Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Savory Mushroom White Wine Sauce

Last night’s dinner included my lovely friend, Sophia, some Sauvignon Blanc, and a new recipe, which she brilliantly captured for me on her totally awesome digital camera (I must have one!).

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The recipe is remarkably simple and can be made in 30-40 minutes on a weeknight, but it felt elegant and decadent enough to serve for a dinner party.  Try it out!

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Savory Mushroom White Wine Sauce
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, split in halves (each half should be approximately 6 ounces)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
Oil for frying (I used grapeseed, you could use olive oil, or your favorite fat)

10 mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine (I used a dry Sav Blanc, you could use Pinot Grigio or a dry Chardonnay)
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons flour (I use the flour left from breading the chicken)

Add oil to a large pan (cast iron, if you have it), enough to coat the bottom surface.  At the same time, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Crack the eggs into one bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and sage.  Dip each chicken breast half in the egg mix, the flour, the egg, and the flour again (creates a nice crispy crust).

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Add to the pan and cook for 7-9 minutes on each side, until well browned.

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I like to finish the chicken in the oven while I prep my sauce and sides.  The temp should read 170 degrees (knowing it will rise to 180 while you finish the sides).  This will result in a juicy piece of chicken that is cooked safely but not to the point of being dried out.

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In the same pan, after you remove the chicken, add the mushrooms and butter.  Sautee’ for approximately 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are just browned.  Then add the wine, milk, and flour (using the leftover flour from the chicken breading – you will cook it to the right temperature, so it is safe).  Stir frequently for another 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.  Taste and adjust with salt and pepper, if desired.

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I served the chicken and mushroom sauce over mashed potatoes with a side of buttered peas.

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Bon Appetit!  (Annie approved!)

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Black Friday = Thanksgiving Part 2

We had a brief, but great Thanksgiving with my family in Wyoming.  The food was amazing, the company even better.  I haven’t checked the news to see how many people were trampled to death this year trying to buy a 59 cent crockpot or a $12 TV.  On our way home last night, we passed by a few retailers who had already tempted folks to line up outside, awaiting the gems of cheap consumerism and corporate greed.  I can’t tell you the last time I shopped on Black Friday, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been in this millennium.

I took the opportunity today to make a second Thanksgiving dinner at my own home.  I also wanted a rich turkey stock (simmering now) to freeze for later.  But who needs more Thanksgiving recipes now that it’s over?  This year I produced some of my finest work.  The Cooking Channel shows I watch day in and day out seep into my culinary soul.

Instead, I highlight today’s cooking adventure – dog treats.  Stay with me.  I’m not that crazy.  Well, maybe I am.  But the reality is that my husband, family and friends, and I can only consume so much of my food.  Annie the Vizsla is an up-tapped recipe test ground.

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I’ve been researching what dogs should and should not eat, and of course, the opinions vary as much as the temperatures in Colorado do.  Let’s not turn this into a judgment of what I should feed my dog.  Dogs used to eat what we ate.  Is it really better to feed a dog processed food?  I don’t feed us processed food.  I mix her dry dog food with fruit, vegetables, and meats, testing what she can tolerate.  So far, she’s been just fine (except the ham bone incident, for which I take full responsibility).

These recipes are really quite easy and inexpensive.  And I had fun creating and feeding them to her.  I’ll take the licking up the crumbs on the floor a sign that she approves.

Dried Sweet Potato

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Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet with a neutral oil (I used grapeseed).

Slice 1 sweet potato into 1/4″ slices.

Add onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 2 hours.  Turn each slice over and bake for another 2 hours until the sweet potato is dry, but not crunchy.  This provides a somewhat pliable, but chewable treat that will keep your dog busy for a few minutes.  Leave out to dry another 24-48 hours, then transfer to a re-sealable container.

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Pumpkin Treats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a cookie sheet, add enough foil to cover (makes clean-up easier).  Grease with a neutral oil (I used grapeseed).

In a bowl combine:
2 eggs
1-15 ounce can pumpkin
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour

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Combine until ingredients come together.  You may need to add more flour, if the dough is still sticky.  Press into the foil-covered cookie sheet.  I added fork marks to make it look like dog treats that one might buy.  You can also roll out the dough and use a cute cookie cutter.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The treats should be a little soft on the inside, but crusty on the outside.  Remove from oven and let set for an hour.  I used a pizza cutter to turn into 1×2 inch rectangles.  I recommend leaving them in the open air for a day to get dry and crunchy, then transfer to a re-sealable bag or container.

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So, call my crazy if you must, but it was a fun experiment, and Annie loved the treats.

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Lastly, I leave you with an unfiltered picture of a Colorado sunset from my backyard.  The view is real, and it’s spectacular.

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Building the Perfect Meatball

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Did I catch your attention?  I’m guessing there is no “perfect” meatball, as every one of us has amazingly different criteria and opinions on this topic.  I’m not here to argue, just here to share, folks!  Of all the blood I have in me (genetically speaking), I don’t believe there is a plasma drop of Italian.  Yet spaghetti and meatballs remains one of my favorite things to cook and eat.

If you know me, you know that I don’t eat cheese at all.  I won’t get into again, but I can’t eat most meatballs at restaurants because I can sniff out the cheese like a pig sniffs out truffles in a densely wooded wet forest.  I do feel a little sorry for my husband, who has to endure meatballs without cheese at home.  He gets by with a little help from his friends (namely parmesan cheese on top of the finished product).

Here’s my newest Spaghetti Meatball recipe.  I paired it with bucatini this time, for something different.  Bucatini masquerades as spaghetti, but it is hollow.  I don’t know why I find that fun, but I do.  I call it a Sunday dish, because you have to commit a few hours.  I promise it’s easy, though!  Cozy Sundays at home are conducive to this project.

Sunday Meatballs with Marinara 

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Makes approximately 3 dozen meatballs and 2 pints of sauce
Serves 6-8

For the Meat-a-Balls
2 slices stale bread
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground pork (or sausage)
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a few glugs of olive oil for the pan
(if you must, this is the time to add parmesan or Romano cheese, but obviously I do not)

For the Sauce
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
2 pints of tomato sauce (32 ounces; I use my canned tomatoes, but you can use regular canned tomatoes or tomato puree)
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon Italian dried herbs (I used lavender, basil, and oregano – use what you like best)

For the Pasta
12-ounce box of pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, vermicelli, whatever you have on hand)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 425. You can also fry the meatballs in olive oil, but you need to continually turn them to ensure even browning.  The oven does a nice job of that with limited active cooking time.  Tear the bread into small pieces (1-inch cubes or smaller) and soak in milk.  This ensures a juicy meatball, trust me.  Let soak for 5 minutes.  Cover a large cookie sheet pan with foil (trust me, this helps with clean-up) and pour a few glugs of olive oil and swirl it to coat the bottom evenly so the meatballs won’t stick.  Be generous.  This is not the time to skimp on the good fat!  Add the ground pork, ground beef, eggs, salt and pepper.  Combine with your hands.  Form into balls approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter (you can use an ice cream scoop for more consistent sizing).  Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Ovens do vary, so after 15 minutes, check to make sure they are not forming a hard crust.  The best part is tasting them before adding them to the sauce.

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While the meatballs cook, make the sauce.  Add the olive oil to a large pot on medium heat, and add the onions and garlic.  Cook 5-7 minutes until the onions start to brown.  Add the tomato sauce, salt, and herbs.  Stir to combine.  Let come to a soft simmer, then turn to medium-low to low heat so the sauce cooks, but does not vigorously boil.

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When the meatballs are done, taste for seasoning.  I had to add more salt on top of them, but I adore salt.  Then add the meatballs to the sauce.  Keep the sauce at low, and you can simmer 5 minutes, or 1-2 hours for maximum melding of flavor.

Cook your pasta according to the box directions.  When you’re ready to eat, plate it up.  Serve with cheese and garlic bread for a full experience.

Try it.  It’s well worth it for a lovely Sunday meal.

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Create-Your-Own Meatloaf – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 7

Create Your Own Meatloaf from Better Homes and Gardens:  New Cookbook, Day 7

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Didn’t expect me to make meatloaf, did you?  I remember being apathetic about meatloaf growing up, only to realize now that my mom made it very well, and probably used this recipe.  She gave me this cookbook when I was 18, and it undoubtedly contributed to my culinary education. It kept my family from starving and eating substandard food for many years.

What I love about this recipe is that it is so adaptable.  It gave substitutions for many ingredients, which is perfect for the home cook.  My larder will not be the same as yours, yet I still need to get dinner on the table at reasonable hour without running to the store every day.

I have made many variations of meatloaf, after discovering my husband really does love it.  (MA – THE MEATLOAF!).  The last celebrated version included bacon and cheese, because that’s how I roll.

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So I added an egg (my aversion), some bread crumbs, spices, milk, onion, and beef.  Easy enough.  I added two baked potatoes, as well, because who doesn’t like a carbo-hydrated vehicle for butter and salt? I also cooked up the ubiquitous green beans, this time with soy sauce, lemon juice, and horseradish.

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The result?  Absolutely fantastic!  I definitely wanted MORE … more meatloaf, with my amazing palate (ha ha).  I was impressed with this recipe.  And again, it was because there were some substitutions that really fit my food inventory.  Sweet, another cookbook win!

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Pan-Fried Eggplant – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 6

Pan-Fried Eggplant, from Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef, Day 6

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Tom, you saved my project!  Top Chef is one of my favorite shows (well, maybe my favorite new show, it still has to compete with reruns of Roseanne, Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, and ALF – judge all you want, they just don’t make sitcoms like they used to). Although I did not agree with his choice for last season’s Top Chef winner, I’ll still be a religious follower.  This cookbook speaks to me.  It’s more of a guide about how to pair proteins and produce during different seasons, which is how I tend to cook.

We’ve dined at two Colicchio restaurants – Craft in Atlanta (phenomenal) and CraftSteak in Vegas (woefully overpriced and under-seasoned).  I aimed low for this recipe challenge with a simple side to use up my CSA eggplant.  I am happy to report that it was a hit.  Tom recommended pairing an eggplant “caviar,” but I was missing a few key ingredients.  I chose tomatoes from my mom’s garden with an aged balsamic vinegar from Olivas de Oro, an amazing olive oil grower in Paso Robles.

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I didn’t have the recommended peanut oil, so I subbed olive oil.  I cut the eggplant into hearty discs.

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Then I set up my coating station.  Flour, beaten egg, and Panko bread crumbs.

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This is a very simple dish, great for summer.

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Once you go through the dipping station, you fry it in oil for a few minutes on each side, and you have a nice crunchy side.  Add a simple topping, and you’ve successfully hidden the fact that eggplant really has no flavor.

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I made fried chicken bites and mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it, which are full of flavor.  It’s also a favorite meal for my husband.  My fried chicken and gravy recipes need no help.  I highly doubt I will consult a cookbook during this challenge to change my world-famous recipe.  Okay, regionally famous recipe.  I’ve considered serving my gravy as a soup, I think it’s that good.  You can get the recipes in my e-book (shameless plug) – Fresh Food Foundations, found on Amazon.com.

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Beer Cornbread – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 5

Beer Cornbread from Coors – Taste of the West, Day 5

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Are any of you using your cookbooks?  I am ready to toss all of them!  I think I got this cookbook from a library book sale.  I’ve never made anything in it until today (which is a theme with most of my cookbooks).  Since I live in the vicinity of the birthplace of Coors, I thought I’d try this recipe.

It’s fall.  Football season.  Which calls for chili.  I made a chili-based recipe with steak and pinto beans to pair with the cornbread.

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I didn’t notice the missing ingredient until I tasted the cornbread – no sugar.  Is anyone testing these recipes?  It turned out dry and tasteless.  Do you know what it tasted like?  Disappointment.

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Surely one of these recipes I choose soon will be a winner!  (One of them will be, and don’t call me Shirley.)

All in all, it was not a Sunday-fall-worthy meal.  But tomorrow is a new day.

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Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 4

Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Green Beans, Day 4

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My parents bought this cookbook for me, Christmas 2008.  My memory is not that great, I’ll confess; I know the date because my mom lovingly writes in every cookbook she buys me.

I am a carnivore.  I have always loved meat.  There has never been a single day in my life that I’ve considered being a vegan.  I feel better when I eat meat.

Last night’s foray into this challenge included my husband, the non-chef of our household, because he can grill.  The grill mystifies me.  I can’t get the temperature right.  I constantly stand over the grill with a meat thermometer, worrying that I’m burning the very meat I love.  He instinctively knows the right temperature and times, so that is his one culinary job.

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The recipe also included a side dish – asparagus with a mustard-soy sauce.  Asparagus is not in season, but green beans are (from my CSA, and judging by the amount of green beans we’ve had to eat and freeze this summer, I’m going to safely say green beans are always in season – I’m sick of them!).

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The steaks are from Craig Angus Ranch, a wonderful family ranch just north of us.  I bought a quarter of a cow earlier this summer, and every cut has been delicious.  The rub for the steaks included paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I didn’t have dried thyme, so I used a lavender salt blend instead.  I am not a fan of dried herbs.  There is an element of “fake” in them that is off-putting.  I love spices, but dried herbs are not something I normally use.

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What goes better with steak than potatoes?  I sliced two potatoes into thin discs and sauteed them in a beautiful Paso Robles olive oil.

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The results were pretty stellar.  Josh cooked the steaks to perfection.  The green beans were crisp and flavorful, and the potatoes were the right amount of crunch and tender.  It was a nice summer meal.

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Bon Appetit!

Beef Fajitas – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 3

Beef Fajitas – Day 3.  From Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  A Year of Holidays

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Day 3.  I knew I was making beef fajitas, because I needed a picture for my husband to post as a preview for our tailgating party at the War Memorial on Saturday (opening day for Wyoming Cowboys football).  My Aunt Dee-Dee just got this cookbook for me as an early birthday present.  I devoured the book (figuratively, not literally) on the ride home from her house.  I love Ree Drummond.  She is charming and pretty and talented.  She is also humble and funny.  Her blog and her cookbooks are full of pictures at every step, which is really helpful for novice cooks, and entertaining for me, who loves “food porn.”

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I happened to have every ingredient in this recipe (good sign), well, except limes.  I had a few limes, but they were dessicated beyond use, so I substituted the lemon juice in a fake lemon that I keep for canning tomatoes.

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I love bell peppers.  I’ve read that chefs eschew green bell peppers because they are too bitter, but bell peppers are one of my favorite vegetables.  I even had a purple pepper from our CSA (just one, let’s not get carried away).

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So here’s how they turned out.  I paired them with guacamole, the perfect fajita topping.  I appreciate that this recipe tries to add umami (with the worcestershire sauce), but it didn’t taste as good as my normal recipe, which includes a variety of dried chile powder (not the blends, the pure ground chile powder), garlic, and cumin.  It was still delicious, but I prefer my own version.

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Add beans and fideo, and you’ve got a fiesta!  Side note:  I was introduced to fideo in Trinidad, Colorado, Mission at the Bell, which my husband found on Yelp several years ago as we were moving his parents to Texas.  Fideo is a Mexican tomato-pasta dish, sometimes a soup.  I use it in place of rice sometimes.  You can break up thin spaghetti, but in the Hispanic foods section of the grocery store, they sell fideo pasta for cheap, I mean cheap, like 47 cents for a bag.  Sautee it, add some chile, salt, garlic, tomato sauce, and water, and simmer, and you’ve got a party.

¡Buen apetito!

Eli’s Asian Salmon – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 2

Eli’s Asian Salmon – Day 2.  From Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home.

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I’m already challenged and exasperated.  I spent an hour and a half, hungrier by the moment, scouring for a recipe I felt like making and eating, and wherein had the majority of the ingredients in my kitchen.  Ina is something of a personal hero for me.  She was in a high-powered career when she decided to take a risk and build a culinary empire.  Hmmmm …

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I was missing three ingredients for the sauce, but I substituted for two of them.  The salmon was sockeye, so it wasn’t the rich buttery salmon that the recipe called for either.  But I followed the instructions as closely as I could.

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The recipe called for a 500 degree oven.  It turns out, this nearly burns the panko crust before fully cooking the salmon, so I turned down the oven, covered it with foil.  Crisis averted.  Another of my chef instincts; I felt 500 was too high, and it was.

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I paired the meal with ingredients from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share.  If you don’t know what a CSA is, let me explain.  You pay a local farmer to grow a full or half share of vegetables, and every week you get a basket of whatever is in season.  In theory, yes, it’s a fabulous idea.  In reality, I am sick of tossing out wilted and moldy rainbow chard (that I cannot stand), trying to eat lettuce (not a huge fan), freezing green, yellow, purple, and whatever else plentiful beans they have grown, testing weird things like kohlrabi (which tasted like crunchy pieces of dirt), finding 1001 ways to make zucchini not taste like zucchini, and trying to use up vegetables that don’t make sense.  Some of them are ending up in the freezer so I can add them to stews this fall and winter.  I think even a boot would be tasty if braised long enough with a fatty piece of meat and  bottle of red wine.  The produce I love best – berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, herbs – are rationed like it’s the Great Depression. Next year I will go back to shopping at farmer’s markets, where I can select my favorite things again.  Wait, I was telling you what I paired with the salmon ….

I cut the kernels off an ear of corn and sautéed in lemon olive oil, then at the end, added diced cucumber and tomato, fresh ground black pepper, and a dash of salt.

I then tested the purple green beans.  They actually turn green in the water, and the water left behind is green.  I don’t know where the purple went.  It’s an enigma.  After I blanched and shocked the beans, I sautéed them in a miso-soy-lemon sauce and added slivered almonds as a contrasting garnish.

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The rest … eh, the jury is out.  It’s not my best meal ever, but it at least got me to think creatively, look through recipes, and realize that most of my cookbooks do not really cater to the home chef.

IMG_4311_fotorAllez cuisine!

 

Gazpacho – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 1

And so it begins … the 110 Days of Cookbooks Project, Day 1.

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My mom sent me home today with beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers from her garden.  I knew some would meet their fate in gazpacho.

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My gazpacho traditionally involves ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, garlic, onion, green bell pepper, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  The end.  It’s a bright, fresh recipe that I make in the summer to start meals.  It’s also a dish I order when we dine in tapas restaurants – the perfect light starter.

After searching a few indices, I selected Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World – “Basic Red Gazpacho.”  I believe I got this cookbook, as I do many, from Amazon.com.  Obviously, I cannot post the full recipe, as it is copy-righted.  However, I will include pictures of my ingredients, preparation, final outcome, what I’d change, and what I’d learned.

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I went so far as to weigh the tomatoes.  Part of this mission is to learn new tricks and tips from chefs and home cooks, including proper ratios, and new ways of challenging myself and getting out of my culinary slump.  I never use recipes exactly.  Like … ever.  Never.  I halved this recipe, as there are only two of us, and I’m not going to be wasteful.

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Then I set up my mise en place. I admit, the bread seemed to be a very odd addition, but I’m following the recipe exactly.

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I followed the instructions, put the ingredients in my Cuisinart, and blended away.  Whoops, I missed a small step with an ingredient.  Carry on.

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Now here is where I must interject and alter my rules slightly.  I learned to cook both from an exact recipe (from my mom) and from throwing a bunch of stuff together and seeing what happens (from my dad).  My dad’s method has served me far better as I’ve grown my culinary skills (no offense, Mom, you are still an equally excellent cook!).  I only put in 2/3 of the water recommended, and it still was far too much.  The soup ended up being far too watery.  I added half as much more tomato and blended again.  I taste-tested, the gazpacho was okay, definitely not as robust as my normal concoction.  I am refrigerating it overnight, and will try it again in the morning.

Lesson Learned Today:  Even though I am trying to learn new recipes and techniques, I must still follow my own instincts.

¡Buen apettito!

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