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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.

The best (vegan) sandwich I ever ate

[caption id="attachment_524" align="aligncenter" width="546" caption="Can you imagine a more delicious vegan sandwich? No, no you can't."][/caption]

Some days, getting food from a co-op feels a bit like a curse. Like when we got that bitter melon that (thankfully) started rotting before we had a chance to use it. (Shucks.) This week, though, the local farms put out some incredible high-quality veg that I couldn't wait to eat.

Today's lunch: phenomenal. Using the local avocado, grape tomatoes, lettuce, and bread we got from Homegrown, I threw together a vegan sandwich reminiscent of Heidi Swanson's "TLT Sandwich" recipe.

[caption id="attachment_521" align="aligncenter" width="546" caption="Slightly dried tomatoes are extra sweet; I could eat a bowl of these by themselves."][/caption]

Her blog really says it best:

At this point in time, no other sandwich I make is more requested. Instead of a classic BLT sandwich, I make a TLT - tempeh, lettuce, and tomato. Not an original concept, but my secret is this...every component needs to be over-the-top flavorful.

And that's exactly what this was. Hard to eat? Yes. There were pieces of tempeh flying across the table (thankfully all of it landed on the table, rather than on the floor, so we just picked it up and shoved it back into the sandwich for another bite). For this reason, do not use bread with a tough, chewy crust that you have to gnaw with your teeth! That is, unless you enjoy food flying at the lunch table. Then, it's a blast. Oh, and did I mention it was totally worth it?

It was.

Tempeh Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich

The original recipe differs quite a bit from this; I've shortened the prep time from about 2 hours down to 45 minutes and (accidentally) eliminated the chipotle in adobo. Definitely check out the original on 101 Cookbooks if you've got time to spare!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 8 ounces of tempeh, cut into 1/3-inch thick strips
  • 1 small basket of grape or cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ small head of butter lettuce, cored, then cut into ¼-inch ribbons
  • 1-2 large avocados, mashed with a pinch of salt just before assembling
  • 4 or 8 extra-thin slices of hearty whole grain bread, well toasted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Whisk together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. Pour 1/3 of the marinade into an 8x8 baking dish (or something comparable) - you want a dish that is just big enough to hold the tempeh in a single layer - this way it will be fully enveloped by the marinade. Pour the remaining marinade over the top of the tempeh, cover and set aside until ready

24 hours in Savannah (day 1)

[caption id="attachment_433" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The only style of graffiti that makes me smile. (Photo: Vance Kite)"][/caption]

Wherever you are in America, there are terrific places near enough for a short road trip to a weekend away. And it's so healthy to occasionally push yourself out of the normal routine, to remind yourself what's truly important in life: God, family, food. (You had to see that one coming).

As much as I know it's important to get away, it's good to have someone here to actually force the issue. I'm going around life's merry-go-round at a dizzying speed; Vance pushes the big red button and says, "Get OFF — we're going to Georgia."

[caption id="attachment_429" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The most adorable baby slippers from Paris Market. I'll have to ask Vance's grandmother to make us these some day."][/caption]

So to Georgia we went — Savannah specifically — leaving our neurotic but lovable "puppy" in the care of some dear friends (who also could use a weekend away). We arrived five hours later at an artsy cafe somewhere in Downtown, although I can't say exactly where it was since the only concern I had was downing a chocolate cookie the second I walked through the door.

Soho South Cafe

Based on some Yelp recommendations, we had chosen Soho South Cafe as the first stop on our whirlwind tour of the "hostess city." I might have mistaken the place for a quirky art gallery gift shop, but it didn't take long for the chocolate chip cookies piled high in glass jars to start singing the Call of the Sirens. We sat on a creaky bench happily munching one of the dense cookies until the waitress seated us. It was nearly 2 o'clock in the afternoon and there was still a wait at this place. Albeit a happy wait; there were plenty of cookbooks and art pieces to keep us occupied.

The wait turned out to be worth it in the end. I downed their signature Crab Cake Sandwich in the span of a very lady-like two minutes; Vance took down a grilled cheese and tomato soup (amazing, smoky, delicious cheese combination BTW) in about the same amount of time. My crab cake was outstanding on its own, but paired with a toasty challah roll and some Russian dressing it was over the top.

[caption id="attachment_436" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The quirky atmosphere and food at Soho South Cafe"][/caption]

After a short walk, it was time to head over to the historic district, to the Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn. The Inn does a "manager's special" deal, where you take whatever room is left over at a reduced rate, and they really put us up in a nice one. At about $129 a night, the price is right.

Cha Bella

After a brief respite in our lovely room, we walked in the general direction of dinner. We stopped by

Heirloom Tomatoes with Peaches

The Season's Pick box from our local co-op has been pretty hit-or-miss lately. We've gotten some bizarre and exotic stuff in there, but very little that we would normally include in our typical cooking repertoire.

This week, however, I was delighted to find two huge, perfectly ripe, flawless heirloom tomatoes waiting in the bottom of the box. Normally I would just slice and top them off with a little light vinaigrette, so as not to take away from the perfect flavor tomatoes have this time of year. But this week I was inspired by the newest issue of Food & Wine, which is filled with southern recipes reinvented for the modern cook.

[caption id="attachment_194" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Heirloom Tomatoes, two from our Season's Pick box and one from Whole Foods"]Heirloom Tomatoes[/caption]

I grew up in the South… ish. Most of my extended family was centrally located in Memphis, Tennessee, and our family vacationed in North Carolina nearly every summer. It goes without saying that I was exposed to a great deal of southern food in my formative years. My grandmother's macaroni and strawberry cake recipes are legendary. (At least the Gillespies — myself included — think so!) And while I wasn't exposed to collards and okra until I joined the co-op many years later, I have fond memories of black-eyed peas, corn bread, and sweet potato casserole (smothered in toasted marshmallows, of course) from Christmases past.

There are few food genres that have a worse reputation for health value than Southern cooking (or is that cookin'). Rightfully so, perhaps. On my most recent trip to Memphis, the smell of southern fried chicken was in the air seemingly from the moment I stepped off the plane until I boarded again two days later. Which is why I was surprised to find a (mostly) healthy heirloom tomato salad in the middle of last month's issue of Southern Living magazine. (I know, I said I was inspired by this month's Food & Wine, but that's what made me pick up the Southern Living in the first place… Track with me, people.)

Peeling the Peach

Normally I change a few things about a recipe before posting it here — things I'd change if I made it again, or substitutions I had to make based on what I had on-hand at the time — but there's very little I would do to change this one. If you have amazing tomatoes and peaches at your farmer's market this time of year, this one is definitely worth a shot. If it's the middle of the winter and your tomatoes are like cardboard, put this on the shelf until tomato season hits!

[caption id="attachment_196" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Heirloom Tomatoes with Fresh Peaches, Goat Cheese, and Pecans"][/caption]

Heirloom Tomatoes with Fresh Peaches, Goat Cheese, and Pecans

This will take about 20 minutes to prepare and make 6 servings, but my husband and I ate the entire thing right off the platter.

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