Tag Archives: gazpacho

RUSTIC GAZPACHO

The bounty of summer is beginning to pour in. Our neighbor has more peaches than he knows what to do with. Now we have more peaches than we know what to do with. And he has invited us back for more. Unfortunately his apricot and cherry trees had no fruit this year, probably because of  late frost.

Good friends gave us some delicious plums from their back yard. We will probably get some more when we visit them today. So far, no one has given us any zucchini, but they will come. The tomatoes are in abundance.

This week we went to the market at the Community Farm instead of our usual visit to the farmers’ market at the Rail Yard. The Community Farm is a group of fields and orchards owned by a 90+ year-old man who has contributed their use to the city. Volunteers do all of the work, and so the vegetables are not the perfect specimens that you find at the farmers’ market much less the supermarket. But the produce is put to good use. Most of it goes to the local food bank and a program of meals for house-bound clients. The farm has a public market every Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by a group of volunteers clearly proud of their efforts: piles of fresh vegetables. We bought baskets of  fragrant and colorful vegetables, and now we have to make some good stuff from the bounty.

There were lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a red onion in our basket. What could be better to make than a summer soup of gazpacho? Actually, I am not a big fan of most gazpacho. It is often puréed into oblivion and resembles baby food. I much prefer to have identifiable vegetables and crusty garlic croutons. That’s what this recipe is.

RECIPE

Rustic Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic croutons
  • snipped chives (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, parsley, and garlic.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and olive oil until well combined. Stir the mixture into the vegetables.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning with more lemon juice if desired, salt and pepper. Serve, topped with croutons. Garnish with snipped chives and sour cream if desired.
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PAELLA AND SOFT-BOILED EGGS. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: COOKING FOR A FOUR-YEAR-OLD

It is a challenge to cook for Sarah and Evan. They are always gracious and polite, but you worry that whatever you cook might not be up to their standards. During their recent visit, they stayed in a resort hotel near the Plaza for a couple of nights. Their reports on meals were, “Oh, they were OK.” Hardly a resounding testimonial.

In the meantime, Susan and I took care of the 2-year old and the 4-year old. We had a lot of Cheerios, hamburgers, Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner, and hot dogs. That seemed to work as long as Susan could buy them off with ice cream on a stick from the Village Market.

Still, I accepted the challenge to cook outdoors on Independence Day. I decided to have “Spanish Night” actually Spanish/Mexican Night. We started with Sarah’s well-known watermelon margaritas along with olives, manchego, membrillo, and crackers. We were also going to have marcona almonds fried in olive oil and Spanish paprika, but I forgot them. Then gazpacho – not the mushed up kind, which I don’t like, but instead coarsely chopped vegetables in a double consommé. Evan told the four-year-old that it was a kind of special tomato soup, and he got very excited. He said he loves tomato soup. He was disappointed when it came out and refused to eat. Fortunately, we had a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, the kind that his best friend’s mother serves. We heated that up, and a dietary crisis was averted.

Then came the main course. I cooked  paella over an open fire in our outdoor fire pit. The dish had chicken, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and chorizo. Again, I forgot something – this time it was the calamari. Nonetheless, the paella cooked well over the open fire and wound up with a good crust. Not surprisingly, the four-year-old would have none of it.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

He did eat the home-made churros and cajeta.

Then we watched the fireworks displays from several locations all around us. Of course, the conversation turned to family times in the past, and favorite foods while growing up. Sarah said that one of her favorites was Susan’s soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, served in egg cups. The four-year-old was very excited.

That inspired Susan to get up early, select egg cups from her big collection of family treasures and antiques. Then she made soft-boiled eggs, served them in special egg cups, and topped them with hand-knitted egg cozies. The four-year-old would have none of it. Fortunately, we had some Campbell’s tomato soup left over from the night before.

All of this proves that it’s harder to cook for a four-year-old than a professional chef. It is also hard to get decent photos with a four-year-old. Ah well, we all still had a good time.

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GAZPACHO CRUDO

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and Evan cooked at the James Beard House operated by the James Beard Foundation in New York City.  We had the pleasure of watching them via a webcam in the kitchen.

Their dinner menu included a number of the dishes that have become favorites at Rich Table in San Francisco, including gazpacho with strawberries, chicken skin, and burrata. I have enjoyed that dish several times, but I am not a skilled enough cook to duplicate it, so I’ll just need to make do with gazpacho.

For me, the taste of traditional gazpacho is wonderful. But I don’t like the mouth-feel. It reminds me of baby food. I much prefer seeing the vegetables and bread intact so that it’s almost like eating a liquid salad in a bowl or cup.

I found just the right ingredients at the farmers market, including an Armenian cucumber, aka snake melon. It is not really a cucumber, but it has the crispness and crunch of the freshest of regular cucumbers and without having to worry about seeds. It also has the charm of being slender, long, and coiling around itself. It’s easy to see why it has the name of snake melon.

Vegetables for gazpacho

Vegetables for gazpacho

Easy to make, and refreshing in the fading days of summer.

Croutons on top, ready to serve

Croutons on top, ready to serve

RECIPE

Gazpacho Crudo

Ingredients

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ripe large heirloom tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, membrane removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 small Armenian cucumber, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into paste
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large, I inch-thick slice of good-quality bakery bread, crust remove and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

Method

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cucumber, garlic paste, and parsley, making sure to coat the vegetables with the lemon/olive oil mixture.
  3. Stir in chicken stock. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. In the meantime, let the bread cubes dry at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove the garlic slices, and add the bread cubes, stirring frequently until lightly browned and crisp. Drain the croutons on several layers of paper towel. Cool, and set aside until ready to garnish the gazpacho.
  6. Serve the gazpacho in bowls or in large cups with a spoon. Garnish with croutons.
  7. Serves 4.

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POP-UP DINNERS REVISITED

While I was in California the last two weeks, I got to see my daughter and son-in-law’s pop-up dinners first-hand. Not only did I get to give them a little help prepping (We just need to humor poor old Dad.) but also my wife and I got to enjoy the meal that they had prepared. Once again, the dinner was held on Monday night at the restaurant, Radius – a night when the restaurant was usually closed. The space is modern and sparely furnished and located in SoMa, so it attracts a younger crowd, and there were plenty in attendance at the pop-up. The waitstaff were all very capable and friendly. Most of them had known my kids from other venues around town and had volunteered to help on their nights off.

Dad prepping

Evan and Sarah Rich in the kitchen

Of course, as parents of the chef, we were welcomed warmly, but to my eye, everyone was receiving the same attentive service as we were.
The warm-up was a flute of California sparkling wine, Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, to go with a plate of nearly transparent rice crackers sprinkled with crunchy poppy seeds. Then along came a beautiful amuse bouche of bite-sized corn fritters, nested on a creamy smooth red pepper coulis. The fritters were filled with fresh corn kernels and a creamy filling. They were crispy on the outside because of their coats of artisanal heirloom cornmeal.

Corn fritter and red pepper sauce

Next came a bright salad of tender beets topped with little clouds of goat cheese that had been whipped to an incredible lightness. Flame grapes were displayed along the edges, and snippets of fresh dill fronds made the classic combination of beets and dill.

The palate cleanser then made its appearance: a tiny little bowl of gazpacho which had been gelled and infused with air to practically float on the spoon. An icy granite topped the gazpacho, and garlic flowers on top provided the extra bite that made this dish memorable.

Beet and goat cheese salad

Gazpacho with granite and garlic flowers

The fish course was composed of perfectly sautéed bites of squid in a black olive vinaigrette and accompanied by the sweetness of red and yellow watermelon and the savor of crispy onions.

The meat course picked up the theme of black with tender, aromatic slices of roasted pork shoulder set in a pool of black garlic puree and covered with a bouquet of edible flowers. Bites of white cauliflower and tiny little heads of Roman broccoli completed the dish. It came with a tray of fennel-pollen-scented baguette. The bread was clearly intended to sop up any extra black garlic. One of the guests at the next table asked for extra bread to make sure his plate was completely clean.

Squid with black olive vinaigrette and watermelon

Dessert was labelled as “peach cobbler” on the menu, just to let you know it wouldn’t be your mother’s peach cobbler, and it wasn’t: a delicate panna cotta flavored with baked pie crust, laced with bits of fresh peaches, topped with a streudel that included crunchy bits of corn to return to the theme that started the whole evening.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we finished with two beautiful red curls that combined the earthiness of red pepper with the sweetness of candy. It reminded me of the fruit leather of my childhood, but with a sophisticated taste and texture that left those memories far behind.  All in all, it was a wonderful restaurant experience.

I also need to give special credit to two of Sarah and Evan’s friends: Daniel Brooks made these beautiful images while I was busy eating.  Danny is also a private chef in the San Francisco area. Jamie Law has been a constant friend who continues to provide amazing help in publicizing these pop-up events.

"Peach cobbler"

Sarah and Evan will be doing more pop-ups in the near future. If you would like to see the menus or reserve a place, you can check out their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ChefsNightOff or you can email them at chefsnightoff@gmail.com to be put on their mailing list for upcoming events and menus.

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