Summer gazpacho

Just chill—it’s gazpacho

Originally appeared in the May 31, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

A few summers ago, I went through a phase where I couldn’t get enough gazpacho.  And while it may not have been an unhealthy habit, it certainly was an obsession.  For me there were so many attractive aspects to this cool concoction, not the least of which is the cool component.

Gazpacho is a chilled tomato-and-cucumber soup; but this is the version that most Americans are familiar with.  There are also celebrated varieties in Spain, including a white gazpacho made with almonds and grapes.

Traditionally, gazpacho contains some sort of bread.  In fact, it’s suggested in some culinary quarters that “pacho” derives from the Latin word pasti, meaning bread or dough.  It’s not uncommon to use day-old bread as a thickening agent in gazpacho; or the bread may be soaked in the soup-base before being strained or pureed.  For this particular interpretation, I’ve chosen to employ a garnish of toasted croutons to represent the bread.

Allow the flavors to truly mingle by chilling your gazpacho overnight.  This recipe makes about 1 ½ quarts, so you might consider using a pitcher for storage and service.  And the way this summer heat is rolling in, the refreshing chilled soup won’t last long.

Summer gazpacho                

Yields roughly 1 ½ quarts

  • 28 ounces peeled, diced tomatoes
  • ½ red onion, medium chop
  • 1 green bell pepper, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 2 – 3 plum tomatoes, seeded, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, rough chop
  • 2 fluid ounces each: balsamic and red wine vinegar, and olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 – 1 ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • To taste, cayenne pepper
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper
  • 23 ounces tomato juice
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Garnish: homemade croutons

1.  Pour peeled and diced tomatoes into a food processor or blender.  With the exception of the tomato juice and small-diced vegetables (bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes), add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Add in tomato juice (or more to achieve desired consistency).

2.  Adjust season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Transfer pureed soup into a storage container and stir in reserved diced pepper, cucumber, and tomato.  Refrigerate at least twelve hours before serving.  Garnish with cilantro sprigs and toasted croutons.

Pan-seared orange roughy with marinated cucumber and tomato-butter sauce

Nothing stuffy about orange roughy

Originally appeared in the May 24, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Here’s a decent little dish—one that combines ease-of-execution with a sophisticated presentation.

Because of its firmness, orange roughy is an ideal fish for pan-searing; and cooked properly, the product yields a flaky and silky texture.  Searing in a sauté pan (particularly in a non-stick variety) takes some finesse.  But the secret comes down to these three things: hot pan, hot fat, then add your product.  Set your pan over medium-high heat for several minutes.  The trick here is to ensure even heat distribution.

Add an even installment of olive oil, enough so that it thinly coats the bottom of the pan.  I like to add just a small knob of unsalted butter at this point.  While the olive will cook the product, the butter will provide golden color and a bit of richness to the exterior.  Then it’s on to your fish.  Gently settle the orange roughy into the pan.  And here’s one last pointer: resist temptation and leave it alone.  Allow the heat of the pan and fat sear the fish, and you won’t have to worry about it sticking.

Enjoy—the trio of fish, cucumber, and tomato makes for a light lunch or sophisticated dinner.

Pan-seared orange roughy with marinated cucumber and tomato-butter sauce

Serves 2

  • 2, 8-ounce orange roughy fillets
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, all-purpose flour
  • As needed, olive oil (for cooking and for marinade)
  • Small amount of unsalted butter
  • 1 cucumber, sliced wafer-thin lengthwise
  • A few splashes white wine vinegar

Tomato-butter sauce

  • 6 plum tomatoes, cored and seeded
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1.  Using a peeler or mandolin, slice cucumber wafer thin lengthwise; place in a bowl and drizzle on a small amount of olive oil, vinegar, and season with salt pepper.  Set aside.

2.  Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat; allow pan to accumulate and even distribution of heat.  Add oil, coating the bottom of the pan, and add butter.  Season fish with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Dredge fish fillets in all-purpose flour by placing in flour and shaking off excess.  Gently place fish fillets in sauté pan, searing both sides to golden brown.

3.  For sauce: In a separate sauté pan, sweat onion with small amount of oil; add tomato and heat briefly.  Add mixture to food processor and puree until smooth.   Return to sauté pan and reduce over moderate heat.  Remove from heat and swirl in butter.  Strain through fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  Serve immediately with marinated cucumber and fish.

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bánh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

Bánh mi sandwiches combine comfort

Originally appeared in the May 17, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

The popularity of Americanized “street food” continues to grow.  There have even been television shows solely dedicated to fare on-the-fly.  And throughout Indy, trendy food trucks act as a veritable “Where’s Waldo?” of catch-it-while-you-can service.

The Vietnamese sandwich bánh mi has a long tradition of providing humble comfort with economic ingredients.  But it’s literally the idea of a sandwich—an amalgamation of flavorful ingredients, book-ended between bread—that holds it all together.

For this variation, I’ve assembled a bánh mi with marinated, thinly-sliced strip steak, paired with a radish and carrot pickle mix.  Prep your marinade and brine ahead of time so that when it comes to construction, you can operate just as quick as one of those lightning-fast street food vendors.  The red leaf lettuce provides a cool, crisp crunch, and the cilantro chimes in with notes of citrus.

As always, I encourage you to cobble together your own permutation.  Classic “body” fillings include barbecued pork, meatballs, grilled chicken, sardines, fried eggs, and tofu (just to name a few).  And use your imagination with the condiments—heck, if pâté tickles your fancy, go for it.  Whether it’s slow-at-home or on-the-go, bánh mi is about combining comfort.

Bánh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

Serves 2


  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Pickled radish and carrot

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 4 – 5 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons plus ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ¾ cup lukewarm water
  • 1 pound strip steak, trimmed
  • 4 washed leaves of red-leaf lettuce or romaine
  • As needed, fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into sandwich-sized portions

1.  Combine marinade by whisking in a bowl.  Place trimmed strip steak in a plastic storage bag and pour in marinade.  Allow to marinate for at least four hours (overnight is ideal).  Prepare your remaining sandwich toppings.

2.  For pickle: Combine vinegar, ¾ cups sugar, and water.  Place carrot and radish in a bowl and sprinkle on salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.  Use your fingers to “massage” the vegetables, rubbing the coarse salt and sugar into the vegetables.  Carrot and radish will begin to render liquid and go limp; continue for 2 – 3 minutes.  Strain under cold running water to wash off salt and sugar.  Pour brine over pickle mixture and set aside (preferably for a few hours).

3.  Pan-sear marinated strip steak over medium-high heat.  Cook until you’ve achieved desired doneness.  Slice thin and pile onto baguette bread with lettuce, cilantro, and carrot-radish pickle mix.

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 5:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Spring into action with this “sandwich”

Originally appeared in the May 10, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Yeah, yeah, I know—a sandwich should contain some sort of “body”; one or more condiments; perhaps a garnish or two; and (save the open-faced variation) all these components compressed between two slices of bread (toasted or not is a topic that will have to wait for another installment of this humble column).  But who says your sandwich has to be bookended with bread?

Today’s recipe isn’t so much a recipe as it is a suggestion:  Look at your ingredients with a bit of nuance.  Here, this sandwich consists or two, sweet slices of tomato and a thick disc of fresh mozzarella “sandwiched” between a couple earthy medallions of Portobello mushroom.  The condiment is drizzled basil oil.  I’ve used skewers to hold the ingredients in place slicing and presentation.  This savory strata makes a guilt-free snack or healthful entrée—something you can eat and then retreat to a springtime activity  (I can’t remember the last time I ate a Frisco Melt, but I’m sure I didn’t feel like taking a walk around the block after consuming it).

Chips are a nice, crunchy compliment, and there are plenty of baked permutations to honor the healthy theme of this dish.  Hungry?


Portobello, tomato, and mozzarella sandwich skewers with basil oil

Serves 2

  • 4 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 large plum tomato
  • 2 thick slice fresh mozzarella
  • 2 ounces fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1.  For basil oil: stir basil leaves into boiling water for 60 seconds until color becomes vibrant.  Quickly “shock” the basil in ice-water to retain color.  Remove, pat dry, and add to a blender; pour in olive oil and blend (adding more oil if needed) until oil is bright green.  Strain mixture through mesh sieve and set aside.

2.  Using round biscuit cutters, cut through two thick slices of fresh mozzarella; reserve dics; and use the biscuit cutters to punch-out four medallions from the Portobello caps and reserve.  Slice tomatoes into four thick dics.

3.  Stack sandwiches as follows: mushroom, tomato, and mozzarella, then repeat backwards with another slice of tomato and mushroom.  Insert four skewers evenly at 2-, 4-, 8-, and 10-o’clock positions, and cut down between the skewers, yielding four triangle chunks.  Serve sandwich skewers with basil and crispy potato chips.

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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