Cooking From Memory ~ A Recipe Journal


Cold Cucumber, Watercress and Avocado Soup

Posted in Soups, Stews & Gumbos by Paul Gauche on August 29, 2009

Photo Credit: Paul Gauche, Cold Cucumber, Watercress and Avocado Soup

This lovely and refreshing cold soup earns raves in the hot days of late summer. Serve it in small bowls, each cool green pool scattered with drops of olive oil, bright red cubes of tomato, and a few crisp croutons.

Long, soft-skinned cucumbers, called English, Armenian, or Persian cucumbers, are best for this soup because they can be used with skin and seeds. If they are very large, check for mature seeds and remove them, but a slender cucumber of this type generally has tiny, soft seeds that puree perfectly.

Watercress adds a little bite to the mild cucumber and avocado. Arugula can be used instead, or a bunch of cilantro, but choose one — don’t mix the flavors. This recipe is based on proportions for one large avocado and can easily be doubled.

Ingredients ~

  • 2 pounds soft-skinned English, Armenian, or Persian cucumbers
  • 6 ounces watercress
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper (use more if it’s very mild)
  • 1 large Haas avocado (7 ounces)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt

Garnishes:

  • Fruity green olive oil
  • 1 ripe red tomato, finely diced
  • croutons

Method ~

Trim the ends off the cucumbers, taste each end, and trim off any bitter part. Cut the cucumbers into cubes. Wash the watercress, remove any heavy stems, and chop it roughly. You should have about 2 cups.

Combine half the cucumbers and most of the lemon juice in the container of a blender and puree. The cucumbers will soon be a liquid, and you can then easily add the remaining cucumbers, the watercress, garlic, and jalapeño. Puree until everything is smooth, working in batches if you need to. (I find that my immersion blender does not work well with this raw soup.)

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, peel the avocado, and cut the flesh into cubes; you should have not quite 1 cup of diced avocado. Add the avocado to the cucumber puree, along with a teaspoon of sea salt, and process again. The mixture will become thicker and creamier. Stir everything together in a bowl and taste. Add more lemon juice and more salt, a bit at a time and stirring thoroughly each time, until the balance feels right to you. I like to feel the citrus edge against the creaminess of the avocado, and while I don’t want a distinctly salty taste, the various flavors become clear only when the right amount of salt is added. Use your taste buds — it’s fun.

Chill the soup well. Serve it in small bowls, and drizzle each serving with a little fresh fruity olive oil, then scatter a few tomato cubes and croutons on top.

Excerpted from Love Soup: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes from the Author of The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. Copyright © 2009 by Independent Productions, Inc.

~~ Serves 5

Fruitas del Mar

Posted in Seafood & Fish by Paul Gauche on August 26, 2009

Photo Credit: Unavailable, http://i.ehow.com/images/GlobalPhoto/Articles/5133825/Pineapple-main_Full.jpg

Years ago, I spent some time cooking at Pablo’s Especial, a Spanish restaurant at the foot of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.  The style of food at Pablo’s was what the owner called “Sonoran” named for the area in Mexico whose shores are washed my the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California which is connected to the Pacific Ocean further south.  The food we served at Pablo’s creatively combined seafood and what we would call traditional Mexican.  Among the favorites at Pablo’s were crab enchiladas and seafood burritos.  I learned to make a lot of spicy, tasty things with scallops, shrimp, crab legs and spanish rice. 

But my favorite, the ‘Fruitas del Mar’ was simply spectacular.  A pineapple was sliced lengthwise, leaves oiled to bring out their brilliant green.  A bowl was created by removing some of the pineapple and then filled with spanish rice, then topped with sautéed scallops. Freshly steamed Dungeness crab legs were placed lengthwise along the top of the pineapple and then the sautéed shrimp was ‘hooked’ over the crab legs.  The whole piece of art was then quick-steamed and presented at the table much to the amazement of—well, just about everyone.

Let’s give this a try…

Ingredients ~

  • 1 pineapple, per two people
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Scallops, 8-12 per person
  • Shrimp, 8-12 per person
  • crab legs, steamed, two per person
  • ½ cup Half & Half
  • ½ cup white wine
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Green onions, chopped

Method ~

After rinsing the pineapple well, cut the pineapple in half, lengthwise, retaining the prickly green leaves.  Hollow out the pineapple–down to about ¼ inch to create a ‘bowl’ reserving the pineapple pieces.  Set aside.

Cook the Spanish Rice as per box directions.

Prepare the crab legs as per your favorite cooking method explained below.

In a saute’ pan, saute’ garlic and onions until tender, 3-4 minutes over medium heat.

Add the shrimp and saute’ until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add the scallops to the shrimp, garlic and onions and saute’ 2 minutes more.  Add the chopped pineapple, the wine and the Half & Half.  Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste.

Arranging the Platter:

Arrange the pineapple on a platter (you may want to take a thin slice off the bottom of the pineapple to it will sit on a serving plate without rocking). Fill the ‘bowl’ with the spanish rice and arrange the scallops on the rice.  Place the two crab legs on top of the pineapple, lengthwise, then ‘hook’ the shrimp over the crab legs. Liberally drizzle the remaining liquid from the saute pan over the top.

Garnish with the green onions.

 

To steam crab legs

  1. Pour 2 cups of water in a steamer or a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the crab legs, placing them onto a rack in the bottom of the pan or into the steaming basket.
  3. As the water starts to boil again, begin timing.
  4. Steam the crab legs for between 5 – 7 minutes, until you can begin to smell their aroma and until they are warm. Take care not to overcook the legs as they have already been cooked once.
  5. Remove from the heat.

To boil crab legs

  1. Half fill a large saucepan with cold water and add a tablespoon of sea salt seasoning if you wish.
  2. Bring the water to the boil and then drop the crab legs in.
  3. Reduce the heat slightly and allow the crab legs to simmer and heat up for 5 – 7 minutes.
  4. Remove from the water and rinse the crab legs.

To bake crab legs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.
  3. Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes.

To microwave crab legs

  1. Wrap the crab legs in a damp paper towel and cook on high for 2 – 3 minutes.

Rustic Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Balsamic Onions

Posted in Appetizers & Hors d'œuvres by Paul Gauche on August 26, 2009

Goat Cheese Tart

Rich goat cheese makes the perfect backdrop for the sweet and tangy onions in this palate-pleasing tart.  The addition of balsamic vinegar to the onions gives them sparkle and helps pull together the flavors of all the other ingredients. This savory tart is a cinch to take to a party, as it is terrific warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients ~

The Tart

  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator

The Filling

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

The Egg Wash 

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon water

The Balsamic Onions

  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method ~

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Roll the dough out into a 14 -by-10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface, and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Mix the filling ingredients together in a medium bowl and spread onto the dough, leaving a 1 ½-inch border. Fold the uncovered edge of the pastry over the filling mixture, making small pleats along the way.

Mix together the egg and water and brush around the edges of the pastry. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

To make the onions:

While the tart is baking, heat the butter and oil in a skillet. Add the onions and sugar and cook over medium heat until the onions are a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Place the tart on a serving platter and arrange the onions on top. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Make-ahead: The tart can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.

~~Serves six to eight

With thanks to: The Big Book of Appetizers (page 121)