Saturday, August 12, 2017


Last year by mid-August, I was in tomato heaven, enjoying gazpacho daily and stashing garden tomatoes in the freezer for sofrito futures. This has been a disappointing year for tomatoes. I haven’t made a single gazpacho so far. I could buy tomatoes, sure, but they would never match the incomparable flavor of the home-grown ones.

Last year, tomatoes from the garden. This year, zilch.

But, while I’m bereft of tomatoes (and cucumbers and peppers, too), I’ve got a basket full of sweet pears. Maybe I could make gazpacho with pears in place of tomatoes?

Pears to replace tomatoes in gazpacho?

By my own definition, gazpacho requires only bread, garlic and olive oil and it doesn’t have to be red. Tomatoes and other fruits of the vegetable garden are modern additions to what is a very ancient peasant food. (Although, I have been pretty strident on what gazpacho doesn’t include: no tomato juice; no canned tomatoes; no tomatoes dropped in boiling water to facilitate peeling them; no ketchup; no chicken stock or beef stock; no pepper or chile; no salsa; no beets or watermelon or strawberries.)

So, pear gazpacho it is. With the addition of ground almond meal, it has similarities to ajo blanco, a white garlic gazpacho made with almonds. While gazpacho is a savory cold soup, served as an aperitif, this one, with some tweaking, makes an excellent dessert!

Gazpacho needs a garnish, both for visual and textural contrast. Crispy croutons are good. Crunchy chopped scallions would go with the sweet pears. In honor of the tomatoes I have not got, I used chopped cherry tomatoes plus a little shredded basil.

Chilled pear gazpacho served with chopped cherry tomatoes and sprigs of basil.

Serve with crispy croutons or bread sticks.

Olive oil and bread give the gazpacho a creamy texture.

Pear Gazpacho
Gazpacho de Peras

Makes 4 (½ -cup) servings.

Pears, almond meal, garlic, bread.
½ cup bread crumbs (1 slice, crusts removed)
2 cups diced pears (4 pears)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup unsweetened ground almonds
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon aguardiente (anisette liqueur, optional)
Tomatoes and basil leaves to garnish

To make a sweet dessert pear gazpacho, omit the garlic and salt. Replace the vinegar with 1 tablespoon of honey. Use ¼ cup cream in place of the olive oil. Add a pinch of cinnamon or allspice. Blend the pears with bread, as for the savory gazpacho.

Place the crumbs in a small bowl and add ½ cup water. Soak the bread 10 minutes to soften. Squeeze out the bread.

Place the pears in a blender with the lemon juice (to prevent fruit from turning dark). Add the bread, ground almonds, garlic and salt. Blend until smooth. Add  the oil, vinegar and anisette if using. Blend to emulsify to a creamy texture. Blend in ½ cup water. Chill the gazpacho.

Stir the gazpacho before serving. (Add additional water if gazpacho seems too thick.) Serve the gazpacho in small cups, garnished with chopped tomatoes and shredded basil.

Follow the five-part “Gazpacho Diaries” for just about everything you ever wanted to know about gazpacho. A recipe for traditional Andalusian gazpacho is here.

More variations on gazpacho:

More recipes with pears: 

Saturday, August 5, 2017


When I fire up the grill on the patio, it’s never just to cook one meal. It requires so much  charcoal and/or olive wood to make a bed of coals on only one side of it that I try to get as many foods on it as possible. 

Use coals to cook foods in several shifts.

So, if there’s steak or ribs or a boned leg of lamb for tonight’s meal, then there are adobo-marinated chicken legs to grill for tomorrow. Eggplant, peppers, corn in the husks, potatoes wrapped in foil, whole onions, garlic, leeks. Some of the vegetables are flame-roasted while the fire is just getting started; others are grilled over the dying coals after other foods have been removed.

Roasted corn that we don’t eat at the first meal I will add to a salad of black beans and green beans. The eggplant and onions and garlic become escalivada, a Catalan dish that can be served cold or room temperature.

Charred eggplant, pepper, onion and garlic to make escalivada the next day.

Grill-roasted eggplant, green and red peppers, onions and garlic--add olive oil, lemon juice and it's escalivada.  Mash the soft, roasted garlic with some of the pepper juices and oil and drizzle over the vegetables.

Serve escalivada as a side dish or heap it on toasts as a tapa.

Bell peppers--roast them today, use them tomorrow.

Tomatoes can be roasted right on the grill or in an aluminum foil pan. They're easy to peel.

A heap of roasted red bell peppers, peeled and torn into strips and dressed with olive oil becomes a favorite summer salad.

This time, the remains of the barbecue—roasted peppers, tomatoes and potatoes—inspire me to make an Aragonese dish, cordero al chilindrón, a lamb stew with summery flavors.

Red bell peppers and tomatoes make this lamb stew a summertime dish.

Tender lamb cooks with grill-roasted peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.

Chilled rosado wine goes with a summer stew.

This festive dish is usually served accompanied by patatas fritas, fries, or potatoes cooked right in the stew. I took advantage of left-over roasted potatoes from the grill, adding them to the lamb and peppers at the end of cooking.

A summer stew needn’t be served piping hot. Let it set 10 or 15 minutes before serving. A chilled rosado wine and sliced garden tomatoes complete the meal. 

Lamb Stew with Red Peppers
Cordero al Chilindrón

Peppers and tomatoes may also be roasted in the oven or under the broiler--but the smoky aroma of the grill gives them an extra dimension.

Use any boneless cut of lamb for this stew—shoulder, leg, loin, breast. 

Serves 4.

4 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 ¾ pounds lamb, cut in 2-inch chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of thyme
Flour for dusting meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, julienned
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ cups peeled and chopped roasted or raw tomatoes
Red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup white wine
2 baked potatoes, peeled and cut in pieces
2 ounces serrano ham, diced (½  cup)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Tear the roasted peppers into strips and reserve.

Season the meat with salt, pepper and thyme. Dust it with flour (the meat doesn’t need to be coated with flour).

Heat the oil in a cazuela or deep skillet. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides, Remove the meat and reserve.

Sauté onions and roasted pepper strips.
Add the onions to the pan and sauté 5 minutes until they are softened. Add the garlic and the strips of red pepper. Sauté on medium heat 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, if using. Fry on medium heat 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt and the wine. Bring to a boil. Return the lamb to the pan. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Turn the meat and continue cooking until lamb is very tender, about 30 minutes more. If using the cut-up baked potatoes, add them about 10 minutes before lamb is ready.

Add the diced ham and heat 1 minute.

Allow the stew to set 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.

The remains, for another day.

Recipes for escalivada, here and here.
Another recipe for lamb stew with red peppers, this one for winter is here.
Another recipe for chilindrón, this one with chicken is here. My chilindrón recipes from Aragón are made with red bell peppers, but in Navarra and La Rioja, chilindrón usually is made with dried red peppers called choriceros. Choricero peppers are a mild (not hot), bittersweet chile also used in making chorizo sausage.