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Andalusian Gazpacho for the soul

Andalusian Gazpacho

It's tomato week here at the Kite house. It's been about 4 months since Vance and I had two "normal" weeks together, home alone, without travel, without company, without places to go and hotels to stay in — so I finally had a chance to plan the Saturday through Thursday meals (Friday we let someone else cook). Suffice it to say that the week's produce haul included at least $15 worth of local heirloom tomatoes.

On top of being tomato week, it's also veggie week. Durham has so many local, sustainable options for meat that we've been consuming far more than our usual share of land animals. Acme, Six Plates, Dos Perros, and Piedmont (to name a few) have treated us well, but also left us with the urge to drink copious amounts of ginger tea at the end of the night. With that in mind, we're eating plenty of grain salad, soup and veg for a few days.

In preparation for our first Relevance "family" dinner, we're also cooking our way through the menu, starting with the gazpacho. This Andalusian gazpacho is one I served to Vance when he took a train from Florida for our third anniversary. It's silky smooth and deceptively simple. Serve it with some crusty bread and a bit of olive oil for a light meal that will leave you feeling refreshed.

Classic Andalusian Gazpacho

This recipe comes straight from the beloved Gourmet Magazine. Use the best ingredients you can find and have a good-sized food processor or blender on hand.

Ingredients

  • 1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably "reserva"), or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca)
  • Garnish: finely chopped red and green bell peppers

Preparation

Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.

Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife). Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.

Force soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing firmly on solids. Discard solids.

Transfer to a glass container and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 hours. Season with salt and vinegar before serving.

Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Melting Tuscan Kale

[caption id="attachment_596" align="aligncenter" width="549" caption="Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Melting Tuscan Kale"][/caption]

The last couple of days have been bizarre, to say the least. If you found Ravenous Fig via Hacker News, you know what I mean. If not, there's a pretty fantastic recipe in here for you that will hopefully make up for lost time.

Let's rewind. For my birthday last month, Vance took me to Atlanta to visit some friends who just had the most adorable baby boy. Seriously. He makes the Gerber baby look like an elephant calf with angler fish teeth. We stayed at a sweet bed & breakfast in Midtown, which was a great comfort considering how sick I'd get before we left.

[caption id="attachment_598" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Romesco Sauce is thickened with bread and nuts to give it a nice body and texture."][/caption]

These flu-like symptoms kind of snuck up on me. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening and power through, but by the last night I was sitting in the bottom of the bathtub letting the hot water beat on my back as I coughed up Lord-knows-what. Not the best way to spend a vacation, but I got some good magazine time in while I was holed up in the room, specifically with La Cucina Italiana.

[caption id="attachment_600" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="New Mexico Chiles can be found in the ethic foods aisle of most major grocery stores."][/caption]

That magazine has the most beautiful food photography. It almost made me want to throw away my camera and never publicly post a food photo again. It somehow entered into my ill consciousness, though, giving me dreams of gnocchi with rich sauce and melted kale. Soon after I got back to Orlando and over my illness, I had pieced together a meal I could only imagine would taste like magic.

Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Kale

This recipe may have been the result of psychedelic flu dreams but believe me, it's worth the hour or so it takes to prepare. After having prepared and eaten it twice, it's one that'll definitely make an appearance in this year's family cookbook. Enjoy.

Special Equipment Needed: Food processor.

Crispy Gnocchi Ingredients

  • ¼ lb butter (1 stick)
  • 1 lb fresh or packaged gnocchi (I use whole wheat packaged Gia Russa gnocchi when I'm in a hurry)

Romesco Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato, cored
  • 1 (1/2-oz) dried New Mexico chile
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts*, toasted and loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel while warm
  • 2 tablespoons blanched almonds
  • 2-3 slices firm white or wheat bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 of one bottled roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

* I substituted unsalted shelled pistachios when I made this

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup

Local Kale, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Soup

This month, Vance and I threw together our first family cookbook. It's scheduled to arrive this Tuesday from Blurb, and I am probably disproportionately excited about it. When the Fed Ex guy rings the doorbell I imagine myself running full sprint through the office, knocking over whoever might be in the way, to get to the door first. Imagine what I'll do when I actually write a "real" cookbook!

I've already started thinking about next year's edition. I want each of the recipes to be an original, which is a huge undertaking for me. I'm very comfortable following someone else's instructions, knowing it was good enough when they made it to publish in a book or magazine; it's another thing entirely for me to conjure a recipe on my own.

I'm also planning to make it more seasonal and locally oriented, featuring whatever happens to be growing around us at the time. With all that in mind, I present to you the first recipe for the 2011 Kite Cafe cookbook.

Local kale and squash soup, in preparation for whatever sinful foods we'll eat at the @IZEA Xmas party tonight!

I shall call this "the one that made me feel better about that lobster mac 'n cheese." Or, "the one that takes more calories to prepare than it does to burn off" (okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch). Or how about, "the one that contained kale and didn't set off my gag reflex." I think I've really got something with that last one.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup

Serves 4-6 This recipe features locally grown kale, sweet potatoes, and tomato. If tomatoes aren't growing near you this type of year, you can skip them. They were just sitting on the counter, begging to be thrown into the soup last minute.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale
  • 1 tomato, cut into large dice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock would also work)
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ lb. your favorite bulk sausage (vegan if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Whole nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shaved parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Crispy onions (optional)

Preparation

Wash the kale. I like to do this in a water bath with a few splashes of white vinegar in a clean kitchen sink. It brightens the leaves and firms them up (especially if they've been in the fridge for a day or two). Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally for seven minutes. Add the garlic and sweet potato; stir to combine. Sprinkle generously with cracked pepper. Reduce heat to medium. While the vegetables are cooking away, de-stem your kale. Stack up all of the kale leaves and cut into thin ribbons, about 1/3 inch wide. Add all of the kale to the pot; stir to combine. Add the wine and wait about 30 seconds, until the sizzling subsides. Stir in the water and stock.

Cherry Tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce

[caption id="attachment_387" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Finished Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic sauce on pasta"]Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic sauce on pasta[/caption]

Not too long ago, I consumed copious amounts of frozen pizzas, pre-made salsas, boxed pastas with powdered sauce mixes, and various questionable meats marinated with reconstituted powdered "flavor packets" as part of my regular diet. I didn't have a need to keep a stock of whole foods — by which I mean foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (or minimally processed and refined), not the national grocery chain.

Once I discovered how easy it is to prepare simple, affordable meals from scratch rather than whipping out a meal-in-a-box, -bag, or -can every night, I started keeping a few things on-hand at all times. Eventually the "few things" became much more than that. Our pantry looks something like Alton Brown's pantry in the Good Eats kitchen. You don't need to go that far, but it is much less intimidating to prepare from-scratch meals when you already have a supply of most of the ingredients on the list.

[caption id="attachment_388" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Our pantry is stocked with most of the items on Jamie Oliver's list, as well as a "few" extra items we've picked up along the way."]Part of our pantry[/caption]

Jamie Oliver put together a wonderful, relatively exhaustive list of "Essential Cupboard Ingredients" in Jamie's Food Revolution. (If you're new to cooking at home and you want to buy one cookbook, that's it). From all-purpose flour to smoked paprika we've got nearly all of it. I'd add a few fresher items to the list as well, like lemons, butter, garlic, capers, a block of parmesan, and any seasonal fruit you like. They don't all meet the criteria of "sitting happily in your cupboard or freezer for months," but we go through them fast enough to always re-stock when we run out. Oh, and you can add bars of chocolate to that list… :)

[caption id="attachment_389" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Garlic prepped for this sauce."]Garlic[/caption]

Last night I whipped up a big-flavor sauce in the time it took me to boil water and cook linguine, using a few pantry staples and some of the last of the season's cherry tomatoes. I threw in some gorgeous, striped green heirloom tomatoes to add a dimension of color, but you could use a simple pint of red cherries if that's all your supermarket has on hand.

This sauce ends up looking and tasting quite impressive, but cooks up in less time than it takes to heat the oven and bake your average frozen pizza. No more excuses!

[caption id="attachment_391" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The finished sauce, ready to serve."]Finished Sauce[/caption]

Cherry tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce

We served this over some lovely garden (tri-color) linguine, but it would also be excellent spooned over another pasta, fish, or meat. This recipe is from Jamie's Food Revolution.

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pint cherry or

Jamie's Shrimp & Grits

[caption id="attachment_301" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The cover of Tupelo's Evening Menu"][/caption]

It's September, which means the beginning of apple season, the beginning of the end of tomato season, and the end of my grandfather's yearly visit to North Carolina. The past couple of years, Vance and I have driven to North Carolina on a Thursday night in late September, only to turn around and drive Papa back to Florida Sunday morning. This year, though, we're staying an extra day. It's just too beautiful to miss the start of Fall! While we're there, we'll visit a bit of Asheville's Foodtopian Society — namely, the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

I learned of Tupelo on TripAdvisor when we were there in July. We tried to brave their Saturday dinner rush, but chose a nearby brewpub in lieu of the 3-hour wait at Tupelo. The restaurant was unforgettable, though, and not just because I have their business card floating around in the bottom of my purse. This time around, we'll get in line early. I'm not missing out on Low Country Tuna or Cajun Skillet Catfish twice.

Yes, I've committed a portion of their menu to memory. Is that weird?

[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Shrimp and Grits, served here with some tomatoes and succotash."][/caption]

The inspiration for this dish came from another item on their menu: Brian's Shrimp & Grits (SHOO-Mercy style):

Brian's Shrimp & Grits
Seven large shrimp served over goat cheese grits in a spicy roasted red pepper sauce
SHOO-Mercy: A dozen shrimp with andouille sausage, caramelized onions, spinach and mushrooms

I made this during a recent trip to West Palm, so I left out some of the ingredients that would have given the dish more nutritional value, but would have had fewer family members interested in eating it! So my version has the andouille and caramelized onions, but omits the spinach and mushrooms. If you're a fan of the latter two, by all means incorporate them into your version!

Jamie's Shrimp & Grits

Serves Six. This particular dish — Brian's Jamie's Shrimp & Grits — was inspired by my time spent ogling the Tupelo Honey Cafe Menu. I've never eaten there, so I'm sure their version and mine are night and day. But this one is delicious in its own right. Serve with a green salad; you'll feel better about yourself afterward. (Haha)…

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo, roughly chopped (you won't need nearly 1 can — reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika (you can use sweet instead of hot if you like a milder sauce)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Grits Ingredients

  • Enough grits for 6 people, prepared according to package directions
  • 2 links andouille sausage, cooked and chopped
  • Small log of goat cheese
  • ½ small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon

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