Gluten-Free is Me: Creamy Spanish Gazpacho (Salmorejo Cordobes)

Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy

The first time I tasted Salmorejo Cordobes was not in Cordoba. It was in a small town in Southwestern Spain, about half an hour up the coast from Cadiz, one of the oldest port cities in Andalusia.

I was traveling by myself after college graduation and had just come off of a rather unfortunate three days in Malaga, where I spent most of my time curled up in the fetal position on my hostel bunk bed, making non-so-discrete trips to and from the communal bathroom every 20 minutes. The one afternoon I was well enough to venture out, 5 blocks from the hostel I was jumped by a group of 13-year-olds with leopard spotted buzz cuts. They didn’t take my wallet, since it became apparent their goal was to reap their profit through humiliation. So they just punched me repeatedly in the arm while pouring my gringa industrial-sized water bottle over my head in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded street. Needless to say, I was excited to head to Cadiz, even if my dignity, along with a few empty boxes of Imodium, stayed behind in Malaga.

After a few more successful nights in Cadiz, I decided to take a day trip to check out one of the nearby beaches. As per usual, I found myself on a public bus unsure of whether or not I was actually going where I thought I was going. I somehow always end up traveling alone in Spanish speaking countries even though I can barely say my name in Spanish. And this being one of the first trips of this sort, I was even more clueless than usual. But my technique was to scope out the crowd for a youngish looking person with a sweet face who might speak decent English and want to take pity on me. And on this particular bus, that person was Rose.

Tomatoes Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy

It turned out that Rose was looking for the same beach and was equally clueless. Fortunately for both of us, Rose was from Madrid and could ask the bus driver using sentences that weren’t 50 percent Italian, 20 percent Spanish, 20 percent English, and 5 percent gibberish. Her English wasn’t great, but she managed to ask me if I’d like to go to the beach with her and have lunch.

We spent the afternoon chatting on our towels, passing my Spanish to English phrase book back and forth and writing out words in the sand. I’m sure our 4 hours of verbal toiling probably amounted to less than my Jewish high school friends say to each other in a 5 minute phone call. But I still managed to learn some key facts: Rose was a journalist living in Madrid, she was engaged and her wedding was in the fall. And apparently I was now invited. Over lunch, Rose also introduced me to the best cold soup I’d ever tasted.

Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy
Salmorejo is basically the Andalusian version of gazpacho, the cold tomato soup ubiquitous in the North. But theirs is basically the “bisque” version,  smooth and creamy without chunks of vegetrables. Instead of the heavy cream we find in our similarly complexioned warm tomato bisque, this cold soup gets its orange, silky body from lots of olive oil and some stale bread. The soup is served tapas style, like the majority of dishes in the South, in small Terracotta ramekins garnished with crumbled hard boiled egg, strips of Jamon Iberico or Serrano, and even more olive oil. Continue reading

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Meatless Monday: Jalapeno Sweet Corn Salsa

Corn-Jalapeno Salsa

It feels sacrilegious to say it, but I don’t always love to cook. As lucky as I am to be able to go to work in my kitchen every day, sometimes mincing shallots or dekerneling corn is the last thing on earth I want to do. I wish my love of standing over a stove was an unflinching constant in my life. But sadly, I too am human, and there are very few well-loved activities that won’t go out the window when you have a class 5 earthquake happening in your head.

What’s in conflict with this is that I very rarely don’t want to eat a home cooked meal. But at times like this weekend, when I’ve been cooped up in a car for 4 hours and am generally run down, I do not want to rise to the challenge of project managing dinner. I barely want to rise to the challenge of standing.

This summer has been a downward spiral for my cooking thanks to several factors. For one, I’ve been traveling every single weekend, and sometimes during the week. This has meant full body exhaustion upon returning to my apartment. And it’s also meant an empty fridge that feels silly to attempt to fill when I’m just heading back out the door 3 days later. The second is that full body exhaustion on more than one occasion devolved into a full blown flu.

Corn Corn

Ironically, the times that I most want to be fed a home cooked meal—when I’ve been eating out on the road or am in need of sick day pampering—are the times when I’m least likely to want to cook. They’re also the times when you feel particularly lucky to have a nice boyfriend who makes a mean scrambled egg or a mom on hand.

Yesterday the baton was passed from one to the other as I arrived at my parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard to a kitchen counter covered in homemade marinated kale, shrimp salad, and bluefish spread. It was just the kind of summer lunch I’ve been craving, especially after a weekend that involved gorging on this.

Corn-Jalapeno Salsa Corn-Jalapeno Salsa Corn-Jalapeno Salsa

Perhaps because the grass is always greener (especially when the grass is actually chives), but as soon as I got to experience my own Feed Me moment, all I wanted to do was cook again. After lunch I sat down by the water reading food magazines and immediately launched into a 20-item cooking to-do list for this site. Continue reading

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Tastetrotting: Healthy Greek Potato Salad

Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

Before going to the motherland, I had a much higher opinion of Greek octopus and potatoes than their salad. I thought that the romaine with limp olives and hyper processed crumbled feta was the Greek equivalent of General Tso’s Chicken and Baked Ziti i.e. what silly Americans eat when they think they’re having Chinese or Italian food.

But it only took me until the ferry terminal on my first day in Greece to realize I was very wrong. Contrary to what my snarky Greek friend texted me in response to my instragram—that, they just call it “salad” here—Greek Salad is on just about every single menu you’ll come across in Greece. And it’s written as such on all the tourist menus. It’s also something that Greeks and tourists alike will eat with just about every meal.

My main gripe with the anemic Greek salads in the US was the feta (it smells like feet). But when I sat down at the ferry terminal to try my very first authentic Greek salad, I realized that what I had known as feta was very different from what was on my plate. First of all, the Greek’s serve their feta in blocks on top of the salad. The cheese itself is moister, firmer and much more mild than what I’ve tried in the past. It also works perfectly in harmony with the other ingredients—especially the raw onion and olives, two other things that I don’t usually opt for in my salads.

Potatoes Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

My favorite part of Greek Salad in Greece is that the olives are thrown in unpitted. This makes it really strange to actually take the aforementioned bite of all the ingredients together in one mouthful. The first time I did, I almost swallowed a pit and choked. But then I figured out how to kind of gnaw on the olive while eating other things. I was intrigued to watch a real Greek eating Greek salad to see what their technique was. I found this observation very useful in learning how to eat ramen without leaving the restaurant with a gentle mist of it all over my clothes.

I wondered if in Greece there was a similar childhood myth about swallowing the olive pit and having a tree grow in your stomach, much like what my parents told me about watermelon growing up (and perhaps one reason why I don’t eat watermelon). If this type of dexterity–like being able to tie a cherry stem in a knot with your mouth–meant you were a good kisser, as the consensus was in middle school, perhaps the Greeks French kiss better than the French? Unfortunately, that I was not able to find out.

Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

But I’ve digressed…

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Meatless Monday: Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice (Yemista)

Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

I’ve never really been a huge fan of stuffed vegetable side dishes. They always just seemed a bit hokey to me. Sure, the visual is sometimes great – down right adorable, even. But it feels like a lot of extra work in a recipe to produce something that doesn’t really make the final dish taste that much better.

Consider the bread bowl. I ate many an Au Bon Pan (ABP, for connoisseurs) broccoli cheddar soup in one of these bad boys in my pre-autoimmune gluten renaissance. It’s not technically stuffed, but I think it’s a worthy example of how food vehicles are not always everything you hope and dream for. The best part of the bread bowl, in my opinion, was scraping your spoon along the bottom and getting that gooey soaked dough on your spoon in every bite. But the crust, which made up most of the bowl, always was a little stale. Most bread bowl eaters I encountered discarded the majority of their hallowed out boules at the end of the meal. I personally never once finished one. Not even in my chubby 5-slice-a-day college years.

Tomatoes Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

So I’ve always been a little bit of a hater when it came to gutting a zucchini or pepper as a potential home for my side dishes. Wouldn’t you rather just eat those veggies diced and lovingly sautéed in your meal than in one never-quite-cooked-enough bite with a smidge of rice/quinoa/cheese?

I thought as much for a long time. But then I went to Greece.

During my Alive Tribe retreat on the island of Evia, we were fortunate enough to stay in a beautiful villa that came equipped with a handy man who also cooked. Elias was such a Jack-of-all-trades, we started calling him the Greek Chuck Norris. Though personally, for sexiness’ sake, I would describe him more as a Greek Daniel Craig.

For all his manly prowess, which included wandering into the water with a Leatherman to pop several sea urchins from their rocky perches, Elias turned out to be the most graceful of cooks. We ate one beautiful meal after another produced by his man hands, and they were all perfectly simple, rustic, and elegant. So it’s no surprise that Elias was the one to finally change my opinion of hallowed out baked vegetables. And he did so with this Greek stuffed tomatoes recipe.

Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

The secret to Yemista, I learned, was a longer cook time so that the tomatoes get fully baked and caramelized. And the second secret, which extends to all Greek cooking, is a crazy amount of olive oil. Continue reading

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Bottoms Up: Grilled Strawberry-Mint Bellinis

Grilled Strawberry Bellini Recipe | Easy Summer Champagne Cocktails

I got back from California last night and woke up today totally beat beyond belief. Maybe the numerous vineyard visits in Napa and Sonoma and the vacation diet of multiple orders of Sardine Chips at Rich Table finally caught up with me. But the last thing I would ever want to ingest right now is this grilled strawberry bellini recipe.

Strawberries Grilled Strawberry Bellini Recipe | Easy Summer Champagne Cocktails Grilled Strawberry Bellini Recipe | Easy Summer Champagne Cocktails

My return to clean eating aside, I developed this cocktail earlier in the summer for a grilling show I shot for Healthination. They were looking for easy cocktails that somehow involved the grill, and there’s nothing easier than throwing some fruit on the barbi, pouring Prosecco over it, and calling it a bellini.

I decided to hold off on sharing this drink with you until strawberry season was in full effect. If the ones at your farmer’s market are as luscious and cute as mine, you’ll need to string a few more on those skewers to fill your champagne flute, and then perhaps grill a few more skewers than the recipe calls for in the name of casual nibbling.

Grilled Strawberry Bellini Recipe | Easy Summer Champagne Cocktails Grilled Strawberry Bellini Recipe | Easy Summer Champagne Cocktails

I don’t do girly too often on this blog. But the numerous baby showers and bridal lunches I’ve attended this summer had me feeling pretty femme. And as a result, I created a drink that literally bleeds pink. When the strawberries come off the grill, they’re juicier than ever, which creates a beautiful rose color in the glass without the bubbly being overly fruitified – something you know I would never stand for. Continue reading

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Meatless Monday: Turkish Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Fat’s gotten a bad rap for a long time in the wellness world. It’s not hard to understand why, given that its own name has become synonymous with muffin tops and cankles. But having been raised on olive oil fried eggs and the philosophy that an avocado a day keeps the doctor away, I’m glad that people are finally putting down the fat-free SnackWells cookies and starting to reevaluate their healthy choices according to a different barometer.

Despite this progress, I still get criticized all the time for slapping the word “healthy” on my recipes alongside a few tablespoons of butter. And I still have to tinker with the amount of oil I use when developing recipes for fitness magazines like SELF, who live and die by the fat grams reported on their nutrition calculators. Since I believe in real, unprocessed food, even if it contains pure fat, it’s hard for me to not feel like a hypocrite when I turn in a recipe for cheesecake with low fat sour cream and fat-free cream cheese, and just one measly tablespoon (if I’m lucky) of butter in the gluten-free crust. But mama can’t afford for her own olive oil budget without these jobs, and sometimes you have to just bite your fat-forward tongue in order to please a client.

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

If you haven’t noticed by now, or gotten the picture from the above, I view fat as an essential nutrient, and I actively add it to my diet in healthy amounts and diverse forms. Like any food, too much of a good thing is, well, bad. (Pardon the technical jargon). So I do try to switch up my oils from day to day, usually between olive, coconut, sunflower, flax seed, and canola.

But olive oil will always have my heart. Growing up, my mother had at least 5 large bottles of it on hand, and I would watch her blow through them in a matter of weeks. There’s a story in my cookbook about the way she would spoon-feed herself frozen peas in a bath of olive oil so deep, from far away, you’d think she was eating a soup. Despite these questionable habits, my mother remains to this day, the most health-conscious woman I know. And she’s always ten years ahead of the trend, if her pre-millennial love of millet is any indication.

If there’s one trend today that her life-long love of olive oil fits under it’s the newly coined “Mediterranean Diet”—otherwise known throughout eternity as the way Greek people eat. When I explore new cuisines, I love generically asking at restaurants for a side of “sauce” to see what they bring. In Greece, when I did this, what I got was a sauceboat of pure olive oil. And I was more than fine with that outcome.

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

I make no apologies for the not-so restrained amounts of olive oil I add to all my recipes. And despite my justifications above, I certainly make no apologies for adding it in even looser volumes to the recipes I’m attempting to recreate from my Greek travels. I’m just adhering to the trends, people. Continue reading

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