lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

i don’t think you’re ready for this hot pepper jelly recipe

Break out the cream cheese and crackers because I’ve got on an old-school classic for you that I just can’t resist sharing. This is an easy holiday appetizer recipe and guess what – it also makes a great gift! If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can swap out the cream cheese for goat or feta cheese but, no matter how you serve this, I promise that almost everyone will love it. Hot pepper jelly or jalapeno jelly is a silly-simple thing to make but it’s something I love and this is a perfect time of year for it.

This is an unprocessed hot pepper jelly recipe, as most of them you’ll find involve water-bathing or steam canning and honestly, as much as I enjoy canning, this stays just long enough to enjoy a batch without the extra work. I hot pack my jelly, so the jars seal and that, along with the vinegar in this, will be enough for a lot of people to tell you that you can put it up and preserve it without any refrigeration. Though I clean and dry my canning jars for this, I don’t sterilize them, so I refrigerate mine after processing. I have no problem keeping this batch for a month or more in the fridge and again, that’s thanks to the vinegar and hot packing process.

lola rugula canned hot pepper jelly

hot pepper jelly (aka jalapeno jelly) recipe

  • 2 large bell peppers – I typically use red, yellow or orange for the color. Remove stems and seeds and discard.
  • 4-8 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers. Remove stems and discard. Remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat.
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1.75 oz. package less or no-sugar needed Sure Jell

For me, this makes 5  of the 1/2 pint canning jars. Wash and dry your jars and lids and set aside.

Cut the bell peppers into quarters and the jalapenos in half and place in food processor. Pulse a couple of times and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Pulse again a couple of times until all of the peppers are minced. Be careful not to liquify the peppers – you just want to chop them until they’re minced. There may be a tiny bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, but that should be all.

Here’s what they should look like:

lola rugula peppers for jelly

  1. Scrape the minced peppers out into a large saucepan.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar to the pan and stir well.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes.
  4. Add package of pectin, stir well with a fork or whisk and bring back to a boil.
  5. Make sure all of the pectin is fully incorporated and there aren’t any lumps.
  6. Boil 1 more minute.
  7. Be careful here to not let the mixture boil up and over the pan.
  8. You should actually start to see or feel with a spoon the mixture start to thicken and gel a bit.
  9. Quickly and carefully pack the hot mixture into clean canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace, wipe the rims of the jars clean, and seal with lids and bands.
  10. Let cool at room temperature. Typically, my lids will seal in about 35-45 minutes.
  11. When completely cool, refrigerate.

Tada! You’ve achieved simple no-canning-required hot pepper jelly. Easy, right?

The heat of this totally depends on you and the peppers you want to use. Want to make ghost chili or Carolina Reaper hot pepper jelly? You can, but you probably should only use one of them and not six, as my recipe calls for. You’ll need to taste your peppers first, to gauge the heat, although peppers often get hotter when cooked so only let this be your guide.

Serve with softened cream cheese (or goat or feta) and some crackers. People are going to love you for this, I promise. 🙂

lola rugula hot pepper jelly and cream cheese

As I mentioned earlier, this can also make a really nice little gift by simply putting a jar of it into a gift basket or bag, along with a brick of cream cheese or tub of feta, and some nice crackers.

I’ve read where people add food coloring to their hot pepper jelly and I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, look at the beautiful colors in this:

lola rugula hot pepper jelly preserves recipe

I also consider this a low-sugar hot pepper jelly recipe, as a lot of recipes call for twice the amount of sugar that I do. I think the sugar in this is more than sufficient and provides just enough sweet foil to the heat of the hot peppers.

The real beauty of this is that if you make some now and have some cream cheese and crackers on hand, you can whip up an easy appetizer in no time at all. I can’t tell you how nice this is when you’ve got people dropping by unexpectedly, not only at the holidays but all year round.

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

This is so much fun to serve to guests – most just aren’t’ expecting the heat but enjoy it, once they’ve tasted it. And you know if there’s anyone who loves an easy holiday appetizer recipe, it’s this girl. I’ve got enough things to do this time of year, so this just makes life a little bit easier.

I hope you try this and love it. Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

In the Veggie Garden 2017

Autumn has arrived yet again and I want to share with you some of the wonderful things I grew in my veggie garden this year. I wish that I could have featured all of these in recipes but in a gardening and cooking blogger’s life, everything in one’s head (and garden) doesn’t always make it to print. I know you’ll recognize some of these though, so I wasn’t a total slacker.

While it may sometimes sound like I’m a paid spokesperson for certain seed companies, I assure you I’m not. One of my favorite seed companies, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a fantastic selection of heirloom and unusual seeds and I typically have very good luck with growing their vegetables.

Early in the spring, I started with planting their Garden Pea Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers (say that 3 times fast!). These are gorgeous purple peas that can be harvested young and eaten like snow peas or left to mature and eaten as regular peas. The packet states they don’t require staking, as they’re a dwarf variety, but I think mine appreciated the fence support I gave them.  Even their blooms are beautiful.

lola rugula purple snow peas photo

Here’s a shot of the peas on the vine after a rainfall:

lola rugula purple snow peas 2 photo

And here’s my first harvest of them:

lola rugula purple snow peas 3 photo

My first few harvests, I picked them young and then my last I let them go to regular pea size. Here in zone 5, I planted them in early May and they were done by early July.

Early spring I also planted their Aurora Mixed Orach which, if you’ve never grown or seen it, is simply gorgeous. I’ve read where some people plant it strictly as an ornamental which, in my opinion, is a waste of a delicious green.

lola rugula orach photo

Orach is also called “saltbush” and “mountain spinach” and one the great things about it is that it’s slow to bolt, unlike real spinach. It’s very versatile, as you can enjoy it raw as a green (or purple, if you will) or cook it like you would spinach or Swiss chard. (Here’s my easy Swiss Chard Recipe, which works great with Orach)

Some other greens I grew this year were spicy mustard greens and my usual microgreens for fresh salads. Mustard greens have some serious kick when eaten raw, but it mostly disappears when you cook them.

lola rugula garden greens photo

My husband and I love beets just about any way you can serve them.  Roasted is our favorite and easiest way to enjoy them, but I also make a Grated Beet and Carrot Slaw and Refrigerator Pickled Beets out of them when I have an overload and want to preserve them. I like to grow the rainbow variety, for their beautiful colors.

lola rugula pickled beets small batch recipe

Fennel is another early summer favorite; it’s delicious raw and roasted and easy to grow. Be careful of planting them too close together though, as they won’t form a nice bulb if you do. I still always pick some early, because I’m too impatient to wait until they’re all fully mature.

We toss our fennel right on the grill or pop it under the broiler to roast it. Raw, we enjoy it in salads or by itself.

My simple Fennel, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad is a favorite in our house. Cool and crisp, it’s an easy summertime salad.

lola rugula fennel tomato and cucumber salad

lola rugula tomato fennel and cucumber salad recipe

Even I’m willing to admit that I went a little bean crazy this year, but Bakers Creek had such a nice variety that I got a little carried away. Pictured below from left to right are Red Swan beans, Green Bush beans, and French Velour beans. As a side note, the Red Swan and French Velour all turn green once cooked but their flavors are distinctive. The Red Swan beans are very buttery if picked while young and the French Velour beans have a sharper, grassier flavor. They all worked well in my Sesame Green Bean Recipe, which I made quite often this summer.

lola rugula garden beans photo

If you’re a fan of peppers with a little heat, shishito peppers will not disappoint. They mature quickly and continue to produce all season, turning red (and hotter) as the season winds down.

lola rugula how to grow shishito peppers

Roasting or charring them is the easiest way to prepare them – check out my recipe for Charred Shishito Peppers for the full scoop on making them.

lola rugula how to cook shishito peppers

This year was one of the best tomato seasons that I’ve had for a number of years, despite the cooler-than-normal August temperatures and very dry end of summer.

My selection this year was Roma-style Corleone tomatoes, smaller Black Vernissage, big, beefy Paul Robeson’s and Blue Gold Berries cherry variety.

Here’s a photo of the first three:

lola rugula garden heirloom tomatoes photo

And here’s a shot of the Blue Gold Cherries:

lola rugula golden gazpacho

And here’s a photo of the gorgeous Golden Gazpacho I made with them:

lola rugula garden gazpacho

What do you do with a ton of tomatoes? Well, if you’re a regular follower of mine, you already know some of the easy ways I like to enjoy and also preserve them. Here are my current top 10 tomato recipes:

  1. Homemade tomato sauce recipe
  2. Easy, no-cook tomato sauce recipe
  3. Garden fresh gazpacho recipe
  4. Golden yellow heirloom gazpacho recipe
  5. Roasted tomato and garlic soup and gazpacho recipe
  6. Fried green tomatoes with fresh tomato salsa recipe
  7. Trinidad scorpion pepper salsa recipe
  8. Chunky canned tomato salsa recipe
  9. My famous ghost chili salsa recipe
  10. Pasta with shrimp, fresh tomatoes, and basil

Whew! See, I know what it’s like to have an overabundance of tomatoes.

A new favorite pepper of ours is the ajvarski pepper. I don’t always have great luck with my peppers turning red in large quantities but these sure did. Large, heavy-skinned and extremely fragrant, I’ll be growing these for years to come.

lola rugula ajvar bulls horn peppers

My husband and I have fallen in love with making ajvar from these and, since we also grow our own eggplant, it’s an easy dish to make fresh from the garden.  Roasted peppers, eggplant, and garlic, blended together with vinegar and olive oil is a healthy, easy spread to enjoy with a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of wine.

lola rugula ajvar

Another Baker Creek pepper I had great luck with this year are these Sweet Yellow Stuffing Peppers:

lola rugula sweet peppers photo

Yes, my peppers are orange and not yellow, but I’m not complaining. As you can see in the photo, they go from green to pale yellow to bright orange, which is when I harvest mine. I’m not sure why they’re called “stuffing peppers”, as they’re only a few inches tall but they’re very sweet and ripen very quickly – a definite garden win, in my book!

Also, a note on my peppers and tomatoes – I start my pepper plants indoors in mid-February and my tomatoes in mid-March. This way, I have a headstart on the growing season.

So now, we’re almost to October and some plants are being pulled as the growing season winds down. My tomato and pepper plants are always my last holdouts, as I’ll take whatever I can harvest before the first frost.

Soon enough, I’ll be planning next year’s garden and seeing what new vegetables I can find.

Happy Autumn everyone!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

roasted tomato and garlic soup

I’m continuing my celebration series of summer garden tomato recipes my with roasted tomato and garlic soup. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s very flexible. Looking for an easy roasted gazpacho recipe? This is it. Want a comforting bowl of steamy roasted tomato soup? This is also it. Craving a bowl of steamy AND creamy roasted tomato soup, maybe with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side? Add a little cream to your hot soup and you’re good to go! Versatility is this recipe’s middle name.

If you’ve not been following my recent series of recipes, then check out my classic garden gazpacho recipe, which you can also make gazpacho shooters with. I also shared my golden heirloom gazpacho, made with yellow tomatoes, shallots and turmeric. Remember that both of these also make great gazpacho smoothies, which is a great way to enjoy gazpacho.

lola rugula roasted tomato and garlic soup

roasted tomato and garlic soup recipe (also a roasted gazpacho recipe)

  • 6 lbs. tomatoes, preferably a mix of Roma and heirloom
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed, just enough to break each clove open
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into eighths from the root end
  • 1 large poblano pepper, cut in half with stem and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (divided between 2 baking sheets)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided between 2 baking sheets)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced, for serving

Preheat broiler.

Lightly brush 2 large baking sheets with a little of your olive oil.

Remove cores from tomatoes and discard. Cut each tomato in half and lay face up on baking sheets, dividing the tomatoes onto both baking sheets.  Add garlic, onion, and pepper, keeping them towards the same end of one of the baking sheets. These will likely roast faster than the tomatoes and you’ll want to be able to easily remove them.

Drizzle each tray of veggies with the remaining olive oil, dividing it between the 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle each sheet of veggies with kosher salt. Every veggie doesn’t need olive oil or salt on them, just evenly distribute as best as you can. Have a large stockpot ready to place your charred veggies in once they’re done.

Broil the veggies one baking sheet at a time, about 30 minutes or until the veggies are nicely charred. Again, you will probably need to remove the garlic, onion, and pepper before the tomatoes are all charred. Move the tomatoes around and remove them as they char and place them in a large stockpot.

Be sure to add any remaining liquid on your baking sheets to your stockpot.

Repeat with the second baking sheet. Here’s a photo of some of my charred veggies, so you can see how much I char them…

lola rugula roasted tomato soup

Once all of your veggies are nicely charred and added to your stockpot, add the vegetable stock and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until your liquid is reduced by 1/2, about 45 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree your mixture until it’s smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a ladle and carefully scoop portions of the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve with slivers of fresh basil on top and some fresh or toasted bread on the side.

For roasted tomato gazpacho, let cool and then refrigerate until well-chilled.

This is a great rustic soup and simple to make. The roasting really brings out the flavor in the tomatoes and other veggies, adding a depth of flavor that you can taste in every spoonful.

lola rugula roasted tomao and veggie gazpacho

How to make cream of roasted tomato soup

If you want a creamy soup, just stir in a little of your choice of heavy cream, half and half, buttermilk, creme fraiche, or plain yogurt – all of these will work here, it just depends on your personal taste. Simple, right?

And, if you want to add a little bit of smokey heat to your soup (or really want a soup that clears up congestion from a cold or the flu), roast a jalapeno or hot pepper with your veggies and add it in.

Another variation on this soup is to add a little turmeric or curry powder to it – this amps up the health benefits and flavor both.

Also, feel free to add a little zucchini and/or fennel to this – both add amazing flavor!

Summer here in Northern Illinois is (sadly) winding down but that doesn’t mean you can’t preserve your summer tomato and veggie harvest.  This soup freezes beautifully and when you pull some out in the dead of winter, you’ll be thankful for that fresh garden tomato flavor.

My other favorite way to preserve my summer tomato harvest is making big batches of homemade marinara sauce and freezing it in batches.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

ajvar recipe

One of the beautiful things about growing your own vegetables is that you’re able to grow so many more varieties than what you can find at the supermarket.  Farmer’s markets offer a better variety than the stores but even then, your selection can be limited. One of my favorite places to discover new vegetables is Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. They always have an incredible variety of heirloom veggies and I’ve had very good results with most of their seeds.

This year, I discovered ajvarski peppers which, after a bit of online searching, appear to be bulls horn peppers, a variety of peppers traditionally used in making ajvar (pronounced AY-vahr).

lola rugula ajvar peppers

Ajvar is a Serbian roasted red pepper sauce (I read where some call it Serbian Salsa).  Basically, it’s a roasted red pepper sauce with eggplant, garlic, vinegar, and oil added. It’s great on fresh bread, toasted bread and crackers, so it’s an easy appetizer recipe to make.

 I started my peppers inside in February and they were about 10-inch tall plants when they went into my garden in early May. They’ve done well in my home garden, taking a while to turn red as most colored peppers do but they’re reaching their stride here in zone 5 in September.  I currently have multiple peppers turning red on my plants, even though they were a bit slow-going at first.

These are gorgeous peppers with a thick skin and fragrant smell, especially when roasting. I’m not exaggerating on this – these are really, really fragrant peppers.

lola rugula ajvar bulls horn peppers

If you want to speed up the ripening of colored peppers, simply put them in a paper bag with a few ripe tomatoes and seal the bag with a clip. Leave at room temperature until fully ripened. Ideally, the peppers should be starting to turn already and then they’ll take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to ripen. Never refrigerate them until they’re ripe – refrigeration will stop the ripening process immediately. I have great luck with quick-ripening my peppers this way. If you’re a home gardener, you know how long it can take (and how much plant energy it takes) to ripen peppers on the plant.

I admit my ajvar here is a small batch recipe, as I only had 3 peppers to start and make this with. As it turned out though, 3 peppers were just enough to make a good-sized appetizer plate for Sunday football for two. This recipe made enough ajvar to fully pack one ramekin and help us devour a small loaf of French bread. 🙂 In all, this makes about 1 healthy cup of ajvar.

lola rugula ajvar

homemade ajvar recipe

  • 3 red bullhorn or bell peppers
  • 1/3 large eggplant, cut in half
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, gently smashed
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon for brushing eggplant
  • 4 oz. feta cheese
  • 1 small loaf French bread, sliced (I toasted mine)

Preheat broiler. Place peppers and eggplant on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Brush the eggplant on both sides with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Broil, turning occasionally until peppers and eggplant are well charred on all sides. The eggplant will likely cook the fastest and, if so, remove it to a plate and let cool until the peppers are done cooking.

When the peppers are well charred, use a pair of tongs to pop them into a paper bag, roll the bag to seal and let the peppers rest at least 10 minutes. What this does is steams the skins from the peppers, making the skins easier to remove. Remove the skins, stems, and seeds and discard. (I add mine to our compost bin)

In the meantime, scoop out the innards of the eggplant and place it in a food processor. Discard (or compost) the skin.

Add the garlic, vinegar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the processor.

Add the peeled peppers.

Pulse until well-blended but still a bit coarse – it should still have a little texture to it. If too dry, add more olive oil until a smooth, spreadable mixture is formed.

Serve with feta cheese and fresh or toasted bread (or crackers).

lola rugula ajvar 2

This is so, so good! Very garlicky and the vinegar adds a brightness and tang to it, while the olive oil smooths it all out.

If red bell peppers are all you can find, by all means, use them. You can also add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if you want a little spice to your ajvar.

Of course, you can also char the peppers and eggplant on the grill; whichever method is easiest and most convenient for you.

There’s something just so rustic and satisfying about schmearing roasted deliciousness on bread and devouring it. Ajvar does not disappoint. Make yourself a batch and dig in.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Golden Heirloom Gazpacho

My summer celebration of garden tomatoes continues with this gorgeous golden gazpacho recipe. If you’re a home gardener or have just been overly ambitious at your local farmer’s market and wonder what to do with a lot of tomatoes, gazpacho is an easy and delicious solution.  I just recently posted my classic garden gazpacho recipe and this is a twist on that recipe using small golden heirloom cherry tomatoes.

The tomatoes I used here are Blue Gold Berry Tomatoes that I ordered from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. They’re a very prolific plant, bearing beautiful fruit early and often throughout the growing season.

lola rugula golden gazpacho

These are not a super-sweet cherry tomato, which to me is perfect for a well-balanced gazpacho. And, unlike my classic garden gazpacho, here I keep everything a little bit lighter and brighter here with white wine vinegar, lemon juice and shallots.

lola rugula garden gazpacho

golden gazpacho recipe with heirloom cherry tomatoes

  • 2 lbs. yellow or gold cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium clove of garlic
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stems and seeds removed and cut into quarters
  • 1 medium cucumber (again, I use pickling cucumbers because it’s what I grow and have on hand), ends removed, peeled and seeds scooped out and discarded
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/2 medium jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Diced cherry tomatoes, minced chives and/or minced parsley for garnish

In a blender or food processor place everything EXCEPT half of the tomatoes and blend extremely well.  Using a ladle, scoop out 3/4 of the contents and pour through a mesh sieve into a large bowl. Add remaining tomatoes and puree again until well blended. Strain all but a cup of the remaining gazpacho into your bowl. Add the final cup of the pureed, unstrained tomato mixture to your bowl and stir well.  Chill well.

Garnish with diced tomatoes, minced chives, and minced parsley before serving.

I prefer to leave a cup of it unstrained, as it adds texture (and good fiber!) to your final gazpacho. It’s completely personal taste as to whether you strain all, a portion of, or none of the final mixture.

Also, you can do this in either a blender or a food processor or even with an immersion blender but, in the end, you just want it to be as finely blended as you can without completely liquefying the entire batch. A little texture is a good thing where gazpacho is involved.

lola rugula golden gazpacho with cherry tomatoes

As with my classic gazpacho recipe, I like adding some jalapeno for a little kick. If adding, be sure to taste your jalapeno first so you can anticipate the heat level in the finished gazpacho. You can always add a little more to the second puree but you can’t remove it once it’s there, if you know what I mean. 🙂 The jalapenos I grow are much, much hotter than the mass-produced variety I buy at the store, so you always have to be careful in how much you use.

The lemon juice and ground turmeric is key to giving this brightness and depth. A little bit of black pepper works too, but again, you have to play a bit with it and see what you like.

Also, as I mentioned in my classic gazpacho recipe, I occasionally enjoy mine as a gazpacho smoothie and just drink it from a glass. It’s seriously like a glass of goodness because of all the antioxidants packed into it.

lola rugula easy gazpacho with heirloom cherry tomatoes

If you’re overloaded with summer tomatoes and are wondering what else to make with them, my fried green tomatoes recipe is another delicious solution.

Craving a good, easy pasta recipe? Try my fresh no-cook tomato sauce! It’s not only quick and easy but it’s also incredibly delicious and satisfying.

Are you overloaded with summer tomatoes? I’d love to hear what you do to enjoy them. And, as I always say, don’t be afraid to play with your food!

Wishing you all a wonderful, healthy and well-nourished weekend. Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

summer garden gazpacho

Gazpacho is such a delicious way to take advantage of your summer garden harvest and (bonus) it’s easy to throw together. Look up gazpacho recipes and you’ll find a ton of them, each unique in their own way, but there are basically two gazpacho camps: chunky and smooth. Personally, I like them both if they’re done well. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with fresh tomatoes blended with cucumbers, onion, garlic and olive oil, with a little acid and salt thrown in.

My version of gazpacho is a little bit of both worlds; the base blended smooth and then some small diced tomatoes added at serving time. The most important thing in making a great gazpacho is to use really, really ripe tomatoes. You really want the tomatoes to shine here.

lola rugula garden gazpacho

Garden Gazpacho Recipe

  • 2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, cored. Remove the seeds and juice from half of them. In the recipe photos shown, I used a mix of large and small heirlooms with a couple of Romas.
  • 1 medium cucumber, completely peeled, ends removed and seeds scraped out
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/3 of a medium-sized red onion
  • 1 medium sweet pepper, either red, yellow or orange, stem and seeds removed (I used orange in the recipe photos shown)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium jalapeno, seeds and stems removed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Additional diced tomato and slivered basil for garnish

Add everything except half of the tomatoes to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour 3/4 of the pureed mixture into a large bowl, add the second half of tomatoes and puree until smooth. Pour into your bowl and stir everything together well.

You can also use an immersion blender when making gazpacho, but I find a food processor or blender makes quicker work of this.

The reason I remove the juice and seeds from half of my tomatoes is so that the gazpacho doesn’t end up too runny. If you’re using soley Roma tomatoes, you’ll probably be fine without this step but heirlooms and larger slicing tomatoes tend to have a lot more juice to them.

Chill well and serve in small bowls or ramekins, topped with diced tomatoes and slivers of fresh basil.

Another fun way to enjoy gazpacho is by making gazpacho shooters.

lola rugula gazpacho shooters

These tasty little shooters are always a hit at summer get-togethers and holiday parties.

lola rugula garden gazpacho shooters

Gazpacho Shooters Recipe

  • 1 oz. vodka, per serving
  • 1/2 cup gazpacho, per serving
  • Cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves for garnish, per serving

Blend vodka and gazpacho well and pour into glasses – I use a ladle and a funnel to keep them neat – it may seem like a little extra work (and dishes to wash) but it’s worth the effort.

Garnish each glass with a toothpick speared with a fresh basil leaf and cherry tomato.

Okay, to be fair, these aren’t really gazpacho shooters as much as they’re gazpacho cocktails. I serve them, as pictured, in whiskey glasses and they are definitely more than a shot.

Gazpacho is very easy to customize and garnish to your personal taste. Think fresh chives, parsley, lemon slices, diced or shaved cucumber, etc. I’m always telling you “don’t be afraid to play with your food” and this is a perfect example of a recipe that you can play with.

Some people add bread to their gazpacho for texture, some people don’t. Some people add a little jalapeno or hot pepper, some people don’t. Some people like green peppers some people like sweeter red (or orange or yellow) peppers.

Also, I used pickling cucumbers here, because it’s what I grow and had on hand. Always make sure you peel any type of cucumber you use, to get rid of any bitterness. I scrape out the seeds from mine for the same reason.

lola rugula gazpacho

Beautiful, isn’t it? Gazpacho made with garden ingredients doesn’t get any fresher or more delicious. And seriously, don’t be afraid to play with this recipe to find what you like best.

As a footnote, aside from using very ripe tomatoes, you also want to be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. It really does make a difference. In the shooters, of course, use the best vodka you can.

I also like to enjoy mine as a gazpacho smoothie and just drink it from a glass. It’s seriously like a glass of goodness because of all the antioxidants packed into it.

Enjoy what’s left of summer and thanks for stopping by!