Gazpacho Verde

Thanks to my excellent neighbors and their surplus crop of seedlings this spring, I'm growing tomatillos for the first time this summer. They are fairly easy to grow and are somewhat similar in maintenance to a tomato plant. They first show husks, then the tomatillos ripen and fill the husks and are ready for harvest (though I've had to learn when to pick them, as much of my harvesting has been from the ground!).

They seem to do well left on the counter for several days. When you are ready to use them, you remove the husk, rinse them (they are very sticky!), cut out the small core and then use them to your hearts desire. After said excellent neighbors stopped by with a bag of nearly two pounds of their tomatillos, I knew I had enough for a big batch of tomatillo gazpacho, or gazpacho verde as I've renamed it.

It's a simple recipe and merely requires a quick saute of some garlic, some chopping and blending in the food processor and chilling in the fridge. It's great for a hot summer day, and is a refreshing change from regular gazpacho.

Gazpacho Verde
Adapted from Eating Well In Season by Jessie Price and the Editors of Eating Well
Serves 4

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 avocado, halved and pitted (*see note)
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chipped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
2 c chicken or vegetable broth (or 1c broth and 1c water)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped (optional *see directions below Note for use)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat.

Coarsely chop half the cucumber and the avocado and place in food processor. Add tomatillos, bell pepper, jalapeno (if desired) and garlic. Process until smooth (1-2 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl; stir in broth, sugar and salt.

Chill gazpacho for 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Dice remaining cucumber and set aside. Ladle gazpacho into bowls and top with a sprinkling of diced cucumber.

Note: The original recipe calls for avocado and shrimp 'salad' on top. I made my gazpacho ahead of time to chill most of the afternoon and didn't want my avocado to brown, so I just blended the whole avocado into the soup, rather than using half as the recipe stated (the other half being reserved for the salad). I had no jalapenos so didn't use them. I didn't feel like thawing shrimp, so I didn't use that either. I've included additional directions below for using the shrimp and avocado salad on top.

Alternatively, dice remaining cucumber and avocado and place in medium bowl. Add shrimp. Drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp oil and gently toss to combine. Ladle gazpacho into bowls and top each portion with about 3/4 c of the shrimp 'salad'.

On the cusp of pollination

Sauteed wax beans with tomatoes and basil

I am cooking and eating vegetables at rates previously unknown to man. Another Tuesday has arrived and another CSA pickup has occurred. This is our first week for corn and melons (wahoo!). I don't know if the photo above looks like a lot or a little to you, but that's what we got for a 'single' share this week. There are two people in my household. Though we entertain a lot, it still only makes a dent in our weekly share, so we just eat veggies left right and center.

Generally, I like to use the corn the day we get it because it's just SO DANG GOOD, but I wasn't up for shucking and consuming five ears of corn Tuesday night (though now I can't remember why?), so I thought I'd attack squash (I still hadn't finished last week's squash - more on that recipe in a few days) and the yellow wax beans that came in this bag. I had cherry tomatoes from the back garden that needed using, so that along with a few fresh herbs and a bit of onion made up the dish.

We grilled a bit of salmon as our main protein (about 8 oz for the two of us - I'm working on making meat a side dish rather than a main) and I fixed a fussy squash dish that was worth every bit of hassle - will share that with you later - then fixed a little off the cuff veggie medley as our other vegetable melange for the evening.

Sauteed wax beans with tomatoes and basil
Serves 2-3 as a side

1/2 lb yellow wax beans (or green if that's what you've got), parboiled for 2 min, cooled to stop the cooking and sliced into 1 in pieces
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion (any color), sliced
1 tbsp basil, cut in a chiffonade (or chopped, or torn up, or however you want)
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a pan with the oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until soft, but with no color. Add the parboiled beans and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and toss; cook for 1 minute. Taste, add seasoning as you like, sprinkle basil on top and serve immediately.

Other fresh herbs would work here - chives and tarragon come to mind as good choices. Use whatever is freshest that's available to you!

Grilled Eggplant with Cherry Tomato and Cilantro Vinaigrette

After some major pruning last week, I discovered I had several eggplant ready for harvest in the back garden. I get so excited to garden, I sometimes don't think about what I will do with all of the veggies I've planted when it's time to harvest. I don't think I have *ever* purchased an eggplant in the store, but I have gotten them from the farm for the last several years. But I always have to go searching for something to do with them when they show up in my produce bag.

'Perfect Vegetables' to the rescue. This cookbook is put out by the wonderful people at Cook's Illustrated. Every cookbook of theirs that I've tried as well as every recipe from the magazine have always been successful, and that's obviously because of their methods. They test the heck out of every recipe before publishing. So it takes the guesswork out for you and me. That said, whenever I don't have a specific ingredient on hand, I will change a recipe to accommodate what I do have in the house versus going out to the grocery store to buy a shallot or something.

Faced with the two globe eggplant from out back (wear gloves when you harvest eggplant - OUCH!) and the Japanese eggplant from the farm, I wanted to find something that would be so good that I would eat it all (and use them all up at once). For that I was willing to take a few extra steps to get it right.

I also have a constant stream of cherry tomatoes at the ready; every time I pick one, ten new ripe tomatoes appear in its place. The herbs were also no problem as I've got them growing absolutely everywhere. So this dish was local and sustainable in the extreme and that's the cooking that is the most fun for me.
Grilled Eggplant with Cherry Tomato and Cilantro Vinaigrette
adapted from Perfect Vegetables by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, each tomato quartered (about 1c)
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 small red onion, sliced (PV specified 1 shallot, minced)
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice (PV specified lime)
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 recipe grilled eggplant (see below)

Mix tomatoes, salt, cayenne, onion, cilantro, lemon juice and oil together in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until the flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

Transfer grilled eggplant to a platter. Pour the vinaigrette over the grilled eggplant and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme or oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 small to medium eggplant (about 2 lbs), ends trimmed, cut crosswise into rounds

Combine oil, garlic, herb, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Place the eggplant on a platter and brush both sides with the oil mixture.

Grill the eggplant over a medium-hot fire, turning once, until both sides are marked with dark stripes, 8-10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*some people insist upon salting eggplant to reduce bitterness. If you use really fresh eggplant, there will be nothing bitter about it!

Vegetables in Thai Red Curry

I recently received a complimentary issue of Vegetarian Times in the mail and browsed through it with excitement about the recipes therein. As I mentioned, I have been recently accosted with veggie abundance via my CSA and have been trying to use as many veggies as possible in everything I cook. There was a section on 'The Zen Kitchen' and cooking the Tassajara way (which means nothing to me because I only read the recipes - so I'll have to go back and read about it) where I found a recipe for 'Vegetables in Thai Red Curry' that I realized could be used as a method rather than strictly a recipe.

I've listed my version here, however you could either go to their website or buy the magazine (it's on page 63 of the September issue) to get their exact recipe or you could just use whatever veggies you have at your house that might be good in a curry sauce. And let's be honest - what *isn't* good slathered in curry sauce??

Vegetables in Thai Red Curry
Adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine
Serves 4

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
5 or 6 small carrots, cut into chunks
1 sweet bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips
1 large zucchini, cut into chunks or rounds
1 tbsp canola oil
1-2 tbsp Thai red curry paste, or to taste (I use the Thai Kitchen brand)
1 14oz can light coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbs tamari or soy sauce
20-30 fresh Thai basil leaves

Place cut zucchini in a colander and sprinkle two teaspoons kosher salt over it and toss. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Wipe salt and blot dry with paper towels. Set aside until ready to use. You can skip this step, but honestly I think it's worth the trouble. It let's the zucchini release all of its moisture and you can brown it a bit and give it better flavor.

Blanch cauliflower for 3 minutes in a pot of boiling, salted water. Remove with a strainer and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Repeat with carrots in same pot of water. Set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and cook for 5 minutes until nicely browned in spots. Add carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes further then remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1tbsp curry paste with a few tbsps of coconut milk. Stir together until the paste dissolves into the milk. In a wide saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut milk, curry slurry, sugar, tamari and 1/2 cup water. If it is not spicy enough for your taste, make another slurry with a bit of water and add it to the sauce.

Add vegetables and 1/2 of basil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with the rest of the basil. Serve over some type of grain (I used whole wheat couscous).