Tag Archives: heirloom tomatoes

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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BLT+ARO

One of our family traditions – probably a tradition in your family, too – is that for birthdays, the honoree gets to select the menu for the whole day. While we were in Los Angeles, my grand-daughter celebrated her thirteenth birthday. That was a momentous occasion not only for her, but also for her younger brother and her parents. Officially, she became a teenager, but these days that is only semantics. Fortunately, she is not driving yet, but the birthday was a stark reminder that the day for that is not far away.

Included in my grand-daughter’s food selections for the day was bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for breakfast. Of course, she got to sleep late on a weekend so it was closer to brunch than breakfast. Still, a little odd for my elderly clock, but I freely admit that they were delicious.

These were not your usual BLTs. Challah was the preferred bread. That seemed to be an odd companion to bacon, but nobody blinked.

No one in the family likes mayonnaise, so there was none. How can you have a BLT without mayonnaise?  They allowed me my own. The bacon was crisped in the oven, and the lettuce was the tender butter kind. The tomatoes were beautiful heirlooms, almost purple in color.

Everyone in the family is averse to onion as well, but they accommodated me with thick slices of red onion. They don’t like avocados, either, so they sliced a perfectly ripe avocado just for me.

We gathered around a buffet to assemble our personal creations. Mine was an elaborate BLT+ARO. Then we enjoyed a beautiful Southern California morning on the back patio.  Gifts  were opened, including a new iPhone – every California teenager needs one, I was told.

All in all a great way to start a day of celebration.

BLT+ARO

Ingredients

  • 2 slices challah
  • mayonnaise
  • 3 strips bacon, fried crisp
  • 2 large slices, heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 leaves butter lettuce
  • ½ ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 slice red onion
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Spread the slices of challah with mayonnaise
  2. Arrange the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes,  avocado, and red onion on one slice of bread. You may need extra mayonnaise between layers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Top with the remaining slice of bread for a thick sandwich.
  5. Eat with plenty of napkins handy or over the kitchen sink.

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FAVA BEAN, CORN, AND GREEN PEA SUCCOTASH

Crowds at the farmers market

Marin County Farmers Market is sort of the country cousin of the Ferry Building market in San Francisco. Many of the same vendors are at both venues, and you are likely to see San Francisco chefs looking for great products in Marin. The market is smaller than its San Francisco counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the same excellent selections. Because of the driving distance, there are far fewer tourists so that gives the vendors a chance provide the best products and catch up on what’s going on in the restaurants. Not only is there talk of food but also of family.

Oranges

The market meets Sunday morning on the grounds of the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael. The Center itself is a Frank Lloyd Wright- designed futuristic building looking like an enormous pink space ship just landed in the parking lot.

On our last visit to San Francisco we took a Sunday break after a grueling week of restaurant preparation. Our plan was to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, visit the lighthouse on the Marin Headland, and then go to the market for the fixings for our evening meal. Our plans were changed by the heavy summer fogs at the Golden Gate, but the weather cleared completely as we drove inland to San Rafael.

Strawberries

Once at the market, we loaded our grandson in the stroller and started down the long rows of busy stalls. The choices were almost overwhelming. Northern California is becoming famous for producing seasonal sweet strawberries in sharp contrast to the woody flavorless ones which have come to be the standard on supermarket shelves all year-long. Berries were in abundance, so we bought more than enough for desert. Our grandson soon had a sticky red face.

Stone fruits of all sorts. Root vegetables of every color and variety. Then we saw the most beautiful display of fava beans. They were freshly picked, and the pods were thick and completely filled out. Who could resist? We bought a big sack of them.

Fava beans

Fava beans shelled and husks removed, ready to cook

Fresh green peas in the shell and ears of corn were in nearby stalls, so my daughter made an on-the-spot decision to make a succotash.

Green peas shelled and ready to cook

Raw corn kernels

There was a good display of mushrooms, though not the royal trumpets I was hoping for. Nevertheless a basket of cremenis found a home in our bags.

It was surprising to me that the summer squashes were already in good supply, and one vendor had large squash blossoms for sale. Another decision – squash blossoms stuffed with a bacon, squash, and mushroom filling.

Squash blossoms with sepals and stamen removed, ready for stuffing

Stuffed squash blossoms frying

My daughter found an artistic display of Persian cucumbers with their corrugated pale green skin and twisted shapes. Baskets of heirloom tomatoes were not far away, so a tomato and cucumber salad with radishes and leaf greens made the menu.

Persian cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes

We found some juicy pork shoulders at the Prather Ranch stall, and so my son-in-law decided to grill some.

Pork shoulders ready for the grill

By then the little one had fallen to sleep, and the grownups were hungry. It was hard to choose from all the food stalls: Indian curries, paella, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc, etc. We finally decided on baked-to-order pizzas. After we finished our meal, we loaded back in the car and headed home.

A tired shopper

It had been a successful day, but we were also looking forward to the meal ahead.

Pizza cooked to order at the farmers market

RECIPES

Fava Beans

If you have never had fresh fava beans, you should be aware that their preparation is labor-intensive. You start out with what looks like a huge pile of pods and wind up with a little bowl of prepared beans.  It  is a good idea for the cook to recruit a prep assistant. In this case, that was me. If you have never had fresh fava beans you should know that the reason folks are willing to go to all the effort is that they taste so good.

We started with about 2 pounds of unshelled fava beans.

  • Shell the beans
  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil
  • Pour the shelled beans into the boiling water
  • Return to the boil for one minute – no longer
  • Drain the beans and chill them immediately in a previously prepared  large bowl filled with ice and water. The salted water and blanching will keep the beans green and not mushy.
  • Chill the beans for at least 15 minutes and then drain them
  • Using your fingers and a sharp paring knife peel off the stiff, translucent husk from the bright green beans, being careful not to crush the beans
  • With a small knife, remove the tiny white sprout from the beans. You can skip this step, but the sprout can give a bitter taste to the beans.
  • Combine all of the husked beans in a small bowl and set them aside for later use

Fava Bean, Grilled Corn, and Green Pea Succotash

Succotash cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, small diced
  • 1 pound  fresh green peas, shelled
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked, cleaned, and kernels cut off
  • 1 batch of prepared fava beans
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • butter for finishing
  • squeeze of lemon

Method

  • Heat a cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame.  Add the oil and butter and continue to heat until the butter has stopped foaming.
  • Add the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add the green peas and corn kernels.
  • Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Just before you are ready to serve, add the fava beans and stir until completed heated through, another 2-3 minutes. If you add the beans too early in the process they may become mushy.
  • Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the extra butter and squeeze of lemon and serve immediately.

Persian cucumber and heirloom tomato salad

The finished plate – ready to eat

With two professional chefs and an amateur but eager prep cook, the dinner came together surprisingly quickly. Things got plated out. We relaxed with a glass of wine. Perfect end to a perfect day. And thank goodness for a modern dishwasher (the electric kind)

 

 

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