Posts tagged with lunch:

Ina’s Shrimp Salad

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Last week my cousin came to visit for a few days from Sunnyvale, California.  She has lived on the west coast for the last 35 plus years. 

Growing up we lived about a half hour away from each other in small towns in Pennsylvania.  Our mothers were sisters and enjoyed a very close relationship.

Through most of our youth our families shared many holidays together. Thanksgiving at their home, Passover, and the Jewish New Year at ours, and much time spent together at the home of our grandparents  who lived near us.

Many Sundays my sister, brothers, parents and I would all pile into our car and with our grandparents in theirs, we would make the trip caravan style to my cousin’s house for a backyard barbeque and  an afternoon of baseball.

Those are wonderful memories to have.  While my mom and her sister and their cousins all seemed to settle down where they were raised many of our generation flew a bit further from the nest. 

That  kind of extended family we grew up with no longer exists. College, career paths, marriage and children have led many of us to put down roots far from the home where we were raised.

The close relationship our parents had with their siblings and their own parents  we witnessed growing up has impacted our lives today. 

It is the reason to this day that we all try to stay connected regardless of the distances. 

Be it through  weddings, bar-mitzvahs, family reunions, or simply by driving 3 or 4 hours to visit  a cousin who has recently moved to her coast we continue to maintain the strong connection to family the foundation of which was laid down for us so many years ago.

We planned a busy few days for my cousin.  She arrived in time for lunch, and with the temperature in the 80’s I thought a summer salad was called for.  I chose a Shrimp Salad, cold roasted golden beets with a citrus vinaigrette, a summer fruit plate, and a crusty baguette for the menu.  For dessert a fresh peach tart .

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Here is the recipe for the wonderful shrimp salad…

Ina’s Shrimp Salad ( from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)

Note:  This recipe serves 12 but it is easily adapted for serving less.
Ingredients
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3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon cut into quarters
4 pounds large shrimp in the shell (16 to 20 shrimp per pound)  *
2 cups good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup minced red onion (1 onion)
3 cups minced celery (6 stalks)
*you can also buy frozen large shrimp  already shelled and deveined with the tail on. Defrost in the bag  overnight in the fridge and proceed with the directions  below.  Remove the tail after cooking.
When cooking shrimp use plenty of salt, and do not overcook!

Directions

Bring 5 quarts of water, 3 tablespoons salt, and the lemon to a boil in a large saucepan. Add half the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered for only 3 minutes or until the shrimp are barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Let cool; then peel, and devein the shrimp.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, wine or vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and dill. Combine with the peeled shrimp. Add the red onion and celery and check the seasonings.  Serve or cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Bruschetta (First of the Season)

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Although the tomatoes are not at their peak as yet, I couldn’t resist serving this bruschetta as our appetizer the other evening to go along with the Tuscan Style Chicken Under a Brick.


I have planted a small pot of genovese basil and some purple basil even though I will only have several more weeks to enjoy it.

  However, it is already flourishing so I will be using it every chance I get in cooking before we take off for sunny California!  (Can’t wait to see how basil and all the other herbs will thrive there)!

I’ve decided that with enough coarse salt, garlic, olive oil and basil in which to sit and macerate, most tomatoes can reinvent themselves to this delicious topping for grilled or toasted bread which you have rubbed with a bit of fresh garlic. 

So while you are waiting for those perfect summer tomatoes you can still have your bruschetta and eat it too!

Spinach, Orange, and Candied Almond Salad

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Our best friends had a dinner party for us and some of our friends over the weekend at their beautiful home.  In June they will have been in this home for just two years. 

Prior to this they had lived down the street from us. We were 8410 and they were 8401…we had a connection from the very beginning.

They moved here almost 25 years ago just like us..we came from Chicago, and they came from Cleveland, and like a fish takes to water we became individually and as a couple almost inseparable.

The shared memories of all the times we have spent together over the years are many…at their home or ours, their deck overlooking the pond, or our patio looking out to the woods, celebrating their Christmas or Easter or our Hanukkah or Passover, hospital visits from us or house calls from nurse Donna, supporting each other in good times and bad, celebrating the accomplishments of each others’ kids as they grew into adulthood…

…and of course there’s the endless meals we have shared, as well as our love for cooking, eating and entertaining (okay, the guys weren’t that keen on the cooking and entertaining part…however, they did share a similar annoyance about the many last minute trips to the store for just one more thing …)

There were the countless walks down the street to each others’ homes carrying a dish we had just prepared and wanted to share, and the meals we would leave for each other, complete with a floral bouquet when one or the other was returning home from a vacation or a family visit out of town.

And the countless cards we’ve exchanged…sometimes 2 and 3 for a single occasion…

…marking the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings and births of grandchildren we’ve celebrated together through the years.  We’re still waiting for those last two. ( Hope my boys are reading this! )

And there were just the times when she and I would sit on her porch with an iced tea or in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and talk about nothing…those were some of the best times.

We shared our love of gardening and for years  my friend and I would make it an annual event to drive to my sister’s in PA for a spring plant shopping field trip, driving back home with the car so overflowing with flowers, that we could barely see out the rear view mirror.

And on our arrival as we pulled into her garage and then mine to unload, our husbands shared that same look of disbelief as they witnessed the amount of flowers we had purchased.  Through the years they came to expect it, but the look was there just the same.

And now, although they are a half hour away, of course it can’t be the same as walking down the street to see each other, but with a friendship as strong as ours it will take a lot more than that to break the bond formed over all these years.

And now two years after they have tested our relationship by moving, we are putting it to a harsher test by moving cross country in less than 2 months.  As difficult as it will be we all know we will pass the test.  We are already talking about the coastal visits we have to look forward to, and all the new things we will have to share with each other.

So it is no surprise that they wanted to entertain us one more time with some friends.  I insisted that she let me bring something, and after much persuading (I can wear someone down when I want to), she allowed me to bring the salad.

I decided on the spinach salad above which is a recipe from Emeril to which I added some pitted Calamata olives, and some orange muscat champagne vinegar as well as the white vinegar called for.

(I’m in the process of emptying my pantry so I take any opportunity I can to use something up in there).

The evening was wonderful, the table was lovely, the food was terrific as always, and beautifully presented.

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After nibbling on shrimp, cheeses, olives, and an edamame hummus along with cocktails we dined on…

Grilled Chicken Kebabs

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Orzo with tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon, and herbs

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and a melange of grilled vegetables…

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My Spinach, Orange, and Almond Salad completed this fantastic menu.

Dessert was homemade strawberry shortcake, and we all dug in so quickly I forgot to get a photo.  Rest assured, it was delicious!

Before I give you the recipe for the spinach salad I just want to say one last thing…

…while I love posting recipes on this blog, I love telling the story of how the things I post came to be, and why they came to be, so to our dear friends, the Murphys…this one’s for you with love!

Emeril’s Spinach, Orange and Candied Almond Salad

(serves 6, but can be adjusted for more)

Ingredients

1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons sugar (Use a bit less if you want)

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

4 small oranges

Dressing

1/4 cup champagne or 1/4 cup white wine vinegar 

(I used half orange muscat champagne vinegar and half white wine vinegar)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon orange zest (I used a bit more)

1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste (I use kosher)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salad

6 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

(I used half baby spinach and half mixed greens and herbs)

1 cup celery, thinly sliced

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced and cut into crescents

freshly ground cracked black pepper

(I also added pitted Calamata olives)

Directions

1.  Lightly grease a 10” square of parchment paper with butter or vegetable oil and set aside.

2.  Use a salad spinner to rinse the baby spinach thoroughly.  Remove as much moisture as possible from the spinach or your salad will be soggy.  Set aside to drain.

3.  Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan combine 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water over medium-high heat.  Swirl the mixture occasionally until the sugar turns a golden amber color.  this should take about 3-4 minutes.

4.  Add the almonds and stir to coat.  continue cooking until the almonds are fragrant and golden brown, about 1 minute.  Be careful not to burn the sugar/nut mixture or yourself!  Transfer the nuts to parchment paper, using a spatula to spread into a thin layer, and set aside to cool completely.

5.  With a sharp knife, peel the orange, remove the bitter white pith, and cut the fruit into segments. (Use a small bowl to catch the orange juice that drips.) Reserve the segments in a separate bowl.  Reserve the orange juice.

6.  Salad Dressing: Combine 1/4 cup of the reserved fresh orange juice, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, the Champagne or white vinegar, olive oil, orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend.  Transfer the dressing to a non-reactive container with a lid and refrigerate until ready to eat.

7.  Put the fresh spinach in a large serving bowl, then top with the orange segments, celery, red onions, and Calamata olives, if using.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

8.  When ready to serve, break the caramelized almonds (at this point the almonds have turned to “brittle”) into bite-size pieces and scatter over the top of the salad.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.  Toss to coat and serve immediately.

Cheesy Mac and Cheese

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Every now and then I get an uncontrollable craving for mac and cheese. 

Since my husband’s love for cheese is limited to a chunk of Jarlsberg  or melted mozzarella on his pizza or Chicken Parm I can’t use him as the excuse for why I would make this large pan of Cheesy Mac and Cheese in the photo above.

Yep, I must admit I made it for me…although I’m always willing to share with anyone who may walk through our door, including repairmen, painters, etc… and countless times I have walked out the door and down the street carrying something hot off the stove to share with our best friends. 

They have since moved away (too far a walk now), but for 20 plus years I could always count on them to enjoy a dish I was itching  to make that wasn’t on the top of my husband’s list, or if truth be known, not on his list at all.

But you didn’t think that would keep me from making this Cheesy Mac and Cheese, did you? For someone who loves to cook and try new recipes as much as I do, I find I subscribe to that tag line for Clairol…I’m worth it!

This is the second time I’ve posted a recipe for macaroni and cheese.  The previous one  is a bit different, but I use a variety of pasta shapes and cheeses in both.

In this one I added an over- the- top amount of shredded cheese to the bechamel sauce before adding the pasta to the sauce.  It is good enough to eat right there and then, or you can pour it into an augratin dish, cover it with Panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs), and bake it off in the oven.

Either way…it is one cheesylicious Mac and Cheese!

Cheezy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from Homeroom’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese Recipe)

Ingredients

For the bechamel:                                                                               
4 cups whole milk (I used 3 cups skim and 1 cup half and half)

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

To assemble:

Kosher salt

2 pounds assorted pasta (I used penne, cellantani, and gemelli)

8 ounces shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup panko (optional)

For  the bechamel:

1.  Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat and set aside.

2.In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

3.  While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk, then thin out.)

4.  Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

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To Assemble:
1.  Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

(If you plan to top the mac and cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.)

2. Place the reserved saucepan of bechamel over the medium heat and stir in the cheeses just until melted and smooth.  Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes.

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Serve immediately, or, if baking, transfer to a large baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.

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Easy Pizza with Roasted Tomato Sauce

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Remember that Roasted Tomato recipe featured in the previous post for Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes …here’s another delicious way to use it other than as a topping for bruschette, in a frittata or risotto.  Use it as a topping on a quick pizza.

Yesterday I found I had some whole wheat pitas (from Trader Joe’s, I think) in my freezer.

I pulled them out, and with  a drizzle of olive oil on both sides of the pita I placed them on a baking sheet, smeared them with some left-over roasted tomatoes, added some sauteed mushrooms, some shredded mozzarella cheese, a sprinkling of dried oregano, and popped them in a preheated 375 degree oven on an upper rack for about 6 to 7 minutes til the cheese was melted and the pita was toasted.

Delicious!  And fairly healthy with that whole wheat pita! 

You will notice there’s one in the photo without any tomato sauce.  While my husband would never eat a slice of pizza without tomato sauce, I love it both ways.  So for this one I added some grated Pecorino Romano to the mozzarella, and threw on some pitted Calamata olives along with the mushrooms.  Yum!

The combinations are endless, but please do make some with those flavorful roasted tomatoes!  You won’t be sorry!

Grilled Salmon and Veggies on a Torta Roll

Here’s a great way to serve salmon…in a sandwich!  It’s a super easy alternative for a light meal during these dog days of summer, which seem to have arrived early this year.

It’s also a healthy meal. The salmon teams up with grilled fresh vegetables which have marinated in a vinaigrette before being placed on the grill.

The torta roll I used for this sandwich comes from Costco. 

Costco Bakery Bread  Torta Sandwich Roll  10/3 oz

  It’s a great roll which lends itself to many different fillings because It stands up to them without getting soggy.  It’s the roll I use for my Pulled BBQ Brisket Sandwich. 

If you haven’t tried it yet, run to your nearest Costco and purchase a bag.

Grilled Salmon and Veggies on a Torta Roll (serves 4)

4-5 to 6 ounce wild salmon fillets

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling over salmon

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

4 tablespoons good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

1 and 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 eggplant, unpeeled and cut in 1/2-inch slices

1 zucchini and/or yellow squash cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices

2 red bell peppers (or any combination of red, yellow, or orange), cut into wedges

1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices

4 large crusty rolls, such as torta rolls, split and toasted on grill

4 tablespoons sun-dried tomato mayo (recipe follows)

4 leaves romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes, sliced

Light the grill.

Combine the mayonnaise, sun dried tomatoes, chopped parsley, a pinch of Kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oregano, basil, if using, salt , black pepper, vinegar and oil.  Add the sliced eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and onion.  Stir to coat.

Grill the vegetables over medium high heat  turning once until lightly browned and tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Brush the salmon fillets with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill the salmon for about 5 minutes per side, or until just done.  Watch it carefully…(mine got a bit more done than I like)

Remove the grilled veggies to a bowl and the grilled salmon to a platter.

Spread the inside of each roll with some of the sun-dried tomato mayo.  Pile on the salmon fillet, grilled veggies, lettuce and tomato.

You can omit the salmon in this recipe and you will have a delicious grilled vegetable sandwich.

If you don’t want to make it as a sandwich…

Make extra of the mayo dressing, and serve it along side a platter of grilled veggies.  Try grilling fennel, mushrooms, potato wedges, and even large romaine lettuce leaves in addition to any of the veggies above.

Fish and Chips

For the first time in weeks our temperature was in the 80’s yesterday.  It is amazing how cool 88 degrees can seem after coming down from a run of 100 degree days! 

So cool in fact that I felt perfectly comfortable frying up some cod fillets I had in the fridge and turning them into a dinner of Fish and Chips.

Ina Garten’s recipe for Parker’s Fish & Chips in Barefoot Contessa Family Style caught my eye.  Apparently this recipe hails from the chef and co-owner of her business Barefoot Contessa, the gourmet food and catering shop in NYC which she ran for many years.

I made one major change in the recipe.  I substituted white rice flour for most of the flour in the batter.

I had discovered some time ago that breading with rice flour results in an unusually light and crispy coating.  I first tried it several years ago when a friend on a gluten free diet came to visit.  I had made a chicken with brown rice dish which required browning the chicken first in a light coating of flour.

It was great with the fish…creating a golden crunchy crust with very little of the oil being absorbed.

The “chips” in this  version are actually baked on a sheet at 400 degrees after having been tossed with some olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  They are sensational, and help to ease any guilt one might feel about frying the fish.

Serve the fish with lemon slices, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce or malt vinegar if you like along side a dish of freshly made slaw.  Delicious!

Fish and Chips (adapted from Parker’s Fish & Chips, Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

(serves 6)

3 pounds fresh thick cod fillets

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup white rice flour plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

(you could use all rice flour if you prefer)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 extra-large eggs

Vegetable or canola oil

Baked “Chips” (recipe follows)

Lay the cod fillets on a cutting board.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Cut the fillets in 1 and 1/2 by 3-inch pieces.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Whisk in 1 cup of water and then the 2 eggs.

Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a large (12-inch) frying pan and heat it to about 360 degrees.  Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl.Place it very carefully into the hot oil.  Don’t crowd the pieces.

Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil between 360 and 400 degrees.

Cook the fish on each side for  2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.  Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. 

Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the “chips.”

Note:  To keep hot for 20 minutes, line a baking sheet with paper towels and put the fish into a 200-degree oven.

Baked “Chips”

serves 6

4 large baking potatoes, unpeeled

4 tablespoons good olive oil

1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half in thirds lengthwise.  You’ll have 6 long wedges from each potato.  Place the potatoes on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary.

With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together, making sure the potatoes are covered with oil.  Spread the potatoes in a single layer with once cut side down.

Bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes, turning to the other cut side after 20 minutes.  Bake until they are lightly browned, crisp outside, and tender inside.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Keep this recipe in your repertoire for any time you want to serve crisp potatoes without the frying!

Grilled Shrimp Rolls

The Grilled Shrimp Roll  pictured above was the entree for the summer dinner I served last week to friends. 

I combined what I considered the best parts of several recipes.  The shrimp were marinated in olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest, and garlic before grilling on skewers. I then tossed them with a tarragon-caper mayonnaise and served them on a toasted potato roll. Yum!  Along with fresh corn on the cob this meal screams “summer”!

The shrimp can be grilled ahead if you choose so there’s no last minute cooking necessary except grilling or toasting the buns. The mayo mixture should be made ahead so the flavors get a chance to meld before tossing it with the shrimp.

This is a great alternative to a lobster roll…less expensive, simpler to make, but just as delicious!   Here you go…

 Grilled Shrimp Rolls (serves 6 )

(adapted from Grilled Shrimp Rolls With Sorrel, Food and Wine,  June 2005) and Shrimp Sandwiches with Tarragon-caper Mayonnaise, Bon Appetit, August 2007)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 tablespoon gin

1 tablespoon dry sherry

Tarragon-Caper Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

6 Potato Long Rolls or Hot Dog Buns

Boston Lettuce Leaves (optional)

Tarragon-Caper Mayonnaise

1/3 cup good mayonnaise

2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped

1 and 1/2 tablespoons grated sweet onion (such as Vidalia)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

1/4 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce

1/2 cup chopped celery heart with leaves

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  In a large shallow dish, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the rosemary, lemon zest and 2/3 of the garlic.  Stir in the shrimp and refrigerate for 2- 4 hours.

2.  In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, capers, onion, tarragon, celery seeds, and hot sauce together.  Mix in the chopped celery.  Season with salt and pepper and more hot sauce, if desired.  Cover and chill up to 6 hours.

3.  Light a grill.  Toss the shrimp with the gin and sherry.  Thread the shrimp onto  skewers; season with salt and pepper.  Grill the shrimp over a hot fire until lightly charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side; let cool slightly.

4.  Stir the grilled shrimp into the mayonnaise dressing.

5.  Brush the cut sides of the rolls with olive oil and grill until toasted.

6.  Place a lettuce leaf in each roll, spoon the shrimp salad into the rolls and serve.

Note:  Make Ahead Option:  The shrimp salad can be refrigerated overnight.  Let stand at room temperature for 3o minutes before serving.

Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz

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Last week with our temperatures soaring into the 100’s I was trying to come up with a light, refreshing menu to serve friends who were coming for dinner.

I wanted a menu for the most part which could be prepared ahead, and would require very little, if any, indoor cooking.

In looking through several magazines at various summer meals for inspiration, I was excited about the idea of making shrimp rolls… a take on lobster rolls, but less costly, easier to prepare, and just as delicious.

Fresh corn on the cob from the farmer’s market, and a lovely green salad brought by my friend pretty much completed our meal except for a light appetizer.

So what should I make?

Again, pouring over another selection of cooking magazines (that’s why I seem to never throw them away), I found the perfect choice in Cook’s Illustrated from August 2010.  A Creamy Gazpacho ! I have made gazpacho in the past but this outshone that in many ways.  As the intro to the article suggests…

Most Americans know gazpacho as a chunky liquid salsa.  In Spain, the most famous version is a creamy puree. ..just about every part of Spain prides itself on its gazpacho, but most sources still point to Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region, as the soup’s home.

...Like the chunky, liquid-salsa interpretation popular in the states, the soup combines cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes but adds bread (for body-and historical precedent), a generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil, and a bracing shot of sherry vinegar and purees the whole thing in a blender.  The result?  A creamy, startlingly complex soup…

Only one thing went wrong with the soup…I forgot to serve it!!!!!     I had the perfect goblets chilling in the freezer and the finished soup chilling in the fridge., waiting for the last minute to be ladled into the glasses and garnished.

The problem was somewhere in between my serving a tray of melon with dry cured salami and prosciutto de parma, along with a platter of cheese and crackers,and some olives with drinks as we chatted in the family room before dinner…and giving my husband the shrimp skewers and buns to grill, and cooking the corn ….I forgot the beautiful soup in the fridge awaiting its debut on the table!  Horrors!!! 

And this was not discovered until I opened the freezer before serving dessert (the Triple Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake) when there before me stood the frosted glasses!

All was not lost, though, because I packed up a container of the soup for our friends, and sent it home with them for lunch or dinner the next day.  My friend reported back that they loved it and she will be making it after I post this blog.

I think the lesson here is I should have cut back on the munchies that we pigged out on before dinner, and maybe served the gazpacho along with either the melon and prosciutto or the cheese and crackers. 

No real harm was done, and we all had a pretty good laugh about it, and enjoyed it the next day.

  Here’s the winning recipe formulated through research and  trial and error by Kenji Lopez-Alt, a writer and recipe developer for Cook’s Illustrated.

With the exception of substituting a red pepper for the green, I followed it pretty much to the tee.  It’ s a perfect hot- weather, healthy addition to a summer meal or with a salad it’s a complete light lunch.  The taste is sensational and I will be making it again before the summer’s over, and I’ll try to remember to serve it.

Creamy Gazpacho Anadaluz (Cook’s Illustrated, august 2010)

(serves 4-6)

Note:  For ideal flavor, allow the gazpacho to sit in the refrigerator overnight before serving.  Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar.  Although we prefer to use kosher salt in this soup, half the amount of table salt can be used.  Serve the soup with additional extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground black pepper, and diced vegetables for diners to season and garnish their own bowls as desired.

3  pounds (about 6 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored

1 small cucumber, peeled halved, and seeded

1 medium green  bell pepper, halved, cored, and seeded

1 small red onion, peeled and halved lengthwise

Kosher salt (see note)

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and quartered

1 small Serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and halved lengthwise

1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for serving (see note)

2 tablespoons finely minced parsley, chives, or basil leaves (I used chives)

Ground black pepper

1.  Roughly chop 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in large bowl.  Add garlic, chile, and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt; toss until well combined.  Set aside.image

2.  Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into1/4-inch dice;  place vegetables in medium bowl.  Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetable.  Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl.  Set aside 1 hour.

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3.  Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside.  Add bread pieces to exuded liquid  (there should be 1/4 cup) and soak 1 minute.  Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

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4.  Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender (or food processor) and process 30 seconds.  With blender running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, using back of ladle or rubber spatula to press soup through strainer.  Repeat with remaining vegetable-bread mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil.

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5.  Stir vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours to chill completely and develop flavors.  Serve, passing remaining diced vegetables, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and black pepper separately.

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Provencal Vegetable Soup (Soupe Au Pistou)

In looking for a vegetable soup to make to use up some veggies in the fridge I decided on this Provencal Vegetable Soup or Soup Au Pistou.

Normally considered a summer soup because of its use of summer produce such as white beans, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash and potatoes, it also makes  a great wintry soup.

The pistou (which means pounded in the Provencal language) is sauce made of fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and  either Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

This French version of pesto, (without the nuts), is mixed together in a blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle. The addition of this sauce defines the flavor of this vegetable soup.

It can be added to the soup during cooking just before serving, or offered at the table after the soup is served, or as I discovered, why not both?

While there are many recipes for this type of soup I chose to follow one from The Joy of Cooking, and adapted it to the ingredients I had.  With a vegetable soup there is certainly some wiggle room as far as the veggies go, but for this Provencal Vegetable Soup the pistou is perfect as is.

And, fortunately, with the availability of fresh basil in most of the markets and grocery stores year round we can enjoy this soup whatever the season.

Provencal Vegetable Soup (Soup Au Pistou) (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Makes about 3 quarts

Heat in a large soup pot, over medium heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add and cook, stirring, until tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes:

1 small onion, chopped

1 medium leek, thoroughly cleaned and chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 large rib celery, chopped

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped

Stir in:

2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped

8 cups water, or a combination of water and chicken stock/broth

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon herbs de Provence

(pinch of saffron threads)

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.  Stir in:

one 15 and 1/2-to19-ounce can cannellini , Great Northern, or other white beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 to 2 cups cooked beans

( I used less cause I only had 1/2 cup of beans left in the fridge, so I used more potatoes)

1 cup broken thin spaghetti or macaroni

1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1/2 cup 1-inch pieces green beans (fresh or frozen)

Simmer just until the pasta is tender.  Meanwhile, prepare the pistou.

Pistou (This is delicious with fish and a great addition to soups and stews)

makes 3/4 cup

Combine in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

Remove to a bowl and stir in:

1/3 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano (you can also use Parmesan)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper ( Note:  If making this to add to the soup, omit this pepper)

Stir all or some of the pistou into the soup, along with:

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Serve the reserved pistou at the table.

The pistou will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.  Serve at room temperature.