It’s time to indulge in the abundance of summer produce. My “Cooking Simply” column means just that – simple and easy. Following are three ways to indulge without drama.
Summer Fruit Gazpacho
A summer fruit gazpacho is classy, quick and delicious. This fruity twist on a Spanish classic is the perfect prelude to summer dinners. A splash of champagne vinegar adds a tangy kick, while a sprinkle of cayenne pepper tingles the palate. It’s great for company, so double the recipe if you want. When you’re preparing the melon, a 3-pound cantaloupe yields approximately 4 cups, cubed. After you wash the melon, cut it in half and remove seeds. You can use a teaspoon to scoop the melon instead of making cubes, or use a melon scooper if you have one. Make it ahead of time and refrigerate for up to two days. Stir before serving.
• 4 cups ripe cantaloupe, cubed
• 2 nectarines, unpeeled
• 1/4 cup white grape juice or apple cider
• 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (7% acidity)
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 teaspoons lime zest
• Dash cayenne pepper
• Dash salt
• Mint for garnish, chopped
Add half melon cubes to blender, plus one pitted and sliced nectarine and remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Add remaining melon and nectarine, blending until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt, cayenne, champagne vinegar or honey, as desired. Garnish each serving with mint.
Makes 4 servings.
There’s no need to peel and seed tomatoes for a fresh tomato sauce – it just isn’t necessary. But be mindful: the more flavorful the tomatoes, the better the sauce. Use 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes to make 2 cups sauce. Allow one hour from start to finish. The total time the sauce cooks is a bit subjective. It depends on how the heat is adjusted, the type of pan used (thick-sided or thin) and how much liquid cooks off. The final sauce should not be too thick or too thin. See my kitchen notes to make a larger batch.
• 1/8 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in quarters
• 1/2 carrot, cut in 1-inch pieces
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 6-8 fresh whole basil leaves (optional)
• 12 ounces pasta, cooked
In 4-quart saucepan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, carrot, dried oregano, dried basil and salt. Stir.
Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Partially cover pan and cook 15 minutes more.
Remove from heat. Add fresh basil leaves, if desired. Use immersion blender to puree tomatoes and basil.
Serve immediately, tossed with hot, cooked pasta. Season with grated cheese, salt and fresh-ground pepper as desired.
Makes 2-plus cups of sauce, enough for 2-3 servings with 12 ounces of pasta.
Notes: If tomatoes are sweet, carrot may not be needed.
For a larger batch, cook 6 pounds ripe tomatoes in 8-quart pot 40-45 minutes uncovered, then 15 minutes partially covered. More tomatoes need a longer cooking time to reduce liquid and intensify flavor. Yield is 8-9 cups. Freeze extra sauce in 2-cup portions, then heat it in microwave for super-fast dinners.
Although bananas are not a summer fruit, they are versatile and so is this B&B Smoothie recipe. Overripe bananas beg to be frozen and saved in a stash for future smoothie use, where they add flavor and body. To freeze, peel banana, break into four chunks and wrap in plastic wrap. They last for months.
For me, a smoothie must be simple or I won’t pull out the blender. This smoothie is packed with nutrition – all the foods you might eat for breakfast. I like tangy smoothies, so I personally prefer the yogurt version of this. B&B can mean Bed & Breakfast, Bananas & Blueberries, Berry Banana Smoothie or Breakfast Bling – or anything you might want to call it.
• 1 frozen banana (4 pieces)
• 1 cup frozen blueberries
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 cup plain yogurt or milk
• 1 tablespoon wheat germ (optional)
Combine ingredients in blender. Cover and blend on low speed at first, then high speed until smooth. Taste before pouring. If not quite right, add a bit of honey for sweetness or orange juice for tang.
Makes 2 12-ounce smoothies (3 cups total).
Note: If using milk, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Los Altos resident Rita Held offers more cooking ideas on her blog at GetCookingSimply.com.