Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

It’s summer which means tomatoes and strawberries are starting to overflow farmers market stands (among other delicious fruits). Summer also means plenty of potlucks, parties and, of course, delicious July 4th celebrations.

Super Sous and I have come up with the perfect dish for your summer events (whether that means dinner for 2 or 20!). It’s not only easy to make, refreshing and cooling, it’s another in our series of Drought Friendly Recipes, which makes it a win-win!

It’s also quite a stunner and… no oven needed.

Strawberry Gazpacho - Strawberries

Hulled Strawberries

Strawberry Gazpacho - Tomatoes

Ripe Red and Yellow Tomatoes

Strawberry Gazpacho - Overhead

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

Yield: 6 cups

 

2 pounds strawberries, hulled

1 pound ripe red tomatoes, quartered

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced large

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, divided

½ teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 drops chipotle Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste

2 small shallots, peeled and diced small

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/3 pound yellow tomatoes, diced small

30 small fresh basil leaves, plus more to taste

18 basil flowers, optional

 

Add the strawberries, tomatoes, red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, red wine vinegar, chipotle Tabasco, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper to a blender.

Beginning with the slowest speed, blend until a smooth consistency is achieved. Strain through a fine mesh colander into a bowl, pressing the liquid against the mesh with the back of a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Stir to combine the diced shallot and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Let rest, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in the 2 remaining teaspoons grapeseed oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and the diced yellow tomato.

When ready to serve, remove the soup from the refrigerator and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the soup into bowls, top with a spoonful of the shallot/yellow tomato vinaigrette and garnish with basil leaves and flowers.

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Drought Friendly Recipe – Roasted Eggplant Caponata

It’s time for another drought friendly recipe.

On March 18, Super Sous and I wrote a blog post about the California Drought and introduced the idea of Drought Friendly Recipes. These are recipes that use foods with a low water footprint. (Lower than some of the heavier hitting foods, like California nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pistachios) and anything related to the California beef/cattle industry.)

The premise of this idea is that between 74-80% of all water (figures vary) in California is used for agriculture and 50% of all our agriculture is exported to feed the rest of the country, so we are all affected by this drought and we can all help conserve California water.

This week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory cuts to water use for the residential users of California’s water. (A reduction of 25%) And while every drop counts and Californian’s pull up their grass to install drought tolerant plants and restaurants stop serving water to patrons unless requested, what is being done to address the 80% of water use?

California farming/commodities is a 46.4 billion dollar industry with 1/3 of that amount being attributed to milk & cream, grapes and almonds crops.

Let’s take a brief moment to reminisce. What happened to the days of the good ole peanut? Peanut butter, peanuts on a your salad? Virginia grown peanuts?  You know… think back about 5-10 years ago. California almonds use 9-10% of California’s agriculture water. Almonds trees need to be watered year round. I love almonds like the next person, but in a time of extreme drought, how many almonds do we need to be eating? Some figures state that it takes about a gallon of water to produce 1 almond.  In our original blog post, Super Sous and I gave the global water footprint number (from the Water Footprint Organization) which is 1,927 gallons of water for 1 pound of almonds. Upon tweeting this from @chefnathanlyon Twitter account, the California Almond board and I had this conversation:

1of3almonds

20f3almonds

3of3almonds

So… until that number is produced, I think we can safely say that it takes a lot of water to produce a pound of almonds.

I think the real / underlying question is – where is the oversight in our agriculture and water system here in California? Who is looking at the big picture view? Certainly, no one wants a small farmer/family business, regardless of the crop, to go under because of this drought (which sadly is already happening). California grows over 400 crops. It’s a wonderful thing… if you have water.

If you own a farm which has access to groundwater that hasn’t dried out and/or has access to reservoir water and can afford the water, then you are green-light-go. If you own a farm that has no ground water or access to reservoir water or you can’t afford the water, then your fields will go fallow. Anyone can choose to plant any crop on their land. There is no one saying that we need x amount of wheat or x amount of nuts from California to feed the world. In times of extreme drought, should there be? And should Governor Brown give restrictions to farmers? Should farmers also be subjected to a 25% reduction of water?

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show addressed this very issue the other night:

Daily Show Drought Clip

Regardless of restrictions, we need to have a ready supply of water in California if we want to keep California agriculture a thriving business. We need a solution.

So really – when are we going to start talking about a water pipeline or desalination. Every time these ideas come up, the phrase “so expensive” follows suit. Isn’t it more expensive for California to lose its 46.4 billion dollar industry? Or for residents to run out of water (which has already happened in some towns)? Or for the United States to have to import more food internationally?

In the meantime, every bite we take counts in conservation. So, enjoy our latest drought friendly recipe. It’s a Roasted Eggplant Caponata. My take on the classic Sicilian eggplant dish chock full of cooked, sweet veggies. Pairs well with pasta, toasted baguette, over a bed of greens or with a bowl and your favorite spoon. No nuts needed.

eggplant caponata

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

7 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, divided

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste

1 fennel bulb, diced small (1 cup)

1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and diced small (1¼ cup)

1 (14-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped roughly

1 cup green olives, pits removed and chopped roughly

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

7 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and sliced very thinly

Adjust two oven racks to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of oil, and season well with salt and pepper.

Spread out the eggplant in one layer onto two parchment paper-lined sheet pans. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the sheet pans from the oven, stir the eggplant, then place the sheet pans back in the oven, this time on opposite racks. Bake 15 minutes more, until the eggplants are lightly colored and cooked through.

After the eggplant has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir the diced onion with ¼ cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and lightly caramelized.

Next, stir in the garlic, cumin, ground fennel, and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the diced fennel and the bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, capers, olives, vinegar and baked eggplant. Cook until the caponata has thickened, approximately 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley and basil.

Serve and enjoy.

P.S. Check out our recent Drought Friendly Recipe for Eggless Shakshuka.

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

On March 18, Super Sous and I posted a blog about the California Drought and how it affects the entire United States via the food grown in California (50% of California fruits and veggies are exported across the US – not just to grocery stores, but to restaurants, institutions, hospitals, schools, etc.).

Another thing that we mentioned in the blog post, is that we (Super Sous and I) have decided to create some “Drought Friendly Recipes”. Since 74% of all water in California is used for agriculture, our idea is that we can incorporate foods into our day-to-day lives that have a lower water footprint (than others).

For example, if the Water Footprint Organization says (global average) that it takes 28 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of lettuce, this might be a better drought friendly food choice than, say, eating a pound of figs which they slate at 401 gallons of water per pound.

Of course, figs and lettuce have different nutritional properties (and you are probably not going to eat a pound of either in one sitting!), but these drought friendly recipes aren’t about completely re-arranging your diet or skipping out on the nutrients you need. It’s about being aware of the drought and what each of us can do to conserve our precious water. If we can substitute a “water heavy” meal (like beef which is calculated to take anywhere between 1500 to 2000 gallons of water per pound), for a drought friendly recipe even once a week, it will make a difference in terms of conservation. (Fun fact: Did you know that 1 pound of goat meat takes only 127 gallons of water to produce?)

Now, this is not a perfect science/water calculation and we know it.

This is about having a conversation about the drought and dialoguing about conservation and solutions.

Our first “Drought Friendly” recipe is an Eggless Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African egg dish with tomatoes, onions and spices. Here, Super Sous and I substitute eggs with goat cheese and avocado. You can add both goat cheese and avocado or choose one or the other. Whatever you like best.

1 egg is cited by National Geographic to require 53 gallons of water to produce, whereas 1 pound of avocados (2-3 avocados) takes  237 gallons. Shakshuka would normally call for 6 eggs. So, this dish, (eggs alone) would take 317 gallons of water to produce. The 1 avocado used is 1/3 of that. And whereas a typical American breakfast might be eggs and bacon breakfast or a cup of greek yogurt or grabbing something on the go, this is a great alternative.

Since I began on my culinary journey, from learning how to garden with my grandparents as a child to working at farmers markets for over 10 years to cooking on television, I have always told people to shop locally as much as possible. Go to farmers markets, shop in season and support your local farmer, when you can. If you live outside of California, for example in Virginia where I’m from, and you are buying all of your meat and produce locally, and you are cooking all your meals at home, then wow! you are amazing and Super Sous I want to come over for dinner! But seriously, if you are able to do such a thing, than these recipes will be more food for thought than drought friendly conservation efforts. However, most of us don’t cook every meal at home. And most people don’t shop solely at farmers market nor even have that option depending on where in the country we live and what time of year it is. So, there’s a good chance you are shopping at grocery stores and eating at restaurants that are using California produce.

The last thing I want to mention is about food waste. This recipe calls for beet greens. There are so many recipes for beets out there, but less so for beet greens (although they are so tasty). Super Sous and I want to utilize as much as possible of the fruit and/or vegetable we are cooking with. 40% of all food goes to waste in the United States which translates to trillions of lost gallons of water. No need to discard the beet greens next time you grab a bunch of beets – here’s a great way to enjoy them.

Finally, Super Sous and I would love to hear from you. Comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Like I wrote, this is not an exact science or a strict dietary plan or about restricting your meals or nutritional needs. This is about a conversation that needs to be happening a lot more.

So, let’s gather around the communal table and discuss. I’ll bring the bread, you bring the shakshuka.

Shakshuka Goat Cheese

Shakshuka with goat cheese only

Shakshuka Goat and Avocado

Shakshuka with goat cheese and avocado

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium (1½ cups)

10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes)

2 cups roughly chopped beet greens, rinsed but not dried

2 large fire-roasted red bell peppers, diced medium

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small avocado, pitted and sliced

3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (chevre)

20 fresh cilantro leaves

1 baguette, sliced into large pieces

Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add oil, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika and chile flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add beet greens and stir. The remaining moisture from rinsing the greens will release any brown bits from the bottom of the sauté pan. Continue cooking and stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the greens have softened.

Add the peppers, tomatoes and black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Arrange slices of avocado and dollops of goat cheese on the shakshuka. Sprinkle over fresh cilantro.

Serve on plates with a slice of fresh baguette.

Sesame Kale Chips

Highly addictive and easy to make. Not to mention a fraction of the price of those bags of kale chips you see in the store! Note: you should probably triple the recipe – they go fast.

Sesame Kale Chips

Sesame Kale Chips

1 bunch Lacinato (dinosaur) kale, rinsed, stems removed and torn into 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

 

Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss kale with the oils, sesame seeds and salt in a medium bowl.

Place kale on parchment lined sheet trays and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until crispy.

Very Green Juice

It’s national kale day, so this recipe seems like a great way to celebrate! Enjoy!

Very Green Juice

Very Green Juice

Yield: 2 cups

 

8 curly kale leaves, stems included

½ hothouse cucumber, peeled

1/3 cup packed cilantro, leaves and stems

4 celery stalks

2 Fuji apples

1 lime, peeled

 

Process all ingredients through a juicer and enjoy your green juice.

Spiced Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup with Fresh Goat Cheese

Since it’s cooling down in some places (certainly not in Los Angeles!), here’s one for a crisp afternoon or cold evening – using the end of summer eggplants from  your local farmers market.

Spiced Roast Eggplant Tomato Soup

Spiced Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup with Fresh Goat Cheese

Yield: 8 servings

1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced small (3 cups)

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly (2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

¾ teaspoon garam masala

⅛ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste

1 dried bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground paprika

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained, preferably fire-roasted

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Fresh Goat Cheese/Chevre, for serving

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and season well with some salt and pepper.

Lay the eggplants in a single layer on two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Place into the oven, and roast, uncovered, until lightly colored, approximately 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and the onions to a small pot over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Stir in the garlic, thyme, garam masala, chile flakes, bay leaf, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute

Pour in the tomatoes and stock and add the salt and pepper.

Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Check the eggplants; if they are lightly colored, remove them from the oven.

Add the eggplants and the stock to the tomato mixture and stir. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Add lemon juice, a healthy pinch of salt, and a few really good grinds of pepper. Blend once more. Taste and adjust seasoning once more with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Serve in soup bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a little goat cheese, and a sprinkling of the chopped parsley and mint.

Sustainable Seafood Tacos for National Taco Day!

Mark your calendars and join me in celebrating ocean-friendly seafood during October – National Seafood Month – by enjoying a sustainable seafood taco on NATIONAL TACO DAY, this SATURDAY, October 4! (What a great day!) Chefs across the country are joining together to give this year’s celebration a sustainable twist and so can you. 

Choose a seafood from Seafood Watch’s best choice list to make your own sustainable seafood tacos at home OR you can use my recipe for Spiced Mahi Mahi tacos with Salsa Fresca and Chipotle Crema. Either way, be sure to share your dish on social media using the hashtags: #MakeItSustainable #taco 

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