Watermelon Gazpacho

There are about as many recipes on the internet for watermelon gazpacho as there are for regular tomato based gazpacho. Naturally sweet from the watermelon, my recipe is very simple and easy to make with just a few ingredients. Again, the most difficult part is peeling the tomatoes so get the ripest ones you can find.

First, just as with tomato gazpacho, put a pot of water on to boil. When it’s boiling drop in:

4 small Roma (or plum) tomatoes with + cut in the blossom end (as opposed to the stem end)

Turn off the heat and let them sit for just a minute or so before dousing them in an ice bath. Peel and cut out the stem end (about 1/4 inch into the tomato). Set aside.

Cut into pieces:

1 mini personal watermelon (about 8″ diameter or a little smaller)

Cut the meat off the peel and place in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Add:

1 small English cucumber, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces

Add to the mixture and blend until smooth. At this point, there are options:

1/2 small jar of mild (or hot if heat is desired) chili peppers

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

I prefer mine pure so I just add at this point:

1 teaspoon sea salt (or herbamare)

Ground pepper to taste

Juice of 1-2 lemons, strained*

Chill and serve. Makes 8 cups.

*OR Limes if preferred.

Gazpacho

This is the time of year for one of the best things to eat on the planet, fresh picked tomatoes! But for anyone who grows them, it soon becomes an overabundance and the issue becomes, “okay, what am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”. For many, this abundance becomes canned (or frozen) pasta sauce, tomato juice, or we even start picking them green and making fried green tomatoes (see recipe under side dishes). Here’s another tasty way to use up some of these extra tomatoes and, with the temperatures around here in the high 80s and low 90s right now, it’s also a very refreshing meal. And it will use up some of those extra cucumbers from the garden as well!

First, put on a good size pot of water to boil. Wash and cut slits (+) across the bottom (the one opposite the stem end) of:

8 medium to large plum tomatoes (use plum or Roma tomatoes because they aren’t as seedy or juicy as other tomatoes)*

While the water comes to a boil, prepare an ice bath in a large pot or bowl by filling the container about half full of cold water and then adding a tray of ice cubes. When the water boils, add the tomatoes, turn off the stove, and let the tomatoes sit for 1-2 minutes in the hot water. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into the ice bath. Let sit for a minute before peeling them. The riper the tomatoes, the less time they need in the hot water and the easier they are to peel. Peel them and cut out the stem end along with the tough part that extends into the tomato for about a quarter inch. Place them into a food processor or blender after peeling.

Pulse until coarsely chopped (or blend). I like my gazpacho fairly smooth so I used my Vitamix and made it fairly smooth. Put into a large bowl (at least 5 quarts). Pulse in a food processor or blender:

3-4 roasted red peppers (fresh can be used by I prefer the flavor of roasted peppers)

2-3 small red onions, peeled and quartered

1 large English cucumber (peeled if not organic otherwise just cut into chunks before pulsing)**

When chopped finely, add to the tomato mixture and stir to blend. Add:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic powder (if you like the taste of fresh garlic, pulse 6-8 garlic cloves along with the vegetables)

2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

1 teaspoon ground pepper

48 ounces strained organic tomatoes (or tomato juice)

Mix thoroughly and add:

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish)

Chill thoroughly before serving. WARNING: This makes 16 cups of gazpacho so unless you’re hosting a large dinner party (or want to freeze some), this recipe can be cut in half. Garnish with extra chopped basil, diced cucumber and tomatoes. You can also garnish it with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream as well as croutons.

*Regular cucumbers can be used instead, just be sure to seed them before pulsing.

Ratatouille Lasagna

Here’s another recipe for a ratatouille dish that’s scrumptious! This idea comes from Vegan Cocette. I don’t generally make lasagna, too many steps and too much time but this one is fairly easy and not everything has to be made at the same time. Some things can be made ahead of time and then just assembled which takes very little time. First make the ratatouille, then the béchamel sauce, (Italian sauce if used) and lastly cook the noodles, gluten-free of course. If you don’t want the carbs from the brown rice lasagna noodles, I found one made from hearts of palm at Whole Foods (Whole Foods brand) which has very few carbs and calories. Several other noodle types are also available. Italian sausage can be added to either the ratatouille or the béchamel if desired. This makes a very large pan so choose a baking dish that holds at least 3 quarts and is 5-6 inches deep. I don’t need to serve 8 so I made it in smaller dishes and I froze some (uncooked, covered with plastic wrap and foil).

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

On either a paper towel or a cooling rack, place the slices of eggplant and generously salt on both sides. Place a cookie sheet or tray on top of the eggplant and weight it down with several large cans. Let sit at least 15 minutes but 1 hour is better. Rinse off the salt and dry thoroughly and cube. In a good size pan, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium low heat until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Add:

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. While the ratatouille is simmering, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat over medium:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

1/3-1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (enough so it looks like a soupy mashed potato mixture but all the oil is absorbed)

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add:

2 1/2-3 cups non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook over medium low heat until thickened, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and add:

3/4 cup non-dairy mozzarella or parmesan cheese, grated

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes while the cheese melts, whisking occasionally, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom so heat may need to be reduced further.

Lastly, cook the noodles in a large pot (8-10 quarts) of boiling water. When the water comes to a boil add:

1 tablespoon salt

10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (the Whole Foods Heart of Palm can be used without cooking)

Cook the pasta per package instructions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after draining so that the noodles don’t stick together. Then assemble the lasagna by starting with some ratatouille on the bottom of the baking dish which should be at least 5-6 inches in height to accommodate the layers. Second add a single layer of noodles, then a layer of béchamel, layer of noodles, layer of ratatouille, layer of noodles and lastly a layer of béchamel. Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes so that the layers set up before serving. Serves 8.

before baking

“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Crusted Tilapia

I’m always looking for new recipes for fish. This one is very tasty and very easy to make. It reminded me of fried fish but is baked in the oven. That’s because of the high fat content in the mayonnaise. Feel free to use any fish, adjusting the proportions to fit the size of your fish portions. I used tilapia but the original recipe used halibut so it works for pretty much any fish. Simple and quick to make. Serves 4.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix:

3/4 cup mayonnaise*

1/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and basil (or 1 teaspoon of each fresh, chopped)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk to combine. In a non-stick baking dish** (again size depends on type of fish you use, mine was a 9×12), arrange:

1 pound of fish filets (with the tilapia, that’s four large pieces)

Spread the mixture equally over each piece of fish, covering the top completely. Bake in preheated oven 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish (the tilapia is quite thin and only took 20 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

*If you’re allergic to eggs like me, there are now several brands of vegan mayonnaise available which are delicious and work well in this recipe.

**There’s enough fat in the mayonnaise so greasing the pan isn’t necessary.

Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

Stuffed Eggplant

One of my (and my grandson’s) favorite vegetables is eggplant. I’d stuffed zucchini but never an eggplant but this turned out very luscious, a classic combination of an onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato base with rice. It’s a great side dish or add some protein, like sweet Italian sausage, and make it a main dish.*

Serves 2 (or double to serve 4). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and cut in half:

One medium to large eggplant

Score the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin, leaving about a half inch of meat around the edges. Use a spoon to scoop out the meat to leave a “boat”. Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for roughly 30-40 minutes until the meat is softened and slightly browned.

While the boats are cooking, heat in a large skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (any color you like)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Eggplant meat, chopped

Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the pepper is softened. Add:

8 ounces finely diced tomatoes (half a can)

2 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade

1 tablespoon avocado oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook until heated through before removing from heat.

When the eggplant boats are ready, stuff them with the filling, sprinkle with:

2 tablespoons grated non-dairy parmesan cheese

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes before increasing the oven heat to broil. Broil until the cheese is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve.

*To make it a main dish, reduce the rice to 1 cup and add 1 cup ground Italian sausage.

TIP: This is an Italian stuffed eggplant. For a more Moroccan style, leave out the basil and cheese and instead add:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup roasted pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)

Pinch of date sugar

Penne with Chicken and Artichokes

I eat a lot of chicken. Probably out of my 21 meals a week, I eat chicken for at least 12 of them. So finding new and different ways to prepare chicken is something I never stop doing. My brother sent me a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday and I finally made it over there (now that I’m fully vaccinated) a few days ago and imagine how wonderful it was when I found The Chicken Bible, by the America’s Test Kitchen. A cookbook with 500 different ways to prepare chicken! I’m in heaven looking through this cookbook every day searching for a new way to make my chicken taste delicious. And this one is a definite winner. If someone needs to watch salt intake, skip the olives. Serves 4.

Cut into thin strips (or chunks if preferred realizing they’ll have to cook longer):

1 pound (2 large boneless breasts, split or 6 boneless chicken thighs – remove skins before slicing)*

Dry the chicken with a paper towel and sprinkle with:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a medium Dutch oven, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot add the chicken and cook, without stirring, until it starts to brown. Then stir and continue to cook until just about cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl and cover. To the pot, add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Cook until the onion is translucent then add:

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano and thyme)

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook about one minute or until you can smell the garlic then add:

4 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil and add:

8 ounces gluten-free penne

Reduce heat to medium and continue on a slow boil until penne is al dente, about 6-8 minutes depending on the brand used. Stir frequently, sauce should reduce and thicken while the penne is cooking. Stir in:

6-8 ounces artichoke hearts, quartered (I used the vacuum packed ones available at Whole Foods but frozen will work just as well)

Cook an additional 5-8 minutes or until sauce sticks to the pasta. The sauce should be quite thick, not at all soupy (see example below). Add:

Chicken pieces

12 ounces of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes a delicious vegan Parmesan already grated)

Cook until chicken is reheated, tossing the pasta lightly. Add:

1/4 cup chiffonaded basil leaves (roll the leaves into a log and thinly slice)

Toss the pasta once again to mix in the basil, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed and serve.

This is not what you want, see the sauce on the bottom of the plate, too soupy!

This is what it should look like. See how the sauce sticks to the pasta.

*Whenever I need to slice chicken, if I’m using frozen chicken, I try to catch it when it’s still just slightly frozen because its much easier to slice when its partly frozen. If using fresh chicken, try putting it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Pasta Bolognese

What’s better than a bowl of pasta with a rich, unctuous, makes you go ummmmmm sauce? That’s exactly what you get with a Bolognese sauce. The centerpiece of this sauce is the meat, lots of meat with a few vegetables thrown in for good measure and not much tomato sauce. I think in large measure the rich unctuousness of the sauce comes from starting off with a quarter cup of olive oil. That builds the flavors as each is added. This will serve 6-8 people easily. Serve over whatever kind of pasta your family prefers but a larger pasta, i.e., spaghetti rather than linguini, will hold the sauce better.

In a large stew pot, heat:

1/4 cup olive oil

Over medium high heat. Add:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 medium celery stalks, chopped

1 large or 3/4 cup of carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Remove from heat. In a large skillet with high sides, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound ground pork

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté stirring frequently to break up the ground meat until there’s no pink left and any juices have steamed away. Add to the vegetables along with:

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

If you choose, like I did, to use dried herbs add them now with the tomato. If you choose to use fresh herbs, add them about 15 minutes before the sauce is ready.

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes (or 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped)

1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil (or 8-10 basil leaves chopped)

Stir to combine all ingredients, reduce heat to low simmer, partially cover (in other words leave the lid at an angle so that steam escapes), and cook for at least one hour. I actually left my sauce to cook for almost 2 hours which helps the vegetables break down and integrate into the sauce.

Before serving, stir in 1/4 cup grated cheese*

TIP: I did add 6 ounces of shitake mushrooms, just because I had them on hand and they needed to be used.

*Follow Your Heart makes a parmesan cheese that contains no coconut or nuts of any kind and tastes just like parmesan cheese, at least to me! The traditional recipe calls for grated pecorino Romano cheese.