What’s Cooking

Gazpacho. Apparently it started life somewhere in the Mediterranean as a soup of blended stale bread, olive oil and garlic, with some liquid like water or vinegar pounded together in a mortar. Over time other things were added as they were to hand or had been brought in from newly discovered worlds. It was quick, easy, cheap, nutritious and cool comfort on a hot day. And of course this time of year is ubiquitous on restaurant and bistro menus.

Though I enjoy a bowl brimming with chopped vegetables tasting of the sun that tomatoes bring to everything I find Salmorejo, the Northern Andalusian version, far more satisfying. Perhaps because it is essentially tomatoes and I love tomatoes. It also involves fewer ingredients (unless you go for the full meal deal which I do) and less prep time.

Tomatoes, bread, garlic, sherry vinegar and an immersion blender – that’s pretty much it.*

Juan with a bowl of Salmorejo at La Parrala in Grenada in 2014.

Salmorejo (Andalusian Tomato and Bread Soup)
– serves 4
From Milk Street TV – Christopher Kimball
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored
2 1/2 ounces country-style white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1/2 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 tsp granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more to serve
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
4 thin slices of prosciutto (about 2 ounces), torn into pieces
3 or 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced or quartered
finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
Crusty bread, for serving

In a blender, combine the tomatoes, bread, bell pepper, garlic, sugar, vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Blend on high until completely smooth and no bits of tomato skins remain, about 1 minute.
With the blender running, gradually add 3/4 cup olive oil.
Transfer to a large bowl then taste and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours.

While the soup chills, make the hard-cooked eggs. Fill a saucepan about a quarter of the way with cold water. Place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of the saucepan. Add more water so that the eggs are covered by at least an inch of water. Bring to a full boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes, drain. Place eggs in an ice bath. When cool enough to handle, peel and quarter or slice. Set aside.

While the eggs cool, place a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and let cool completely, then roughly chop; set aside.

Taste the soup and season again with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into (preferably chilled) bowls. Top with the prosciutto, hard-cooked egg and chopped parsley or cilantro. Drizzle with additional oil and vinegar, as desired.

*Kimball adds that half red pepper which does add a little brightness to the dish.

That addition of ham and egg though not necessary can help turn it into a full meal. Along with a green salad and crusty bread it’s perfect on a hot summer day.

The word for August 4th is:
Soup /so͞op/: [noun]
1. A liquid dish, typically made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables, etc., in stock or water.
2. A substance or mixture perceived to resemble soup in appearance or consistency,
Middle English: from Old French soupe ‘sop, broth (poured on slices of bread)’, from late Latin suppa, of Germanic origin.

What’s Cooking?

Well tomato season is in full swing in most places with fine displays of all sizes, shapes, and a Joseph’s coat of colours. Each with their own distinct and different taste. The recipes are many and the possibilities endless – from cold soups, to salads, to a simple BLT with that perfect beef steak fresh from the garden.

Tonnato or Tuna and caper sauce is a Northern Italian summer garnish that is traditionally served over slices of thinly sliced cold roast veal. It is simple, light, angy, and oh so delicious. I love Vitello Tonnato But unless you have a good Italian deli near you finding sliced, roast veal can be a challenge – and frankly it’s too damn hot to be roasting a veal right now. But that sauce is so good you could almost eat it on its own.

So why not pair it with an array of the season’s best tomatoes. Not something I would have thought of myself but am more than willing to try. (And I know it says the anchovies are optional but honest they perks up flavours and adds a subtle, and needed, touch of salt.)

Tomato Tonnato
– serves 6-8 as a appetizer or lunch course
From NYT Cooking
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: what cooking?

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 three-ounce can imported tuna packed in olive oil , drained and flaked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp drained capers
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets, optional
1 fat garlic clove , smashed and peeled
2 Tbsp tightly packed basil leaves , more for garnish
2 lbs mixed tomatoes, large ones cut in slices, small ones cut in wedges
Coarse sea salt
black pepper
Crusty bread, for serving

In a blender, combine olive oil, tuna, mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic and 2 tablespoons basil and purée until creamy.

Lay tomatoes out on a platter and spoon sauce over the tops. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with bread.

The word for July 28th is:
Tuna /ˈt(y)o͞onə/: [noun]
A large and active predatory schooling fish of the mackerel family. Found in warm seas, it is extensively fished commercially and is popular as a game fish.
Late 19th century: from American Spanish, from Spanish atún ‘tunny’.
Or in North America:
1. The edible fruit of a prickly pear cactus.
2. A cactus that produces tuna, widely cultivated in Mexico.
Mid 16th century: via Spanish from Taino

What’s Cooking?

Well the Spring lobster season is over here on PEI and traps will not be set again until mid-August. The season appears to have been a good one. That and a return to a near normal tourist season has seen a high demand for our favourite crustacean here and abroad.

I love lobster but I do hate the struggle of cracking, digging, and poking it takes to get at those succulent morsels. I always seem to come out of the fray smelling of lobster and inevitably with a stain on some piece of clothing. However there are so many ways to enjoy lobster other than the traditional wrestling match. The good folk at Lobster PEI have a great series of recipes (see link below) for all manner of Nephropidae* and I thought I’d share this one for a tasty starter.

Photo credit: Lobster PEI

Lobster Bruscchetta
– serves 6 as a starter
From Lobster PEI Recipes

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes

1 Baguette
3 tbsp Olive or Canola Oil
Salt & Black Pepper- to taste
1 (1.25 lb) PEI Lobster, cooked & meat chopped*
1 cup Tomato, seeds removed & chopped (approx. 2 medium)
1/2 Shallot, cut into rings
1 tbsp Fresh Basil, finely sliced
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Black Pepper- to taste
Parmesan Cheese- to garnish

Preheat oven to broil (500°F).
2. Cut ends off baguette. Cut baguette into thirds and then cut each piece in half lengthwise to yield 6 pieces.
3. Place baguette pieces onto a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Season with salt & black pepper.
4. Bake baguettes for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
5. Place lobster meat, tomatoes, shallot rings, basil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar into a bowl. Season with salt & black pepper and toss gently to combine.
6. Top toasted baguettes with bruschetta mixture and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

*One (1 ¼ lb.) lobster yields approximately 140 grams or 1 cup of cooked lobster meat.
The bruscchetta mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated to allow the flavours to develop.

The word for July 5th is:
Lobster /ˈläbstər/: [noun]
A large marine crustacean with a cylindrical body, stalked eyes, and the first of its five pairs of limbs modified as pincers.
Old English lopustre, alteration of Latin locusta ‘crustacean, locust’.
*Though the family classification is now called Nephropidae it was Homaridae which would explain the French homard.

What’s Cooking

If my faithful reader follows Laurent’s blog (Larry Muffin at Home) it will be known that he has been watching his weight lately. Slowly and with great success he is returning to his pre-Covid weight if not better. He is doing it sensibly with the aid of a dietitian and I’m very proud of the progress he’s made.

Of course it has meant a bit of a change to what’s cooking here on Water Street. Portions are smaller and we are keeping an eye on certain ingredients – not to be eliminated but to be used sensibly. A few years ago we toyed with the KETO diet and I bought Kyndra D. Holley’s Craveable Keto Cookbook. To be honest I found many of the recipes too fussy and called for all manner of “health food store” provisions that would only be used maybe once or twice. However one recipe turned out to be both a winner and a favourite. Faintly Asian in name and content it is quick, easy, and extremely tasty. And any leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl
– serves 4 as a main course
From Kyndra D. Holley’s Craveable Keto

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 medium onion,diced – about 1/2 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 green onions, sliced on the bias – white and green portions separated
1 lb ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or more to taste
1 14 oz bag of coleslaw mix
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
Add the onion, garlic, and white portion of green onions and sauté until the green onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the ground pork, ginger, salt, pepper, and Sriracha to the pan and sauté until the pork is cooked through.
Add the coleslaw mix, soy sauce, and vinegar and sauté until the coleslaw is tender.

Garnish with green part of spring onions and sesame seeds. Additional Sriracha can be drizzled over the dish or served on the side for further seasoning if desired.

Note that this works great with ground chicken, turkey or beef and various types of slaw.

The word for June 14th is:
Diet /ˈdīət/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
1.2 A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
2. To restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
Middle English: from Old French diete (noun), dieter (verb), via Latin from Greek diaita ‘a way of life’

What’s Cooking

Back when we lived in Ottawa in the 1980s Saturday morning was the home/cooking/gardening show ghetto on PBS. Julia Child ruled the airwaves when it came to things culinary. However there was also Justin Wilson with his Cajun recipes and Madhur Jaffrey with her Indian and Asian dishes.

Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery was a fascinating look into Asian food beyond the Sub-Continent. An interest in Thai and Vietnamese food was just starting to take off in North America. Thai and Vietnamese restaurants were popping up and ingredients were appearing in the regular markets. I immediately ordered the book that went with the series.

Many of the recipes included ingredients that were very expensive or would have to be used up within a short time span so were impractical. However I ended up with two favourites that used things to hand or easily obtainable at the time. This Vietnamese salad or Yam has been a long time favourite. Yes I know it sounds fussy but it can all be done well in advance. It is particularly refreshing on a summer’s day for lunch.

Chicken, Shrimp*, and Fruit Salad – Yam Polamai
– serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course
Chalie Amatyakul – Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
From Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery

1 large, firm, sour apple such as a Granny Smith
150 g/5 oz medium to larger red or black seedless grapes
150 g/50z medium to large green seedless grapes
1 medium orange
100 g/4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
8 medium or 16 small uncooked, unpeeled shrimp
4 tbsp roasted peanuts lightly crushed
4 tbsp deep fried garlic slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
4 tbsp deep fried onion/shallot slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
3-4 hot green chilies
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves

Peel and core the apple then cut it into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice and put into a bowl of salted water. Set aside.
Cut the grapes in halve lengthwise and put into a bowl. Peel the orange, separate the segments and skin as best you can. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/3 inch pieces. Lay them over the grapes with any juice and set aside covered.
Cut the chicken into long thin strips and put them into a medium frying pan. Cover them with water and a 1/2 tsp salt and simmer gently for five minutes until cooked through. Remove from the water and shred or cut into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice.
Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Bring the chicken poaching water back to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer at a low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes until just cooked through. Drain and cut into 1/4-1/3 inch dice, combine with the chicken and set aside covered.
Combine salt, sugar, and lime juice in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the chilies into fine rounds. Wash and dry the coriander. Set aside

Just before serving drain and pat the apple dry. Set some of the onion/shallot and coriander leaves aside for garnish.
Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.
Bring to the table on individual plates garnished with the reserved onion and coriander.

Note that other fruits may be used including mango, papaya, Asian or regular pears.

*The original called for prawns which are difficult to find in North America – shrimp will do just as well.

The first few times I made these I wasn’t aware that you could get deep-fried garlic and onion slivers at Asian grocery stores; so as per the original recipe did them myself. It was an onerous task and frankly meant I didn’t make the dish all that often. Now when I make this dish my motto is: if you can buy it, why fry it?

The word for May 24th is:
Salad /ˈsaləd/: [noun]
A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables or fruits, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.
Late Middle English: from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt’.

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