Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take that Gordon Ramsay!

So, yesterday, I wrote about things that you can do to become a better cook that won't actually teach you how to cook.  Specifically, for the purpose of today's post, watch TV.   No, I am not referring to watching Star Trek, or whatever nonsense you have on in the background for mindless distraction, while you cook - I've generally found that makes me forget to add the baking soda or some other very important ingredient which you can't tell that you've forgotten until your food turns out weird.  I mean watching cooking TV shows to get ideas for things to try.  Or reading cook books if you're classier than I am.

I LOVE cooking TV.  My DVR is often clogged with Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef, Chopped, and many others.

The one I'm digging on right now - Master Chef.  I like it because, for once, these people actually COULD be me.  Granted, I would never apply to be on the show because I have no desire for the nation to see Chef Gordon Ramsay make me cry, but it's a great show.

Anyway, regardless of what I'm watching, I always play the "what would I make" game.  Then I can be proud of myself when one of the "real" chefs makes what I would have made.

So, imagine my disappointment, when on the last episode I watched of Master Chef (no clue if it was the last episode on, because I really do stockpile these things on my DVR), they had an updated grilled cheese and tomato soup challenge, and no one made gazpacho.  What is a better updated tomato soup than gazpacho?!?  Plus, tomato soup = gross.  Gazpacho = delicious.

My gazpacho, like most things I make, is probably wrong.  In fact, I'm almost 99% certain that it's wrong.  I'm fairly certain one of the cardinal rules of gazpacho is that it's raw.  It shouldn't be cooked.  That's it's deal.  And, while I wouldn't go so far as to say that I "cook" mine, I do apply heat.  I feel like it makes the tomatoes and the onions taste better.  So sue me.  If you want to do it "right," follow Alton's recipe.  That's where I started anyway.  To be fair, that is almost always where I start.

I thought this was awesome.  Jeff thought it was awesome. No, it probably wouldn't have won due to the cardinal sin of applying heat to the gazpacho, but I don't think it would have gotten me sent home either.  And it looked pretty.  And, best of all, blended gazpacho can be frozen to eat later!  What a perfect hot summer dinner - with almost no effort.

Smooth Gazpacho with Zucchini "Noodles"
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (L)
  • 1 half garlic bulb, minced (L)
  • 1 small Serrano chili, seeded and minced (L)
  • 1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped (L)
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (L)
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (L)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Tomato Juice if necessary (I didn't use any)
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and chili and saute briefly.  Add tomatoes and turn heat down to low.  Allow tomatoes to steam until they have released a good deal of liquid.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Add remaining ingredients, and stir well to combine.   If there is not enough liquid from the tomatoes to cover everything else, add tomato juice.  Allow to chill until flavors are well combined, preferably over night.

I actually like a smooth gazpacho, so at this point I would put it in the blender and puree it, but you can leave it chunky and eat it right at this point if you want!


Zucchini Noodles

Take one zucchini and grate on the large holes of a cheese grater so it forms noodle like strands.  I avoid the inside where all the seeds are.

Place a small pile of "noodles" into the bottom of a shallow soup bowl.  Spoon the gazpacho around the noodles.

    I feel like grilled cheese is one of those recipes that you really should use whatever you have lying around, and not rely on a recipe to tell you what to do.  I used a combination of sharp goat cheddar, Romano, and a washed rind cheese from a local cheese maker that was kind of nutty and reminded me of a manchego.  I paired this with a chorizo sausage made by a local sausage place.  I found both the sausage and the washed rind cheese at the farmer's market, and the other two cheeses were at my grocery store, but were still local.  One good thing about WI: no shortage of local cheese!

    My personal trick to making grilled cheese sandwiches is that you want everything to be really small, so it all heats through and the cheese gets all melty before the bread gets burned.  I don't do slices of cheese; instead I grate the cheese because I feel like it melts faster and I can put more on the sandwich and still have it be gooey and melty.  You also want to heavily butter all four sides of your bread!  Buttering the outsides allow the bread to toast evenly in the pan, as opposed to just melting the butter in the pan which could cause some parts of the bread to have more butter, and some to have no butter!  Buttering the inside helps stick all the ingredients where you want them to be before they start to melt.  More butter on the outside + a hot pan = better cooking, more browning of your bread, and less chance of burning.  More butter on the inside helps everything meld together.  Plus butter = yum.

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