Jul 30, 2010


while we are talking about cool summer soups, let us remember gazpacho. the brilliant spanish, and also portugese, soup made from tomatoes, bread, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, etc. so easy. just chop, blend and chill. so refreshing.

if you have ever seen the movie women on the verge of a nervous breakdown by pedro almodovar, you will remember one of the few movies where a food is featured so heavily, it nearly becomes a character in the film. gazpacho, in the peak of tomato season, is a scene stealer. if you do see the film, you will enjoy the wonderful carmen maura and also antonio banderas when he was a very very young man, a great early film by one of my favorite directors. i could go on and on, but back to soup.

gazpacho has ancient origins and many variations. here is my favorite recipe. the secret is lots of cucumber and a good amount of olive oil. a great recipe when you need to eat but can't bear to turn on the stove or the oven. you can make it as simple, rustic, chunky, crunchy, smooth, or complicated as you want.

2 pounds ripe juicy summer tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery (optional)
1 large clove garlic (or two small)
1 cup cubed bread with the crusts cut off (rustic country loaves are best i find)
1/2 cup very cold water
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup parsley leaves
3 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP champagne vinegar (sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar could work here too)
2 tsp sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup organic mixed vegetable juice (optional, you won't need this if your tomatoes are perfecto)

chopped cucumber (essential)
chopped avocado (optional)
minced celery (optional)
chopped parsley (optional)
lemon wedges
another drizzle of olive oil

first, chop the garlic clove(s). place bread cubes, garlic and cold water in a bowl to soak and flavor, maybe a little salt or olive oil if you like. now coarsely chop the red pepper and celery, if using. place in blender and blend briefly until mixed. now chop the tomatoes and 1/2 the cucumber (reserve the other half for garnish), add these to the blender as well and pulse until blended but still a bit chunky. add in the bread, parsley leaves, olive oil, and now the seasonings. taste as you go to get the right blend, adding a little of each. when you've got it where you want it. chill for one hour, then serve. no cooking whatsoever. brilliant.

Jul 27, 2010

nectarines in season

amazing and fresh from the farmer's market: local, connecticut-grown nectarines, so red they are almost purple. and a new study indicates summer stone fruits may protect against certain types of cancer. one more reason to load up on precious, sweet, juicy nectarines. they make great fruit salad, they have such a nice texture and sweet/tart balance of flavor that they need almost no flavor enhancement at all (sugar, lemon juice, lime juice,). great as a topping on yogurt for breakfast or baked into all sorts of simple fruit desserts and pastries. summer tastes so good i can't even stand it. and what's more, one hardly needs to cook, the ingredients are so good right out of the reusable grocery bag. love all this gorgeous summer simplicity.

Jul 23, 2010

summer trips to the library

i love a good trip to the library in the summer: the soft hum of quiet activity and intellectual pursuit, the always super cool air conditioning, the interesting community of multigenerational library patrons going about their business. moms and toddlers with picture books, grandpa's with newspapers, teens with friends, enthusiastic readers of all shapes and sizes.

my kids always have their summer reading lists to work through, that is our departure point and excuse for going. we always joke that there is no limit on the number of books you can check out, except of course your very own personal limitation: what you can carry. no matter what we came in for, we always have our arms full, books piled a bit too high, when we leave.

above is a cache of books from a recent trip. what a gold mine these books have turned out to be. japanese hot pots is amazing. in fact i keep renewing it, so i will have to buy it because i can't bear to put it down. there will be a lot of japanese hot pot dinners on my table this winter. earth to table is beautiful and has just the sort of brilliant simple recipes i love. empires of food is a fascinating read on food history and the economics of food throughout civilization. really wonderful. love them all. who knows what treasures i will find this week when i return these and go back for more. i am on deadline this weekend to finish the rest before i have to return them early next week. read read read read read read. have a great weekend! xo, g

Jul 21, 2010

summer borscht

it's been slightly warm lately, have you heard? okay so the sweltering east coast is all over the news. we are roasting, sweltering, and even melting over here. today i think it is about 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or roughly the surface temperature of the sun. i couldn't even think at the farmer's market this morning because my brain had gone all soft and melty. everyone seemed to be having trouble making change and counting bills. it was a universal affliction. i did make it home with a couple of things, back into the safety of central air conditioning.

the result of all this heat, is that now, and for a long while, all i've wanted to eat are cool foods. and cold foods. smoothies, vietnamese summer rolls, sushi, gazpacho and cool, mineral-y, summery borscht. so refreshing. pretty easy too. let me walk you through it.

summer borscht
1.5 lb organic beets, scrubbed, tops removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 small cucumber, finely diced or grated
2 cups chicken stock
1TBSP olive oil
1 or 2 tsp sea salt, to taste
1 TBSP wine vinegar
sour cream for garnish

first you will need to have a big bunch of organic beets. it really does pay to buy organic when you are talking about root vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots and the like. they sit in the soil and absorb a lot of minerals, including the nasty ones in pesticides and chemical fertilizers, if you buy nothing else organic, buy organic root vegetables whenever possible.

about a pound and a half of beets should do it. scrub them and cut off their tops. set in a medium size stockpot with cool water to cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes until fork tender.

meanwhile, finely chop an onion and two carrots, and a leek. set aside.

when the beets are done, reserve the beet broth, at least 3 cups of it. then drain the beets and allow to cool for 5 minutes. when slightly cooled, rub off the beet skins with your hands and chop into a small dice (about 1/2 inch). your hands will now be an awesome color of purpley-fuchsia.( it washes off with soap and water, mostly).

saute the onions and carrots in 1 TBSP of olive oil until soft, 5 minutes. add in the leek and saute another 3 minutes. now add the chopped beets and 3 cups of reserved beet stock plus 2 cups of fat free chicken stock. add 1 or 2 tsp salt and 1 TBSP wine vinegar. simmer for 10 minutes so flavors will blend. meanwhile wash and peel 1 small cucumber. chop half of it into a fine dice. or grate it with a small grater. prepare an ice bath. when the soup flavors have blended and you've adjusted the seasoning, place soup in an ice bath to cool for 10 minutes or so. alternatively, refrigerate. to serve, ladle soup into small bowls, place a spoonful of diced or grated cucumber in the center of the bowl. add a dollop of sour cream on top of that and maybe a parsley leaf, or 1 small sprig of fresh dill. serve and enjoy the cool, refreshing, mineral-y taste. so good for you too.

Jul 16, 2010

apricots and sugar plums

they are here they are here! peak summer goodness. these local apricots and sugar plums from new york and connecticut are unbelievably amazing. produce is ripening a bit early this year compared to last. which suits me fine. these sweet, tart, firm apricots didn't arrive until nearly august last year. and the sugar plums, so tiny and delicious. my family's diet is probably 50 percent fresh fruit right now. crazy good this year. we are really living it up.

i made some nice summer borscht this week as well as gazpacho. yum. refreshing, cooling soups, recipes coming your way soon. in the meantime, keep cool and enjoy all this mid-summer perfection. xo, g

Jul 13, 2010

bowl of summer goodness

breakfast is so easy in the summer. ripe, sweet, organic peaches, pluots, cherries, blueberries, pistachios, greek yogurt. no matter how hot it is outside, beautiful satisfying food is all around. it is still possible to eat well, even though you might just want to collapse about it instead.

during the last few weeks i've been thinking a lot about gazpacho and other cooling foods. food that don't heat up the kitchen any hotter than it already is. and so i've been looking around the blogosphere for inspiration and the brilliant luisa, over at one of my favorite food blogs the wednesday chef, did a great post this week, heat wave, about not cooking when it is oppressively hot outside and you can't even think about it. she writes from berlin and invited her readers to share their experiences with this seasonal phenomenon, and there are about a million great ideas for summer recipes in the comments. so don't give up. (i say this to myself as much as to anyone). keep cooking! you can do it!

also, rain today (finally) and possibly the end to water restrictions on our parched landscape. hooray for that. summer living, not all that easy as it turns out.

Jul 9, 2010

dear maine, i love you

great short getaway. we are back now and we loved every minute of our trip to maine (well except for the biting flies minutes of course). otherwise completely wonderful: great food, friendly people, nice beaches, lovely scenery. low key, no fuss. some kind of simple wonderful.

have a great weekend all, xo, g

Jul 7, 2010

dispatch from the land of lobster rolls

we have escaped the epic searing heat wave in nyc and headed due north to the merely spectacularly hot southern coast of maine. (it was still 100 degrees in portland, maine yesterday, just in case you think we got off easy). the heat is somehow more bearable, because you know you can have a lobster roll for lunch. 

maine is a place where the lobster rolls are quite succulent and seriously generous. maine also produces perhaps the world's greatest lemonade, as it is pretty much always made to order, pressed right in front of you, three lemon halves and 3 heaping spoons of sugar in each icy glass. i can assure you the perfect lemon:sugar ratio has been achieved once and for all. and in maine, the whoopie pie is taken to a higher level: a tender yet substantial chocolate cake hybrid filled with a delicate cream. not at all too sweet, more like sophisticated and sublime.

marvelous maine. xo, g

Jul 2, 2010

easy living

well, here we are: a nice long holiday weekend. i am hoping for plenty of time to sit back, relax, and luxuriate in some easy summer living. i will go to the beach, watch the fireworks and eat a lobster roll or  two. but for now, i want to sit back, put my feet up, and enjoy an icy summer drink. clink clink. enjoy. xo, g

p.s. these are my new moroccan slippers from maryam in marrakesh, she had a flash sale the other week and i've barely taken them off since they arrived. so exotic, so exquisite, so sultry (so comfy). thanks maryam, i really love them.