lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

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!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

Tequila and Ruby Red Grapefruit Cocktail

Tequila has been my liquor of choice this summer and this cocktail is perfect for a warm summer evening. It’s fresh, bright and a little tart, which is everything I love in a mixed drink.

I don’t buy into most sweet drinks; for me they’re overly-cloying and their attraction is short-lived. I like a little sourness and tang and this cocktail surely fits the bill.

lola rugula tequila and ruby red grapefruit cocktail

tequila and ruby red grapefruit cocktail

  • Fill an old-fashioned glass (or rocks glass) 1/2 full with crushed ice.
  • Add 1 and 1/2 ounces of Blanco (white) tequila
  • Add 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Top off with ruby-red grapefruit juice
  • Garnish with a slice of lime and serve

Oh, I know, it’s so simple, right? But the mixture of ruby red grapefruit juice and fresh lime juice is a beautiful complement to tequila. And I shouldn’t have to mention this but I will; please use a good tequila here and not the bargain brand variety. Don Julio is one of our favorites and, at around $50 a bottle, is well worth the spend.

Now get out there and enjoy the rest of your summer, mm-kay?

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

spicy dilly beans

Green bean overload happens every year in my garden, so it’s a good thing they freeze well. Another great way to preserve them is to pickle them in a spicy brine. Bloody Mary. Red Beer. Hot Tomato. Michelada. Bloody Caesar…if you like your vodka or beer with a bit of tomato juice and a touch of heat, these spicy dilly beans are calling your name. But even if you’re not enjoying an adult beverage, these are good in salads, antipasto platters and straight out of the jar.

You can ramp up the heat with these a number of ways, depending on what you have on hand when you process them. I made this batch 1/2 with crushed dried pepper flakes and 1/2 with hot jalapenos from the garden. Be creative here – fresh and dried peppers both work. The level of heat is also in your hands, so make these your own.

Although this is a recipe for canned dilly beans, you don’t have to process these to enjoy them. Just simmer them for about 10 minutes in the brine, let cool, pop into a covered jar or glass container and refrigerate them. Because of the vinegar, these will keep in the fridge for a few months, no processing required.

This makes about 6 pint jars.

lola-rugula-spicy-dilly-beans-canning-recipe

spicy dilly beans recipe

Brine:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 4 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt

Per pint jar:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large fresh dill head
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes OR sliced fresh jalapeno
  • 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • About 2 cups fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed (enough to pack the jar)

Sterilize jars, lids and bands for 10 minutes. Leave in hot water until ready to use.

In a large pan, add water, vinegar and pickling salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

In each sterilized jar, place 2 cloves crushed garlic, dill head, dill seed, hot peppers and peppercorns. Pack with green beans.

Pour hot brine over green beans, filling jar to 1/4 inch of rim. Wipe rim clean and seal with lid and band. Repeat for each jar.

Place packed and sealed jars into a boiling hot water bath, making sure water level is at least 1 inch above jars. Cover, reduce to low boil (but make sure water continues to boil) and process for 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water and let sit, undisturbed, until cool.

Store for at least 4 weeks before enjoying, to let the flavors really come together.

Any jars that don’t seal can be stored in the fridge.

I can seriously eat a jar of these by myself, that’s how much I love them. And feel free to switch this up with apple cider vinegar – it’s just as delicious, with a little different tang.

These little beauties also make great gifts, so something to keep in mind as your garden is winding down.

Cheers!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

smooth operator

If you’re looking for a quick antioxidant boost, a berry smoothie is a great way to go. To make a smoothie, all you need is a blender. Everyone has a blender, right? I feel like smoothies are one of those things that a lot of people talk about but not everybody gets.

Smoothies can be made from so many different ingredients that the possibilities are almost endless. Try soy milk with berries, almond milk with spinach, strawberries with bananas. You have to play around with your favorite foods to know what mash-ups you like. Make a green power drink: think cukes, spinach, kale, herbs, etc. Add just a few ingredients or you add as many as you like. Try not to drink the same one all the time though – you want to get a good mix of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Here are a couple of shots of a blackberry smoothie I made recently with what I happened to have on hand:

how to make a berry smoothie recipe how to make a smoothie recipeSmoothies don’t have to be complicated – you just need some fresh fruits and veggies on hand.

This is how I made this particular smoothie:

  • 1 ripe banana broken into chunks
  • 2 cups fresh (or you can use frozen!) blackberries
  • 1 cup pure pomegranate juice

Blend until well pureed. I usually need to shake the blender around once or twice during blending, to keep everything moving.

Add crushed ice to the blender too, if you like – especially nice In the summertime or after a workout,

I also add ground flax seed sometimes, which is a great natural source of omega-3’s. Know that eating whole flax seeds don’t offer nearly the benefits that ground ones do – your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients from whole ones, because they usually pass through you without breaking down. I grind a batch of my flax seeds in a small coffee grinder and keep them in my fridge, so they’re ready to use. They can go rancid quickly if not stored in the fridge, so consider yourself warned.

For my fellow gardening friends, here’s a shot of one of my flax plants, taken last summer:how to grow flax seed in illinois

How about you – are you a smoothie drinker?

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

sidecar cocktail

A few years ago I made an extravagant dinner for my husband’s birthday. Along with that dinner, I served a cocktail that we immediately fell in love with: the Sidecar.

Warning: potent cocktail. May cause giddiness.

sidecar cocktail lola rugula

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

  • 1 cup good brandy
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon zest or Maraschino cherries

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add brandy, Triple Sec and lemon juice. Shake well to chill and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon zest or cherries and serve.

Cheers!