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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Minty green gazpacho.

Happy Summer, everyone. Having at least a little fun? Eaten anything amazing lately? Hope so.

Honestly, my eating habits have been a real snoozefest these days, and all of these heat waves have done a number on my appetite and motivation to create new recipes. Do we really need another quinoa salad blueprint? It’s just a hunch, but I’m pretty sure you can rig up your own romaine salad with sliced strawberries and toasted pine nuts. Right? Right.

Spotted so many varieties of mint at the NYC Union Square Greenmarket the other day.

However, a flash of inspiration and a tad of laziness actually inspired a recipe worth sharing:  Minty Green Gazpacho. This all happened because my Ayurvedic doc, Pratima, recommended that I limit my consumption of tomatoes. This is the amazing woman whose regimen and advice got my skin from painfully and constantly breaking out to totally clear, calm,  and makeup-free. So when she gives me dietary advice, I tend to follow it (for the most part; I’m not perfect).

Another farmer’s market shot.

I do LOVE a good gazpacho, but she’s right…it’s a bit heating for me, especially in the summer. Plus, I was looking for something soupy, cooling and velvety to enjoy for lunch one day. Something green that would nourish but not weigh me down or sap my energy. Fresh mint, zucchini, and cucumbers at the farmers inspired me.

This soup comes together quickly in a blender or food processor, and can be served hot, cold, or at room temp.

Minty Green Summer Gazpacho

Yield: 8 cups (64 ounces). Recipe can easily be halved.

  • 3 large zucchini, or 6 medium
  • 4 kirby cucumbers (kirbies are best because they are crisp, but use what you can easily get. Peel if you wish.)
  • 4-6 cups Water (amount can vary a lot due to how watery your zucchini and cucumbers are)
  • Seasoning packet or bouillon cube of choice (I used this stuff by Goya. So sue me).
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small onion
  • Fresh mint: start with 2 Tablespoons, add up to a cup (but add in stages, as it can be strong. If you don’t have fresh mint, use another herb you like, such as basil, or a tiny amount of mint extract. Like not even 1/8 of a teaspoon of extract to start. Whether using extract or herbs, start with a small amount, blend, taste, and adjust)

1. Chop half of the zucchini and half of the cucumbers into chunks your blender can handle. Add chunks to your blender, along with liquid, seasoning packet, and garlic.  Add more liquid as needed. Blend until smooth. I used my Vitamix, and with the lid securely attached, was able to let the soup lightly cook/blend as I worked on step 2. . . .

2. As the soup blends, dice your remaining zucchini and cucumbers. Dice the onion as well. Prepare the avocado (removing pit and scooping out flesh).

3.  Now blend in the mint (or extract) and avocado. In the Vita-mix, I added these final 2 ingredients in after blending for 5-6 minutes. I blended for one more minute.

4. Test for seasoning and adjust and re-blend as needed. Pour soup into a serving bowl, and gently mix in diced zucchini, onions, and cucumbers. Garnish with fresh mint and serve, or allow to cool in fridge and serve cold.

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Some recent early summer scenes:

Starting out with cupcakes in Brooklyn on Memorial Day Weekend:

Coconut cucumber cupcakes. You read right! They were amazing.

Continuing on with some amazing music, courtesy of Kristin Hoffman. Think Fiona Apple minus the crazy, Tori Amos minus the loopiness, Nora Jones minus the snoozefest…and you have captured a fraction of what this talented lady offers up:

Kristin Hoffmann.

Kristin Hoffmann and band.

Let’s move on to the hipster wedding I recently attended in Brooklyn:

Can you spot the bride in this picture?

Wedding bells!

Of course we have to have a couple of gratuitous cat shots:

Deli kitten.

My cat.

We’ll finish with a self-portrait. I am reeallllly concentrating here, trying to get the shot to work. Ha!

That intense look of concentration? That’s the look of me trying to work the camera.

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One unscathed peach, as the rest simmer in the background for Lazy Peach Butter, my peach butter that leaves the skins ON.

Peach butter’s all over the blogosphere. I’m aware of this.  It makes perfect sense: peach season is winding down, and canning is the cool thing to do these days. Like all old school and retro and local and Recession-friendly and stuff.

So if anything, I’m kind of late (and a follower to boot) by even “going  there” with this recipe.

However, my peach butter is different in a key way: it leaves the skins on.

Personally, I haven’t yet run into any peach butter that doesn’t involve either:

a. Blanching, then peeling the peachies.

b. A food mill.

I hate peeling fruits and vegetables. It’s a pet peeve of mine, to be honest. Because I’m lazy like that. I’ll admit it. Plus, I love the skin of fruits like peaches, plums, pears, and apples. The skins have tons of flavor and all of those beautiful colors. Plus, I mentioned I’m lazy, right?

Bless this mess. Chunky, messy, peachy goodness.

Regarding canning:  I’m not yet set up to do canning. In the future, I wanna be all up in the canning scene. With decorative labels and shiny Ball jars and both innovative and classic preserves flavors. But for now, that’s not the deal over here.

Moreover, I’m not about to buy a food mill, not just yet. Most of my cooking and such doesn’t really justify owning one, and this humble kitchen is tiiiiiiight for space as it is.

So my peach butter is beyond simple; it keeps the peels on, and it’s a good thing it does. Because once I tell you what I went through to get these peaches from farm (market) to table, you’ll realize the wisdom (and hilarity) of my Lazy Peach Butter. Keep reading, or scroll on down for the recipe. . . .

Labor Day 2011 summed up my entire summer in so many ways. It included:

  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Fresh produce from the farmer’s market
  • Buying a random (but needed) item off of Craigslist
  • Eating an ice cream cone (I’ve been nuts about ice cream this summer; this doesn’t happen every year, so go figure)
  • Mishaps
  • A lazy,  minimal recipe

Today’s agenda sounded so simple. After taking it pretty easy this weekend (only teaching 2 classes, as all of my other gigs were canceled, and I hadn’t been doing much of anything), I was ready to pick up the tempo.

I decided to ride my bike down to Chelsea to take a Yoga class that’d been gifted to me by a friend.  Today was the last day I could take the class, and wasted pre-paid classes make me sad, so I was up kinda early to get rollin’. I figured a farmer’s market run at the nearby Union Square Greenmarket after class to snag the peaches for peach butter would be a smart idea. Sounded simple enough.

I already assembled the garment rack. Took all of five minutes. Loving it already! Note the mix of summer and fall clohes hanging on it.

Until I got an email from a girl I’d written to on Craigslist, telling me that the garment rack she was selling was still available, and could I come get it today.

I’ve been wanting a garment rack for ages. This one was only $15. She was in the East Village, and I was going to be nearish to there anyways.

So I made plans to meet her after class, pre-market.

I figured I’d take the garment rack parts and stash them in a locker at one of my work sites, returning  to fetch them later in the week. Surely garment rack parts would be too bulky to carry, especially on a bike. Right?

Wrong.

This is where my Iranian Engineering kicks in.

What’s that, you ask? Well, growing up, my dad had a way (he still does) of, ahem, rigging things up around the house, and at his businesses. My mom used to roll her eyes and say, “There’s a right way to do something. And there’s a wrong way. Then there’s your Dad’s way.”

So my dad’s Iranian, and he’s trained as an engineer, he has his ways, so there we have it. Iranian Engineering.

Apparently, folks,  the gene got passed on to me.

The garment rack parts were light enough that I decided we were all coming home together: Me, the rack, and eventually, the delicate, fresh peaches. One the bike. On Labor Day. In Manhattan. Ahem.

I was able to stuff most of the “poles” of the rack into my Yoga mat bag. I wrapped my super lightweight travel mat around them, secured the mat and the poles with a heavy duty rubber band. I stuffed the rest of the garment rack parts in my backpack. Then I slung both the Yoga mat bag and the backpack on my back. Carefully. (And I wonder why my shoulders tweak out sometimes, but that’s another story for another day).

The farmer’s market run was pretty quick and painless. I stuck the peaches in a plastic bag, and stuck that in a reusable bag. I looped the reusable bag around the bike handlebars a couple of times, and we were off. I’m pretty sure some people thought “friggin’ idiot” as I rolled past, but I pit them no mind. I was too psyched that I might actually get all the stuff home in one trip.

Soon enough, I realized the Yoga mat was going to keep slipping off my back and possibly cause me to bob and weave across the road like a drunk. I’m totally against doing that unless already intoxicated, plus I can think of better ways to go than getting mowed down by a garbage truck. So I rigged up a way to loop my mat around the handle bars. I then took my two “U” locks and looped them around the mat and the handlebars to further secure it. (Yes, I have two locks. Don’t ask).

It was a feat of Iranian Engineering. Lemme tell ya. It was actually quiet comfortable and relatively stable, and I was proud.

Peaches cooking up. I swear the pic is in focus. The foggy look is from the steam floating off of the peaches.

Until an incident with the bag of peaches hanging low on the handlebars and um, somehow getting caught in the front wheel.

You know what they say about low-hanging fruit. .  .

Long story short, about half the peaches were pureed before I even got north of 23rd Street.

Sigh.

This is where Yoga kicks in. The old Bria would’ve been madder than a hornet’s nest at such a turn of events. And yeah, a few curses did fly, as I freed the bag and the peaches from the wheel and got all sticky in the process. But really, I mostly laughed. My bike had done some of the prep work for me.  And I was able to salvage every last peach. After a good rinse at home (of both the peaches and myself), everything was fine. Except for the brown sugar I’d chosen to use almost burning up the whole pot of peach butter.

Yes, another error. Again, luckily one I caught in time. The simple flavor of peaches and the slight caramel note added by the brown sugar is quite delicious, but next time, I’m do half brown sugar, half regular sugar to prevent scorching. I’m glad I didn’t add any spices. I’m also glad that I went pretty easy on the sugar, because a lot of fruit butters are too darn sweet. To me, this one is perfect.

Thank goodness, considering what I went through to make it!

Lazy Peach Butter

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.)

Yield: 1 and 1/2 cups peach butter. Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.

  • 1 pound of peaches, pits removed and cut into 8 pieces per peach
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar, but it seems more prone to scorching, so just be aware and feel free to use white sugar or a mix of brown and white sugars)

1. Add peaches and water to a pot/Dutch oven. I used my small Le Creuset.

2. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

3. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

4. Place peaches in blender (I used my Vita-Mix) or food processor and puree lightly until desired consistency is reached. (Go slowly, especially if you want a chunkier texture, like I did).

5. Return puree to pot and add lemon juice and sugar.

6. On a low heat, simmer for another 5-10 minutes (up to 40 minutes for bigger batches), stirring gently and often.  (Mine was done at 5 minutes, and I think the brown sugar caused the bottom of the Le Creuset to get a caramelized layer on it, so be careful here.)

7.  To test for correct consistency, place some of peach butter on the back of a wooden spoon. When one finger swiped down the middle leaves a clean space, the peach butter is thick enough.

8. Allow to cool, and store, covered in a jar for up to a month. Alternatively, you can freeze it. I’d guesstimate it’ll last at least 6 months frozen.

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Azaleas, snapped at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Azaleas remind me of Texas, actually. I love the flowers of summer.

Hey Everyone. I’m popping up for a moment to wish everyone a Happy Summer! Today is the official first day of summer. It starts at 1:16 P.M., Eastern Standard Time.

I mentioned this in class this morning, and one of my students asked me if I was counting down. Well, not really. Ha! I just heard that fact on the news and wanted to pass it on.

I hope everyone has some time to spend outdoors to enjoy these long, sunny days. If you practice Yoga, notice how the increase in warmth increases your flexibility. Some other worthwhile summer activities:

In the spirit of summer relaxation, I”m posting less lately, as you may have noticed. I’m calling this my Summer Hours. But don’t worry, I’m hard at work on different projects, have some travel planned, and definitely have a recap of my recent Yoga retreat that I’ll share soon. Also, I’ve got a couple of Summer-friendly recipes to share soon.

Until them, have an awesome first day of Summer.

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