Salmorejo is gazpacho’s simpler cousin. It’s a fresh, chilled tomato soup without the added peppers, cucumbers and other business found in gazpacho. I’m not a huge fan of gazpacho, because it varies so wildly and people seem to put all kinds of crazy ingredients in it. You never know what you are going to get. But Salmorejo is right up my alley. I first tasted Salmorejo in its homeland of Andalucia in Southern Spain but forgot the exact name of the dish and didn’t do much research when I came home. But a few years ago, I was staying with friends near the beach close to Valencia, Spain and on a trip to the grocery store, I saw cartons of chilled Salmorejo (next to the cartons of gazpacho) and suddenly remembered the lovely soup from my earlier trip. We grabbed a couple of cartons and served them for lunch. Unfortunately, the first carton tasted a little off… So we opened the next carton and it exploded all over the patio. I think it had fermented. I was kind of embarrassed that I had insisted on buying it. Oddly, I took this as a challenge and decided when I came home, I had to explore the recipe.
I read many, many recipes and most simply blend the ingredients, chill and serve. But this method for soaking the ingredients mellows the soup, cutting the bite of the onions and garlic and softening the tomato skins. The soaked bread is a simple thickener often found in Mediterranean dishes. Use half a crusty baguette and serve the rest with the soup, or use up some older, slightly dried leftover crusty bread.
I saw a picture of a chilled soup with olive oil ice cubes floating in the bowl in a magazine years and years ago and it stuck in my head waiting for the right application. I don’t generally recommend buying specialty kitchen equipment, but I found some little round ice cube trays at a dollar store, so seek them out, they are pretty inexpensive. You can always use them for plain ice cubes. If you don’t have a small ice cube tray, drizzle the soup with a fruity, quality olive oil. Salmorejo is traditionally served with whisper thin pieces of jamon Serrano and sometimes boiled eggs. You could also serve the parsley picada from this wonderful White Gazpacho recipe.
Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil
- ¼ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
- ½ small yellow onion
- 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes
- 8 ounces baguette
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Divide the ¼ cup olive oil between the cubes of an small ice cube tray (about 2 teaspoons a cube). Freeze until firm, 8 hours or overnight.
- Slice the onion and place in a large bowl. Half or quarter the tomatoes (depending on size) and place in the bowl. Tear the bread into large chunks and add to the bowl with the crushed garlic cloves and the salt. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for an hour.
- Drain the tomato and bread mixture over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Pick out the tomatoes, onions and garlic as best you can and place in a blender. Add the ½ cup olive oil and the vinegar and a little of the soaking liquid and blend to a rough puree. Use your hands and the back of a spatula to press as much liquid as possible out of the bread and add it to the blender. Turn on the blender and puree, drizzling in some of the soaking liquid, until you have a smooth, creamy soup. If you would like a silky soup, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, pushing all the liquid through. Let the soup cool, then cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
- Serve the soup cold with frozen olive oil floating in each bowl.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Quick, summery and simple. This is the perfect passable bite for a party or a wonderful side to a summer meal. If you tend to end up with a couple of extra zucchini hanging around after a trip to the farmers market, this is a great way to use them up, as a starter or a snack. Serve these while still warm, but you can make the mayonnaise mix hours ahead and prepare the slices about 20 minutes before broiling. And of course, you can double or triple the recipe for a crowd.
Parmesan Zucchini Bites
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- generous grinds of black pepper
- a pinch of salt
- 2 medium zucchini
- Preheat the broiler in your oven to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
- Mix the mayonnaise, parmesan and oregano together with a fork. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (the parmesan can be salty, so go slow with the salt).
- Slice the zucchini diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread to the edges and evenly.
- Cook the zucchini under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.
- Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
I do love dishes made with phyllo dough, spanakopita, tiropita and the myriad of sticky sweet desserts made with it. But after a number of failed attempts, I have discovered that I simply do not have the patience to work with it. So I am attracted to recipes that mirror the tastes of my phyllo favorites without the work. My first success was Greek Feta Parcels, and now I have conquered spanakopita.
I found the basic formula for this recipe in a community cookbook and immediately thought I could give it a Greek twist. I’ve added feta cheese and generous amounts of dill and oregano. The simple batter creates the balance of the delicate original pastry, but could not be easier to mix up. This can be served in big slabs for a meal or cut into smaller pieces for a side dish (try it with a chicken roasted with Greek seasoning and lemon); you can even slice it into small pieces to serve as an appetizer.
Greek Herbed Spinach Pie
- 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch (about 6) green onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (crumble it from a block)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Place the spinach in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Separate the spinach with your fingers.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft. Ad the garlic, parsley, dill, oregano and lemon zest and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the spinach and stir to combine and separate the spinach. Remove from the heat and add the cottage cheese and feta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. When the filling is cool, beat 2 eggs in a small bowl, then stir into the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of an 8 by 8 inch baking dish and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Blend 2 eggs, the water and flour and 1 teaspoon salt together in a blender or with a whisk until completely smooth. Pour ½ of the batter evenly over the bottom of the oiled dish. Use clean, damp fingers to crumble and spread the spinach filling evenly over the top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter evenly over the top of the filling, covering fully, though a little filling poking up is fine.
- Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes until puffed and golden and cooked through. Let the pie cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Creamy artichoke dip has long been a staple a parties and gatherings. Lots of mayonnaise and marinated artichoke hearts and gooey cheese. It has never been a favorite of mine, because it is so rich and always tastes more of mayonnaise than anything else. I set out to create a dish everyone would be intrigued by, but surprised to find it veered so from the classic. I’ve seen recipes pairing artichokes and goat cheese, but wanted to add a lot of tang to complement the artichokes. Goat cheese, lemon, capers and yogurt give this spread body and zip, with the added herbs for layered flavors.
I prefer using frozen artichoke hearts that have not been marinated or brined to keep their flavor up front. This spread is so easy to prepare but gives such complex results it’s a real party trick. It is wonderful spread on toasted baguette slices, but it can be dipped with hearty chips. It’s good spread on a bagel too.
Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread
- 1 (14-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 Tablespoon capers in brine
- zest of 1 medium lemon
- 2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese
- 6 ounces Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the artichoke hearts according to the package directions. Drain and leave to cool.
- Place the artichoke hearts, garlic, herbs and capers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to break everything up. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and spreadable. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Scrape the spread into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Risotto for me was, for many years, solely a restaurant dish. I had only eaten it at fancy eateries at a time when it was ubiquitous on menus as the trend of the minute. I did not understand that it was something a normal human could make at home. But when I discovered that there is no real mystery, that it is quite a simple dish to make, one that takes only patience, a whole world of flavors opened up to me. I started with a champagne risotto, which I served at fancy dinner parties and felt very sophisticated about it too, because most of my guests had never had homemade risotto either.
Then I read in a lovely cookbook that the author’s Italian husband considered tomato risotto his childhood comfort food – like we might think of macaroni and cheese or chicken noodle soup. She shared her recipe, well, his mother’s recipe, for the food he always wanted when he was feeling poorly. And it was basically risotto made with tomato sauce. That really opened the flavor floodgates for me. And eventually, with some carrot juice in the fridge and dill in the herb garden, I came up with this version. I love the bright, zingy color and flavor of this risotto. It immediately perks up an plate. Carrot and dill are made for each other, so you have this amazing harmony of flavor to go with the vibrant color. I eat this on it’s own as a meal, but it is stunning on a plate with pork or chicken and a vibrant green vegetable. It would also make a beautiful starter. Make sure you buy 100% carrot juice, which I find in the refrigerated juice section of the produce department. You don’t want orange or mango or any other fruity flavors mixed in.
Carrot and Dill Risotto
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups carrot juice
6 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth, room temperature
½ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more to garnish
Combine the broth and carrot juice in a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer.
Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-low. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Do not brown. Raise the heat to medium high and add the rice. Stir to coat well in the butter and cook until the rice grains are translucent around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely absorbed.
Add ½ cup of the broth/juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed. Continue to add the liquid ½ cup at a time, cooking and stirring until each addition is absorbed and incorporated. Add some of the chopped dill with each addition, reserving 2 Tablespoons to stir in at the end. Continue cooking the risotto until all the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir in the last of the dill and the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper.
Risotto is best served immediately, but can be kept, covered, over very low heat for about 20 minutes.
Garnish with a shower of chopped fresh dill.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that showcases the true brilliance of that culture’s rustic cuisine. Simple, staple ingredients transformed into something all together luscious and comforting. Mashed potatoes and cabbage are combined with a touch of leek and lots of rich dairy to create a dish that will fell like a welcome home, even if, like me, you’ve never been to Ireland.
I like to use napa cabbage because I find it slightly sweeter and milder, but classic green cabbage or savoy cabbage works just as well, and give a more traditional green speckle to the dish. Colcannon is a great side dish to lamb or beef, particularly corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.
Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage)
2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
½ head of napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 large leeks, white and light green parts
½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided
1 cup buttermilk
salt to tast
Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and place in a large pot. Cover with well-salted water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until very tender and a knife slides in easily, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Heat the buttermilk to just warm in a small pan or the microwave and add ½ cup to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or sturdy wooden spoon until you have a nice, creamy mash. Stir in salt to taste
While the potatoes are cooking, slice the leeks into thin half-moons and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Wipe out the pot and melt ¼ cup ( ½ stick) of the butter in it. Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent. Stir frequently and do not le the leeks brown. Add ¼ cup of water, cover the pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks are completely soft and translucent. Cut out the tough core of the cabbage half and slice into thin shreds. Rinse the cabbage shreds in the colander, then add them to the pot with some water clinging. Stir to combine the leeks and cabbage and coat the cabbage with the cooking juices. Cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is completely soft and wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir a few times and add a few tablespoons more water if there is any worry of the cabbage scorching or sticking.
When the cabbage is cooked, add it to the potatoes in the bowl and fold through. Add buttermilk as needed to create a creamy, rich texture and salt as needed.
Scoop the colcannon into a large serving bowl and make a well in the center. Cut the butter into small pats and place in the well to melt. Serve scoops of colcannon with the melting butter.
Serves 4 – 6
Mardi Gras is a fun season for food. Not only can you draw from the great canon of Louisiana cooking, you can play with the bright signature colors of purple, green and gold and be a little silly. This slaw is simple but the multi-colored vegetables and the tangy dressing make it a special dish. It is beautiful served beside or on top of a po’ boy, but is also a great starter or side with other favorites like Shrimp Creole or Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits. But this slaw is also beautiful at a summer barbecue or picnic, long after Mardi Gras season has passed.
Mardi Gras Slaw
For the dressing:
1/3 cup creole mustard (I use Zatarain’s)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
a couple of dashes of hot sauce
For the slaw:
½ head purple cabbage
½ head green cabbage
2 yellow bell peppers
For the dressing:
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing is creamy.
For the Slaw:
Cut out the core of each cabbage half. Slice the cabbage with the slicing blade of a food processor. You’ll need to do this in batches. Transfer the sliced cabbage to a very big bowl. Remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers and finely dice. Add to the cabbage in the bowl. Use you clean hands to toss everything around until evenly distributed. Discard any large cabbage pieces or remnants of hard core.
Give the dressing a last whisk to make sure it is creamy and pour it over the slaw. Stir and toss to coat everything well. I like to do this with clean hands as well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. This is best served soon after it is made, but will keep for up to a day.
Serve 10 – 12
I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity. I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work. But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a bowl of slow-cooked peas.
I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards. The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf. And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet. A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side. These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards. You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.
Cast Iron Collards
1 large bunch collard greens
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
6 strips bacon
1 garlic clove
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems. Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar. Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated. Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible. Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can. A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.
Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out. Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens. When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain. Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove the garlic clove.
Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit. Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted. Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well. Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender. Watch carefully so they do not burn. The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.
Serves 4 as an accompaniment
Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
½ cup fine bulgur wheat
¼ cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and ¾ cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
When the fifteen minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles.
I spend a great deal of time in the summer putting up gorgeous fresh tomatoes for winter. Almost as much time as I do eating them. Ziptop bags full of sauce and soup base. Salsa, bloody mary mix and chutney in jars. And this, my favorite tomato condiment. I discovered recipes for tomato butter in several very old community cookbooks. The kind of recipes that call for a peck of tomatoes and sugar, just sugar no measurements. I was intrigued first by the name – I make lots of fruit butters, but had never thought about doing it with tomatoes. Then I was drawn in by the addition of vinegar; I could see how a hit of acid would really balance the sweetness of the tomatoes and sugar. So I set to work scaling this to a recipe more reasonable for my needs. And I love it.
Tomato butter has a jam like consistency and a deep, glossy, rich red color. It is sweet and tart, perfectly playing on all the attributes of a good tomato. Try this on a hamburger, and you may never go back to ketchup again. It is excellent dolloped on a steak or a piece of fish. It makes a wonderful mid-winter BLT and it is an elegant addition to a cheeseboard. My favorite usage is spread thick on good bread bought from a local baker, a few thick sliced of creamy brie and some smoky bacon, toasted and pressed. And I warn you, once you start making this, it may become an addiction.
5 pounds tomatoes, peeled
2 cups sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
First, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean. You will need 5 -6 half-pint mason jars (I always have an extra on hand in case I need it). I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm. You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.
Chop the tomatoes and place them in a large Dutch oven with the sugar and vinegar. Stir everything together, then turn the heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and become soft, about 15 minutes. Blend the tomatoes with an immersion blender until you have a smooth puree. Lower the heat and continue simmering the jam, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thick and spreadable. This could take anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are. As the mixture thinks, stir more often and watch carefully to prevent scorching.
When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’sready. Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
While you jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the jar lids jars to soften the seals and set aside.
When the jam has met the set test, remove it from the heat. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Wipe the rimes of the jars with a damp paper towel to clean up any sticky spills. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Makes 3 – 4 (½ pint) jars, plus a little extra
I have also made this in the slow cooker. To do this, place all the ingredients in the cooker and cook uncovered for 12 – 14 hours until set. Puree the tomatoes when they are soft.