Weekly Winner:  Groovin’ on a Green Gazpacho

It’s been hot here in Chicago. I mean stupid-hot!  The kind of heat where you just don’t want to move, let alone turn on anything in the house that will produce heat. I didn’t want to cook but honestly couldn’t imagine eating another salad. I wanted something cold and different. Lucky for me I had a new gazpacho recipe to try out.

I’m usually somewhat ambivalent towards gazpacho simply because most are tomato-based and a bit spicy which to me is like eating a bowl of salsa.The gazpachos I tend to like are a bit different and creamier in texture. Which is why I adored this Green Gazpacho recipe from Food Network Magazine.

The sweetness from the green grapes along with the creaminess from the avocado (I went ahead and used a whole rather than a half) makes this the perfect warm weather soup.

Green Gazpacho

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups seedless green grapes

3 scallions, roughly chopped

1-1/2 English cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks

1 clove garlic

1 small bunch fresh parsley (leaves only)

1/2 avocado (cut into chunks) – I used the whole thing

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Procedure:

Pulse the grapes, scallions, cucumbers, garlic, parsley and avocado in a food processor until combined. Add the olive oil and white wine vinegar and pulse again until blended. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse again. Add more water if it is not at your desired consistency.

Season the gazpacho with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve topped with the toasted almonds.

Weekly Winner:  Picture Perfect Pasta (made better with Pork!)

As I continue my quest to find different twists on the typical basil-pine nut pesto, I came across this dish. First of all, it was the magazine photo that got me. I was sold before I even knew it was a pesto. I mean this is one seriously pretty dish, isn’t it?? Then come to find out that this spaghetti is tossed with a tomato and walnut pesto. Now you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. Seriously? Is there anyway this could get better? Well, yes — add Italian Sausage!

While the original recipe from Bon Appetit for Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto is totally vegetarian, I’ve got a hubby who’s coaching marathon training and needs meat! At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This had nothing to do with the fact that I am constantly looking for reason to add pork products to any dish!  It was all for him, I swear!

So while deciding to try this luscious pasta last Friday, I decided to call an audible on two points: first (and most importantly) was the addition of Italian sausage. Second, I always have a huge selection of various pastas in my pantry and really love fettuccine, so that got swapped for the spaghetti.  The end result (regardless of what pasta you use) is, gorgeous, creamy, pasta perfection – with pork!

Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients

⅔ cup walnuts

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt

6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces spaghetti [or fettuccine]

½ cup (packed) basil leaves

1/2 pound mild Italian sausage — my addition

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Heat broiler. Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil, tossing once, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.

Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ oz. Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in ⅓ cup oil; process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

[Meanwhile, sauté Italian sausage in a bit of olive oil until well browned.]

Transfer pasta and sausage to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.

Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and black pepper and drizzle with oil.

Weekly Winner:  One Man’s Maque Choux is Another Man’s Fancy Succotash

Whatever you want to call it, this might very well be my new favorite side dish. Yes, it has bacon in it. Yes, there’s a bit of cream and sherry to bring it all together. But seriously folks, this is a whole lot of veggie goodness here. I really can’t think of a piece of meat or fish that this wouldn’t go amazingly well with. It is good hot off the stove, room temperature or even cold so it would be a great picnic or pot luck item any time of year. I just wanted to test out the Maque Choux with Edamame and Sherry recipe so I simply sautéed a few chicken breasts.  (Note: the leftover sauce in the bottom of the Maque Choux pan makes a fabulous topping for the chicken, or whatever you’re having this with.

While I’m not positive, I’m relatively sure I got this recipe from the June issue of Cuisine at Home magazine.  Seriously people, call this what you want, but make sure you try this recipe.

Maque Choux with Edamame & Sherry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/3 cup diced scallion whites

2 Tbsp seeded and minced jalapeño

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup dry sherry

1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1/2 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame, thawed if frozen

1/2 cup heavy cream

Pinch of sugar

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook bacon in a sauté pan until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard all but 1 Tbsp of drippings.
  2. Melt butter with drippings in same pan over medium heat.  Add bell pepper, scallion whites and jalapeño; cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  3. Deglaze pan with sherry, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook until Sherry is nearly evaporated.
  4. Add corn, edamame, cream, and sugar; simmer until cream thickens, about 3 minutes.  Toss scallion Green’s into Maque Choux and season with salt and pepper.

Weekly Winner: Grilled, Green Goddess Goodness

Try saying that a few times fast. Or better yet, don’t…just eat it! This Couscous Salad with Green Goddess Dressing has a lot going for it: Israeli couscous, chickpeas, grilled summer veggies, and creamy, green goddess dressing. (Cue Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things”)

As a kid, the only way to get me to (reasonably) willingly eat a salad was to have a bottle of Green Goddess, Creamy Cucumber, or …as a last resort, Ranch dressing nearby.  I’m still a sucker for those and this one is a keeper.  Plus, with all that healthy goodness in the bowl, you don’t feel so bad adding a creamy homemade dressing.

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine.  I can see this making a perfect picnic potluck salad, a great side dish for any grilled meat, or…as we had it, a very cool and tasty lunch all by itself.   I suppose you could make this without grilling the vegetables but it adds so much that I don’t know why you would.  The veggies grill up in the time it takes to make the couscous and is definitely worth it.

Couscous Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

Kosher salt

1 cup Israeli couscous

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

2 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 15 -ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup green goddess dressing (see below)

Procedure:

Preheat a grill to medium high (or do what I did and use a grill pan). Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the couscous and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, soak the red onion in a small bowl of hot water, 10 minutes. Toss the bell peppers and zucchini in a large bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Grill the vegetables, turning once, until well marked and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature. Cut the peppers into 1-inch pieces and slice the zucchini into half-moons.

Drain the onion and add to the couscous along with the bell peppers, zucchini and chickpeas. Add the dressing and toss; season with salt and pepper.

Green Goddess Dressing

Combine 1/2 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream, 1/3 cup each chopped parsley and chives, and 1/4 cup chopped tarragon in a blender. Add 2 anchovy fillets, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon capers, the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper; puree until smooth. (Makes 1 1/2 cups.)

Weekly Winner: Bowled Over Big-Time with the Ideal Warm Weather Bowl

It’s summer.  It’s hot. I don’t want anything heavy and some nights, I don’t even want anything hot to eat. Cool, healthy, light and easy…that’s what I’m talking about. However I have to admit that salads do seem to get a bit old.  They work fine for a summer lunch but come dinner I just want something more than another salad. Enter: Chicken Noodle Bowl with Peanut-Ginger Sauce from Southern Living Magazine.  Ding-ding-ding!!!  We have a winner!  This hits the spot on so many levels for me.  First and most importantly they had me at peanut sauce.  Honestly, I can spread a good peanut sauce on cardboard and be happy.  Then comes noodles — I’ve yet to meet a noodle I didn’t like.  Last but not least, my good old friend and dependable standby, the chicken.  Honestly, there is not a thing to dislike about this dish. It’s incredibly quick, easy to make and very satisfying to dive into.  Also, there is no need to turn on a stove or oven as the noodles are cooked with the microwave.  Yay!

This takes the new “bowl” craze and tweaks it just enough to ensure that it will be in very steady rotation in my household. Another great thing about this type of dish is that it is infinitely changeable and customizable to whatever you have in the fridge.  You can substitute any kind of noodle or pasta and mix and match whatever veggies you have on hand.  The only thing I won’t be messing with is the peanut-ginger sauce.  It is and will remain perfect, regardless of what it is drizzled on.

Chicken Noodle Bowl with Peanut-Ginger Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

PEANUT-GINGER SAUCE

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

CHICKEN NOODLE BOWL

8 cups water

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

6 ounces rice noodles

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

3 cups shredded napa cabbage

1 1/2 cups halved and thinly sliced seedless cucumber

1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper

6 tablespoons chopped salted dry-roasted peanuts

Procedure:

1. Prepare the Sauce: Process all 9 ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

2. Prepare the Chicken Noodle Bowl: Microwave water in a large bowl on HIGH 10 minutes. Stir vinegar and salt into boiling water. Add noodles and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain noodles.

3. Divide noodles, chicken, cabbage, cucumber, carrots, and bell pepper among 6 bowls. Top each bowl with 1 tablespoon peanuts and 2 tablespoons Peanut-Ginger Sauce. Serve remaining sauce on the side.