Tag Archives: cilantro

A Chilled Soup To Beat The Heat: Gazpacho

Here is another inspiration from our cruise a few weeks ago: Gazpacho, a delicious chilled soup that is refreshing and requires no cooking! Even at our 7,500 foot elevation, we have seen temperatures in the 90’s and the daytime temperature inside the house has reached 85 degrees! We don’t have air-conditioning so as soon as the sun wanes we open all our doors and windows to capture some of the cool air. This is the perfect recipe to help cool things off. Gazpacho hails from Spain and is made with uncooked tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, bell pepper, garlic and cilantro. Tomatoes are the star ingredient, a great use for the delicious summer bounty from your garden or farmer’s market. Out of season, my favorite go-to is the vine-ripened variety. This is a super easy recipe that can be made with many variations: for example, if you don’t have cherry tomatoes add some of your favorite Bloody Mary mix!

I like my gazpacho more pureed and smooth rather than chunky, and then I add a chopped vegetable garnish at the end for a little crunch.  And I like to peel the cucumbers because they make the soup darker, which you can see from the photo because I forgot to do that!  The garnish has scallions, radishes, habanero and mint, which adds a bright, fresh flavor. The soup also tastes better if made one or two days ahead of time because it allows the flavors to develop and mingle. Another delicious idea: serve the gazpacho in a shot glass for a mini appetizer – top it with some vegetable garnish and add some chopped, cooked shrimp or some diced avocado to finish it off.

If you want to go for a snazzy presentation to impress your honey (or guests), transfer the soup to a fancy pitcher, add one tablespoon of the garnish to the bottom of each cup or bowl and pour the gazpacho table-side.  You’ll look like a pro!

Eat well and share the love!

Gazpacho (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Refrigerate: 4 to 24 hours / Total cooking time: 24 hours
Makes about 2 cups

10 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (Campari), or 3 large, good quality tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes (about 15)
½ cucumber, peeled and chopped
¼ cup chopped sweet onion
3 baby bell peppers (or ½ of one red, yellow or orange bell pepper), seeds removed and chopped
½ small garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup cilantro leaves and stems
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion (about ¾ of a scallion)
1 radish, grated
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon finely diced habanero or jalapeno
3 tablespoons finely diced cucumber (peeled)
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzle)

Soup: Cut the tomatoes (except the cherry tomatoes) in half and remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon; discard seeds and pulp. Chop the tomatoes into large pieces.

Add all the soup ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and finely chopped, about 1 minute.  If you like your soup more chunky, blend for less time.

Transfer soup to a bowl or large measuring cup and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
Gazpacho is best the next day; if possible make one day ahead to let the flavors develop fully.

Garnish: Add the scallions, radishes, habanero, cucumber, mint, salt, pepper and olive oil to a small bowl and mix well.

Assemble: Serve soup cold – In a small coffee cup or bowl add about 3/4 cup of soup, top with 1 tablespoon of garnish mixture and a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

A photo memory from the cruise a few weeks ago…..After the zipline in Jamaica, in Chakka Park and enjoying authentic Jerk chicken for lunch.  The male peacock, with his wings spread, tried his best to get the female’s attention while we watched from the picnic bench. 


Halibut meets Pesto and Edible Flowers

Having to decide what to make for a weeknight meal can be a tough decision after a long day.  We want it to be different, taste great and easy to get on the table, right?  Try Seared Halibut with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto (plus edible flowers and jasmine rice).  Fish is a quick, healthy option packed with nutrition.  My favorite is Norwegian salmon, which I always cook, so I wanted to get out of my comfort zone……I first selected turbot because it is a more economical option than salmon, halibut and sea bass, but I hadn’t ever eaten or prepared it.  As with other foods, I was determined to master a technique: getting a crispy, golden sear on the fish, which is perfect for salmon and halibut.  I tried the searing technique with the turbot filets and it was a flop!  They tasted great but the fish filets didn’t hold up to the high heat and stuck to the pan, leaving an unsightly mess (no photo shoot that afternoon).  Turbot is a good fish to use for fish tacos or a baked recipe.  So, back to the store I went for two halibut filets instead (choose filets with the skin on; adds flavor and easier to remove from pan in one piece). 

I also modified the jasmine rice recipe because the first idea got thumbs down from us both, it was too sweet.  Sigh, it’s so deflating to my ego when two things flop in a meal!  This is a perfect reminder to learn from my mistakes.  It’s easy to get frustrated when I mess up food, but it provides an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and how to improve it the next time.  Plus, it gives me more confidence and information for my mental kitchen toolbox.

Let’s quickly talk about fishing methods, wild-caught and farm-raised.  Then I’ll describe the searing technique.  We basically buy our fish sourced from two different methods: either caught in the wild or raised/farmed in a controlled environment.   My upcoming blog will discuss the differences between the two fishing methods and how to make informed choices.  Okay, how to get a good sear?  The tricks are a heavy-duty (not a non-stick) oven-proof skillet, a high heat and a hot oven to finish the filets.  Open your windows because it will be aromatic.  If the skillet gets really hot over medium high heat with a good coating of oil, I find it’s easy to get that scrumptious golden, crispy crust on the fish.  I love butter but it will only burn with this method so I just use olive oil (or vegetable oil).  The oven is heated to 400 degrees where the filets finish cooking after being flipped over.

Pesto is another way to experiment with ingredients and flavors.  It doesn’t always have to be made with basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.  I love Mexican food, so cilantro and pumpkin seeds seemed like natural pairings.  Fresh orange juice adds sweetness and brightens the flavors – the result is a rich and tasty pesto that pairs well with the fish.  It would also be good smothered over fish (turbot, tilapia, cod) before it’s baked.  And it would be great just on toasted Crostini.  The pesto can be made up to two days ahead, tightly covered and refrigerated.

These organic, edible flowers were a small splurge (cost just a little more than packaged herbs) and fun to try.  I found them at Whole Foods and they are Colorado-grown: snapdragons, nasturtiums, mint sprigs and carnations.   When I tasted the nasturtiums, I was instantly brought back to my childhood and the little garden at our villa in Morocco, Africa.  I would race my older sister and brother (Cheryl and Robert) to pick the fresh nasturtium flowers and slurp out the nectar!  We didn’t know the sweet flowers were also edible.  As an adult, it was fun to try edible flowers with the fish and rice; the snapdragons had a bright, fresh grassy flavor with a slightly bitter taste at the end.  They each added a fresh complexity to both the fish and the rice.  I had some leftover flowers and put a few in my wilted spinach the other night – they were a wonderful compliment to the buttery spinach.   I highly recommend this splurge sometime!

Here’s a quick recipe for a side of rice:  Cook 1 cup jasmine rice according to package directions (include a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of unsalted butter).  When cooked, add some cilantro, chives or scallions, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Stir together and serve.  It’s that easy!  For a fun presentation, fill a ramekin (tightly packed) with rice and invert onto plate.  If it doesn’t release just lightly tap the bottom.

Seared Halibut with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto  (click for pdf)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

Seared Halibut: 
2 Halibut filets, total weight .60 to .75 lb., about 1 ¼ inch thick
Olive Oil

Make the Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto (see recipe below)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Add a light drizzle of olive oil to the fish filets and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a medium oven-proof skillet over medium high heat with about 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, enough to form an even coating.  When the oil just starts to develop ripples, lay the fish filets in the skillet, meat side down and cover with a splatter screen. Tip:  when you lay the filets down, place them away from you so you don’t get splattered with hot oil.

Cook without touching or moving the filets for about 8 minutes. Gently move the pan back and forth to distribute the oil around the filets every few minutes.  When the fish is ready to be turned it will easily release from the pan.  Using a spatula gently turn filets over, add a drizzle of olive oil around the inside edge of the skillet and place in hot oven.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Fish is done when it flakes and meat is opaque in the center. 

Serve the fish with generous spoonfuls of the cilantro pumpkin seed pesto (garnish with a few pumpkin seeds), some lime and cilantro jasmine rice and if splurging, garnish with some organic edible flowers.


Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, dry toasted in skillet
2 cups packed cilantro leaves, okay if some stems included
1 small garlic clove, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes; stir often. Let cool slightly on cutting board.  Measure out ¼ cup of seeds and save the extra for garnish.

Add ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds plus the remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well emulsified to a thick paste, stopping machine and scraping down the sides a few times.  Can be made up to two days ahead; cover tightly and refrigerate.