta such as elbow macaroni or shells
Sea salt
Fresh basil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pistou (recipe below)
Freshly grated Parmesan to garnish


1. Heat the olive oil to medium-low in a large, heavy soup pot. Saute' onion and garlic until they start to caramelize. Stir in carrots, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute' until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, continuing to stir-fry until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant. Add water, stock, zucchini, bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in canned beans. Remove the garnish.

2. While the soup simmers, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans, boiling five minutes until tender and bright green. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Allow to cool, drain and set aside. Retain the cooking liquid in case you want to thin the soup.

3. Add the pasta to the soup, simmering until it is cooked al dente. Stir in the green beans. Add freshly ground pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. Soup should taste savory and rich.


Make French pistou exactly like Italian pesto, omitting the pine nuts.

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, blanched if desired
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1/4 cup tightly packed)

1. Grind the leaves to paste in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside. Grind the garlic to a paste with salt in the mortar and pestle. When it's well smashed, mix in the ground pesto and slowly work together with the olive oil. When combined, stir in Parmesan.

(You can also make this in a food processor. But fresh chefs swear by the mortar-and-pestle method because it releases the oil in both the herb leaves and garlic. I did a bit of both. There's no shame in this game.)

To serve, stir pistou into the soup or place a spoonful in each bowl before ladling in soup. Serve in wide soup bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan over the top.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zucchini Primer - Choose, Store, Enjoy!

Ratatouille is an easy and delicious use for the abundance of zucchini at local farmer's markets.


Summer blesses us with a bounty of vegetables, foremost of which may be zucchini. Browse any farmer's market; you'll quickly see that there are many varieties from which to choose.

Russ Parsons, LA Times, Daily Dish offers a brief primer on common varieties, which to choose and how to cook zucchini.
How to choose: Look for zucchini that are small to medium-sized (no longer than 6 to 8 inches). They should be firm and free of nicks and cuts. Really fresh zucchini will bristle with tiny hairs.

How to store: Keep zucchini tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.

Ratatouille Ratatouilleis our favorite way to enjoy zucchini in its season.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Viva la Viande Francais *hiccup*

To honor Bastille Day, here's an interesting tidbit from the village of Lunel-Viel, in the Hérault department in southern France.

In an effort to add flavor to their beef, some farmers are feeding wine to their cattle on the principle that if French beef tastes good now, it can only improve with a bottle of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues.
This was what a local farmer Claude Chaballier fed three animals last year – in a trial run that he's preparing to repeat next month. He says the resulting beef was "lean, marbled and tasty".

Two Angus and one Camargue were given a mix of leftover grapes, barley and hay before about two litres of wine were integrated into their diet.

The only real hiccup, if you will, is the cost. The best cuts of wine-raised beef run as much as 100 euros. That's about $130 for you, America.

And I thought pastured-beef was pricey!

Ah well, a votre sante'.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In A Food Rut? Spice It Up.

Image courtesy of Keres Spices, importing and distributing
a wide variety of organic and fair trades spices from around the world.

If you're like most busy people, you go to the same reliable recipes most of the time. You like what you like. It spares your time. You can count on your family's enjoyment.

Still, variety is the spice of life and spice adds a wholesome variety to all your go-to recipes.

Here's how to take the same ingredients into five different, delicious directions:

1. Shrimp Creole - red sauce spiced with white pepper, black pepper and cayenne.

2. Shrimp Provencal - red sauce spiced with fennel and thyme.

3. Shrimp Espagnol - red sauce spiced with adobe chili powder.

4. Spicy Moroccan Shrimp - red sauce spiced with cumin, coriander and ginger.

5. Jamaican Curry Shrimp - red sauce spiced with curry powder.

Same ingredients - onion, garlic, tomatoes and shrimp. Add spices and imagination. A world of variety at every meal.

Use the Spicepedia by Keres Spices to spice things up in your cuisine.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blackened Fish Tacos

This is such a versatile dish; I was eager to give it another try. This version bakes the fish, a healthier alternative to pan frying. 

Blackened Fish Tacos


3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pound tilapia filets
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
10 corn tortillas


1. Combine first 10 ingredients in a Ziploc bag.

2. Cut tilapia pieces into halves and brush with olive oil.

3. Place fish in the bag and shake until all pieces are well coated.

4. Remove from bag and sprinkle with lemon juice.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a shallow baking dish with olive oil.  Bake fish for 10 to 15 minutes - until it flakes easily with a fork.

Serve in warm tortillas with pico di gallo and guacamole sauce. Creamy lime-cilantro cole slaw is also yummy.