After a few weeks of blissfully cool weather in DC, summer has returned with a vengeance - heat, humidity, and torrential rainstorms. Which means it is the perfect time to make up a big batch of gazpacho. And with today marking Spain's appearance in the EuroCup finals, it's a great time to make this traditionally Spanish soup.

Some interesting facts about gazpacho - did you know that this cold soup was originally made from stale bread, olive oil, garlic, salt, and vinegar? It wasn't until after 1492 and Columbus' voyage to the New World that tomatoes and bell peppers made it back to Europe and the soup evolved into the form we are more familiar with today.

The gazpacho I made up today is fairly simple, although does require a fair amount of chopping - so if you're out of practice, you might want to stretch first ;) Or if you have a food processor, just chop things a bit chunkier and throw all of the ingredients in together and blend until smooth.

Gazpacho (4-6 servings)
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (I like to use the ones that also have green chiles)
1/2 large Vidalia onion, diced
4 large ribs celery, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (green, orange, red, or yellow - use different colors to make your soup prettier)
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves & stems, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups vegetable juice

Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl until fully mixed or use a food processor to create a smoother soup (process in batches if necessary). Seal and place in refrigerator for several hours. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Note: If you are making this soup for lunches, as I usually do, make sure to keep any leftover vegetable juice on hand for later in the week, when you might find that the veggies have soaked up more liquid - and thus a few dashes of juice are necessary.



Perhaps the worst food news of the day...the month...or my entire life was delivered in this Op-Ed from yesterday's New York Times: Yes, We Will Have No Bananas (see picture at left).

Looks like we'll soon be forced to explore other varieties of banana - and I'm all for it! While in India this past winter, I had some wonderful small, sweet bananas that had a slight honey flavor and were very smooth. I wonder what else is out there?


Banana Dogs!

A couple of years ago my mom and I were pondering that age-old question...What can we do with these left-over hot dog buns? Both of us start our mornings with a banana, love peanut butter, and voila! we dreamt up the banana dog. [Yes, I realize that many people think that they invented the banana dog...but within our family, my mom and I were the innovators.] My dad was a bit slower to warm to the idea, but I've received intelligence that he does occasionally partake of a banana dog.

One of the best things about the banana dog is that it makes a tasty, healthy, and portable breakfast or snack. Peel the banana, pop it into a hot dog bun, add your favorite toppings, and you are good to go - just don't try to carry it onto the Metro, where you might get fined for trying to eat and commute. Also, the banana dog is fully customizable, and if you have many mouths to feed you can create a banana dog toppings bar (late night movie marathon with friends? breakfast for a kids' sleepover party?).

Banana Dogs
hot bog bun (whole wheat preferred)
medium-sized banana

Toppings: (add as many or as few as you would like)
peanut butter (or almond butter, sunflower seed butter, etc.)
cream cheese
marshmallow fluff
jelly (or jam, preserves, etc.)
chocolate sauce (or caramel sauce, etc.)

1. Toast hot dog bun, if desired. While bun is toasting, peel banana and cut to proper size (eat the ends that don't fit on the bun).

2. Spread toppings on the bun, or put banana in then add the toppings - your choice!

3. Enjoy!


Cool Cucumber and Green Tea Soup

Lucerne (the "store brand" at Safeway) makes a light green tea yogurt that I've used previously as a fruit dip. I thought that it might also make a good base for a cold cucumber and yogurt soup, so I whipped some up for the coming week's lunches. A small taste test reveals that...this was a great idea!

Cool Cucumber and Green Tea Soup (4-5 servings)
2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 cup green tea yogurt + 1 cup plain yogurt (or 2 cups plain)
2 T. fresh dill, minced (or dill paste)
1 T. fresh ginger, minced (or ginger paste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste
1 cup water (if desired)

1. Mix cucumbers, yogurt, dill, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, pepper, and salt together in a large bowl and stir until the cucumber pieces are coated with yogurt.

2. Use a food processor or blender to puree the mixture in batches. If the mixture is too thick, add water until the desired consistency is reached.

3. Chill for at least 1 hr. and serve. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill or thinly sliced cucumbers, if desired.

Some good meals from the past

Here are a few snapshots of good meals that I've had while traveling...

Enjoying the taro in Hawaii

Dinner at LMB in Jaipur, Rajasthan (India) - Emera ordered the thali, and boy was it big!

The cake and other assorted desserts at Emera and Ian's wedding at Wells College in Aurora, NY

Chilled Peach Soup

The past week or so has confirmed that summer has come to Washington, DC. Last Saturday, as the temperature flirted with triple digits and the city suffered through an early heat wave, visions of Whole Foods chilled soups danced in my head. Last summer I lived a mere half block from Whole Foods, and running across the street to pick up a quart of gazpacho or chilled peach soup was but the work of a moment. I've moved since then - it's about half a mile to Whole Foods from my new apartment - so if I walk over there, I expect to come home with a loaded sack.

Unfortunately, the recent tomato salmonella scare had triggered a decision to pull all fresh gazpacho from the shelves - strike 1. The shelves were also woefully lacking containers of chilled peach soup - strike 2. The store employees also had no idea if or when these summer staples would return to the refrigerated case - strike 3.

All was not lost, however. Instead of resigning myself to eating fresh French bread with no accompaniment, I decided to try my hand at making my own chilled peach soup. I had to use canned peaches, since I didn't have any fresh peaches on hand, but this did have the added benefit of less time spent peeling and slicing! Overall, the experiment worked out pretty well - and cost quite a bit less than the $5.99 Whole Foods charges.

Chilled Peach Soup (2-3 servings)
1 15 oz. can peaches or 3 cups fresh peaches (peeled)
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. almond extract
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Dice peaches into small (1/4") cubes.

2. Combine peaches, yogurt, lemon juice, almond extract, and cinnamon in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher/ricer until well blended. If the soup is too thick, add syrup from canned peaches, orange juice, or white grape juice until desired thickness is reached. (For those who like a smoother soup, use a blender or food processor for this step.)

3. Chill for at least 1 hr. and serve. Garnish with fresh mint, cinnamon, or peach slices, if desired.

I used peach yogurt when I made this, which made the soup even peachier - others may wish to use plain yogurt or to experiment with other flavors of yogurt (apricot mango? raspberry?). I'm also considering making a larger batch of this soup, using half peaches and half mangoes for the fruit portion.