Gazpacho, Calamari & Paprika Crostini

My friend Sara is on vacation in Maine this week, which means that I picked up a double CSA share Tuesday night. Hauling this quantity of vegetables plus two melons, goat yogurt, honey, eggs, granola, and a few pounds of assorted meat is no joke. It took me a good 30 minutes just to organize my refrigerator.

Summer Bounty

Between the tomatoes, onions, green pepper, cucumbers and fresh basil, it was clear what had to be done.

Farmer Ted’s Gazpacho

  • 5 large tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons or so sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup packed fresh herbs (I used basil, Italian parsley and fennel fronds, because that’s what I had on hand.)

Add the tomatoes to the large bowl of a food processor and run until you have a slightly chunky tomato sauce. Add the rest of the vegetables, oil and vinegar and a good dose of salt and pepper. Run until any large chunks are gone. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional vinegar, salt and/or pepper. You can also add a pinch of sugar or a few dashes of hot sauce to balance the flavors. Add the herbs and run for about a minute more. Refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow flavors to meld.

Paprika Aioli

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and let sit in refrigerator for at least an hour.

The rest of this dish takes about 20 minutes to complete, so feel free to knock off for a while and grab a nap. You deserve it. (And, if you’re honest with yourself, last night’s margaritas demand it.)

Catnap

Crostini

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices baguette

Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat and swirl with the olive oil. Place bread in skillet and let sit until the bottom side is crisp and just a bit browned. Flip and repeat.

Calamari a la Plancha

  • 1 pound cleaned and sliced calamari, drained and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat. Toss the calamari with oil, Aleppo pepper, garlic, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, cook for one minute, stir and flip pieces and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and dress with lemon.

At this point, you are ready to plate. Pour the gazpacho into bowls and nestle the calamari in the center of each. Spread the aioli onto your crostini and strategically place alongside the calamari. 

Gazpacho Calamari Paprika Aoili Crostini

Sean and I ate our supper on the roof while sipping a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and admiring the pink and orange sunset–which, now that I think about it, evoked the warm hues of our gazpacho with calamari a la plancha and paprika-aioli crostini. For dessert, we managed to polish off a whole, perfectly ripe melon with some lovely serrano ham I’d picked up earlier in the day at BKLYN Larder. A couple of hours later we trekked down four flights of stairs, walked past a handful of buildings, climbed another four flights and joined friends on a nearby rooftop for one last round of drinks before calling it a night. God, I love summer.

Melon and Serrano

Leftover Chicken Tikka Salad

After a three and a half hour drive in bumper to bumper traffic followed by a rainy walk home laden with bags, I was in no mood to cook last Thursday. Apparently I was not the only one seeking the comforts of delivery. My chana masala and chicken tikka took well over an hour to arrive. On Saturday I ate the leftover chickpeas, with a liberal helping of goat milk yogurt, for breakfast. By 4:00 I was hungry again. Luckily, I still had a few hunks of chicken and some mango chutney left, along with plenty of fresh vegetables.

Leftover Chicken Tikka Salad

Combine 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon of mango chutney, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, some black pepper, and 4 thinly sliced scallions. Let the dressing sit while you prep the salad. Wash and dry a small head of romaine and slice into ribbons. Peel and slice one very large cucumber. Slice your leftover chicken. Combine all of the ingredients along with any crispy onion bits left in the takeout container in a bowl, tossing to combine.

Chicken Tikka Salad

This hit the same pleasure center as a curried chicken salad sandwich. And the dressing held up well against what were arguably some rather toothsome lettuce leaves. All around a great use of leftovers.

Blueberries, Basil & Butter (Lettuce)

As those who know and (miraculously, still) love me are aware, I am not a morning person. But work has been brutal, so I went in a full hour and a half early today in an effort to get a jump start. Ten hours later, I dashed out the door. I managed to bang out a few more emails on the subway ride to pick up my weekly CSA share, which included butter leaf lettuce, blueberries and two cucumbers that mocked me for the four I still had stashed from last week. On my kitchen counter was some fresh basil my neighbors gave me when I dropped off the keys so they could watch my cat. (How’s that for a good trade?)

I’ve still got a number of hours of work tonight, including a hundred-mile drive due East. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to have a tasty and nutritious meal first.

Blueberry, Basil and Butter Lettuce Salad

  • 3 tablespoons goat milk yogurt (This would ideally be at room temperature or close to it.)
  • 1 tablespoon honey vinegar (Champagne vinegar or even rice wine vinegar would be fine.)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pinch salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head butter lettuce, rinsed and dried thoroughly
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced at an angle (I used an Asian cucumber, which was YUM.)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 20 basil leaves, chiffonaded (rolled in a bunch like an, um, cigarette and then sliced thinly)
  • 1 ounce feta or goat cheese (While you could skip this if serving with a meal, this WAS my meal.)
  1. Combine the yogurt, vinegar, oil, scallions, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously until the honey has dissolved.
  2. Tear the lettuce into a small bowl, adding the cucumbers, blueberries, basil and any cheese you choose to use. Drizzle with the dressing, toss and dig in.

Blueberry SaladThis came out much better than expected. There was a certain harmony of flavors that transcended what were already some delightfully fresh ingredients. There was also a lightness I couldn’t place until halfway through wolfing my salad down, when I remembered that I had opted for coconut rather than olive oil. Trust me on this one.

EAT THIS: Leftover BBQ Chicken Salad

Leftover BBQ Chicken SaladSaturday night was an unexpectedly festive one–so much so that I was still recovering by the time I met a friend for dinner on Monday. I found my comfort in some barbecued chicken. Hungry as I was, I still took home a quarter of what must have been a very hefty bird. The leg went to my new feline companion and the breast appeared the next night on a bed of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and a homemade ranch dressing–which is a whole different thing from the gelatinous stuff served alongside lackluster crudité.

Dog Day Salad

It was 95 degrees when I arrived for tonight’s 7:00 CSA work shift. We checked members off on a list, restocked vegetables and loaded the unclaimed food into a car for transport to a local food pantry. As it happened, all four of us were nonprofit workers, so we talked shop–and sweat. By 8:30, we said our goodbyes and headed off in search of air conditioning, dinner and (at least in my case) a cold beer.

My tote contained my weekly share of red and yellow tomatoes, scallions and more of those delightful cucumbers. In the fridge at home I had some fresh dill and Greek yogurt left over from this past weekend’s Russian extravaganza.

Dog Day Salad

1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp fresh dill
3-5 scallions, minced
2 ounces crumbled feta or farmers cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Crack open a cold beer. Toss the above ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, taking swigs of the beer as needed. If you’re not starving, chill this in the fridge for a bit. If it’s all you’re eating, you might want to toast some whole wheat flatbread, tear it up into bits and mix it right in.

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I found that this paired well with a Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre and Dog Day Afternoon, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Make this salad or not; I don’t really care. But, if you’ve never seen Al Pacino in his prime, do yourself a favor.

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Pretty in Pink Borscht

Last week’s CSA share included a handful of beets. I knew they would keep until this week, when I had a hunch I’d be getting some more. Sure enough, Tuesday brought another bunch–along with some of the crispest cucumbers I’ve ever tasted.

That very day, NPR reported that this is the hottest summer on record in the U.S. Roasting the beets was out of the question.

But cold borscht was not. I boiled my beets and eggs while preparing my morning coffee and a garlic, beet greens and egg scramble that I ate with a sliced fresh tomato–the first of the season! With the hot work completed early in the day, dinner preparation would really just be a matter of assembly.

Cold Borscht (serves about four)

  • 2 bunches beets (greens reserved for a nice sauté)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 1 tsp green peppercorns
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like a little heat)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt (and more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (or to taste)

Clean the beets by soaking them in water and scraping off any lingering dirt. (I recommend using the edge of a teaspoon; three days and a few showers later, I am still trying to dig dirt our from underneath my thumbnail .) Trim the tops, bottoms and any rogue hairy stuff. Add these along with everything above except the horseradish to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until your beets give easily when pierced with a fork (somewhere between one and two hours). Remove beets and strain liquid into a bowl using a chinoise or other fine mesh sieve. Once beets have cooled, slip peels off with your hands. Add all but one of the beets, reserved liquid and horseradish to the work bowl of your food processor and purée until smooth. You may need to add more water to get the desired consistency. Pour mixture back into the bowl and refrigerate for at least a few hours. (A full day would be fine.)

  • ¼ cup crème fraiche, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cooked beet, diced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 Tbsp minced dill plus more for garnish
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

Whisk minced dill and crème fraiche, sour cream or plain yogurt into soup and season to taste with fresh-ground black pepper, salt and/or vinegar. Ladle soup into bowls, garnishing with halved eggs, beet and cucumber cubes and sprigs of dill.

It turned out that these were Chioggia beets, which were breathtakingly beautiful, though the dramatic stripes faded a bit during cooking and, ultimately, made for a borscht the color of Molly Ringwald’s prom dress at the end of Pretty in Pink. (Am I alone in having found that dress rather disappointing after all of the buildup?)

Still, it was damn tasty. I served it with a kale, sugar snap pea and pickled red onion salad and toasted pumpernickel bread topped with a crème fraiche spread and some killer smoked salmon that I’d picked up from Josephson’s Smokehouse in Astoria, Oregon. (Astoria is the town where Goonies was filmed, which makes for two ’80s movie references in a single blog post.)

An earthy rosé rounded out our feast, though I suppose that vodka would have been more traditional.