lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

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 deli style medium rare roast beef

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 deli style medium rare roast beef

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 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

Baked Mac and Cheese

Is there anyone who doesn’t love mac and cheese? It’s a rare indulgence for me but when I succumb to the craving I admit that I can eat quite a bit of it in just one sitting. Butter, cheese, and pasta don’t exactly make for a low-calorie dish but it’s oh, so worth it once in a while. Since our weather here in Northern Illinois has been on the cool side for August, I took advantage and baked up a big dish of it this weekend.

I’ve played with a lot of variations over the years and have found I really love it with a combination of different cheeses. I’ve also found that adding a beaten egg adds a richness to it, as well as helping bind it together. I started adding the bay leaf after I saw Alton Brown use it and I really like the subtle flavor it adds. I add garlic and onion mostly because I love garlic and onion and again, they really help amp up the flavor. Totally optional.

I don’t usually put a topping on mine but you can top it with a mix of panko bread crumbs and melted butter if you prefer. You can also sprinkle it with or mix in some bacon or, heck, throw in some sliced hot dogs like you did when you were a kid. Browned ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, roasted chicken or pork…you can really add just about anything to it that your heart desires.

Like I always tell you, don’t be afraid to play with your food!

Mine is not a super creamy mac and cheese; it’s a little bolder with a little more flavor than some. Always use the best-quality cheese you can, as that’s how you’ll get the biggest flavor. Also, layering some shredded cheese on the top before baking yields soft chunks of melted cheese that become part of each serving. Yum.

lola rugula macaroni and cheese recipe

baked macaroni and cheese recipe

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni (I prefer De Cecco, because their noodles seem to hold up better with the combo of boiling and baking)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (plus a little extra for buttering the baking dish)
  • 4 tablespoons flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 egg, beaten in a small ramekin or bowl and set aside
  • 16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz.  shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 oz. aged white cheddar cheese
  • (Reserve 1 cup of the mixed cheeses for topping)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large stock pot, cook pasta just about 1-2 minutes shy of al dente, according to the package directions (De Cecco is only 5 minutes and I cook it for 4) and drain in a colander. Use a large spoon and toss it around to let some of the steam out.

In the same pot you cooked the pasta in, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add flour and, using a whisk or fork, whisk together until well blended and smooth. Continue to stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and onion and whisk together well. Let cook about 5 more minutes, stirring often. I know it just looks like a clumpy mess right now, but you’re toasting out the “flour” flavor and starting to cook the garlic and onion in the meantime. You don’t want anything to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan, so stay vigilant.

Add the milk all at once and stir well, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you do, incorporating everything together. Stir until there are no flour lumps.

Add the mustard, paprika and bay leaf and stir again.

Bring your entire mixture to a slow simmer and then stir every minute or two, being careful not to scald the mixture. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan often, to assure there’s nothing sticking to it. Continue doing so for about 15 minutes. By this point, you should be able to smell the garlic and onion cooking…perfect. You’ll also notice the sauce thickening up just a tad, which it should. It won’t be thick by any means but you’ll notice it gains a bit of “body” to it.

Now, take a tablespoon of your hot mixture and add it to the beaten egg that you’ve set aside in a dish. Stir well. Add another tablespoon and stir well again. Again. Again.

Add your tempered egg to the pot and stir well.

Add all EXCEPT 1 cup of cheese and the salt and pepper.

Continue to stir over a low heat until all the cheese has completely melted and your mixture is nice and creamy. Be careful not to get the mixture too hot.

When all the cheese has melted, stir in your cooked pasta.

Ladle the mac and cheese into the lightly buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Voila! Homemade mac and cheese is simply the best. You can also make this ahead if you want and refrigerate it for a day or two. Obviously, it will need to bake longer if you do so.

Here’s a shot prior to going in the oven. I like the extra shredded cheese on top because, as I mentioned earlier. then you get small chunks of cheese as you scoop it out and serve it.

lola rugula easy mac and cheese recipe

Also, I cook my pasta ahead instead of while I’m making the cheese sauce for 2 reasons:

  1. I don’t need to worry about the pasta cooking and having to drain it while I’m stirring my sauce
  2. I really hate making more dirty pans than is necessary. Who’s with me on this one?

Finally, if you are making this ahead and refrigerating it,  don’t add a panko and butter topping, until right before you bake the mac and cheese.

Do you have any other additions you love in your mac and cheese?

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

asparagus frittata

I have to confess I’ve been on a bit of a frittata kick lately. I mean really, what’s not to love about something that’s so easy to make and that you can pack full of all the veggies you love?

Asparagus is growing rampant in our garden right now; it’s seriously one of the best gardening investments that I’ve ever made. It comes back in full force year after year, it’s really nutritious and, of course, it goes great with eggs. So, needless to say, asparagus frittata has been on our menu more than a few times in the last few weeks. So far, my husband isn’t complaining.

lola rugula asparagus frittata recipe

asparagus frittata recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
  • 2 cups diced asparagus
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – I used an Italian blend for this mix which consisted of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and asiago
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil in10-inch ceramic or other non-stick skillet.

Add asparagus and scallions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The asparagus should still have a bit of a “bite” to it when adding the egg mixture.

While the asparagus is cooking put the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until well-blended and frothy.

Add the egg mixture to the asparagus mixture and place in a preheated. Cook for about 18-20 minutes. When done, the center will have puffed up a bit and the edges will be just starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven, let sit 5 minutes, slice and serve.

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

I love a good frittata – it’s a wonderful meatless Monday dish, especially if you serve it with a mixed green salad on the side.

If you’re not a fan of asparagus, feel free to substitute your favorite veggie (or veggies) because trust me, this is great with broccoli, broccolini, sweet peppers, zucchini…use your imagination and play with your food a bit.

Enjoy!