Garden Bounty: Cucumber and Grape Gazpacho

So amidst all the garden produce, the cucumbers have been standing out the most – piles of them. I pride myself on getting down to the bottom of the pile only to find a new pile next time I come into the kitchen. I can’t even name all the cucumber recipes I’ve tried this last month.

How can you complain about too much garden produce? I can’t…at least I’m trying not to. However, I am about to enforce a household law that each person shall eat cucumber at every meal. Penalty of not eating cucumber is washing dishes for a week by hand because we’re out of dishwasher soap.

I’m thinking that won’t go over very well…

Plan B – throw a bunch of them into the blender and make this delicious gazpacho.

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Recipe is adapted from White Gazpacho over at Playin’ With My Food

Cucumber and Grape Gazpacho

Serves 6-8

  • 4 large cucumbers, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 c. green grapes, washed and stemmed
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar (I really wanted to use some white wine instead, but couldn’t  justify opening a bottle for a few tablespoons…just a hint though. :)
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup almonds, blanched and sliced (I buy them that way)
  • sour cream or crème fraîche

Combine all ingredients in the blender except for the almonds and cream. Blend until smooth and creamy. Chill an hour or so to meld flavors.

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Toast almond slices in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and salt. Let cool and serve on the side with sour cream or crème fraîche.

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Did you know a cucumber’s internal temperature is 20 degrees cooler than it is outside the cucumber? Cucumbers are also high in Vitamin K, fiber, and magnesium which helps lower blood pressure. No wonder calm and unruffled people are referred to as being “cool as a cucumber”.

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Featuring Sage’s pottery today, folks. I love this bowl!

Ironically, it was one year and a month ago that I posted about another delicious chilled soup and the braces I had to get because of an impacted canine. Last week I finally got that chain I’ve been waiting for that will hopefully pull my tooth down into place. The chain however was making my life miserable rubbing the inside of my mouth raw and giving me a nice swollen lip. I was going through the wax they give you at the dentist like crazy and nothing was helping until…Guess what came to my aid? A cucumber slice! I’m serious! I peeled it, sliced it thin, and tucked it between the offending chain and the very offended lip and we’re just hangin’ out as cool as a cucumber gets!

Now I better get this chain off before our cucumber plants stop producing…

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What’s your best cucumber recipe? I’d love to try it. :)

Loaded Tortilla Soup ~ Minus the Tortilla…

So remember when I said the wind would start blowing from the North at any moment now? Well, I was right! It’s been below freezing the last couple nights and the days have been gorgeous – crisp and cool and so refreshing!

We joke around about how one must grow gills to breath in the South because it gets so humid in the summer you can cut the air with a knife. Needless to say, one starts feeling rather fishy with gills. Every autumn I feel like I’m coming back to life – morphing into the nose breathing human I was the spring before. Yay! Hello world! I’m alive again!

And AND, get this! It’s soup season!

Tortilla Soup has been a long time favorite of ours. Well, that is, this recipe for Tortilla Soup has been a long time favorite. I’ve never tried another version that beats it.

So my friends, today, on this deliciously chilly evening, I share it with you. I hope you love it as much as we do!

To start off, I give you a very unappetizing picture of a whole chicken, which is the base for our soup. Yep, that’s right, just throw a whole chicken (frozen or thawed) into a pot, add some salt, a couple bay leaves and a dried chile pepper, if you have one on hand, and simmer away for a few hours until the chicken falls off the bones.

Strain the broth and pour back into pot.

Remove meat from bones, shred or chop into pieces and reserve for later on in the recipe.

Chop one onion, mince some garlic and add to broth along with the spices and a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes.

Give it a stir.

Now, here’s where things get weird, but I’ll explain, so you understand why I do what I do. (And no, it’s not because of the gills, or lack thereof! :)

Toss a handful of organic cornmeal into the broth. Go ahead, do it!

Tortilla soup recipes call for corn tortillas, right? And they get all soggy and unrecognizable and turn to mush, right? And if you’re avoiding GMOs (to avoid becoming ill) and buying organic corn tortillas that are expensive, why on earth would you want to waste good tortillas in soup if you can use cheaper organic cornmeal instead?

So there ya go! Makes all the sense in the whole wide world. Aren’t you proud of yourself for being so thrifty?

Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook covered for an hour or two.

The recipe we use calls for straining the solids out of the soup and throwing them away, but I blend it all up in the blender and return it to the broth. It makes a thicker and more hearty base.

Saute reserved chicken in a little olive oil and season with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin.

Cut some of those organic corn tortillas into thin strips, toss in olive oil and fry in a skillet with a little salt and pepper until they start getting crunchy.

Shred some cheese.

Chop some cilantro.

Cube some avocado.

Cut a lime in wedges.

Open a carton of sour cream.

It’s time to dig in!

Pile everything into a bowl…

Ladle the hot broth over the top…

…and enjoy!

Here are the details for you –

Tortilla Soup

1 whole chicken

water to cover chicken

2 bay leaves

2 t. salt

1 onion, diced

1, 28oz can diced tomatoes

1 T. cumin

2 T. chili powder

1/4 c. cornmeal

more salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes –

  • chicken
  • avocado
  • corn tortilla strips
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • limes

Whole Chicken on the Grill – Butterflied and Marinated

There’s something about the outdoor grill that just makes me smile.

I love grilling. Love the challenge, love the taste, love the smell. Leaves falling and cooler breezes from the north make me even more excited to get out there and enjoy the weather while I cook whenever I can.

This summer I decided to take my oven roasted chicken outside. There are only so many ways you can roast whole chicken in the oven and I was finding my options along that line weren’t exciting me in the least. Plus, I wasn’t getting the flavor I wanted.

So, I’ve done some experimenting and have found what I think is a mighty fine way to make – and eat – chicken.

I used to think that butterflying chicken was intimidating or, at the very least, way too much work. But a good pair of kitchen scissors make this little operation a breeze.

Cut along the backbone on both sides. Just like this…

Pull the sides open, flip the bird over and press it flat. It helps to break the breast bone.

Oh! And please, please, please leave the skin on! Not only does it protect the meat from charring, but it helps retain all that juicy moisture that you most definitely want!

Now for the marinate… Honey Mustard is one of our favorites for grilled chicken.

You’ll want about one cup of marinate per whole chicken, so that’s what this recipe makes.

1/4 c. olive oil

This is freshly dried oregano from my herb garden. I’m so excited! I have lots of harvesting to do before the first freeze.

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar of choice)

1/4 c. honey

1/4 c. fresh orange juice

1/8 c. Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 t. sea salt

2 t. pepper

1 t. dried oregano

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place chicken in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Add marinate and zip tight. Press flat into a casserole dish to catch any leaks, just in case.  There’s nothing like cleaning up “chicken juice” out of the refrigerator. I don’t know why I know that. I mean, I’ve never done that.

Alternately – and this method works GREAT for smaller pieces of chicken – place a heavy duty gallon sized Ziploc bag into a bowl or measuring cup and pour all ingredients into the bag. Zip closed and shake to combine. Add chicken and proceed as before.

I really like marinating meats in Ziploc bags. If you haven’t done it yet, definitely give it a try. It’s so easy to flip them over to get everything covered and just cleaner all around.

I marinated this batch for about 6 hours, but the longer you marinate the better the flavor is going to be. Marinate for 2-3 days for fabulous flavor throughout the meat. Yumma!

While we’re talking about Ziplocs I have to share a fabulous tip I found on a blog. This smart lady stores a gallon sized Ziploc bag in her freezer and every time she cuts up vegetables or has meat bones leftover, she pulls out her freezer bag and puts all the scraps in there. Following this method gives you instant stock material whenever needed and keeps waste down to a minimum.

So, you know that backbone (or two) we’ve got laying over there? Toss it into a pot with a few vegetable scraps, salt and pepper…

Top off with water and simmer away on the stove for a few hours to use with a rice, quinoa, or pasta side dish to go with the grilled chicken.

And, while we’re on one rabbit trail we may as well take another…See this beautiful orange pot?

This is a 265 dollar Le Creuset dutch oven that my sister found at a garage sale for about 30 dollars. She bought it for me along with another Le Creuset skillet that goes for 150 new for, get this – 15 dollars! The skillet looks like new. The pot has a few character-giving nicks in it and I like it that way. It looks like I used to be a little rich girl that could afford Le Creuset from France and I’ve had it forever. :D Oh, and by the way, orange is one of my favorite colors ever. Just sayin…

Okay, back to the chicken! It’s time to start grilling! Preheat the grill for about 10 minutes and prep for food. For me, that means take a wire brush and scrub away at the bits of food stuck on from the last grilling session. Our grill has three burners, so I turn them all down to low and try to keep the temperature between 350 and 400. Sometimes that means turning the middle burner off for a while.

Place the chicken on the grill, in between burners if you can.

I don’t know about you all, but posting raw meat pictures on my blog is just not up my alley. Thankfully this is the last one!

These birds are between 3-4 lbs each and it takes about 1.25 -1.5 hours to grill them. Cornish hens take 45 minutes to an hour. Let them grill on one side, with the lid shut for a good 20 minutes before disturbing. As long as the grill temperature is 300-400 they’ll be fine. After that, you can rearrange, or flip them with a strong pair of tongs if you like.

Bring the remaining marinate to a boil to baste the chickens anytime you check on them.

Try not to tear the skin when you flip them. This gets increasingly difficult as they cook, which is why I like to flip them as little as possible. I also like them to cook more on the “inside side” then the “outside side”.  The wings, of course, are that first part to get done and when the legs start feeling like they are going to fall off check the internal temperature with a thermometer. The “safe” temperature is 165-170 degrees, but remember that the meat continues to cook a bit after it’s off the heat. The breast is the last part to get done, so I mainly check the internal temperature there and in the thickest part of the leg.

And there you have it!

Enjoy alongside a serving of Toasted Israeli Couscous with Grilled Vegetables.

It’s the perfect addition since you already have the grill fired up. I’ll share that recipe with you next!

Happy Grilling!