Best Gazpacho

Gazpacho
I know I said this was the best gazpacho recipe and I promise I still really like that one. This one is a teensy bit better and reminds me of a bowl of gazpacho from a restaurant in my hometown that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the perfect HOT summer dinner. We found this gem hidden in a Mexican cookbook that we bought years ago:
Perfect Mexican
Now the serving suggestions include:
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 3.00.04 PMBut truthfully, we don’t bother because the model didn’t include the garnishes and it’s just as good.

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Best Gazpacho
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My opinion:
Some people keep this extra chilly by serving an ice cube at the bottom.
Best Gazpacho
Instead of crusty bread (because I’m still limited in my wheat and gluten intake) we served it with corn quesadillas! Delicious!
Enjoy!
Corn Quesadillas

p.s. Summer 2016 update: even our toddler loves this gazpacho, which she calls “sauca!” She’s been practicing using a spoon on her own and if we keep this a bit on the chunkier side, she’s 90 percent successful! 

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French Lentil Soup

French Lentil Soup
Sometimes it’s a challenge to find foods that fit the No Six diet (no: dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) I’m on for Baby A. Luckily, I have a forever patient husband who is willing to search things out. He found this wonderful French Lentil Soup recipe, originally from Bon Appetit and with a few tweaks, it was wonderful.

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French Lentil Soup
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Instructions
  1. Heat bacon in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the olive oil.
  3. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.
  4. Sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add 4 cups stock, lentils and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
  7. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  8. Season with salt, pepper and the Balsamic vinegar.
  9. Ladle soup into bowls.

My opinion:
Like any good soup, this isn’t much to look at, but it is delicious. It is hearty and filling and all around wonderful. I can’t wait to be able to eat warm pita with it!

Penne with garden Fresh Tomatoes and Basil plus Mozzarella


Our garden seems to choose every year what it will do well and what it won’t. One year, it was zucchini. Another year, basil. This year seems to be tomatoes. So with the overabundance of tomatoes and a few small basil leaves, we wanted to make something that would be quick and easy and not super hot, since of course it’s late August in Missouri.

Luckily, J found this super simple recipe on the Food Network. We’ve talked about how we love lots of Emeril Lagasse’s dishes before (here, here and here) and he did not disappoint this time either.

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Penne with garden Fresh Tomatoes and Basil plus Mozzarella
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Instructions
  1. Put a large pot of salted water on for the pasta. Meanwhile, prepare your sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil.
  3. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute or less.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to release some of their juice.
  5. Cook the pasta in the pot of salted boiling water for 12 to 13 minutes until al dente (you're best bet is to follow the package directions).
  6. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta and basil to the pan with the tomatoes and toss.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. Serve the pasta in bowls, equally distribute the fresh mozzarella between the bowls. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bowls of pasta and serve immediately.
  9. We reserved some mozzarella to top the pasta and then drizzled it with Balsamic vinegar.

My opinion:
So very tasty and perfect for a hot summer evening. Next time we might add additional veggies like onions or zucchini.

Best summer garden snack or amuse bouche

We had some leftover mozzarella from making pizza and decided to make these as an amuse bouche, since we didn’t have any bread for the original. I could have eaten only these for dinner!

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Best summer garden snack or amuse bouche
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Instructions
  1. We have found the best flavor comes from the broiler. Line your favorite baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice or wedge your tomatoes.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil. If you want to add garlic, you can do that now.
  4. Slice the mozzarella. If the cheese is slightly bigger or smaller than the tomatoes, that's ok! It will melt.
  5. Add to the pan oven under the broiler. If using the broiler on high, don't walk away, the dish will burn faster than you might think it will!
  6. When the cheese starts to slightly brown and bubble remove it the oven.
  7. Drizzle with the balsamic and top with a basil leaf.
  8. Allow to cool a bit before eating.

My opinion:
So delicious. The next time it’s too hot for a whole meal and we have left over mozzarella, I’ll make this as a stand alone dish. I didn’t even miss the bread (which is how this is traditionally made)!

Szechuan Kung Pao Chicken


I love Chinese food. When I was younger and my sister and I got to pick the restaurant for our birthday dinner, I always chose the local Chinese restaurant. As I grew up, I loved trying the flavors of the different provinces, but Szechuan has remained a favorite. J found this recipe from Big Oven (our new favorite go to recipe source). It was divine. I was so disappointed there wasn’t any left overs! The secret is in velveting the chicken. This crucial step is what makes all the difference.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs (we used two large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts)
10 whole red chili peppers (we left five whole)
1 small red onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic (original recipe calls for crushed, we used minced)
1/2 piece fresh ginger (crushed, we just tossed this in the food processor.)
Handful of roasted peanuts (we used unsalted and about a half cup)
Marinade:
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or Sherry (we used a dry sherry)
1 Egg white
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
Seasoning:
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or sherry (again, we used a dry sherry)
1 tablespoon dark vinegar (balsamic will do)
1 tablespoon Dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 scallion (we used a “bunch” of scallions from our garden)

Directions:
Dice chicken into half-inch cubes (We originally went a little too big, but you also don’t want to make these as small as they are in traditional Kung Pao dishes served in your local Chinese establishment.) Mix marinade, lightly beating the egg white and pour over the chicken. Leave to stand for no more than 30 minutes. Velvet the chicken with oil or water (again, this is the secret and makes a HUGE difference! We used the water method, but the oil method would work as well):
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir the chicken to separate and stir again. Simmer for about 2 minutes until the chicken turns white. Drain the chicken. Tear the chilis into pieces, then soak them in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain. Peel the onion and cut into square 1 1/2 inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok until very hot (until it starts to smoke). Add the garlic and ginger to the oil, stir for 15 seconds, then add the chilis and stir for a minute or two. Add the onions and continue to stir and flip for another minute. Add the chicken, scallion, peanuts and cook for another minute. After this, if you notice that it seems a little dry for your taste, feel free to mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with a little bit of water and pour in along with your seasoning. Give it a good quick stir (I mean it, be quick, the sugar will burn.) Serve with rice!

My Opinion:
Leaving the chilis in whole meant this dish was spicy. We liked it so much we actually added the left over rice to the wok in order to sop up all of the left over sauce. The chicken was tender, juicy and just amazing. Next time, we’ll add a bit more onion, ginger and garlic. Plus a green pepper for some added vegetables. This dish was so good I could eat it every single day for a long time and never grow bored.

p.s. If anyone one knows where to find Shaoxing wine in Columbia, let me know! I’m sure it would just add a bit more depth to the dish!