it’s been hot. very hot. when it’s hot i crave gazpacho from Le Pain Quotidien  (pictured above).  i owe this great this great discovery to my good friend amie who always knows where to find delicious gourmet foods. in a moment of synchrony a few years ago, we ran into each other at farmer’s market in santa monica.  i was walking around with my mother-in-law pauline and amie wanted to grab some lunch, so we tagged along. as always, she had the perfect suggestion for the moment. this is when i met the gazpacho i have grown to love so much. the reasons for the love are plentiful. something about the smooth texture of the purée with all the flavor notes just sings. the mango also sweetens the bowl and cuts some of the garlic and tomato acidity. the cucumber is delightful. the avocado, if you choose to add it is a great final touch. it’s also served with two types of rustic bread and butter. this cold soup paired with a mint iced tea on a hot day is difficult to top. it’s always consistently good. i personally can’t afford gazpacho everyday in the summer. peter and i went on a mission to recreate it as best we could this last weekend. we looked up some recipes but they were all chunky and had weird additions. we wanted it to be super fresh. we had some non-negotiable elements we wanted to make sure to include in the recipe. the soup  texture was very important. no onions because peter hates them. i wanted to make sure that we had mango and cucumber sliced into the purée for texture variation. i think we knocked it out of the park. it was so delicious. if you  have leftovers, it’s even better the next day. it seems that many people on the internet are searching for how to make this. hope this helps!

this is what we came up with. it’s a blend of a few random recipes on the internet and whatever we could remember  from the Le Pain Quotidien. for us, the most important part was the two different textures. smooth soup with some  sliced cucumber, mango slices, radish slices, and avocado  slices. nothing about this recipe is static! feel free to play around with it! it’s an easy one to riff on. it’s really healthy too. enjoy!

 

Gazpacho 

makes about 5 small-medium bowls

Ingredients:

10 on the vine tomatoes

2 japanese cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber

1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper

1 large jalapeño

1 mango

2 large cloves garlic

2 large radishes

1 lemon

1 handful of flat leaf italian parsley

1 handful of cilantro

1 handful of basil

*1 avocado

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp white grape balsamic vinegar or substitute with red wine vinegar

sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

Dice and salt the tomatoes. Drain and reserve liquid.

In a food processor, finely dice/mix (almost purée) 1 cucumber, bell pepper, jalapeño, 1 radish, ½ a mango, parsley, cilantro, basil, garlic and  tomatoes.

You’re going to blend this mixture next.  I just find it easier to blend if it’s all been diced.

In a blender add the the ingredients you just diced, oil, vinegar, and  the juice of half a lemon. Puree.

Add the reserved liquid from the tomatoes as needed to reach the desired consistency. You may want to transfer to a large bowl and use a hand blender at this point.

Julienne the remaining cucumber (cut ½ inch in length), slice or dice the remaining mango and thinly slice the second radish. Add to soup and chill in fridge.  It’s ready to serve when it’s nice and cold.

*Optional: Add sliced avocado before serving.

Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a lemon wedge.  Serve with crusty gourmet bread.

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its always a constant challenge to find new and innovative gluten-free and vegetarian meals. one of my favorite tacos is from hugo’s tacos in studio city. they have a string bean, corn and zucchini taco that is pretty delicious. they messed up our order once and gave us a mystery salsa. my guess is that it was either the salsa habanero or the honey chipotle. it was a happy accident because it was delicious. i’m not sure if their corn tortillas are gluten-free.

i wanted to recreate my own version of these tacos. the hugo’s version is a hard shell taco. i was feeling lazy so i went with soft shell. trader joe’s sell gluten-free blue corn tortillas that we use for everything mexican inspired. trader joe’s is a great resource for gluten-free items. they have a gluten-free list on their website.

i started with boiling the green beans for a few minutes. i  also prepped the roasted corn from tj’s frozen section. i just used a little bit. i drained the green beans and then sautéed them with lots of shredded zucchini with a little olive oil. next, i added the corn. i spiced it all up with cayenne, cumin , salt and pepper. i also squeezed half a lime over the mixture. we used some leftover refried black beans but i would eliminate this next time. too mushy.  i would possibly replace with a little regular black beans in the sauté.

as i said earlier, i made these soft. i would fry up the shells next time and make hard taco shells.start by placing veggie mixture inside taco shell. add a layer of queso dip and a little habanero salsa. (trader joe’s also sells a gluten-free queso dip in a jar.) a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro and you have a delicious vegetarian and gluten-free taco!

many improvements can be made on this recipe. you can also make a delicious tostada with this same recipe. i would also add sliced avocado next time.



let me preface this entry by saying that i do love carne asada tacos. i’ve eaten meat most of my life. i was a vegetarian for about five years when i was in college and for some years after that. strangely, i was never a vegetarian because of anything i knew about farming animals or the meat industry. i just didn’t like a lot of meat at that time in my life. somewhere along the line i started dating adventurous eaters and a world of gourmet foods and new tastes entered my life, which included many meat dishes. street style tacos could’ve been my lifeline if i had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life.

last year i was becoming more connected to my food. i wanted to know more about meat. i watched the movie Food Inc, and while it was a very good documentary i didn’t feel that I learned anything new. however, the parts with the cows hooked up to the machines with their sides ripped wide open and human hands digging into their stomachs was a bit intense. i kept reading about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals and i knew i had to read it.

well i read it. i read it when i was in texas visiting with my boyfriend’s family. it was a tough place to read about eating meat. texas is built around meat. i read it and i didn’t start any fights, so it was a success for me. half way through the book, i thought that i would still eat really ethically raised meat. that was until i found out that it doesn’t exist. i think it was the slaughter chapter that really got me. please understand that i’m not naïve, i didn’t expect that the slaughter of animals would be clean. however, i didn’t think that animals were skinned alive with their muscles being pulled off while they’re going down the slaughter belt. i never thought about the impact this has on the psyche of the laborers who stand ankle-deep in animal blood trying to knock out surly animals trying escape. i never thought about the factory farms and how they’re destroying family farms and the freedom to create another option for meat consumption. i never really thought about meat fillers and how we feed these animals that we consume. lets not forget the antibiotics and hormones that also are a part of the equation. i never thought that eating meat had so many components to think about.  well, i think about those things everyday now.

i think about it everyday. i also think about the social pressures to eat meat that were so clearly articulated in this book. the whole concept of “the communal table” when applied to meat is very interesting. when you tell a person you don’t care much for a certain vegetable, lets say brussel sprouts, it isn’t a big deal. if you tell a person you don’t eat meat it creates a weird divide. talking about meat is as uncomfortable as talking about religion.  people have strong views about meat. it seems to me that people assume that i think  i’m better than them because i choose to abstain from the act of eating meat. this couldn’t be farther from the truth. nonetheless, it creates an awkward dynamic. often, people feel offended when you don’t eat what is offered. this tends to happen more in places where vegetarianism isn’t as mainstream. i live in los angeles so i have it pretty good.

i guess my whole point in sharing this is that the root of the conversation about food and our society needs to be replanted.  the whole way we talk about touchy subjects like food and religion, two things that bring comfort to many, needs to be shaken up. the two most common negative reactions i receive when i talk about meat are “i just don’t want to know how it gets to my plate” and “i just don’t believe in vegetarianism”.  these reactions come from very smart people. all i want is for people to stop reacting and instead engage me. ask me why i’m a vegetarian. ask me why i became interested in not eating meat. i guess in the end i’m hoping to change the tone of the conversation that comes along with choosing not to eat meat. the dialog in our country is so divided right now. we can’t talk to anyone with opinions different from ours without cutting them down first to prove our point is right. we’ve attached dogma to everything.  politics, religion and food are going to segregate us more and more if we don’t remember that choices stem from opinions. we’re lucky enough to live in a country where we’re allowed to have them.  lets start talking about meat and how we can work on a more sustainable and compassionate system for farming animals. i’m not a utopian dreamer, i know that most americans will want to continue eating meat. i just think that we can start talking about solutions to changing the system instead of attacking each other. a good start is reading this book.

Eating Animals” has changed my life and my boyfriend’s life.  Slowly, my copy is being passed around town to friends and people keep asking me what that book about meat was that i was reading awhile ago.  i couldn’t be happier to share it. sometimes yelling at people about stuff just doesn’t work. people are quietly reading this book and quietly making decisions to eat meat differently. whether that is eating the same amount of meat, just cutting back or going full-blown vegan, it  is a personal choice that this book sheds some light on.



cultivating patience

April 2, 2010

it’s  that time of year in southern california when the weather seems unseasonable compared to other parts of the country. early spring hikes, premature wearing of flip-flops and our first pair of shorts find their way into our wardrobe rotation. its invigorating and exciting to watch our natural world wake up. leaves unfurl themselves, pesky bugs begin snooping around my plants and the farmer’s markets begin to fill with tantalizing fruits and veggies.

last year we began growing our own fruits and veggies in our garden. many were a success and some went to that farm upstate where bad plants go to live out the sad end of their lives. this year we are trying again to be our own farmers. allow me to preface this by saying that we’re growing all our veggies and fruits in containers. we have a small yard and no room to plant in ground, so we’re going the container route.

peter has started many seeds inside the house, while we already have some larger plants growing outside. the picture above shows his sprouting seeds from hatch, new mexico. peter grew up in el paso ,tx  and often drove through the chile fields in hatch and has quite fond memories of fresh delicious sun-kissed hatch chilies. that being said, we were sadly informed that hatch chiles can only be called hatch chiles if the are grown in hatch, new mexico. so we are calling them our hatch inspired chiles! they are doing great so far, probably because I’ve had nothing to do with them!

we’re also working on sprouting some carrots, peas and radishes. outside we’ve planted swiss chard, eggplants, strawberries, jalapeños and grapes. many people may say “why bother?” i say, because it feels so good! i love being connected to my food. whether we get to harvest all these plants or not, we get to watch them evolve and learn about the process of growing food.  one day when we have a larger garden it will be so rewarding to be able to plant rows or chard, lettuce and chiles and perhaps know what we’re doing. these are all test rounds. farmers aren’t great farmers overnight.

the other aspect of growing your own food that is nice is the meditative process of cultivating patience. peter has taught me that, by tending to his baby seeds everyday. it is amazing to watch another person connect to the process the way he has. patience is everything with gardening. perhaps that’s why i’m not the most talented gardener!

if all goes well, we plan on having a nice harvest party at the end of the year. we’re vegetarians and also live a gluten-free lifestyle. this makes it so hard to join dinner parties or even accept an invitation anymore. i think people feel that we’re a pain in the ass. this is true. we’re a pain in the ass. we can’t eat a lot of things! hopefully our harvest bbq will show that we can be social and eat at he same time. we also hope to showcase some delicious gluten-free and vegetarian foods complete with recipe book! it should be fun and enlightening experience for everyone!

lets hope our plants all make it to harvest!