Showing posts with label cucumbers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cucumbers. Show all posts

Friday, September 06, 2013

Tomato Love Summer Soup

Given my absurdly successful experiences with starting tomato plants from seed, I am never able to complain of too many tomatoes, but, wow!, there are a lot of them coming ripe at once.

With three pounds of blanched and peeled tomatoes on hand, a take on the classic gazpacho cold tomato soup was easy to accomplish. I still had another two pounds for making pasta sauce, and that's not even counting the endless cherry tomatoes.

This is a refreshing soup with a little crunch. If you prefer really smooth, just keep the blender running longer. If you make a lot of this, you can keep it in a pitcher in the fridge and just pour out some when you need a quick, cool hit of yummy tomato bliss. The addition of red pepper, classic cucumber, and tangy celery gives it a more complex flavor, as does the onion and garlic. Since I'm not a big fan of raw onion or garlic, I sautéed and cooled mine before I adding them to the soup (absolutely not classic!), but you can go with uncooked if you prefer...and it will be faster.

Almost Classic Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (if cooking the onion and garlic)
3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled
1 cup diced cucumber, peeled if skin is thick
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, if cooking, until onion is translucent and garlic light brown. Set aside to cool. If not cooking onion and garlic mix them and set aside.

In a blender, combine cooked or uncooked onion mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Pulse until mixture is of the desired consistency. I like mine a bit chunky, but it can be smooth. If necessary, process in one or two batches. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn into a non-reactive bowl or pitcher and chill thoroughly, at least one hour.

To serve, put portions in either glasses or bowls. If desired, garnish with red pepper and/or cucumber cut into a fine dice. Crisp croutons are also a nice garnish. Serve at once while fully chilled.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fresh Cranberry Beans

It's always a pleasure to stop by the strawberry farm along Hwy 12 to buy some fresh-from-the-fields sweet, juicy, gorgeous strawberries. Now they also have a selection of veggies that they have grown right there in the fields by the Laguna. Recently they had a bag of fresh cranberry beans for sale. I've never cooked with fresh cranberry beans. In fact I've rarely cooked with fresh shelling beans of any kind, but I've been trying to add whole grains and legumes to my diet and this seemed like a great thing to add.

A quick surf on the Internet yielded a recipe for a salad made with the beans, herbs, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and and olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing. The beans are cooked until tender at a simmer and you add things like celery tops and carrots (which get discarded) to give the beans more flavor as they cook.

I really liked the flavor combo when I made the salad as written, but it needed more vinegar since the beans, as beans often are, were bland. We have also cut back on the oil we use both in cooking and at the table, so I would reduce the olive oil by two-thirds. There was waaaay more oil than I like.

Shelling the beans was sort of relaxing. Sweetie helped me and we were sitting outside with the dog enjoying the summer day as we worked. They are really pretty beans. The pods are streaked with dark pink and the beans look like porcelain, with ivory background and dark pink streaks. When they cook they turn sort of gray so enjoy them while you shell them.

Some of the pods had started to dry out so I kept them intact and laid the pods out on the porch railing in full sun to dry completely. Now I have about 1/2 cup dried beans, too.

The bag of beans yielded about 3 1/2 cups total. I cooked 3 cups of beans and used 2 cups for the salad. Now I get to try them in another recipe, as long as it only needs 1 cup cooked beans. For now, here is the promised Cranberry Bean Salad with Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Herbs.

Cranberry Bean Salad
Insalata di Fagioli Borlotti
from La Tavola Marche
serves 4

2 cups fresh borlotti or cranberry beans
couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 cucumber, peeled & sliced
fresh herbs of your choice, chopped: marjoram, oregano, Italian parsley or basil work well
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive
salt pepper
vegetable scraps

In a pot with plenty of water, bring the beans to a boil with vegetable scraps: celery tops, dried out carrots, half an onion sitting in your fridge - toss it in! (The veggies give the beans a bit more flavor.)

Bring to boil then lower to simmer 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender.

Drain beans and discard the vegetables.

In a bowl combine the beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber. Add in the herbs.

Combine the oil & vinegar then toss with the salad.

Season with salt & pepper.

Let stand 10-15 minutes to let the flavors come together. Recheck your seasonings (taste it) and adjust. Serve.

I would recommend increasing the vinegar by 1 tablespoon and decreasing the oil by two-thirds because the beans need that ooomph of vinegar and I don't like so much oil in my salads. Otherwise it worked perfectly...I went with fresh oregano, Italian parsley and basil for my herbs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beef Salad to Mashed Potatoes

It's amazing how much I take for granted, like being able to chew my food with enjoyment. A few days ago I had a wonderful salad for lunch which included lots of field greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and slices of some left over grilled beef...I think it was boneless short ribs but Sweetie cooked them before I saw the packaging. I used a tablespoon of blue cheese dressing to dress the leaves and veggies, then topped the dressed plated salad with the beef slices. Very tasty indeed.

But what does that have to do with mashed potatoes you may ask? Well, the salad was chewy and, because I can always find something else to do than go to the dentist, some bits of the greens seem to hide out at the back of my jaw, but the truth is that I did the right thing and had a procedure at the dentist yesterday that will help solve that little problem and keep me healthy yadayadayada. Bottom line? today for breakfast I had mashed potatoes with a little sharp cheese melted in because all that being healthy also led to a sore set of gums and sore jaw...and no interest in chewing anything. Tea and coffee and water seem fine, but no orange juice...too acid according to the dentist... and I just decided that today I'll keep my choices to soft ones. It was packaged mashed potatoes, too, because they are truly lumps. I had them on hand for adding to bread doughs. Lunch will be soup and dinner might just be custard. Good nutrition can start tomorrow.

Hope your days are pain free and include lots of enjoyable chewing.

Beef Salad
Per person:

2 cups field greens
1 small or 1/2 of large tomato
1 small or 1/2 of large cucumber
1 small or 1/2 of large carrot
prepared blue cheese dressing to taste
slices of grilled beef that has been seasoned with salt and pepper - to taste

Wash and dry the field greens, wrap in a towel and chill to crisp.

While greens are crisping, cut the tomato into wedges, cut the cucumber into dice after removing the seeds. I used Persian cucumber, so left the peel on. If you are using cucumbers with waxed or tough peel, then peel it before dicing. Also cut the carrot into coins or 1/2 coins.

Remove the crisp greens from the 'fridge and place into a large plastic bag. (I save the bags I bring produce home from the stores in.) Add the dressing and close the bag. Toss the greens until the leaves are coated, then pour from the bag onto your plate. Add the tomato, cucumber and carrot. Arrange slices of the beef over all and serve. This salad goes well with chilled mandarin oranges on the side.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fresh from the Garden - Cucumber Fun

After all those months of planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding and similar garden tasks, harvest time has finally arrived. We have been harvesting zucchini for a while and did have some green beans, too, but now we have lots of zucchini plus two kinds of cucumbers, butternut squash, more beans, and....the first tomato.

One kind of cucumber I planted is new to me...long cucumbers. They look just like those expensive hothouse cucumbers that have few if any seeds. Given how much they charge at the market for them I figured that they were hard to grow or only would produce a few. Wrong.

They are growing even better than the regular cucumbers and each vine is happily producing more than half dozen of them. With so many gorgeous cucumbers to have fun with I decided to make a couple of recipes.

For lunch yesterday I had a very proper cup of tea and cucumber sandwich. I had some homemade sourdough bread which I sliced fairly thinly. I removed the crusts, spread the slices with butter, thinly, and then layered on thinly sliced long cucumbers. They went really well with the Earl Gray tea and I really enjoyed the crunchy mild cucumbers which contrasted nicely with the bread and butter.

For dinner tonight I made a salad which included chunks of both long and regular cucumbers, a couple of tomatoes cut in chunks, half a sweet white onion, diced small, a ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and diced small, and a nice balsamic/ red wine vinaigrette with oregano and herbes de provence.

After the salad marinated for an hour, I topped it with about 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles for the perfect chilled salad to go with barbecued chicken and fresh corn on the cob.

Summer bounty is so appreciated.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Cookbook Give-away and Two Great Recipes

It's been much longer than I intended to review the third cookbook from Thomas Nelson Publishers. It's amazing how house projects, summer visitors, the garden and work have all conspired to keep me too busy to try out new recipes. Fortunately I found some time this week to cook a couple of recipes from Second Helpings with Johnnie Gabriel.

These are true Southern recipes and also modern ones, making good use of things like packaged shredded cabbage for Coleslaw the Easy Way and packaged stuffing mix for things like the Squash Casserole and Chicken Salad Casserole. Biscuit mix and Ritz crackers and Morton's Nature's Season also find their uses, along with canned corn, peas and carrots, jarred pimento and lots of cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream. Many of the recipes, like Sauteed Talpia with Lemon-Peppercorn Sauce would make a lovely entree for a dinner party.

I chose to make two recipes that sounded different and delicious...Wild Rice and Corn Salad and Mocha-Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The salad was indeed wonderful. Since this is fresh corn season I replaced the canned white shoepeg corn with 4 ears of freshly husked sweet white corn which I cut, uncooked, from the cobs.

I didn't have any water chestnuts, so I substituted 1/2 cup each thinly sliced English cucumber and uncooked fresh thin green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces. Both came directly from my garden and added a nice crisp crunch to the salad. Otherwise I followed the recipe and found it very enjoyable. Sweetie had second helpings, just like the book's title promised.

The cookies had a somewhat lackluster description in the book: "Chocolate and coffee team up in another taste treat fro Susan Johnson's collection." I wasn't expecting them to be more than 'nice'.

Imagine my surprise when I found them to be some of the best chocolate cookies I've ever made. We liked them better without the frosting, but if you like very sweet desserts, go for the frosting, too. Not only did these merit a second helping, it was difficult to resist a third or fourth helping! We gave some of them away to friends to avoid the temptation of eating them all up at once.

There are lots more recipes to try...for example Lemon Ice Cream Pie with crushed pretzels in the crust and frozen lemonade in the filling, or maybe Sweet Potato Fries that get tossed in a brown sugar and butter coating after being fried in deep fat. There's an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits and one for Smoky Chipotle Grilled Baby Back Ribs with both a rub and a barbecue sauce.

This isn't the best book to choose if you are cutting calories but if you are planning a party or want to make something more complicated and flavorful than tater tots you'll love this book. Many of the recipes are fairly easy and make use of convenience foods, so complicated doesn't mean difficult.

As always I want to stress that, other than use of the book, I am not receiving anything from the publisher or author of the book and am free to say just what I think about it. Although I won't often have reason to make some of the more full fat recipes with liberal use of whipping cream, I do like the book and look forward to making more recipes from it.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, just leave a comment. There will be a random drawing and the publisher will send three copies to the three lucky winners, as long as those winners either leave an e-mail address with the comment or are linked to a place where an e-mail address can be found or where I can ask for one if you are a winner.

And now for a gentle rant: The recent demise of Borders Books saddens me. Although I know how easy it would be to order this book on Amazon, please consider asking your independent bookseller to order a copy for you from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Supporting your local bookseller means that there will be bookstores for our children and grandchildren to browse entirely different experience than 'browsing' online. Besides, your local bookseller usually lives in your town and often contributes to the local economy...want fewer potholes? your local businesses. (This may or may not be the opinion of Thomas Nelson Publishers but is absolutely my own.)

Wild Rice and Corn Salad - A really easy salad

1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions (Not a wild rice mix).
2 (11-oz) cans white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained, or 4 ears fresh white corn, husked and kernels cut from the cob.
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I would use 1/3 cup next time)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 (8-oz) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped, or 1/2 cup each uncooked fresh thin green beans cut into 1-inch pieces AND thinly sliced (and diced if large) fresh cucumber, seeds removed and discarded
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a medium bowl mix the cooked wild rice, uncooked corn, mayonnaise, green onions, water chestnuts (or beans and cucumbers), salt, and pepper.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Keeps well in the refrigerator 2-3 days. Serves 8 - 10.

Mocha-Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa which makes the cookies a nice deep dark chocolate color)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (Yes, TWO cups!)
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Make the cookies: In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well blended. Add the egg, eater, instant coffee, vanilla, chocolate chips, and nuts and blend well, but do not beat. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the lined cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes until firm. (The recipe says 'and no longer shiny' but mine were still a bit shiny...we like them soft). Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then move to a rack or tray to frost them.

Make the frosting: In a medium microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 1-minute intervals (I use 1/2 power), stirring after each minute until the chocolate is soft and melted.

In a small bowl mix together the whipping cream and instant coffee and add to the chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer add the butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar. Frost the cookies.

Store cookies in the refrigerator. Makes 3-4 dozen

Monday, June 09, 2008


Tonight I wish I had some of that cucumber with yogurt and herbs that I served on Saturday night. It has been pretty hot for Northern California reached 97 at work...and was still in the low 90s when I got home.

The combination of crisp cucumber chunks, tangy yogurt and herbs like fresh sage and spearmint leaves a cool, refreshing feeling in the mouth. Add in some lemon juice and zest and some Italian parsley and you have the perfect side dish for a hot evening...and it's very Mediterranean, too.

When I went to the lower field to harvest the spearmint for this, I discovered that most of the mint had been mown down when Sweetie mowed the field with the tractor last week. Since the stuff is usually all over the place...which is why you don't want to plant it with your prized flowers or takes over!...I was stunned. It took a bit of searching to find some small sprigs for this recipe, the salad, and for garnish. Next time I'll pick some before he gets out the tractor.

Cucumber with Yogurt and Herbs
Serves 2-3 persons as an appetizer

3-4 cucumbers
10-12 fresh spearmint leaves (dried doesn't work very well with this herb for this dish)
5-6 fresh sage leaves (or the equivalent in dry form)
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 quart of yogurt, plain...I used full fat organic, but I suspect that low or nonfat would work, too
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

Rinse and peel the cucumbers (I left some of the peel on for color) and cut into bite sized chunks. Mix the herbs into the yogurt. Pour the yogurt over the cucumbers. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir to mix well. Chill for at least an hour to mingle the flavors. Serve cold.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

'Mater and Cuke Salad

It must be August, it’s so hot. No, wait, it’s September and still hot for northern California. Well, can’t argue with Momma Nature, so dinner will need to be something that doesn’t heat up the kitchen. It’s also a good evening to bring something to Lis and Ivonne’s La Festa al Fresco, the blog world’s biggest patio party. A party celebrating good, fresh, seasonal food with friends in the fresh air is perfect for warm and sultry evenings.

Now that the heirloom tomatoes have kicked in with plenty of ripe fruits, what better way to enjoy them than in a tomato and cucumber salad?

'Mater and Cucumber Salad
To a mixture of about 3 cups of chunks of a whole rainbow of colors of tomatoes, I added another 2 cups of chunks of seeded cucumber from my garden. I used two medium green cucumbers and 1 large lemon cucumber. Over those I poured ½ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup Meyer Lemon flavored olive oil (although unflavored olive oil would also work fine). ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper was sprinkled over the top and I folded the mixture together until well mixed. If you like you can add 1 – 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basic, and/or ¼ teaspoon minced garlic.

Tomatoes, to retain their best flavor, should not be refrigerated. Leave the bowl on the counter and stir it a couple of more times to make sure that everything has a chance to bathe in the marinade.

After marinating for a few hours, taste to see if the salad needs more pepper or an addition of salt. This salad is so pretty that you can just serve it in a nice bowl with a slotted serving spoon, or you can place mounds of it in lettuce cups for a fancier presentation.

The rest of dinner on this hot evening? We had grilled fresh zucchini, some of the last from the garden, I’m afraid. The poor zucchini plants have been producing faithfully since May, so they deserve to reduce production.

Sweetie also grilled some chicken thighs which he had seasoned with garlic salt and a nip of bourbon. Who needs barbeque sauce when you have bourbon? It gives grilled meats, poultry and fish a nice smoky taste.

“Tutti a tavola” which means “everyone to the table”. See you on the patio!