cilantro

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

With another year under the belt, life continues to serve unexpected surprises. The Age of Question seems to only deepen with time as I find myself slowly inching towards 30. Does anyone know when it becomes the Age of Answers? Summer has been kind to us here in Texas. With mild temperatures and ample rain, we've had an abundant harvest this year. Especially our tomatoes: Teardrops, Green Zebras, Brandywine and assorted Heirlooms -- Nature has been very kind and giving this season.

There's something intrinsically magical and pure about growing your own food -- though it takes countless hours of work, sweat and patience -- the pay off seems to nourish in more ways than one. You can literally find the beauty of life in a tomato.

To think what once laid as a dormant seed, given water, soil and light, it awakens and sprouts. And with time, care and a little homemade compost -- it grows into a healthy plant that flowers and ultimately produces the lusciously juicy fruit.

We often forget to appreciate these tiny miracles but they are constantly around us: growing, thriving, living as the World intended.

As with all great ingredients, I allow them the spotlight -- to showcase their wonder without all the flare and masking.

 

We'll start with a yellow tomato gazpacho which I adapted from Bon Appetit. Topped with creamy avocado chunks, thinly sliced purple onions, dotted with meaty cubes of heirloom and drizzled with a bright and bold cilantro oil -- this Summer soup celebrates the beauty of the season.

The best part is, this soup can be made ahead and would serve as the perfect starter for any Summer party. Feel free to serve in shot glasses or tiny bowls and always make sure you serve this soup ICE COLD. Your guests will thank you :)

If yellow tomatoes are not available to you, feel free to use red tear drops -- though the color will be different the flavors will still be wonderful. For those who aren't a fan of heat, leave out the chile but being the thrill-seeker that I am, I put a yellow thai chili from our garden and rest assured, it did the job.

As chiles vary in heat, always be sure to taste the spiciness level and adjust accordingly.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A chilled Summer soup that will leave you wanting more...
Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Garnish with cubes of avocado, thinly shaved onion and meaty cubes of heirloom tomato.
  • Cilantro Oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. Squeeze tomato juices and seeds into strainer set over bowl. Press on seeds to extract all juice. Chop tomatoes. Set aside 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup cucumber, and 1/4 cup bell pepper.
  2. Combine remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper in processor. Add tomato juices, onion, orange juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to bowl; add reserved vegetables. Cover and chill overnight.
  3. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish and drizzle with cilantro oil.
  4. Cilantro Oil
  5. Combine all ingredients except water in processor. Puree until almost smooth. Transfer puree to fine strainer set over bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Whisk 1/4 cup water into mixture in bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.

 

 

 

Elotes

There's something wonderful about Elotes -- the refreshing aromas of lime and cilantro, the smokiness from the slight char, the sweetness of the kernels...it's like this happy awesome party in your mouth and everyone is invited! Now traditionally, Elotesare a staple in Mexican street food -- served on the cob, in a cup, topped with various toppings like chili powder, cheese, butter, sour cream, seasoned salt, lemon pepper...

With corn in season and our garden in full bloom, I wanted to utilize seasonal ingredients with whatever was affluent in our garden -- currently it's lots of chard, carrots, onion and KALE. But we'll get to that in a minute...

 

Traditional Elotes is usually smothered in generous amounts of butter and mayo (my favorite) but seeing that Summer is right around the corner, I am trying to keep my thighs in check. With that being said, I simply just brushed the corn with melted butter for a slight buttery flavor and let the other flavors be carried out through the fresh lime and spices.

 

And I got lazy. And didn't want to bug my husband to fire up the grill so I could grill two ears of corn.  So being the good wife that I am, I used the broiler to save him the pain :).

 

Now what do you do if you made a crap ton of Elotes and now you have a bunch left over?? Never you fret my pet. Why not use them for some healthy lettuce wraps? Since I had Tuscan Kale growing in the garden, I made some "vegan" lettuce wraps and topped it with some creamy avocado chunks. I even tossed in a habanero to the left over mixture to give it a nice kick. Feel free to use any type of lettuce in place of kale.

 

Eating healthy aint all bad y'all! You can also use your leftovers and use it as a corn salsa or put it on top of a salad or protein. I actually used it as breakfast -- I simply chopped up some kale, tossed it in lime and honey and salt, topped it with a fried egg, avocado slices and corn and VOILA -- breakfast of champions.

 

This would be a great recipe for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, be sure to share the love! Have a great weekend folks...

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

With the warm weather right around the corner, our bodies are ready to feel the sun upon our faces again.  The flowers blossoming, gardens blooming, the time is right for light, fresh and healthy food.  What better way to welcome Spring than with this wonderful Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Roll recipe?

Made from rice paper and rice noodles, this recipe is gluten-free and serves as a perfect appetizer or snack for any occasion.  Pair it with a spicy peanut sauce and it will be guaranteed a hot item with any crowd.  Save yourself the work and ask guests to roll their own, the best part is that any mistakes can be quickly eaten.

Feel free to substitute the shrimp for bbq chicken, avocado, jicama – let your imagination create new and exciting flavor combinations.  These spring rolls are best eaten the day they are made but can also be covered with saran wrap and eaten the next day.

Recipe for Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

  • 2 ounces rice vermicelli (60 mL)
  • 8 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
  • 8 large cooked shrimp - peeled, deveined and cut in half
  • 1 1/3 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil (20 mL)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (45 mL)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (45 mL)
  • 2 leaves lettuce, chopped

Soak vermicelli in cold water until soft.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and cook vermicelli for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Fill a large bowl with warm water.  Dip one wrapper into the hot water for a second and lay the wrapper on a flat surface.  In a raw across the center, place 3 shrimp halves down and top with vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce – leaving about 2 inches on each side.  Fold the uncovered sides inward and roll the wrapper tightly.  Serve with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • ½ cup peanut butter (120 mL)
  • 2 tablespoons water (30 mL)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin (15 mL)
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (5 mL)
  • Handful of peanuts, crushed

Mix peanut butter and water together until thoroughly mixed.  Add more water (1 teaspoon at a time) if the consistency is too thick.  Stir in hoisin and Sriracha and top with crushed peanuts. Serve with spring rolls.

Exciting news -- I am now a contributor at Honest Cooking which is a new international online culinary magazine with the ambition to truly change the face of online food media.  They feature over 50 of the world's most interesting food and beverage writers, bloggers, photographers and Chefs and I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of them!  Honest cooking aims to become the leading and most inspiring place for serious culinary debate, salivating recipes, interesting food news and international food-fun. You can also check out my recipe for these Spring Rolls over at Honest Cooking!

Grilled Red Fish and Shrimp Ceviche

My very first professional cooking job was at one of the top French restaurants in Tucson, Arizona.  It took me over two weeks and hundreds of applications before I was finally able to convince one of the head chefs to consider me for the position of Chef de Partie.  He was weary of taking me under his wing –

“You?  Girl?  You want to work in the kitchen?  This is no joke, it’s very hard work, are you sure you can handle it?”

“Yes Chef, I will not disappoint.”

Mind you, after 95% of the restaurants I applied to turned me down, having a top restaurant to even consider me for a position with absolutely no professional kitchen experience is what I call pure luck. He did not say yes right away however, but I was determined. That day, I went out and purchased the Jacque Pepin’s Complete Techniques and made the best damn Tarte Tartin my little heart could put out, sent him a slice attached with a note.  He finally considered my plea.

“Ok. Be here tomorrow morning at 6 am.”

So begins my journey through a real professional kitchen.

I show up bright and early and stepped foot into the small 10’ x 12’ kitchen, it was literally big (small) enough to fit 4 people snugly.  At the end of the table I see Chef kneading the dough for the fresh baguettes they make for dinner service, without even looking up from the task he points to the walk-in cooler –

“Grab 10 heads of lettuce and start prepping the salad station.”

It took me an hour and half to prep that station that day, Chef later informed me it needs to be done in 30.  Every single morning for 6 months (except Mondays) I met with the Chef and worked closely by his side – chopping, filleting, frying, sautéing.  I learned everything I had ever dreamed of and more: how to make the perfect pastry cream, pate chox, and the most beautifully risen soufflés.  I even learned how to properly fillet, tie and wrap a beef wellington, tips on how to never over cook fish, and how to keep your béarnaise sauce from breaking.

But my favorite recipes I remember to this day weren’t really so much the Classical French recipes I had learned (Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it) but the traditional Mexican salsas and breakfasts Chef would make for me each morning.  Oh, did I forget to mention the head chef wasn’t French?  Yes, about that, everyone that worked in the kitchen was from Spanish speaking origins except me -- Chinita Loca was my nickname: the Crazy Chinese Girl.

By the end of my stint in the restaurant kitchen my Spanish was superb, I was able to work 14 hour shifts without crying afterwards from being so damn tired, and I had enough burns and cuts all over my arms to be considered a “bad ass.”  Okay not really, but it was intense – by far the most vigorous working experience of my life both physically and mentally.  I wouldn’t have made it through those hard days without Chef by my side egging me on, pushing me to achieve my best.

One weekend I had worked two 14-hour shifts in a row, I was near exhaustion to the point where I felt delirious.  The kitchen was a blistering 114F during the summer and I was convinced I was going to die, every single muscle in my body hurt not to mention the idiotic two 2nd degree burns I had on my arms because I dropped the pan of baguettes that morning.  I slumped over the counter and rested my head on my arms, hoping to take a short break before the dinner rush.

“CHINITA LOCA!  WAKE UP!”  Chef shook my arm and popped me across the head with a dish rag – he slid me a heaping plate of freshly fried tortilla chips and some ceviche he had whipped up out of the blue.  “Here, eat.”  I sluggishly scooted towards the plate as he shoved a heaping chipful of ceviche into my mouth.  My eyes widened: it was glorious – the sweetness of the shrimp paired with the tangy brightness of fresh lime and cilantro, instantly I felt my mood elevated.  It was like a punch in the mouth, but in a good way, a happy way, a reenergizing way.  I smiled warmly – “Thanks Chef, this was awesome.” “Of course Chinita! I made it!  Now go prep your salad station.”

I prepped my station in 30 minutes that day, the first time since working there.  I’m convinced it was Chef’s ceviche that made it happen. He taught me speed, accuracy, timing.  He taught me the importance of planning, execution and presentation. He taught me no matter how different we may be from each other, at the end of the day we’re all the same: we cook because we connect, we cook because we love, we cook because we inspire. Thank you Chef for inspiring me and I hope this recipe will inspire you.  You can use just about any combination of seafood for ceviche: shrimp, various fish, scallop, lobster.  For this recipe I chose shrimp and grilled red fish and paired it with an avocado mango salsa– a nice contrast between textures and flavors this would be a great appetizer for a dinner party or bbq that’s quick, healthy, easy and delicious.

 

Ingredients for Grilled Red Fish and Shrimp Ceviche (serves 6-8):

Prep Time: 20 minutes; Total Cooking Time: 60 minutes

 

  • 1 red fish fillet (about 1 pound)
  • 2 teaspoons Seasoned Salt
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • 1 cup diced mango
  • ½ cup red cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Several limes for garnish
  • Tortilla chips

Prep the grill.

 

Pat fillet dry with paper towel and evenly coat with seasoned salt.  Place red fish fillet in a wire fish basket or a buttered foil packet.  Place in the center of grill for 15 minutes then flip and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool.  To make sure fish is fully cooked, the meat will be white and easily pierced with a fork.

 

While fish is cooking on grill bring a quart of water to a boil.  Place shrimp in the hot water, cover and let the water return to boil.  Immediately remove from heat and strain and run under cold water until cooled.  In a large bowl mix ½ the lime juice, honey and Tabasco and mix with shrimp.  Refrigerate for about an hour.

 

Meanwhile prep the salsa.  Mix chopped cilantro, mango, tomatoes, avocado and remainder of the lime juice in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

You can either serve ceviche in small glass cups or martini glasses for an extra touch of elegance.  Layer with salsa, shrimp and grilled red fish and garnish with cilantro, shrimp or lime wedge and immediately serve with tortilla chips.