not gazpacho

Times like these I wish I had a vegetable garden. I can’t help but envy my neighbor’s tomato plants or my colleague who comes to work with fresh-picked lettuces. However, in my heart of hearts I know, I’m just not a plant person. I like to eat them well enough, but when it comes to coaxing things out of the soil, my thumb is more brown than green.

Fortunately, there are grocery stores and farmer’s markets bursting with nice produce. Tomatoes are a favorite this time of year. Isn’t it funny how a great tomato can just burst with flavor while a bad tomato can be a mealy anemic mess? There’s no in-between with tomatoes. They’re like that girl with the curl in her forehead. When they’re good they’re really, really good, and when they’re bad, they’re horrid.

Between the heat and my recent move, cooking hasn’t exactly been a priority. But a gazpacho post caught my eye the other day, and I knew something cold and vegetable based was just what I needed.

Technically, this is not gazpacho. People always think that gazpacho is tomato-based, but in fact what makes gazpacho gazpacho is the inclusion of bread, usually stale bread. This recipe has none of that because there isn’t a single crumb of bread in my house at the moment.

I’m not really sure what to call this though. “Tomato-based vichyssoise” seemed too complicated for such a simple dish. “Liquid salad” was too cliche. What about calling it what it is-  not gazpacho? Hmmm… OK. Regardless of what you call it, I think you’ll agree that this refreshing and bold concoction is just the thing for a sultry summer night.

Not Gazpacho
(inspired by Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook)

8 top-notch tomatoes
1 medium-sized onion
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large cucumber, peeled
3 celery stalks
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup vinegar of your choice (I did half white and half cider)
1 Tablespoon sherry (optional)
drizzle of best-quality olive oil

Chop all your veggies into large chunks and put into a food processor. Give it a whirl and transfer contents to a large bowl. Add stock, salt, vinegar, lime juice and sherry and stir well. Serve in individual cups with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Spring salad

The trees are budding, the grass is greening and the weather is warming. It’s finally spring!

I’m so grateful to open the windows of my apartment, to not have to wear a million layers and to be able run outside on the esplanade. Unfortunately, it seemed like everyone in Boston had the same idea this weekend… the place was packed.

As things start growing, my body craves the fresh, green flavors of the season. I thought that my latest issue of Bon Appetit would offer some inspiration with it’s cover story “The Elements of Spring,” but the one that called to me came a few pages earlier in the form of a chickpea salad article/recipe by blogger Molly Wizenberg. “The beauty of this recipe is that it can be tweaked in numerous ways,”  she wrote. Music to my ears.

I made it the way she suggested, and it was everything one could want. Easy. Cheap. Flavorful. But my mind was working, remembering an article on radishes in that same Bon Appetit issue, and then craving a salad I had at Sportello a few weeks ago with shrimp, arugula and shaved radish. I’ve long considered radishes too bitter for everyday consumption. But the Sportello salad had shaved radish- just a hint of sass, like arugula’s badass girl friend. I wondered for a few seconds how to mandolin a radish without cutting my fingers off, and then realized using a vegetable peeler would accomplish the same end without the risk.

A new dish began to take shape.

The chickpeas make this hearty enough to bring for lunch, while the radish and lemon brighten everything up. Kind of like a dose of sunshine on a spring day.

Spring salad
(inspired by Bon Appetit)
1 15 oz can chickpeas drained
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I use half a lemon)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ounce shaved parmesan cheese (I use a vegetable peeler to do this)
5 shaved radishes (again, vegetable peeler)
a few handfuls of greens (spinach or arugula… adjust the quantity to your liking)

In a medium-sized bowl combine the drained chickpeas with herbs, garlic, oil and lemon juice. Add cheese and stir well. You can stop here and let the flavors meld overnight, or you can go right on and make the salad. In which case, combine the radish and greens and toss. Serves 2 to 3, depending on your appetite. (You could also serve 4 by adding more greens.)