cucumber gazpacho

It’s still too hot to cook, so today I made one of my favorite soups:  cold cucumber gazpacho.  It’s very easy, and no heat is involved in the preparation.

Trim and peel the cucumbers.  Slice in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut into cubes.

In a food processor, combine the cubed cucumber, the vinegar, garlic olive oil, milk, 3-4 basil leaves, salt, and pepper.  Puree.

Divide into two bowls.

Dice the feta and tomato; slice the basil.  Sprinkle over the soup and add a few pieces of pepper.  Serve with barley rusks or crusty bread.  (Note:  the pine nuts are a good addition, but they are not very frugal so I left them off, and it was delicious without them also.)

Cucumber Gazpacho
serves 2

500-600g cucumbers, trimmed, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp garlic olive oil (or 2 tbsp olive oil + 1 pressed garlic clove)
2 tbsp milk (any fat content)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper, ground
4 basil leaves

For garnish:
1/2 medium tomato or 1 small tomato, diced
6 slices bell pepper, any color
30g feta cheese, diced
2 basil leaves, sliced
Optional:  1 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts

1.  In a food processor, puree together cucumber, vinegar, olive oil, milk, four basil leaves, salt, and pepper.  Divide into bowls.

2.  Top with the tomato, feta, and basil.  If using, sprinkle the pine nuts on top.

3.  Serve cold with barley rusks or crusty bread.

You might also like:
Greek lentil soup
Melitzanosalata
Peas, Greek style

turkey & navy bean chili with apples

Sometimes a recipe just jumps out to you and you want to try it right away.  I have lists and lists of recipes – both my own original ideas and from blogs – that I want to try, but when I saw this one on Ambition’s Kitchen, I decided to make it right away.  I loved that it used a bunch of ingredients that I either had on hand, or could substitute for.  In the end, it turned out that I substituted practically all of the ingredients and changed almost everything about the recipe, but the inspiration is clear!

I’m not a navy bean fan; I only make two other navy bean dishes, and that very rarely, so a chance to use some of the navy beans languishing in the pantry is welcome.  I substituted turkey for chicken, because it’s what I have (thanks to a sale last Halloween).  And of course I played around with the method and spices and basically all the rest of the ingredients too, but the point is that it was really good and we loved it and maybe you will too.

Soak some navy beans in water for a while.  I soaked mine for about five hours.  Drain and rinse and put them in the pressure cooker with water; cook under pressure for about ten minutes or until tender.

While the beans are cooking, cube the turkey (or chicken) and stir fry it with a spritz of olive oil and the spices, which are:

ground cumin, Spanish smoked paprika, hot paprika, taco seasoning, and rosemary.  Why taco seasoning?  Because I can’t buy things like chile powder here and I figure it helps cover my bases a little bit.  Throw in something spicy.

While those are stir-frying themselves (this is why it’s good to have three or more hands), prepare the pearl onions by chopping off the ends.  Crush a chicken bouillon cube and pour boiling water over it (or get out your chicken stock).   When the turkey is pretty well cooked, put it in a bowl and fill the very hot pan with some water; it will come to a boil pretty quickly, especially if you pour the extra boiling water from the chicken stock into the pan (not the chicken stock itself).  Put the pearl onions in the pan and let them bubble away for a few minutes.  Then drain them and rinse with cold water.

Pop the skins off the pearl onions and add them to the turkey.  Core and cube the apples.  Around this time, your beans will probably be ready.  Drain them and spritz the pressure cooker bottom with olive oil.  Add the apples and saute them in the olive oil for a few minutes with a little salt.  When they’re soft, add the flour and stir really well for about half a minute; then pour in the chicken stock while stirring vigorously.  Be careful of the steam – stand back a little as this can be a very steamy activity.

When you’ve stirred in the chicken stock, add in the turkey and the onions, stir and add about a liter of water to the pot; stir again, and cover the pot.  Bring it back up to pressure for 10 minutes, then release naturally.

Stir in half the yogurt and serve with a little yogurt and tabasco sauce (I used the green Tabasco) on top.

Turkey & Navy Bean Chili with Apples
inspiration recipe here
Serves 4

300g navy beans, dried; soaked for 5-24 hours
300g turkey breast (or chicken), skinless, boneless
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup pearl onions, ends chopped off (or diced onion)
2 medium apples, cored and cubed
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
1.5 L water
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, divided
Tabasco sauce for serving (green or red)

1.  In a pressure cooker, cook the navy beans covered by 1.5″ water until tender.  Use natural release method.

2.  While beans are cooking, dice turkey and stir fry with a spritz or a few drops of olive oil.  Stir in all spices and continue stirring for several minutes until turkey is mostly cooked.  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  Crumble bouillon cube in a bowl.  Add 500mL boiling water and stir.

4.  Put another 300mL boiling water into the hot pan (from cooking the turkey).  When it boils in the pan, add the pearl onions.  After a few minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.  Squeeze on end to remove skins.

5.  Drain navy beans and set aside.  Spray or drizzle pressure cooker bottom with olive oil.  Saute apple pieces with a pinch of salt.  When they are soft, stir in flour; stir for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken stock carefully, stirring.

6.  Add the chicken, onions, and navy beans.  Stir; add the remaining 1 L water.  Cover the pot and bring up to pressure for 10 minutes; release pressure naturally.

7.  Stir in 1/2 cup Greek yogurt.  Portion into bowls; top with remaining yogurt and a drizzle of Tabasco sauce.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of total recipe, excluding Tabasco sauce

356 calories
4g fat (1g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
48g carbohydrate
33g protein
10g dietary fiber
50mg cholesterol (17% DV)
227mg sodium (9% DV)
941mg potassium (27% DV)
Contains significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B-12, manganese, and copper.

Greek lentil soup

Lentil soup was one of the first Greek recipes that I learned to make after I met my husband.  After we were first married, we were living in a tiny cottage on a tiny Greek island, on the beach.  I know, right?  But aside from the amazing view and the breeze off the sea and the fact that there were only about six or seven other people living in the entire village, making it kind of ideal for newlyweds, the kitchen was, well, not.

The refrigerator came up to my upper thigh, and had no freezer at all.  On top of the fridge was a glorified toaster oven with two burners on top of it.  Above that was an exhaust fan that, due to the height of the fridge + oven, meant that you couldn’t stir anything while it was on the stove, because there was no space between the top of the pot and the exhaust fan.

There was also no counter space, at all.  There was a sink, but nothing else.  So I would balance my cutting board over the sink for counter space.  And when I wanted to stir a pot, I would take it down, put it in the sink, stir it, and put it back.

It was under these “romantic” conditions that I learned to make Greek lentil soup.  It is the perfect recipe for those looking to be more frugal in the kitchen, since it uses ingredients that are basically the cheapest of the cheap:  dried lentils, onion, carrots, plain tomato sauce.

In our little island cottage, I had one pot, and it was a conventional cooking pot.  You can certainly make lentil soup in a conventional pot, although I now only ever use a pressure cooker and would highly recommend that anyone trying to be frugal or who likes beans, lentils, and peas own a pressure cooker.  They save a great deal of money and an unreal amount of time.

Lentil soup is a great fall and winter soup, when carrots are plentiful and we all need something a little warm and spicy.

Lentils are a handy ingredient:  cheap, easy to store, long shelf-life, don’t need to be soaked before use, good for you.  Combined with something high in vitamin C, lentils have usable iron.  If you don’t like carrots, you could put some orange peel in this soup for vitamin C.

The soup is easy as can be:  saute some onions and garlic in a little olive oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker.  Throw in some carrots, lentils, and tomato sauce.

Add enough water to cover everything, plus another two cups (the more water, the more soup, but you don’t want to fill beyond the half-way point of your pressure cooker).

I call this Greek lentil soup, but the spices I use are a bit more Morrocan.  True Greek lentil soup would leave out all of these spices except the bay leaf.  You can experiment to see what you like.  The authentic Greek version is too bland for my taste.  I use a bay leaf, cumin, Spanish smoked paprika, hot paprika, and cinnamon.  Never put salt in a pressure cooker.

Stir and cover; bring the cooker up to pressure.  A pressure cooker works by increasing the boiling point of water.  In a conventional pot, water boils at 100 C (212 F) at sea level; in a pressure cooker, it boils at 121 C (250 F).  The higher temperature cooks food much faster.

About 15 minutes later…

After opening it up, add the salt, stir, and ladle into soup bowls.

I like to put a little bit of hot garlic olive oil in lentil soup.  I make my own, and I keep it in the fridge, where it partly solidifies – thus its murky appearance.  I do this to reduce the risk of botulism, a small but present risk in any garlic oil.

A tablespoon of olive oil and a few of strained plain Greek yogurt, a bit of bread, and we’re done!

Greek Lentil Soup

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
6 medium carrots, sliced into rounds
300g lentils, picked over for small stones
250g plain tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin, ground
1.5 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp hot garlic olive oil (for serving)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (for serving)

1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a stainless steel pressure cooker over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic for two minutes.  Add carrots, lentils, tomato sauce, and 4 cups water.  Stir; add all spices; stir again.

2.  Bring pressure cooker up to pressure and reduce heat to low.  Cook 15 minutes.  When pressure is released, open and add salt.  Stir and ladle into bowls.

3.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of garlic olive oil over each portion, and top with 2 tbsp Greek yogurt.

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