Monday, June 26, 2017

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho


This soup would never have been on my radar until last week, when I ate dinner at a restaurant called Larimar, in Spring Lake, New Jersey. Intrigued by the waiter's description of the dish, I ordered something similar to this as an appetizer and after one sip, I knew I had to try to recreate it in my kitchen.
If it's not exactly the same, it's quite close, I think. The big difference is that the restaurant served its version topped with chunks of crabmeat, something you could easily do if you live near a good fish market. 
If not, it tastes great all by itself, decorated with a strawberry and some edible flowers.
 I'd been looking for a way to use the pretty blue borage flowers (and the pansies are still going strong) that are blooming in my garden right now.
The soup makes a terrific first course - we ate it for dinner last night ahead of some leftover chicken and veggies. But I will make this again this summer (maybe even this week) because it's delicious, it's healthy, it doesn't heat up the kitchen and it's quick to prepare. 
I hope you try it sometime soon too.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 
 

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho
printable recipe here
makes 2-4 servings, depending on size of bowl (and appetites)

1 1/2- 2 cups strawberries (about 1/2 pound), cut in chunks 
1 large tomato (about 1/2 pound), roughly chopped
1/2 cup yellow, orange or green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cucumber (peeled and seeded), roughly chopped
1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, (take out seeds and ribs unless you like more heat)
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in blender. It may be difficult to get going until the strawberries start to become liquid, unless your blender is powerful. To avoid this, you could puree the strawberries first, then add tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. My blender did not pulverize the almonds totally, so I strained the mixture to get a smoother soup. This is best served a few hours, or even a day or two after making, when all the flavors have had more time to blend.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Strawberry Shortcake

I'm seven years old and my sister and I are dressed in our Sunday finest. Mom has also donned her best dress and wide-brimmed hat. She's taking us out for strawberry shortcakes, one of the regular rituals I remember from my childhood. It was a day just for the "girls" -- no boys allowed.
She sat behind the wheel of our 1956 black and white Chevy station wagon and drove us to that institution with the orange-colored roof and the 28 flavors of ice cream. Yes, that one -- Howard Johnson's restaurant, the chain whose glory days are long gone.
 But those shortcakes were wonderful, evoking such lovely memories of my mother and sister and our special afternoons at Howard Johnson's.
They weren't the traditional shortcakes, but more like a sponge cake, topped with strawberry ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. 
I've seen strawberry shortcakes made using sponge cake, using pound cake and even angel food cake as the base - not exactly textbook shortcakes, but all acceptable and delicious nonetheless. What's really heretical, however, are those small, yellow industrially made baked disks sold in cellophane packages that pawn themselves off as a base for shortcake.
Real shortcakes are made using biscuits - something any self-respecting Southerner knows. 
Not that I'm a Southerner. But recent trips to the South - New Orleans in April and North and South Carolina this month - found me eating more biscuits than even Paula Deen could count. 
(OK, I exaggerate a bit, but I had to leave room for some grits too.)
Feel free to make your strawberry shortcakes any way you love, but if you want an authentic version, then try this recipe.
After you've mixed the dough, knead it a bit (but not too much or the biscuits will be tough).
Then use a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a glass to cut the dough into rounds.
Place on a buttered cookie sheet and brush with melted butter.
Take them out of the oven before they get too tan (these were a tad too dark, but delicious nonetheless).
You'll find it hard to resist taking a bite of these rich, buttery biscuits when they come out of the oven, but if you want to use them for shortcakes, wait until they're cooled to cut them in half. (Conversely, eat them warm with a pat of butter and a slather of fresh jam and you can't go wrong!)
They should look like this - dense, with a flaky tender crumb.
Pour a little of the strawberry liquid on the bottom half of the biscuit, then load on the berries.
Top with freshly whipped cream and position the other half of the biscuit atop.
Go ahead and dig in and make your own memories while strawberry season is still here.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 
 
Strawberry Shortcakes
(makes 6 shortcakes)
 
For the strawberries:
1 quart strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon
 
For the shortcakes:
 2 cups flour
pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking power
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons) at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
 
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
juice of half a lemon  
 
Wash the berries and cut in half, or quarters, depending on their size. Mix with the sugar and lemon and let them sit at room temperature for at least a half hour, or longer.
 
For the shortcakes: whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Using your hands, blend in all but one tablespoon of the butter with the flour mixture. (save the last tablespoon for melting and spreading on the biscuits). Mix the cream into the flour mixture and blend by hand until it sticks together. You may need to add a bit more cream if it seems too dry. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it's completely blended and soft, but don't knead any longer than necessary or the biscuits will be tough.
 
Roll out to about 1/2"-3/4" thick and cut with either a biscuit cutter or the floured rim of a glass.  I was able to get four with the glass, then hand shaped the remaining dough into two more rounds.
 
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and spread over the biscuits, then bake in a preheated 450 degree oven and check after 10 minutes. They may be ready to come out but if you like them a little more colored, leave in for a couple more minutes. Keep a close eye on them so that the bottoms don't burn.
 
Remove from the oven and cool before splitting. After splitting, drizzle a little strawberry juice on top of the bottom half, then pile on the strawberries and whipped cream. Position the top half a little askew over the strawberries and decorate with a mint leaf, if available.
 
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Friday, June 2, 2017

Asparagus Mimosa



 We're nearing the end of asparagus season here in New Jersey - and fresh, local asparagus is one of the best things about springtime. Of course you can find asparagus nearly all year long, but when it's locally grown and picked the same day you eat it, there's a huge flavor difference.
Still, this recipe can be enjoyed at any time. And as good as asparagus is, this dressing, with capers, red onions, and parmesan cheese, competing for your attention.
The dish is so named because the chopped hard boiled eggs are meant to resemble the blossoms on mimosa trees. Unlike the pink blossoms on mimosa trees here in the Northeast U.S., in Italy, they're yellow, and are traditionally given to women on International Women's Day in early March.
Make sure you peel the asparagus, in order to avoid biting into a fibrous stalk. It also reduces the cooking time. Cut off the bottom 1/3 of the asparagus too. 
Boil the stalks until they're just barely fork tender, then remove them from the water and put them in ice water to stop the cooking.
 Wipe them with paper towels to dry them, then toss with the dressing, and top with the hard boiled egg that's been finely chopped.
Serve with some crusty toasted Italian bread that's been slathered with good olive oil and salt, and you've got yourself a delicious, well-rounded meal that contains all the nutrients you need.

 
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

Asparagus Mimosa
Printable Recipe Here

1 lb. asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, finely diced

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tblsp. capers, minced
1 Tblsp. finely minced red onion
1 Tblsp. finely minced parsley
1 Tblsp. grated parmesan cheese
salt, pepper to taste

Peel the asparagus, then submerge them in a shallow pan of boiling water. Cook for about four or five minutes, until you can easily pierce a stalk with a fork. Drain the boiling water, then put the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking (or run a lot of cold water over them).
Dry the asparagus well with paper towels.
Mince the hard boiled eggs finely with a knife, or pass through a sieve using a spoon.
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together, then toss the asparagus with the dressing. (You may have some leftover dressing.) Arrange the asparagus spears on a serving platter, then scatter the minced hard boiled egg on top. Serve with good Italian bread that's been toasted, smeared with olive oil and kosher salt.

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