Category Archives: cucumber

Beat the Heat with Avocado Pistachio Cold Soup


Oh, how badly I needed this freshness for the last few weeks! This was today.
Yesterday.
The heat is on, on the street / Inside your head, on every beat /And the beat’s so loud, deep inside
The pressure’s high, just to stay alive / ‘Cause the heat is on…
 
The heat paralyses me. It makes me feel sick. It makes me feel like jumping into a water spray, then bed crashing under the dozen of fans and watching National Geographic series about rainforests, thunderstorms and waterfalls till dawn. 
Then go back to the sprinkle again….
Why the water sprinkles are only for kids? Why does siesta have to be only a cultural phenomenon? Why can’t we all have power naps during summer heat? I guess these questions are rhetorical, huh? Or, may be, the heat just makes me delirious… I actually thought we were only at the beginning of July, but half of it is gone already. Just yesterday these wild geese ducklets were eggs, these cattails didn’t exist and these strawberries were flowers. I was feeling so much younger. I was actually ready to resume the horseback riding I abandoned back in my twenties… 
I missed jazz festival and dozen of other attractions I wanted to visit so much. I’ve become a reckless blogger. Half of my design projects have been put on hold. The mood board sketches are flying all over the house. My photo-bank is about to eat me alive if I don’t start cleaning it asap. See what the heat is doing to me?  This is not good. I need to slow down this shutter speed of life. I need a fresh start.
At least I’ve done plenty of gazpachos. Cold soups are the wonderful culinary creation. They feed and nourish in a wink and deliver freshness, speed and convenience to our time-poor, exhausting summer schedules.
This one is a keeper for me during excruciating hot summer days. Not only it’s super-delicious and easy to make; it’s hard to underestimate the avocado’s potent anti-inflammatory, hydrating and blood pressure-stabilizing powers, which in this recipe are also supported by cucumber, handful of pistachio nuts, grilled zucchini, buttermilk and organic miso (fermented soya paste) – I marked the last ingredient as optional, considering its rare occurrence in most people’s fridges. I used the leftover grilled zucchini to add a slight grill tone to the soup, recycle and give some extra substance, but leave them out if you want.
You can whip this uber-yummy soup for spur-of-the-moment summer guests in, literally, 10 minutes. Serve it in verrines garnished with extra pistachios and all you can imagine fresh herbs including parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, chives, oregano, tarragon, etc. 
The fresh herbs give an incredible hit of flavor to this otherwise subtle and smooth cold soup. Drizzle it with a bit of olive or truffle oil and/or sprinkle with smoked paprika for an extra zang. Not a big herb lover? Add a dash of curry, cumin and ground coriander in the mix.
Tweak it to be more or less acidic playing with lime or lemon juice to your taste. PS: kosher pickle or kimchi liquids are not excluded as the idea ingredients for a kick and extra health benefit. Thin it with vegan broth, unsweetened almond milk, extra buttermilk, cold spring water or even cold green tea if necessary.
Great tip from experienced guacamole makers: add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.
This soup is a true vegetarian summer dream dish on its own. But if you crave more substance on a side serve it with croutons or these decadent tiny cheese puffs (recipe will follow).
Cheers to All and Viva Summer Freshness!
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AVOCADO PISTACHIO CUCUMBER GAZPACHO
Yields: 4-8 portions (depending on the size of the verrines)
Ingredients:
4-6 ice cubes, made of quality spring water (plus few crushed ice cubes for serving)
1 tablespoon raw pistachio nuts, shelled (plus 1 tablespoon for garnish)
1 ripe avocado, peeled (keep the avocado seed to preserve the color if you plan to eat soup next day)*
1 cucumber (Lebanese, or ½ English cucumber; other kind to be peeled and de-seeded)
1 small zucchini, grilled, broiled, or pan-fried (optional)
1 cup vegetarian (or lean organic chicken) stock
1 cup buttermilk (or unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup quality spring water
1 teaspoon miso paste (optional)
¼ teaspoon quality salt
¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (or chili powder)
Fresh herbs for garnish: mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, etc.
Olive oil for drizzle (optional)
Instructions:
Add ice cubes to blender. Top with nuts, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, stock, buttermilk, lime juice, water, miso, salt and paprika or chili. Puree on high speed until smooth Thin the soup with additional stock, buttermilk, or water if desired. Pour into bowls. Garnish with ice cube crush, pistachios and fresh herbs. Drizzle with oil or lemon juice. 
* Add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.

Earth Day & Ethereal Shrimp Ceviche

‘Earth is our spaceship. There’s no other. Protect it…’ – was my verbal tribute to the Earth Day few days ago along with this Martian-looking image of the low tide vista some place beautiful. It brought the cozy memories of my most recent travel to Florida, and of course of all things ‘Floribbean’ including its food staple CEVICHE!
Shrimp Ceviche © http://www.letsheatit.com/

Bon Appetit magazine named ‘crudo’, which includes carpaccio, sashimi and other raw sea food creations seasoned with sweet, spicy and acidic components, the dish of 2014. Ceviche (raw seafood and fish) dish is hot on this list. Pristine fresh fish, scallops, even skate join this list with many inexpected spice takes on this Latin/Central American delight. I chose to showcase the Shrimp Ceviche starring freshly cooked shrimp reserving the hard core raw challenges for some hot days later this summer. Some authentic Peruvian recipes use raw shrimp, but I will stick to the cooked one because I wasn’t the one catching it, ha-ha.

The surreal scenery of one of our first nights in New Smyrna, FL with the gorgeous oceanview provides a perfect back drop for this kind of the dish and just to support the mood I found this amateur YouTube recording of the sunrise at the same place if you wish to see it in the day light or, at the sunrise to be exact.

Oh, those rear lucky days of fun in the sun, sandcastling, trying (and inevitably failing) YOLO (you only live once), dog-chasing sandpipers. Refreshing the taste buds in between with fresh ceviche and a glass of rose… 
Isn’t it the way life should be lived more of the time? Routine chores interrupted by whispering ocean breeze and spectacular sunset. Lazy seagul to watch while making your bed, hearing waves while falling asleep… 
The ocean-side theme has imprinted so much in my heart I’m even re-designing our bedroom based on this inspiration now. It’s going great and I will sure post the results once the project is done. You will see exactly this seagull picture framed among other things.
I’m also dreaming about visiting Peru quite often.

The first top notch shrimp ceviche I tried was not in Peru though. It was in Philadelphia at Nuevo Latino restaurant run by the renown Chef Guillermo Pernot. Two times James Beard award winner, Chef Pernot is a world’s expert of ceviche dishes and even published a book since called Ceviche with lots of exotic recipes worth trying. He now runs the chain of Cuba Libre restaurants specialized in ‘Criollo’ cuisine in Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Atlantic City.  Guess what, his shrimp ceviche is still on the menu! He serves his shrimp ceviche signature dish floating in the pool of the blackened tomato and pepper spicy gazpacho (the veggies are grilled, blackened and then ground in an old-fashioned way). Mine version is more of a hot day ‘take a break with rose’ style, but is nevertheless uber tasty.

Here are my few tips on how to make shrimp ceviche a success:
a. use the freshest shrimp of the best quality as if you were a real Peruvian, or just have caught this shrimp yourself in St. Lawrence river (at the level of Sorel) an hour ago;
b. salt matters: it’s not a joke – avoid table salt by all means, if you can’t afford to buy Maldon yet (my case), choose a quality flaky sea salt from Normandy for $2.99 from Avril/amazon or Greek sea salt, or Himalayan or other great salts that are 100% natural and not that ‘salty;
c. don’t overmarinate your ceviche;
d. customize the garnish and seasoning with your preferred things: I add mint, a dash of smoked chili or paprika and sometimes mix shirm with lime-brined fresh fish (that goes to the fish ceviche);

e) sweet potato chips are not just a staple in Peruvian cuisine, they are easy to make and supe-deliscious with ceviche.

A glass of nice pinot gris or rose will boost the indulgment. In no time you will be transported to some ocen-view place you feel like you belong to. If shrimp is not your thing, try lobster rolls (btw the images in that post were from the same place although during a day).

One last word: if you happen to be allergic to shrimp like me, the Nordic shrimp from Atlantic will guarantee your safety (I suppose you can find equivalents in other areas). Tested and approved by the undersigned.

Have fun making your shrimp ceviche and please let me know how it goes.
Great week-end cooking to all of you!
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Other great dishes with shrimp: Shrimp & Fish Soup Provencal ;
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SHRIMP CEVICHE RECIPE
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound (454g) medium small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced + for seasoning
1 small orange, juiced (optional)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) quality olive oil
3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika or chili (optional)

1 teaspoon Kosher or flaky sea salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons scallion or chives, minced
1/8 cup (35 ml) red onion or shallot, minced or thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno (35 ml), cubed
1 small yellow, orange or red pepper (250 ml or 1 cup)
1 small cucumber (250 ml or 1 cup), cubed
1 small avocado, cubed for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)
Plantain, tortilla chips or rice crisps for the side serving.
Instructions:
Add the shrimp to the large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes.*
Drain and run under the ice cold water to chill. Cut the shrimp into 1-inch sized pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lime, lemon and orange juices, combine and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
Mix olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Add tomato, scallions, red onion, jalapeno and yellow pepper and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetable mix into the shrimp mix and let sit at the room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.

Healthy Break: Watercress Cucumber Lettuce Chopped Salad


I realized recently that I rarely showcase chopped salads, yet we eat them regularly in various combinations and dozens of interesting dressings. I used to think they were just plain boring side dish to help digest the main, lacking substance, and too common to talk about. Not surprisingly, they faded into the oblivion on this blog often just making a background dish in photos. I think it’s time now to rescue this dish category, given that I’m currently going through another course on nutrition, thus the importance of fresh veggies in our daily diet can no longer be ignored.  This salad tastes fab and features a super-potent watercress greens and healthy-delicious apple cider vinegar/honey/olive oil dressing.
The recipe was initially inspired by Cucumber Watercress Salad recipe by Rachel Ray’s from her 30 Minute Passport to England Food Network episode (dressing with white vinegar, honey and dill). Then there was Mark Bittman’s watercress salad with delicate rice vinegar dressing and sesame seeds. Then I tried Martha Stewart’s take with Dijon mustard adding the robust tang to the dressing. Finally, I came up with my version of this chopped salad adding lettuce to the ingredients and using home-made apple cider vinegar mixed with honey, lime juice and some olive oil for an extra health benefit. Sometimes I scatter a bit of roasted salted nuts, like cashews or pistachios for an extra crunch and substance. I already know that this version is my favorite, but feel free to experiment with the above additions and you will find yours.  
Peppery bittersweet watercress is one of the oldest greens consumed by humans through the centuries. It is an amazing digestive and powerful antioxidant loaded with vitamin C, A, chlorophyll, calcium and potassium. It maintains the body’s water balance, promotes clear skin and acts as natural antibiotic to boost immunity. Early Romans considered it a valuable brain food strengthening the nervous system. Today, due to the unique phytochemical it contains, it is known primarily for breast, liver, colon and prostate cancer-fighting benefits, which sounds like a rarely powerful food ingredient.   
Watercress goes perfectly well into variety of fresh salads with greens and most of the popular salad veg, including, of course, the radishes.  In fact, I find the trio of arugula, watercress and radishes, full of pungent slightly bitter tang nuances, to be one of the most interesting salad combinations with watercress. When dressed with equally strong home-made blue or feta cheese dressing, it makes a perfect juxtaposition to a heavier main dish.
Naturally, you can get the best from watercress eating it fresh (preferably organic) in salads or juices. I personally love to have a glass of blended watercress, celery, green apple, parsley and pineapple cocktail in the afternoon (whenever I can (which is on Sundays at best, but, I’d like it to be more often)) to boost my energy level. 
In this salad the watercress bitterness is tamed by cucumber, lettuce and cider-lime-honey dressing, which makes it an excellent companion for spicy grilled mains, such as this mystery BBQ dish, which will follow with the next post shortly. Stay tuned.
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WATERCRESS CUCUMBER LETTUCE CHOPPED SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups watercress leaves, chopped
1 small head Romano lettuce, chopped
1 English seedless cucumber, chopped
3 tbsp honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
3 tbsp orange juice or water
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh dill for garnish, minced (optional) 
3 tbsp crashed roasted salted cashews or pistachios
Sea salt to taste
Instructions:
Combine lettuce, cucumbers and watercress in a large bowl. Whisk the honey with apple cider vinegar, lime juice and orange juice or water. Add olive oil. Pour over salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and dill (if using) and toss salad again. Garnish with dill and roasted nuts it you wish. Serve immediately.

Incredible Lobster Club with Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise

Here is a quick and easy lobster club extravaganza break before we come back with some other fiddlehead fern recipes. The lobster meat is a major player in this dish, but the secret ingredient of its drooling taste (and look) is lime and avocado mayo which subtly enhances the taste of the lobster and unites all club ingredients into one incredible sandwich. One big cooked lobster is sufficient to deliver two decent clubs in my opinion, but feel free to use one lobster per sandwich for more decadent twist. The proportion and number of bread slices completely depends on your appetite or diet regimen.

This sandwich barely requires a recipe and is infinitely flexible with its bread component. You can use white, whole wheat, whole grain, country, pumpernickel, gluten free bread, sliced tortilla, English muffins – anything that can be toasted and can make the ”floors” of this club. And for those on the diet, just keep the bottom layer of bread and modify the club into an open sandwich!

Toasted bread layered with fresh salad leaves and sliced cucumbers give a nice crunch and the neutral base for this club. A slice of crispy prosciutto or bacon really adds texture, complexity and an extra crunch, however I skipped it this time and the club was still delicious. The lime avocado mayo with a few drops of green Tabasco (you can actually replace it with the hot sauce of your taste) ignites the sweet lobster flesh instantly. If you have any leftovers of this mayo left, store it in the fridge where it can last for a few more days. Use it as a spread, in wraps, fish tacos or with grilled fish (like I did two days later, check this out – it was awesome with grilled salmon!):

The lobster club sandwich is ridiculously expensive in the restaurants and most of the time does not taste even close to this one. Lobster season is to catch the opportunity to make it at home your way. Embrace it! T.

LOBSTER CLUB SANDWICH with LIME & AVOCADO MAYO SAUCE
Yields 4 clubs.
Ingredients for Mayo Sauce:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 rape avocado
1 lime zested and pressed
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley or dill chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon green Tabasco
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredients for club sandwich:
2-4 lobster tails depending on a size and claws cooked and roughly diced (500-750 g of lobster meat)
4 slices of crisp cooked bacon or prosciutto (optional)
12 slices of toasted bread
32 thin slices cucumber
8 lettuce leaves or a 1/2 cup arugula
2 long toothpicks
Instructions:
If using bacon or prosciutto, put them between two sheets of paper towels and slide in a microwave for 1 minute at the maximum. Once cooked, set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, avocado, lime zest and juice, celery, parsley or dill, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside. Chop the lobster meat. Toast the bread slices. Layer first 4 slices of bread with two lettuce leaves and four cucumber slices each. Add lobster meat layer and 1-2 spoons of mayonnaise. Top with a slice of bacon or prosciutto. Cover 4 sandwiches with a second slice of bread and repeat layering the ingredients. Top sandwiches with the third slice of bread to cover the clubs. Cut the sandwich diagonally and secure with toothpicks.