Gazpacho and Grilled Cheese Mexicana

Don’t know why, but recently I had a craving for Gazpacho. That’s usually a summertime thing with all the delicious vine ripe tomatoes that abound. It must have been a memory jog that happened while planning the layout of this year’s garden. Ahhhh… those sweet, juicy, ripe garden tomatoes, just right for fresh, spicy salsas and cool refreshing gazpacho, on a hot and humid day. Well the day I was thinking of Gazpacho was neither hot nor humid, it was about 30°, but still the thought of gazpacho was on my mind. Unfortunately, vine ripe tomatoes are a bit scarce at this time of year, at least really tasty ones, so we shall improvise.  I went into the pantry for ingredients. First, tomatoes.  Hmmmm… crushed or diced?   Today we’ll use diced; I found a few cans of fire roasted ones, yum.  Tomato juice… I never keep tomato juice unless I have a specific purpose. What to do? What to do? I’m not going out to the store when it’s 30° out just for tomato juice!!! (This is why we need the Bethlehem Food Co-Op , then it would be a short trip and I wouldn’t mind.)

 So, I used a bit of Kitchen Wisdom Link to make some using 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water to equal 1 cup of tomato juice.

And this will be a twofer recipe day!

 Do you remember the childhood pairing of tomato soup and grilled cheese? Sure you do, dipping warm crispy grilled cheese into your tomato soup. To go with my light and cool Gazpacho, and to continue the South of the Border theme, I am going make a lighter version of grilled cheese using Queso Fresco.

 This is a unique grilled cheese that is made with Queso Fresco.  Queso Fresco, translated to mean "fresh cheese", is a Mexican cheese, traditionally made from raw cow milk and sometimes from a mixture of cow and goat milk. It has a mild flavor and doesn’t melt when heated, it just gets beautifully soft.  I haven’t yet found a local farm source, so please fill me in if you have one. You can bet I’ll be suggesting it to some farmers.

 So here are the recipes with both fresh and canned ingredients so you can have this any day of the year!

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Gazpacho

1 large cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise and cored to remove seeds, divided
1 large tomato, 1 C. peeled, cored, and seeded, divided                                                                                                                                          or ( 1 C. canned, diced fire roasted  tomatoes)
1 green pepper, halved and seeded, divided
3 scallions, chopped
3 cups tomato juice, divided or 1½ C. canned tomato sauce mixed with 1½ C. water)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
dash Worcestershire sauce

In a blender, combine half the cucumber, 1 tomato, half the green pepper, and 1 cup of the tomato juice. Puree the ingredients at high speed.

Chop the remaining cucumber, tomato, green pepper, and scallions. Place the vegetables in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate it until serving time.

Pour the puree into a large serving bowl or tureen, and add the remaining 2 cups tomato juice, the vinegar, oil, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add chopped vegetables. Refrigerate the gazpacho, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving the soup, add the reserved chopped vegetables to the puree mixture. Check seasonings before serving and adjust if necessary.

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Grilled Cheese Mexicana

4 Ciabatta rolls (from The Flour Shop, perhaps)

12 1/4” Slices of Queso Fresco

1 yellow onion, sliced thin

1 small jalapeño, sliced thin

Butter

Sauté the onions and jalapeño until soft, set aside. Slice the Queso Fresco into slices. Cut the ciabatta roll in half across the roll. Butter inside of the roll bottom and place 3 slices of cheese across, cover with sautéed onion and jalapeño. Butter the inside of the top and cover sandwich. Butter both side of the outside of the roll. Press in a Panini press or George Forman type grill for about 4 minutes.  If you have neither of those options, just use a pan that has been buttered and press down the sandwich with a heavy pan, flipping after 2 minutes and browning the other side for 2 minutes.

This combo is perfect for when tomatoes are at their peak, and you can get them from Bechdolt’s Orchard, but, great anytime because canned tomatoes work perfectly and have their own virtues. Besides being handy and delicious, canned tomatoes offer something that fresh can’t. Since tomatoes are preserved using heat, the canning process releases lycopene, which is a carotenoid that may help prevent prostate and breast cancer. The best bet is to can your own, if possible.

Whichever way you make it, with fresh or canned tomatoes, this Gazpacho recipe is spicy and fresh tasting, a real taste of summer. The Grilled Cheese Mexicana is a new take on and old classic and a great compliment to make this a complete meal. And besides, it can take you south of the border any time you like.  Margarita Please!!

Enjoy, 

Diana

 

 

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