Friday, July 29, 2011

Gazpacho. Sort of.

Oh, man. This didn't exactly turn out the way I wanted it to. Maybe I'm just not a gazpacho kind of gal.

Wait. Let’s back this bus up. Let me give you the front side of this story.

I had no idea what gazpacho was until this week. MD didn’t really know about it either. We typed “gazpacho” into Wikipedia search to get ourselves informed. Wiki defines it as a “cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup that is mostly consumed during the summer months, due to its cold temperature and acidic bite.”

I’m talking about tomatoes this week. Plus, it’s crazy hot outside. I thought this would be PERFECT for Friday’s post.

Once I started researching gazpacho recipes, it seemed like everyone was talking about it! I heard about it on television and saw it in magazines and on other blogs.

Yes, I was a little skeptical of cold soup. Although the ingredient list looked so delicious, it just didn’t sound like it could be that amazing. But, I pressed forward and committed to making gazpacho.

I didn't like it. 

I wanted to love it, but it just tasted too much like sipping salsa from a spoon. I love salsa but would rather scoop it with a chip.

MD said he loved it. He kept eating it while I was trying to take pictures. Eh, maybe it's just me?

Give it a try if gazpacho is your thing! 

I used the gazpacho recipe featured in the August 2011 issue of Real Simple.

4 medium to large tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 small Vidalia onion
3 garlic cloves
2 cucumbers, half coarsely chopped and half finely chopped for garnishing
½ cup olive oil
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoon Kosher salt (Table salt is just fine if that’s what you have on hand.)
1teaspoon of pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Baguette, or other bread of choice, for serving

In a blender, working in batches, puree the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and coarsely chopped cucumber.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oil, vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to one day.

Top the gazpacho with the parsley and finely chopped cucumber. Serve with bread.

See ya Monday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Okra, Onion and Tomato Salad

Today I am pairing fresh okra and purple onions with this week’s special guest, Tomatoes, to make a tasty salad. (It’s sort of a salad.)

This crunchy salad would make an excellent side to any meal this summer. It’s fresh, bursting with flavors and is served at room temperature, so you won’t have to worry about reheating it before you’re ready to dig in.

Bonus: You can find each of the veggies at your local farmers’ market.

To begin, grab your rinsed okra and place on a chopping board.

Next, you’ll want to lop off the top part of the okra and a tiny bit off of the bottom. Then, take your knife and slice okra in half length wise. Sprinkle with salt.

Heat a pan with olive oil on medium-high heat. When the oil is ready, place in a few slices at a time and cook in batches. Let these sizzle on each side for about six minutes.


You don’t want to overcook these! They will get too chewy. Take them out when they are just getting browned.

As the batches get browned, remove them to drain any excess oil on a plate with paper towels.

When all of your okra is ready, set aside.

Slice the purple onion, garlic cloves and shallots and place in a smaller skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and add olive oil.

Let this cook for about 10 minutes. You do not want these to cook all the way though. Just heat them up to soften a little and bring out all the sweet juices. After 10 minutes, taste one of the onions to see if it’s ready. It should still be a little crunchy.

Turn off the heat and dice your tomatoes. Pour them over the warmed onions to get them a little warm. You don’t want to cook these though.

Now you’re ready to mix!

Pour the okra in a large bowl.

Top with the onions, garlic, shallots and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Add in the juice of one lime.

Toss together well and serve.

Try this one soon! It’ll be more popular than your Aunt's baked beans and coleslaw.

Come back Friday for the final tomato post this week!


Two pounds fresh okra
1/2 to one cup olive oil

1 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, diced

1 small shallot, diced (optional)

2-3 large tomatoes, diced

Juice from one lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Cut okra in half lengthwise.
2. Pour 1/4 cup oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook okra in hot oil, in batches, about 6 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet, and drain well on paper towels. Repeat with remaining okra, adding remaining 1/4 cup oil as needed. Set aside.
3. Add okra in a large bowl. Stir in onion, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, lime juice and seasoning in a large bowl until everything is equally coated. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Create Your Own Pizza

Tomatoes are finally reaching the peak of their season. So, this week on Christi’s Chirps the special ingredient in each dish will be tomatoes. Sounds good, right?

Sunday MD, Benjamin and I went to the Ozark Slow Food Tomato Tasting held at the Botanical Gardens in Fayetteville, Ark. The event featured a variety of more than 60 tomatoes to taste. We had a great time filling up our bellies with so many delicious Arkansas grown tomatoes. Even Benjamin got in on the fun. As we were leaving, I wondered if they should have charged Ben the admission fee.

Here are just a few of the tomatoes we sampled:

Arkansas Traveler

Italian Cream

Green Zebra


Let’s start off the week with something easy and fun—Create Your Own Pizza!

This is an especially fun idea when you’re having guests over. You can set out an assortment of toppings and dough for each guest. When they arrive and you’re ready to get started, everyone can create their own pizza the way they want it. It’s fun to see and taste all the different varieties everyone comes up with.

Here’s how MD and I did it:

First begin with one pizza dough per person. Flatten it out with your hands. (You shouldn’t have to use a rolling pin.) Drizzle about a tablespoon or two of olive oil on each size of the dough. Sprinkle corn meal on both sides and brush to spread it around evenly.

Top one side of the dough with your choice of spices. I mixed together dried oregano, garlic powder pepper and crushed red peppers.

Place dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet and bake for five minutes. Take it out of the oven and begin layering with your choice of toppings.

I used diced TOMATOES, freshly grated mozzarella cheese, onions, mushrooms, garden fresh basil and topped with freshly grated Parmesan. I sprinkled more of the spices around the crust of the pizza. MD did about the same but substituted fresh basil for fresh spinach leaves and added goat cheese.

Once you’ve got your pizza just how you like it, drizzle with a little more olive oil and place in the oven for about 15 minutes. Depending on your oven, it may be a few minutes less or more. Just keep an eye on it and take out when it golden brown. You want to be sure to not take it out too soon, or the bottom of the crust won’t get crispy.

Let it cool for about five minutes. Slice and serve.

1 can of Pillsbury pizza dough – thin or thick (We used thin crust.)
2 tablespoons cornmeal 
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil Spice mixture – 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Any variety of toppings. We used: 
Diced tomatoes 
Diced onions 
Fresh basil leaves 
Fresh spinach leaves 
Fresh mushrooms 
Freshly grated Parmesan

Stay tuned for Wednesday's post. I'll be cooking with tomatoes in another way!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Lemon and Lime Sauce

Today’s treat is tart and tangy with a hint of sweetness. It’s makes for an amazing topping over vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, fresh fruit or even cake.

I’m talking about Lemon Lime Sauce, baby! It is the perfect complement to a hot meal on a hot day.

I didn't use powdered sugar. Yes, it’s made with a nice amount of granulated sugar, but I've never made a sauce that didn't use powdered sugar. It gave it a really rich flavor that I've never tasted in a sauce or glaze before.

Let’s get it started:

First, whisk 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in small saucepan to blend.

Next, Add 2 cups of water and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens.

Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted.

NOTICE: Don’t leave part of the wrapper on the butter like I did. Don’t worry. It was removed.

Juice 2 lemons and 2 limes. That should be about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of lime juice. Add juice to mixture.
Note: If you end up with a little more or a little less juice, don't worry. Just add it all in and carry on.

Can we take a moment to talk about how much I love citrus juicers? It's one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. They really do their job. I mean, look at at those lemons and limes! Go get yo' self one at Walmart.

Thank you for that moment. Let's get back to business.

Cool sauce to room temperature. When your sauce has cooled, pour sauce into a serving dish and stir in lemon and lime slices.

You can serve this in a cute dish, a cereal bowl or whatever you’d like. I packaged mine up in mason jars and brought them to work to share.

I served a slice of angel food cake in a dessert dish with freshly sliced strawberries and drizzled the sauce generously over the top. Next time I think I’ll sneak a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

It was a lovely dessert. This would also be a fantastic hostess gift.

Try it this weekend!

 3/4 cup sugar
 2 tablespoons cornstarch
 2 cups water
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
 4-6 very thin lemon slices
 4-6 very thin lime slices

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan to blend. Add water and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until melted. Whisk in lemon juice and lime juice. Cool sauce to room temperature. Stir in lemon and lime slices.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coconut Shrimp

When I was brainstorming about today’s post, I wanted to share something that was equal parts delicious and easy. I too turn away from long ingredient lists that seem complicated, messy and expensive. I wanted to give you a dish that you may have never created before.  

I thought about grilled pineapple with a brown sugar sauce. I thought about new ways to cook with avocados. Banana pudding even came to mind.

Lame, lame, lame. At least for now. Don’t be surprised if any one of those items show their face here. Chances are they will.

Alas! Let’s give coconut shrimp a try!

Delicious? Check. Easy? Not bad. Something new to try? Yes! Oh! And the ingredient list is pretty short.

This is the perfect summertime meal. It’s tasty, my friends. The crunchy coconut is downright heavenly.

I also made a sauce for the shrimp. Well, MD did. It was pretty awesome.

Let me tell you how I did this so you can enjoy it soon!
Total time: 30 minutes

To make your sauce you’ll need:
Half cup sugar-free marmalade
Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tablespoon honey
A few dashes of sriracha sauce (If you dare. I didn’t. MD dares a lot.)

Mix all of that together and set aside in a couple of dipping bowls. 

I served my shrimps over white rice.

Boil one cup of dry white rice with two cups of water. Boil for about half an hour. When the rice is ready, throw it in a bowl and add a half cup of fresh cilantro, juice from two limes and salt and pepper.

When you've got that under your belt, prepare 20 or so thawed jumbo shrimp.

IMPORTANT: Please don't use the pre-cooked kind. You can totally buy frozen shrimp; just make sure it’s uncooked. They get too rubbery when you cook it twice. Trust me on this. You can find this at any grocery store. I bought mine in the freezer section at Sam’s Club. (shout out!)

To prepare:
Leave the tails on the shrimps. Carefully slice halfway through the top of the shrimp to butterfly it. This way you can cram in more coconut.

For your batter:
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg
3/4 cup of milk
2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut (or sweetened if that’s all you find)

Heat 1 cup vegetable oil to medium high heat in a pan. 

Get your dredging station ready.

Dip your shrimps in the batter and then into the coconut and coat heavily.

Drop them into your pan and let them sizzle for 1 to 2 minutes and then flip them to the other side. Sizzle for 1-2 more minutes.

Sizzle, sizzle. Pop. Crack.

When they are golden brown on each side, grab them out with tongs and place on a paper towel. Continue those steps until all shrimps are cooked.

 Plate and devour!

Yes, I meant to place the napkin on the wrong side, thank you very much!

 Make this one soon! It’s a keeper.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Keep your cool, man!

Here we are in the heat of summer. Most of my time has been spent outside covered in SPF 45. It’s hot, y’all, but spending your summer inside is for the birds.

Well, you know what I'm saying.

No matter the temperature, there’s no need to spend your time indoors. We’ve got an entire winter to do that.

I’ve made you just the thing to keep you cool this summer. It’s icy, fruity, fresh, a little bit sweet and so refreshing.

Mojito’s! These are made with fresh raspberries and garden mint. If you don't have mint in your garden you can pick it up at your local grocery store or at the farmers' market.

This recipe is super easy.

Mmmm. Fresh garden mint.

If sharing with a crowd, I would suggest making a pitcher of it the morning of your summer party or picnic. I want you to spend more of your time in the pool, lake, back porch, or wherever you are, and less time in the kitchen.

Give it a shot. 

This recipe makes two servings. Feel free to double or triple it as you please. It’s one of those recipes that you can add a little more of this or a little less of that. Taste as you go until you’ve got it just right.

Juice, juice, juice your lime.

Pour the lime juice and simple syrup into your glasses.

Add your mint leaves.

Muddle! (See definition below if you've never muddled.) I used an ice cream scoop. Use whatever tool works best for you.

Add the raspberries.

Muddle some more. 

Add crushed ice, rum, top with cranberry juice and stir.


Looking good.
Clink your glass with someone and say "Cheers!"

1 lime
4 tsp. simple syrup 
6-8 raspberries
8 mint leaves (from your garden if you’ve got ‘em)
crushed ice
4 oz. raspberry rum
cranberry juice
mint sprigs and a few extra raspberries for garnish

To make your simple syrup, simply boil one cup of water with one cup of sugar for about 2 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a highball glass, muddle the lime, simple syrup, and mint leaves.  Add the raspberries and muddle some more. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add the raspberry rum, stir well and top with cranberry juice, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Side note: Muddling, if you didn't already know, is just crushing the mint and raspberries to squish out the juices and flavors.