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Peach Sweet Corn and Halloumi Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_best-salad-for-summer_Yes,-more-please!

This salad sums up summer in one plate. It is the kind of salad you eat and feel so happy and satisfied, sunshine on a plate. Fresh sweet corn and juicy peach season is here in Austin and I can have this salad almost every day until the last peach. If you are like me and bought two little baskets of peaches at the market, because one did not seem enough for your peachy desires, well we are in the same boat. The good thing is that extra peaches are not a problem once you get the hang of this salad.And if you still have some peaches left over, bake a pie, make this fantastic mini peaches and cream empanadas you have a good alibi for as long those peach baskets last you….

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Texas-Peaches_Yes,-more-please!

Let me describe you this salad. Imagine the flavor of fresh sweet corn crispy yellow kernels, in combination with juicy bright sweet tangy floral peach slices, a few pieces of pan seared golden Halloumi cheese salty, crusty outside, and creamy gooey inside, over fresh arugula and greens. All come together with a delicious sweet and tangy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette. It is ridiculously good. It is. Because yes. All the sweet, juicy tangy, salty briny, herb flavors together, one bite of these salad you are hooked!

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Texas-sweet-corn_Yes,-more-please!

If you never had Halloumi, it is a firm brined cheese that when pan-fried or grilled holds it’s shape and gets crusty golden. It is a bit salty, and texture-wise along its warm its gooey on the inside, then becomes a bit chewie, a pleasent chewie. I bought it in this fantastic shop called Phoenicia Bakery and Deli here in Austin, Tx. It is a fabulous store. They carry foods from around the world but their emphasis is Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties. Cheeses, olives, pantry items, spices, preserves, teas, coffee, dry fruit, to mention a few. They also make the best freshly baked pitas in town. Not to mention they have a small menu for lunch, with great falafel, Gyros, Kafta and Shawarma. Dessert?… no problem from Pistachio Baklava to delicate pastries filled with pine nuts and rose water. And for me their fresh Feta cheese is the best in town, they have 3 different kinds, Bulgarian, French and sheep’s milk simply delicious. You have to go, it is a must…

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Halloumi-Cheese_Yes,-more-please!

If you are not in Austin you must try to find a specialty food shop were you can buy this delicious cheese… Explore and try something new! Get your inner peach and make this glorious Peach Sweet Corn and Halloumi Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette fresh salad. Lunch, dinner or both, it travels great for a picnic on the park or to daydream about summery days at the office. All you have to do is to close your eyes and almost feel your feet on the green grass, the sun warming up your eye lids and a warm breeze asking you is it summer time yet?….Run and get peachy now! Enjoy.

For the recipe you will need…

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Creamy Basil-Zucchini Noodle Soup

Creamy-Basil-Zucchini-Noodle-Soup_Yes,-more-please!

Welcome Spring! and its amazing crazy weather, hehehe… here in Austin, Tx its rainy, cloudy and around 60 degrees that feels like 50 degrees. So I think a vegetable noodle soup, with a bright green hue, light, creamy and bright will lift up any cloudy weather… If you live in a part of the world where the weather feels accordingly with the Spring season, hey! this Creamy Basil-Zucchini Noodle Soup it’s also for you since it can be served warm or cold.

Describing this soup is a dreamy pleasure,it is creamy, fragrant, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, green, calorie friendly and easy to make. The basil, ginger,  and coconut give this soup an aromatic spring flare. The raw zucchini noodles add bite and texture to the soup. For me, it always has been interesting to enhance one flavor by combining different cooking variations of it. Raw, steamed, roasted, sautéed, two or three variations in one dish with the same ingredient. I believe that by maximizing one subtle ingredient like zucchini you can achieve maximus dept of flavor, textures, temperatures and add lots of character to the dish by focusing on “the” one ingredient.

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Six ingredients joining one pot, and the fun task of making zucchini noodles. By the way, have you made Zucchini noodles before? It is awesome. This little apparatus, called the vegetable spiralizer it is the bomb!. As you know, I’m not very fond of uni-taskers in the kitchen, the only uni-tasker gadget I owned and loved was the Julienne peeler, until now. (which by the way you can use if you do not own a spiralizer) This vegetable spiralizer belongs into the FUN category, it transforms any meaty root vegetable or fruit into the most beautiful curly noodles. I’ve used, zucchini, carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cucumbers, rutabagas, green papaya, apples, pears, uff! you name it. It’s really easy to use and clean up. If you have heard of it, yes it is awesome! (No, I’m not getting paid to say this, what you are reading it is my honest opinion, in fact I did not even bought this beautiful red spiralizer ha! It was a Christmas present from my friend Andrea…Thank you Drea! I love it! Hehehe.)

So, dear friends, whether you are experiencing a warm or cold Spring; Begin by make this delicious soup and enjoy the Spring ride!

Creamy-Basil-Zucchini-Noodle-Soup_vegetable-spiralizer_zucchini-noodles

Let’s cook! …for the recipe you will need…

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Summer Eggplant Parmigiana

 

Summer-Eggplant-Parnigiana_Yes,-more-please!Eggplant-Parmiggiana_Ingredients

The first days of summer are arriving in Texas, and with them an incredible vegetable abundance.
This weekend eggplants at the Farmer’s Market grabbed my attention in such a way that I bought too many!… That’s the the way my crave of cooking works, with my eyes. I’m a very visual person and I believe good, healthy, fresh vegetables have to look good and smell good. Being visually inspired at the farmers market helps me create and translate my cravings into recipes. When I saw these eggplants I immediately thought of eggplant parmigiana. I love eggplant parmigiana, although to be honest sometimes the delicate eggplant flavor gets lost in the breading, frying , melted cheese, and marinara sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these components, but maybe in Autumn or winter…

With this memory of flavors in mind, I started to think of how could I transform a classic into a more simple and Summery version. I came up with this Summery eggplant parmigiana recipe. A lighter version in which instead of breading and frying the eggplant I cut them lengthwise and roast them in the oven. Eggplants when roasted this way, develop a buttery flavor almost like a vegetable custard contained in it’s own skin. That’s why Im skipping the melted cheese on these recipe. Believe me you have to try them, you will be enjoying the delicate eggplant flavor. To add texture and contrast to this custard I added a combination of panko bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you have a gluten allergy these can easily be replaced with ground pecans,or almonds instead of panko breadcrumbs which it will be equally or even more delicious.

Instead of the warm marinara sauce, I made a warm tomato salad with a garlic oil dressing combining the first sweetest cherry and sun gold tomatoes of the tomato season. These little tomato marbles are incredibly flavorful, I never feel like cook them I almost eat them like grapes, as a snack in the afternoon. That’s one of the reasons this simple warm salad enhance their great qualities.

This summer eggplant parmigiana version will warm your heart. It is easy to make, light, and comforting.

Welcome to the summer, and enjoy!

Eggplant-Parmiggiana_beauty-ingredients

Summer Eggplant Parmigiana

Serves 4

2 large eggplants
1-2 glugs of grape seed oil
sea salt and Black pepper

For the topping:

1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated.
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil.
fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
A pinch of red flake peppers (optional)

For the warm tomato salad:

2 cups of a combination of cherry and sun gold tomatoes.
2-3 sprigs of fresh Basil
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar.
(Rice Vinegar goes so well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. Since this little tomatoes are so sweet, you need to balance the acidity , and the seasoned rice vinegar pairs fantastic , bringing all the notes together, sweet, salty and tangy.)
salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Preparation method:

1. Preheat the oven 450F/ 230C
2. Cut the eggplants length wise and score them with a pairing knife.Rub the eggplants with some olive oil or grape seed oil, season them with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
3. Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast them for about 15-18 minutes.

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4. Mean time, in a bowl combine the Panko bread crumbs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt and pepper until well combined and the mixture resembles moist sand. Set a side.
5. Start making the warm tomato salad, by cutting the cherry and sun gold tomatoes into halves or quarters depending on size. Chifonade the basil. Combine them in a bowl, toss them with the rice vinegar, salt and pepper.
6. In a small pot add the extra virgin olive oil along with the thinly sliced garlic and using the lowest possible heat on the stove, start warming up the oil. This will infuse the oil with the garlic and the thin slices of garlics will start turning golden brown.

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7. Check your Eggplant, take out of the oven top each half with a generous amount of the panko mixture. Place them into the oven for another 5 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

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8. Mean time check your garlic and olive oil. Once the eggplants come out of the oven, remove the warm oil from the stove and add this to the cherry and sun gold tomato salad toss well.
The warm oil will gently warm up the tomatoes,the garlic chips will add flavor and aroma to the tomato salad it is a fantastic!

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Eggplant-Parnigiana_-out-of-the-oven
9. Once your eggplants are ready out of the oven transfer them onto a platter, and top with the warm tomato salad, grate a little extra Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh basil. Enjoy!

Summer-Eggplant-Parnigiana_Yes,-more-please!ready-to-serve!

Summer-Eggplant-Parnigiana_Yes,-more-please!eat-me!

Welcome the Summer!

Music Pairing: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Summertime

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Caprese Tomato Spinach Soup

Tomato-Spinach-Soup-'caprese-style'-ingredients ~Yes, more please!ingredientsIs it Spring time yet?!!!…Well the thermometer is still going up and down like mad in Austin. And since yesterday was on the chilly side, I was craving tomato soup. I know I have to wait at least one more season to get great tomatoes at the farmers market. In the meantime what do you do when it seems only greens are in season?

So I had to improvise. I had two routes:
1. Try buy the best tomatoes I could find at the supermarket, roast them and enhance them…the problem with this solution, (even if it sounds the most viable route) is when you are truly committed to getting fresh organic produce you go to the supermarket and often the tomatoes look good but since your can’t sample them you get a lot of variation in flavor and sweetness. In my experience and in my opinion they often look better than they taste when out of season.

2. The short easy route: to buy a can of roasted organic tomatoes…
Well, sometimes you just have to use a salvation can when tomatoes are not in season and your frozen tomatoes are gone! If I know something for sure it is that I will learn how to can tomatoes for this coming season… fortunately there are plenty of options in canned tomatoes: from organic, no salt added, and no preservatives, (and in the case of Muir Glen, among others, no BPA’s if that concerns you , check this product list)  I find these canned options to have a more consistent quality if I can’t get them in season.

So I bought a can of tomatoes to satisfy my tomato soup craving. And here’s where I put my twist on things. I enhanced it with some dried herbs,sun-dried tomatoes, and aromatics. The result was scrumptious. It was good ‘ol tomato soup to warm us up on these strange cold March days. I added dried basil, a pinch of thyme, garlic, shallots and sun-dried tomatoes, plus a little Balsamic vinegar to balance the soup’s sweetness. I also added some sautéed spinach and mozzarella Ciliegine (cherry size mozzarella balls) as toppings before broiling in the oven. It turned out amazingly good. It reminded me of a caprese salad in soup form!.. I hope you like it as much as we did! And stay warm!

caprese-tomatoe-spinach-soup-yes-more-please

Caprese Tomato Spinach Soup

Serves 4

1 can (28 0z.) Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic) this is a must! the fire roasted tomatoes give all the flavor to the soup.
3-4 cups water or vegetable stock …start with 3, then add more to desired consistency.
2-3 glugs extra virgin olive oil
5-7 Sun dried tomatoes, chopped.
2 small shallots finely chopped
1 medium garlic clove thinly sliced
½ teaspoon dry basil
1 good pinch dry thyme
1 large bay leaf
½ teaspoon celery salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Toppings:

6-8 hand fulls of spinach
1 shallot
Extra virgin olive oil to saute
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine
(if you can not find the Ciliegine, you can cut the mozzarella into small cubes)

Preparation:

1. In a medium soup pot over medium heat, warm up the extra virgin olive oil. Add in the chopped shallots, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, bay leaf saute for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the dry basil, thyme salt and black pepper, saute for another minute.
3. Add the can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium.
4. Add the water, stir until well incorporated, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low, simmer for 6-8 minutes. With an immersion blender puree the soup. ( I love this gadget in the kitchen, it is so practical and easy to puree your soup on the same pot!)

Tomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-sautee-base-for-soup
5. Once its pureed, add the Balsamic vinegar, taste, adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Bring to slow simmer, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and keep it warm.
6. Quick Saute the spinach in a skillet over medium -high heat, heat up some olive oil, add shallots, garlic and saute for 15 seconds then add the spinach and toss until they are partially wilted, and coated with the hot oil, add salt and pepper. Set a side.

Flash-sauteed-spinach~-Yes,-more-please!
7. Using oven friendly soup bowls, scoop 2-3 ladles of tomato soup, add some of the sauteed spinach and top with the mozzarella buccatinis.
8. Place bowls onto a baking sheet and broil the soups for about 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly crust. Be careful to watch them so they don’t burn.

Tomato-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-assambling-the-soup-

Tomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-broil-your-soup

9. Serve with some toasted ciabatta or crusty bread slices and rub some garlic on the bread for extra flavor… Enjoy!

Tomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-rub-garlic-on-toastTomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-toasty,-melty,-Yes,-more-please!Tomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-Yes,-more-please! Caprese Tomato Spinach Soup

Music Pairing: Frank Sinatra,  “Fly me to the moon”

https://youtu.be/mhZ2X9znPxM

Tomatoe-Spinach-Soup-Caprese-style-Yes,more-please!

 

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Caprese Tomato Spinach Soup

Course Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 28oz can Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, I used Muir Glen organic) this is a must! the fire roasted tomatoes give all the flavor to the soup.
  • 3-4 cups water or vegetable stock, start with 3, then add more to desired consistency.
  • 2 glugs extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-7 Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil, if fresh use about 5-6 leaves
  • 1 good pinch dry thyme
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic Vinegar

Toppings:

  • 6-8 handfulls fresh spinach
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil to sautee the spinach
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine, or frsh mozzarella cut into small cubes

Instructions

  1. 1. In a medium soup pot over medium heat, warm up the extra virgin olive oil. Add in the chopped shallots, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, bay leaf saute for 3-4 minutes.

    2. Add the dry basil, thyme salt and black pepper, saute for another minute.

    3. Add the can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium.

    4. Add the water, stir until well incorporated, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low, simmer for 6-8 minutes. With an immersion blender puree the soup. ( I love this gadget in the kitchen, it is so practical and easy to puree your soup on the same pot!)

    5. Once its pureed, add the Balsamic vinegar, taste, adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Bring to slow simmer, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and keep it warm.

    6. Quick Saute the spinach in a skillet over medium -high heat, heat up some olive oil, add shallots, garlic and saute for 15 seconds then add the spinach and toss until they are partially wilted, and coated with the hot oil, add salt and pepper. Set a side.

    7. Using oven friendly soup bowls, scoop 2-3 ladles of tomato soup, add some of the sauteed spinach and top with the mozzarella buccatinis.

    8. Place bowls onto a baking sheet and broil the soups for about 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly crust. Be careful to watch them so they don’t burn. 

    Serve with some toasted ciabatta or crusty bread slices and rub some garlic on the bread for extra flavor… Enjoy!

 

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