Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Veggies Star Several Ways

Having recovered from the stress of multiple family issues this spring, we are back and ready to continue blogging.

This summer has been a productive one in the garden, despite our having significantly less time to devote to planting and caring for it. Mother Nature has been cooperative, though, with abundant rainfall. We received over nine inches during the month of June, alone.

Now that we're past the Fourth of July, the summer garden is in full swing. For us, success in summer is having all the vegetables and herbs necessary to prepare a batch of gazpacho. Undoubtedly, this is our favorite summer dish, and it is surprisingly versatile.

Gazpacho starts out like a summer salad that has long been a family favorite: chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and onions. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little salt a pepper, drizzle white wine vinegar over them sparingly, and chill until ready to serve or overnight. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and grated parmesan.

If you chop the vegetables more finely, into quarter-inch dice, add minced parsley and mint and substitute lemon juice for the wine vinegar, you have an Israeli salad. Increase the olive oil from a drizzle to about two tablespoons per serving.

To the Israeli salad, add a minced clove of garlic, a teaspoon or more of paprika, and substitute basil and tarragon for the mint. Keep the total amount of fresh herbs to about 1/2 cup, roughly half of which should be parsley. Increase the olive oil to 3 tablespoons per serving. Stir in two tablespoons of fine dry bread crumbs. This mixture, which should age in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two before serving, is the basis for gazpacho.

To finish the gazpacho, add chilled tomato juice, vegetable stock or chicken stock until you have the consistency you desire. Any number of garnishes may be used, including diced colored bell peppers, diced red onions, sweet corn kernels, minced fresh herbs, croutons, chopped hard cooked eggs, shredded cheese, sour cream and/or cooked seafood.

For any of these dishes, the proportions for four servings are:

3 medium fresh tomatoes
2 6-inch cucumbers, peeled (if desired) and seeded
1 small red onion
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded
1 clove garlic (if using)
2 tablespoons vinegar or juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly groubd black pepper

Feel free to vary the proportions depending upon what you have available. The salad/gazpacho will still taste fabulous.

From the simple chopped salad to an elaborate first course suitable for guests, the versatile combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and herbs stars on the summer menu. When you have all these veggies fresh from the garden, the flavor is incomparable.  Bon appetit!

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