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Recipes by Type

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_6425I love fall in North America! The weather is great and all sorts of seasonal veggies and fruits crowd farm stands across our nation. Butternut squash is abundant now and is getting almost as popular as kale.  Butternut squash is versatile as well as delicious. It’s weird looking back on my life as a confirmed squash hater. That is until just about ten years ago. Part of that affliction was from not finding or trying many a tasty recipe for this wonderful food. There are so many recipes available for this funny looking squash variety. With butternut squash you can make a lovely salad with walnuts and kale, mash it like mashed potatoes, or make many great tasting soups with it.

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Peeling a butternut squash is not for just anyone. It’s about as easy as giving a cat a bath and just as dangerous. Luckily most grocery stores sell peeled and cubed butternut squash. This no doubt will save many a home cook a visit to the emergency room. When you buy it already peeled and cubed you can make a soup like this one in minutes! You can also tweak it in many ways to suit your taste. You can add carrots, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, or your choice of herbs to make this personalized. You could also make it with the simple healthy ingredients listed here and have a great soup made from scratch.

 

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Give this fall soup a try soon and see if you agree with me that it’s a keeper. To celebrate fall harvest I am giving a way to two lucky readers some of my heirloom Strawberry Popcorn. This yummy little corn was grown organically with no chemicals or sprays of any kind and produced over a hundred cute little red ears. I have already tested a batch on my stove and pronounce it yummy. To enter this giveaway leave a comment on what your favorite way to season popcorn is and good luck to all who enter.

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Simply Delicious Butternut Squash Soup

 

4 cups butternut squash cut into about one inch cubes, about 19 ounces

1 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base, see note

1 cup milk, either coconut or cows milk

salt and pepper to taste

 

Cover squash with water in a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and add chicken base.

Cook for ten minutes or until soft.

Drain off about one cup of the liquid and reserve it.

Add the milk and blend with either a table top blender or immersion blender until smooth.

Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed for a thinner soup.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of sweet Hungarian paprika.

Serves four

 

 

Note:

If you want a vegan style soup use a vegetable bullion cube in place of the chicken base.

Curry powder( one teaspoon) is a nice spice blend to add to this soup for an exotic flavor.

 

What’s a Parsnip?

I recently bought a copy of the White House Cookbook to replace the one I had back in the 1970’s and 80’s. This one seems the same except instead that Ida Saxon-McKinley is replaced by an inset photo of Edith Boling-Wilson. The recipes crack me up with the less-than-specific directions, but it still proves useful in searching out ideas for farm fresh foods. Back in the 1880’s when it was originally written I suspect all food was either fresh, dried or canned as freezers were not in common use until around 1913, and even then only a few owned such a luxury.

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While flipping carefully through the brown and easily cracked pages I found several parsnip recipes. Parsnips are not a vegetable most of us know well, or eat often. They are related to carrots and have the same shape, but are white. Unlike carrots parsnips are not eaten raw often. Parsnips have a wonderful flavor similar to a turnip but milder and sweeter. Parsnips cook fairly quick and are versatile. You can add them to soups, roasts, mash them, sauté them, or stew them like in The White House Cookbook. Here is what the recipe from over a hundred years ago looks like:

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Stewed Parsnips

After washing and scraping the parsnips slice them about half of an inch thick. Put them in a saucepan of just enough water to barely cook them; add a tablespoonful of butter, season with salt and pepper, the cover closely. Stew them until the water has cooked away, watching carefully and stirring often to prevent burning, until they are soft. When they are done they will be of a creamy light straw color and deliciously sweet, retaining all the goodness of the vegetable.

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Curious about this recipe I proceeded to sort of follow it finding that if I would have cooked it until most of the liquid had evaporated I would have had very overcooked parsnips. It’s tough to cook out that much water with a pot that is covered! I also opted out on scraping my lovely organic parsnips wanting the nutritious skin to be intact. I found that the pound of sliced parsnips took less than 15 minutes from cleaning to serving which is pretty quick. I started them in cool water to cover with a bit of salt, pepper, and half the butter with a pot tightly covered and within eight or nine minutes they were soft. I poured off the water, then added 1 teaspoon butter and one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley for color. I was pleased with the result and think you will be too. If you want some more color try cooking with sliced carrots(equal in amount to parsnips) in the pot and cut the carrots smaller then the parsnips so they cook in about the same amount of time. Parsnips go very well with just about any chicken, or pork dish as a side.

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Give it a try and let me know what you think of parsnips, and this recipe. As always feel free to share and comment.

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Chicken w/Shallots Under 20 Minutes

I’ve been a known hater of microwave ovens for years. Why you might ask? It’s because I have seen many a food item destroyed in the microwave, and they are over used in many homes and some restaurants. As for the argument they change the molecular properties of foods and make those foods harmful to our bodies, I’m not a scientist so who really knows? What I do know is I may not be quite as fast in preparing meals without a microwave, but I’m sure the quality and health benefits are better with my conventional way of cooking. If you can’t part with your microwave that’s fine with me, but consider other fast options here on my blog because I believe your food will taste better if spared the micro-zapping torture.

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I’m a busy guy at home with many responsibilities like most of you. It’s very important to me that we eat well, and that I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. It helps that I worked in over thirty restaurants in my chef career where I learned many ways of preparing foods in an environment where time is of the essence. It wasn’t until I walked away from professional cooking that I truly started to develop ways to speed things up in my home kitchen to share with you. My idea of a quick dinner is total prep/cooking time of twenty minutes or less. Almost all of the meals I cook at home are twenty to thirty minutes or less and I use very few convenience items.

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Today I want to give an example of a meal you can do in about twenty minutes that tastes great and uses whole natural foods. This chicken recipe cooks quick due to the thickness of the chicken breast and if you time things right the other two items will be done at the same time. Here are the dishes and how it flows:

succotash (lima beans and corn)
sautéed mushrooms
chicken breast with shallots

Start the lima beans cooking in enough salted water to cover plus an inch more. If you don’t like lima beans go with steamed green beans and toss them with a few cherry tomatoes cut in half during the last minute of cooking.

Start the sliced mushrooms sautéing on medium heat, if using onions start them first and add mushrooms two minutes later. If these get done way before the rest just turn off the heat until the other dishes catch up, then reheat for a minute or two.

Follow the recipe in this post for the chicken breast starting it after the mushrooms and lima beans are cooking.

Twelve minutes or so after the lima beans have been cooking add as much corn as lima beans to the pot. At this point it only takes two-three minutes to finish cooking and it can wait up to five minutes for the other two dishes to be done without hurting it a bit.

By now the chicken breast has been flipped and is almost done.

Get your platters if serving family style ready, or get dinner plates ready for dishing up.

Plate up the finished items and garnish with sliced fresh tomatoes.

All this should be easily done in twenty minutes, and you have an attractive healthy meal that tastes great. If you don’t want to use chicken the recipe works well with pork loin too. You could substitute beef, omit the thyme and use Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt instead with good results. The options are many, but I hope you get the picture of a quick healthy meal without taking up too much of your precious time at home. Please feel free to comment on, and share this recipe.

sautéing the shallots

sautéing the shallots

Sautéed Chicken Breast with Shallots

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Using a meat tenderizing hammer pound out the chicken breast to a thickness of one half inch or less.
Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper on the chicken then dredge in the flour.
In a sauté pan on medium heat add half the oil and cook the shallots for three minutes, stirring often.
Remove shallots from pan and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the rest of the olive oil and chicken breast.
Cook for six minutes then flip and cook for five minutes or until chicken reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
Add shallots to the hot sauté pan and cook for a minute or two then top the chicken breast with them.
Serves two but is easily doubled or tripled to serve more.

Note:
Not all chicken breast are the same thickness. Modern intensive raised chicken breast are twice the size of traditionally raised chickens and require a bit more pounding with the meat tenderizing hammer. I prefer the smaller traditional chickens.

To speed things up a bit I’ll take a piece of aluminum foil and set it on top of the sauté pan loosely to reflect the heat. Don’t use a tight fitting lid as that would trap in steam and make the chicken breast tough.

This dish goes well with sautéed mushrooms and succotash for side dishes.

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Great food at 8,000 Feet

Aspen Colorado is one of the most beautiful places on the planet! What do you think when you hear about Aspen? It’s too expensive, it’s a place for millionaires/billionaires, it’s too far, it’s too cold? Aspen can be all of those things but here’s what I’ll tell you about my experiences in Aspen. It doesn’t have to be too expensive to visit or stay here. If you come in the off seasons like just after Labor Day, or early June, many decent hotels offer rooms for under $100. For $200 or so we have stayed in some of the best Aspen hotels in the off-season in the past like the Hotel Jerome, and The Limelight Hotel if you want luxury. The Limelight is our favorite with its friendly staff, comfy lounge, free breakfast buffet, and great location.

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Ceviche at Bodega Restaurant’s happy hour.

There are several restaurants we saw yesterday that had happy hour specials, the best being a pizza and two glasses of wine for under $30, and it was yummy! Ajax tavern at the Little Nell offers a double cheeseburger, fries and a pint of beer for $17 which is not a bad deal in Aspen. No doubt the are several more places that offer good deals, but I only have three days here to research the restaurant scene.

Cache-Cache Restaurant's  trout and shaved veggie salad.

Cache-Cache Restaurant’s trout and shaved veggie salad.

The Wheeler Opera House.

The Wheeler Opera House.

If you visit Aspen in June through September the daytime highs can be in the 80’s or more. Today is much like other years when I have visited in September with a daytime high expected to be in the high 70’s and sunny. Even in the winter I find Aspen warmer than many Colorado ski areas where I have worked and skied over four decades. I think most visitors sleep better in a lower altitude. Places like Breckenridge and Copper Mt are at 9,600 feet base elevation making them much colder than Aspen winter and summer.

Truffle fries at Ajax Tavern.

Truffle fries at Ajax Tavern.

As for the distance it’s only three hours and twenty eight minutes from Denver Intl. Airport, and that takes you through Glenwood Canyon, one of the most spectacular drives in the U.S! Since many of us don’t have a private jet driving is the way to go. Highway 82 south from Glenwood Springs has been improved over the years and is safe and quick now. Amtrak offers rail travel from Denver to Glenwood Springs if you are in no hurry, and from Glenwood Springs you can hop the RAFTA bus or rent a car.

The ski area from town.

The ski area from town.

Aspen is a fun place for just about everyone. I’ve skied here back when I was a line cook making very little money, and have come here for other special deals that have always been affordable, and fun spanning over twenty five years. Spring skiing special abound in late March and early April for fun in the sun without the crowds of the I-70 ski areas. Beyond skiing there is so much to do with miles of bike paths, both paved and dirt, as well as world class hiking and climbing. The fishing is worth noting too with the Frying Pan River and Roaring Fork River boasting great trout fishing.

Maroon Bells from Crater Lake.

Maroon Bells from Crater Lake.

The gardens by the John Denver memorial park.

The gardens by the John Denver memorial park.

The biggest attraction I think for a summer visitor is a trip to the Maroon Bells high above Aspen. Just catch a RAFTA bus up from downtown Aspen and you will be there in less than twenty five minutes. It has been said that the Maroon Bells are the most photographed place on Earth according to Eastman Kodak. They should know as back when cameras used film and you had to get your pictures printed Kodak noted how often the Bells showed up in customers rolls of film. The Bells are drop dead gorgeous in all seasons with their majestic triangular high peaks, but to gaze upon them in fall when the aspen groves glow in the Rocky Mountain gold is to truly know stunning beauty. So if you have been putting off visiting Aspen, or never even considered it I hope I’ve changed your mind and you can visit as a regular Joe and enjoy Aspen like a millionaire.

 

Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

Summer Herbs

The leaves are turning color on the cherry trees across the street from my house and falling rapidly. It’s funny how the cherry trees are one of the first to bloom and stand out in the spring and now again in the fall they are vying for attention again ahead of the other trees. Dog and I walk under them daily and get an occasional decorative leaf or two falling on us while we walk. Soon there will be other trees and bushes joining the rush to fall season.

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For now I’m still happily maintaining my garden and picking lots of tomatoes and hot peppers even though fall approaches. Most of my tomato plants are done for the year, but there are a couple of unknown heirlooms producing well. That’s the beauty of planting many types of tomatoes, you get to pick some throughout the season.

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With this abundance of  great tasting tomatoes I’ve been coming up with new ways to eat them. I have them with breakfast some mornings, especially if I’m eating eggs, and I also slice them up just for a snack at all times of the day. I’ve made, and posted gazpacho soup, gobs of salsa for chips and dip, and canned a bunch of diced tomatoes.

 

I figure I have two or three more weeks of tomato harvesting before I have to count on the local farms for fresh tomatoes. My herbs however will produce into October and beyond. One year I had fresh herbs right through November! As a chef it’s awesome to have a great little herb garden out back. For most of my life I lived in cold climates and had to resort to grocery stores for almost all my fresh herb needs.

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With my tarragon plant starting to look just a bit old I decided to start using more fresh tarragon. I made a fresh tarragon salad dressing this week and for today’s post decided to share with you a tarragon pasta dish that takes less than 20 minutes start to finish. If you don’t like tarragon just substitute fresh basil for this side dish and enjoy just the same.

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Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

12 ounces pasta of your choice, I like fettucine for this dish

2 1/2 quarts of water

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

8 ounces sliced white mushrooms

1 bell pepper diced, green, yellow, or red

1/2 yellow onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon minced

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Start pasta water, and salt boiling on high heat to get a head start. Cook according to directions on package.

In a sauté pan on medium heat cook onions, peppers and garlic for three to five minutes stirring often.

Add sliced mushrooms and cook for another eight to ten minutes.

If pasta is done it is time to add  most of the tarragon to the mushroom mixture and cook for just one minute on medium heat stirring. Save a bit of tarragon for a garnish.

Arrange pasta on serving platter or bowl and top with mushroom mixture.

Sprinkle a bit of the leftover tarragon on top and garnish the sides with fresh tomato wedges.

Serves four as a side and two as a main dish.

 

Vintage Corn Recipe

When I was 19 years old my grand parents in St Louis gifted me a copy of the 1898 White House Cookbook written by the first lady Ida Saxon-McKinley. For those who don’t know about these treasures of Americana, the White House Cookbooks instructed housewives of the day in everything from home remedies, cleaning, etiquette, and of course cooking. This was ages before Julia Childs was on the scene to teach us American cooks  recipes from Europe and beyond.

bi-colored corn, aka Peaches and Cream Corn

bi-colored corn, aka Peaches and Cream Corn

As a rookie cook I was amused by the cooking instructions from a time when pretty much all cooking was done on wood stove/oven appliances. The electric stove wouldn’t be in significant production until 1908 and even then it was rarely found in a home. So if you were baking biscuits the recipe would say something like “ bake in a fast oven until desired brownness appears” or something like that. There was no heat measured in Fahrenheit like we see in modern cookbooks, or exact time it took to cook.

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I prepared very few of the recipes in this antique cookbook over the twenty plus years I had the White House Cookbook in my possession as they just didn’t fit what I was cooking in restaurants or home. On a few trips to Marble, Colorado we would stay at some cabins from the 1930‘s that had wood burning stoves and I loved baking in the oven using wood for fuel like in my antique cookbook. It was a bit tricky as I had very few reps in this type of cooking but it always turned out well. I would think back to the directions in the White House cookbook and roast a chicken with vegetables and then bake a cobbler for dessert.

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The cookbook mostly provided me with an interesting review of cooking history, and I read it often. One of the exceptional recipes was a fried corn dish that became a favorite vegetable of the day at a restaurant I worked at in Frisco. The cooks loved it because it was so easy to make. The management loved it because it was inexpensive, and everyone loved the taste. This tasty dish is accentuated by todays super sweet corn varieties whether you are using Silver Queen, or Peaches and Cream Corn this recipe lets the fresh summer corn taste shine brightly.

adding the half and half

adding the half and half

I also have my grand parents to thank for leaving me their entire collection of cast iron cookware that I use to this day. Some pieces are over a hundred years old and still quite functional. For todays post I think it’s appropriate to cook this dish in a pan from that era. I hope you give it a try with your favorite fresh or frozen corn to see how easy and delicious this antique recipe I’ve adapted from the 1898 White House Cookbook is.

IMG_63591898 Sautéed Corn

 

3 1/2 to 4 cups fresh corn cut off the cob, about 3 large ears

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 to 4 tablespoons half and half

pinch or two of ground white pepper

salt to taste

 

Heat sauté pan or cast iron skillet for two minutes on medium low heat.

Add oil and corn and cook for five minutes stirring every 30 seconds or so on medium heat.

Kick up the heat to medium high and add half and half and white pepper cooking for one to two more minutes.

Add salt to taste and serve.

Serves four

 

Greek Style Green Beans

Six Little Tomatoes

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This week I had a seven hour session of home canning where I made Kurt’s Killer Salsa(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/kurts-killer-salsa/), Red Habenero Salsa(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/some-like-it-hot/), and diced canned tomatoes. It was a lot of work, but well worth it come winter when I open a jar of home cooked goodness from the garden that the grocery store can’t compete with.

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When all the tomato blood had cleared it was apparent that six little tomatoes escaped in the confusion. I was contemplating their fate when I thought of a trip to Greece a few years back and how I loved the fava beans cooked with tomatoes we had several times on that trip.

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Being short on fava beans I opted for frozen green beans to pair with my six little toms and cooked them up while they were still in their prime.

cook the beans and the tomato mix at the same time

cook the beans and the tomato mix at the same time

If you are like me and through gardening or over indulging at your local farmer’s market has you experiencing no room in your fridge, or counter space you need lots of ideas for cooking veggies. Well, look no further for a tomato and green bean combo as I have a solution to your problem that takes less than 20 minutes to make, and is delicious too!

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This is also a great veggie dish for re-heating so even if you are cooking for just two in your home this will provide you with green beans for two or more meals.

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Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes

 

1 pound green beans, fresh or frozen

2-2 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

1/3 cup minced onion

1 clove minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons oregano

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

If using fresh green beans, wash and cut into three inch lengths. This will take longer, but will be delicious with fresh beans.

In a pot with water to cover bring  green beans to a boil then cook for two more minutes covered.

Just after starting the green beans sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on medium low heat in a 12 inch sauté pan for five minutes stirring often.

Add tomatoes, and oregano to the sauté pan and continue cooking on medium low heat for eight minutes. If green beans are not done yet turn off heat to the tomato mix.

When green beans are done, drain and add to the tomato mixture and cook on medium heat for 2-5 minutes until desired tenderness is reached.

Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and serve with a garnish of fresh oregano if you have it available.

Serves 4-6.

 

Note:

Fresh oregano can be used but don’t add it until the last minute of cooking. Mince the fresh oregano, and increase to four teaspoons.

The Biggest State

I’m home and back in the groove after another great  trip to Alaska. It was forty years ago that I first set foot in “The Great Land” on Kodiak Island as a seaman apprentice in the US Coast Guard. Little did I know back then that Alaska is habit forming.

Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon

My sister, brother and wife have all heard the siren call too. They are part of almost every trip up north going back many years. What is the draw you might ask? Alaska is bigger than you can imagine with its over two million lakes, more coastline than the rest of the U.S., more than 100,000 glaciers, 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. and a whole lot of salmon to catch and eat. Alaska casts a spell on all who come. If it wasn’t for the bugs, cold weather, and hours of darkness in the winter the place would be as crowded as California.

There is something for just about anyone’s interest in a place this big. Fishing is one of the most sought after activities, and cruising. You can take a helicopter ride to a glacier and walk in ice if you like. Renting kayaks is another popular option in many parts of Alaska, or four wheel drive ATV’s. Maybe a day cruise on a nature themed trip in the Kenai Fijords National Park is up your alley where you will probably see humpback whales, puffins, Dall Sheep, Dall Porpoises, more seabirds than you can imagine, Steller Sea Lions, glaciers, and maybe even killer whales. Float planes are a lot of fun and a great way of getting around in this water world. Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world’s largest float plane base just a short walk from the main airport where you can watch the float planes take off and land.

 

a blue sky day for fishing

a blue sky day for fishing

What about the food in Alaska? For an Alaskan meal try the famous halibut fish and chips at the Inlet View Restaurant in Ninilchik. If fish isn’t your favorite try reindeer sausage  with eggs for breakfast at many Alaskan restaurants. A tourist favorite is Alaskan smoked salmon and Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods in Soldotna is a great place to sample and buy the smoked treats. If you get a chance to try spot shrimp or side stripped shrimp, but don’t miss out on these sweet and tender morsels from the southeast and south central waters. For a meal or happy hour break Lands End in Homer has the best view of any restaurant I know of in Alaska. It looks out on the blue-green waters of Kachemak Bay and three glaciers are visible from the Homer Spit where Lands End sits.

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On most of our trips we stay at a cabin and do most of our own cooking. Salmon is on the menu often and one night’s grilled salmon might become salmon salad sandwiches the next day, or salmon and rice. On this latest trip I made up a new dish that was so good I decided to share it with you all. It’s a fast one that is perfect for our busy fishing schedule at the cabin. When the fish are running we would rather be fishing than spending much time in the kitchen. This dish uses leftover rice and what ever fresh salmon you can get, though I’m partial to fresh pink salmon for this dish. It takes just 15-20 start to finish so try it and see if you like it as much as I do.

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Cajun Salmon and Rice

 

8 ounces fresh pink salmon, or what ever is available. See note.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup diced red bell pepper, optional

1/3 cup diced green bell pepper

1/3 cup diced yellow onion

3-4 teaspoons blackening seasoning, see note

3 cups cooked brown or white rice

 

Skin and trim fat off a salmon filet then cut into one inch cubes.

Sauté onion and peppers in a large sauté pan on medium high heat for five minutes stirring often.

Add salmon and cook for three more minutes stirring often.

Add rice and seasoning being sure to bust up any clumps of rice. Cook three more minutes.

Serves two but is easily doubled.

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Note:

Fresh pink salmon is best for this dish, but silver salmon or atlantic salmon will do.

Be sure and get the tail half of the filet to insure there are little or no bones.

 

If you don’t have blackening seasoning on hand here is a simple recipe for it.

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

done in eleven minutes!

done in eleven minutes!

Visitors

When I was a child my somewhat eccentric parents invited foreign exchange students staying at Buckly Airforce Base east of Denver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Why they were staying there I don’t know, but I remember going to the base to pick them up. Through this exchange I met someone from the Phillipines, and Nigeria. There were one or two others but I forget where they were from. The guy from the Phillipines showed my mom how to make adobo which we all liked very much, and instilled a love for the dish that has lasted a lifetime.  The meat of choice was doves as dove season was the previous month and we had many of the tasty birds in the freezer.

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The guy from Nigeria was interesting because of his family. My mom casually asked at dinner, “what does your father do”, and the answer was, “he is the ruler” which shocked my mother. It’s not every day you have someone for dinner who’s father is the king of a country so that gave my parents something to talk about for years to come. For me the guy was fun because he indulged me with some archery in our backyard as I had just received my first bow and arrow set for Christmas that day. Apparently I thought at that young age, I think I was eleven years old at the time, that men from Africa knew how to shoot an arrow. Pretty funny in retrospect as we were both rather bad at it.

 

Over the last twenty years my wife and I have had only one foreign  house guest and he was a chaperone from Japan assigned to a bunch of middle school aged kids visiting Denver. It was fun and I would have liked to do more hosting. In June of this year I saw a home made sign announcing “20 Spanish students need host families” and called after getting approval from my wife. We ended up with a great kid from Burgos, Spain who at the ripe old age of sixteen speaks very good English and is a great addition to our household.

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Turns out he is a natural cook. Even though his mother does almost all the cooking in his home I found out that he has significant talent in the kitchen. His first homework involving food was to prepare an American dish for a competition in class on Tuesday. I helped him select the dish to prepare and he made shepherds pie with virtually no help from me. Then that night he cooked us two traditional Spanish dishes for dinner. He made a Spanish tortilla and a gazpacho soup. For those of you who have never had a Spanish tortilla it’s nothing like what we see in Mexican restaurants. A Spanish tortilla has potatoes, onion and eggs in it and looks like an omelet.

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Both dishes Manuel made for us were excellent but I really liked the gazpacho, and since I have a lot of tomatoes getting ripe lately I wanted to make another batch the next day. Manuel didn’t use a recipe but I took notes and tried to copy his gazpacho. The results were good but it took some more testing to come up with the recipe I share with you here. It’s fast and simple as well as healthy. If you have an abundance of garden tomatoes like I do it’s a great way to use them up. With these hot summer day upon us give this a try and see if you agree with me that this is one great Spanish cold soup.

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Gazpacho Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes

 

3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters

1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 1/2 cup

1 cup peeled and diced cucumber with seeds removed

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 medium sized apple peeled and diced

1 clove garlic minced

5 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar, I like Bragg’s brand best

1 slice of bread cubed, about 1 cup

1 teaspoon salt

 

Soak bread in water for five or more minutes to soften. Drain water off before adding to the blender.

If using a blender instead of a food processor put tomatoes in first to facilitate faster blending. Then add rest of the ingredients.

If it won’t all fit blend for thirty to sixty seconds and add rest of ingredients.

Blend thoroughly for two to three minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. There should not be anything larger than a sesame seed for best results.

Best if chilled for and hour or two, but can be eaten right away if needed.

Serves eight.

 

Note:

I tested this with both a blender and a food processor. The food processor I have held all the ingredients but was a bit slower to blend thoroughly. The blender did a good job blending but didn’t hold all the ingredients at once and I had to add the rest after a minute of blending reduced the volume.

Summer Grilling with Mushrooms

 

Here’s another fast and healthy recipe for your summer grilling. I have been experimenting with mushroom blending and swapping for over a year now since hearing about it from the folks at The Woodlands at Phillip’s Mushrooms. I created a chili recipe using mushrooms and beef,http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/soup-season/, and now have been focusing on grilling. In case you are not familiar with blending mushrooms it’s where you use half the beef and substitute the other half with mushrooms. In theory you cut out some of the calories and saturated fat by cooking this way.

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With swapping you cut out the meat all together using mushrooms in place of meat.
In both swapping and blending my first choice of mushrooms are the mighty portabella. They taste great, are easy to prepare and last long in the fridge compared with most other mushrooms in the grocery store. They are very similar to meat in their ability to fill you up especially if you try the following recipe with it’s burger bun, cheese, avocado, tomato, lettuce and salsa. It provides all the major food groups, and does it in a healthy way.

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This is also a very fast meal if you are using a gas grill it should take no more than 20 minutes from start to yummy finish. You can use just about any cheese on it like cheddar, provolone, swiss, gruyere, or even gouda. If you are gluten intolerant this is still a great entree without a bun. Try serving corn on the cob, and cole slaw with it for a new summer combo meal to share with family and friends. I think you will agree with me that it’s easy to cut out the meat once in a while when you eat hearty mushroom based meals.

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Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Avocado and Salsa

4 large portabella mushrooms with caps removed
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
6 tablespoons salsa
1 avocado, sliced
1 large tomato,sliced
4 hamburger buns

If using a charcoal grill, or gas grill get it fired up first.
Wash the portabella caps if needed and remove stems. Wipe caps to dry.
Brush caps with some of the olive oil, and save the rest for brushing and toasting the buns.
Brush buns with oil and toast buns then set aside.
Cook portabellas cap side down for 5-7 minutes covered. Flip and cook two minutes with gill side down.
Turn caps gill side up and top with 1 1/2 tablespoon of salsa. Cover grill and cook for two minutes.
Top with cheese and cover the grill to melt it.
Top the bottom part of burger bun with lettuce and tomato, add grilled portabella cheese side up then top the portabella with the avocado slices.
Serves four.

Note:
For an Italian version use goat cheese, or provolone and bruschetta topping.
Remove gills with a spoon if you like.

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