Melon Gazpacho (in Cucumbers)

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By Freya Bellin

I love repurposing food to be functional. These cucumber cups are a fun way to slurp a shot of gazpacho (or a shot of tequila, if you’re so inclined – cucumber chaser?)  Mine were a little leaky, but it was no problem – just drink quickly!  I also think that leakiness could have been prevented by scooping out a bit less cucumber flesh.

The gazpacho here is worth making, cucumber cups or not. The pure melon version in the main recipe is almost like a dessert, the half-melon/half-tomato variation is a surprisingly delicious mix of sweet and tangy, and the Bloody Mary version is perfect for a Sunday brunch. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Zucchini and Dill Soup

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By Alaina Sullivan

There comes a time around the end of August when I feel an urgency to take advantage of the produce that, come autumn, will cease to overflow at farmers markets. It is during these dwindling days of summer that I crave the season’s fruits, vegetables and abundant herbs in their pure, unadulterated states. Meet a simple soup that embodies the freshness of summer: pureed zucchini, delicate and light, hosts handfuls of freshly chopped dill—it’s a combination that highlights the strengths of its core ingredients without unnecessary frill.

Though mild in taste, zucchini, especially grated, has a texture well-suited to soup – its natural moistness is further softened by a quick simmer with onion and vegetable broth, and a final puree brings it to a light, pulpy consistency. Dill supplies the flavor – simple, clean and savory – it is a perfect herbal companion to the zucchini. I found the soup most delicious served cold—a cooler temperature emphasizes the freshness of the zucchini and elevates the flavor of the dill.

Though simple in its ingredients and preparation, it is the type of soup that can be infinitely tweaked according to personal taste. A few dollops of Greek yogurt provided an added creaminess in my version, and, as someone who craves a crunch in my pureed vegetable soups, I garnished the bowl with toasted pistachios before diving in. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is key. When the zucchini and dill are fresh, this soup makes the impending arrival of fall feel more distant with each spoonful. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Zucchini and Dill Soup

Add fresh ricotta, sour cream, or yogurt while pureeing, for richness.

Grate a couple of zucchini. Cook a chopped onion in butter until softened, then add the zucchini and stir until softened, five minutes or so. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil; simmer for about five minutes, then puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and lots of fresh chopped dill.

 

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Heirloom Tomatoes: Get ‘em While They Last

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Recipes here. (One day I’ll get the blender to work.)

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Herbs: Think of Them as Teeny Vegetables

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Before pesto reached the shores of America, every “fancy” dish in this country carried a sprig of parsley, and for all but a very few of us, that was the extent of our acquaintance with herbs. It was Paula Peck, author of the once-invaluable and now-quaint “The Art of Good Cooking,” who brought to my attention the notion that parsley could play a better, more varied role in cooking if you used it by the handful.

Several years later, pesto filed its immigration papers, gardening became a little more popular and cooking evolved to a more interesting state. But herbs remain underrated. We add some thyme to stews, we’ve learned that there’s no such thing as too much basil, parsley is recognized for its flavor and all but the genetically twisted appreciate cilantro. (A joke; some of my best friends think it tastes like soap.) But for the most part we are rather restrained in our use of the potent green things.

(Read the rest of this article here)

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Frozen Chocolate Bananas

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By Freya Bellin

In light of the recent heat wave in New York, I’ve been avoiding the oven at all costs. Instead, I’ve found an excellent way to cool down: frozen chocolate covered bananas. Frozen banana becomes very creamy, just like ice cream, and the bittersweet chocolate mixture is a perfect complement. Add the texture of chopped nuts, and you have a well-balanced, simple dessert.

When preparing the banana skewers for this recipe, make sure the bananas are frozen completely before you try to dip them in chocolate. Once frozen, they are dense enough to remain on the stick in one piece, but until they’re totally solid they fall apart when picked up. In order to thoroughly coat the banana with chocolate (which, believe me, you’ll want to do), you may need to spoon the chocolate onto the banana, rather than dipping. And you can get creative with the add-ons. As mentioned below, coconut, crushed cookies, or any nut make great toppings. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Honey-Melon Soup

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By Freya Bellin

This chilled soup is almost more of an herby fruit juice, incredibly refreshing and simple to make. And gets along well with booze! The lemon and herb (I used rosemary), add a savory element to the dessert, cutting down the sweetness a bit. You may consider making extra syrup in step 1, as it lasts a little while and would be a great addition to homemade iced tea. I skipped the straining step because I liked the texture of the pureed melon—a little bit like a slushie—but taste as you go and decide for yourself. Eat with spoons or straws. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Wheat Berries with Zucchini and Mozz

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By Freya Bellin

If you’re in search of a great picnic dish, look no further. This recipe is summery and herby, while still hearty enough to fill you up. Wheat berries are an unusual grain: dense, chewy, and very nutty. That texture is a great vehicle for pillowy broiled zucchini and rich, creamy pine nuts. Mozzarella adds a nice saltiness (I recommend fresh) and pairs surprisingly well with dill. Just keep in mind that wheat berries can take almost 2 hours to cook, so plan ahead or substitute in another grain in a pinch. This salad tastes great at room temperature—partly what makes it an excellent picnic candidate—but the flavors get a little muddled over time. Just add some fresh dill and cheese to brighten up the dish before serving. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Grilled Pineapple and Onion Salsa

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Makes: About 2 1/2 cups

Time: 20 minutes

Grilled fruit makes a fabulous base for salsa; its caramelized sweetness is offset perfectly by the tang of lime juice and the heat of chiles. Use this to dress a green salad, as a dip for tacos, or alongside grilled or broiled chicken or huevos rancheros. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into thick rings (canned rings, drained of excess juices, are also okay)

1 large red onion, cut into thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste

1 stalk lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil or mint leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill fire to fairly low heat, and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Brush the pineapple and onion slices with the olive oil; if you’re worried about the slices falling through the grate, thread them on soaked wooden skewers. Cook, turning once or twice, until soft and slightly charred, about 8 minutes total. Remove the slices as they finish cooking. When cool enough to handle, discard the skewers and chop into bite-sized chunks, saving as much of the juices as possible.

2. Put the pineapple and onions in a medium bowl with the chile, lemongrass, basil, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile, lime, or salt as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour.

Grilled Apricot and Onion Salsa. If you can get good apricots—and that’s a big if—this is terrific; but it’s not bad with good dried apricots, soaked in water or wine to cover until soft: Substitute about 8 halved fresh or dried apricots for the pineapple, a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger for the lemongrass, and lemon for the lime juice.

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa. A nice midsummer salsa: Replace the pineapple with 3 or 4 ripe peaches, halved, and use a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger instead of the lemongrass; add 1 or 2 cobs’ worth of corn on the cob, grilled or roasted and 2 chopped scallions. Use lemon or lime juice.

 

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Radishes with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

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By Freya Bellin

There are certain vegetables that, when very fresh, require little actual “cooking” to make a great bite.  Radishes, thanks to a natural spiciness, are one of those vegetables.  Rather than relegating these little root veggies to garnishes or salad mix-ins, try this simple recipe.  Radishes are crisp and refreshing on their own, and even more so when deeply chilled.  Dipping them in good olive oil and coarse salt adds just the right amount of richness and seasoning to make a nice appetizer or snack.  Try experimenting with flavored salts for more variety.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Avocado Salad with Ginger and Peanuts

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 2 hours, largely unattended

Avocado is so rich and creamy that all it needs is a little acidity to become a “salad.” This sweet and sour dressing, almost a ginger syrup, really does the trick.  And for a more substantial salad, eliminate the cilantro sprigs and put the avocados on a bed of watercress before dressing. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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