Creamy Gazpacho with Coconut “Bacon Bits”

This magnificent cool soup is one of the easiest things to make with your fresh picked, home grown tomatoes! Gazpacho is basically a blended salad and it can be made with just a few juicy, ripe tomatoes, a handful of red peppers, onions, peeled cucumbers, some herbs, and a blender. This version is thickened with a couple of slices of hearty bread and garnished with finely diced vegetables, avocado and crumbled coconut “bacon bits” but there are endless ways to adorn this soup. Be creative and add your own spin!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 mini cucumbers, topped and tailed, peeled
  • 1/2 large red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 thick slices bread crumbs (GF, if necessary)
  • 1 litre (32 oz.) cold water

DIRECTONS

Place the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions cut into pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and leave to stand for 2 hours. Place  tomato mix wit the juices, bread and cold water to a high speed blender and puree until really smooth. Add vinegar and lime juice to taste. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the coconut “bacon”.

Dice a little tomato, pepper, cucumber and sprinkle around the edges of the bowl. Add fresh basil and cilantro leaves.

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Ladle or pour gazpacho into the centre of soup bowls and top with diced avocado and coconut  bacon bits.

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Serve soup with garlic toasts (see Notes).

Yield: 4 generous servings (1 Litre)

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Coconut Bacon Bits

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Naked Coconuts (soy-free liquid seasoning available at health food stores)
  • Large pinch ground chipotle chilli pepper
  • ½ tablespoon maple syrup

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the coconut flakes with the seasonings in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well. Spread the coconut flakes as evenly as possible on your baking sheet.

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Bake in the centre of the oven for about  for 10 minutes, spinning the pan around  after 5 minutes, until flakes are mostly dry and become dark. The coconut flakes will crisp up as they cool. when completely cool, crumble the coconut flakes to resemble bacon bits and store in a covered container until ready to use. (Coconut bacon can also be frozen).

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Yield: 1 cup coconut “bacon”.

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Notes:

For garlic toasts: Rub the cut slide of a garlic love over both sides of the bread and place in a preheated cast iron or non-stick frypan. Flip the bread over when one side has turned golden brown or achieved desired markings and toast the other side. No need to oil the pan.

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Almond Milk

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As much as possible, I like to make most things from scratch. Making my own non-dairy milk means I can avoid unnecessary ingredients added to commercial alternative milks, such as preservatives, flavourings, refined sugars, emulsifiers and stabilizers. Some of those additives are used help to extend the shelf life of the milk but since it is really simple to make your own and your own will taste much better, why not make your own healthier version?

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Homemade nut milk does not go through a homogenization process (mechanically done in commercial milks to ensure that the fat particles remain suspended evenly in the milk), which means that the fat will separate from the liquid and form a thick layer of cream after the milk settles. Generally, the cream will sink to the bottom of your pitcher although occasionally it happens the other way around, where the cream layer is suspended on top of the milk. Either way, I think this lack of homognization is great. That thick creamy layer is absolutely luscious! It makes a delicious substitute for half and half in your morning coffee. If you don’t need the cream layer for anything in particular, just stir it back into the milk before using to evenly distribute the particles again.

The ratio of almonds to water below will produce nut milk with the same consistency as regular cows milk. For a creamier version, add a little less water.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • Pinch Celtic sea salt
  • 2 dates, seeded, or 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla, optional – see notes*

Directions

Rinse almonds thoroughly and place in a high speed blender with half the water, dates or maple syrup and salt. I would encourage you not to omit the sweetener. The sweetener does not make the milk taste sweet – it is included because it balances out the flavour of the milk. You can add vanilla now or you can add it at the end (see notes).

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Turn the motor on slowly and gradually increase the speed. If using a Vitamix, blend for about 20 seconds, then add the remaining water. Blend another 20-30 seconds. (I don’t use the turbo speed on my Vitamix when making nut milk because I don’t want the milk to be completely smooth at this stage. If the mixture is too smooth, it is difficult to strain away any residual sediment from the nuts and this sediment tends to settle at the bottom of the pitcher once the milk stands for a few hours. I prefer to strain the milk through a nut bag or a double layer of cheesecloth and reserve the pulp for other uses).

Squeeze the pulp in the nut bag to release as much milk as possible into your pitcher.

Yield: 1 litre

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Notes:

*I add the vanilla only if I want to use the milk to replace the cream in a cup of coffee, pour it over breakfast cereal, or use it in a recipe for baked goods, such as cakes or muffins. For non-sweet, savoury dishes, such as sauces or cream-based soups, I omit the vanilla. If you will be using the milk in both sweet and savoury dishes, then add the vanilla at the end, after you’ve strained the nuts through the nut bag and removed the portion you need for savoury dishes. You might want to add a little less vanilla to start, and taste the milk before adding more. 

Cashews and Brazil nuts can be substituted for almonds in this recipe. Follow exactly the same process for soaking and blending the almonds. Both cashews and Brazil nuts make an ultra-creamy nut milk which is lovely, although milk made from Brazil nuts has a stronger flavour than milk made from almonds or cashew nuts. Just be aware that nuts have different flavours and each will impact the favour of the milk. 

Cucumber Salad with Chickpeas

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Sometimes the best salads have only a few ingredients. This unfussy cucumber salad is one of them. You can’t go wrong with something as classic and refreshing as this.  Simple to prepare and cooling on a hot summer day or served along side any kind of hot and spicy food. The addition of fresh dill raises it from ordinary to a herbaceous, fragrant chef-d’oeuvre. Enjoy it as a light lunch or serve it along side other dishes at barbeques, potlucks and picnics. I like to make extra to ensure there leftovers to take to work for lunch the next day.

One large English cucumber is enough to yield 3 or 4 generous servings, more if served as one of several dishes at a barbeque or buffet. It’s a pretty good yield, I think. Mini cucumbers can be used as well. I often buy packages of 4 or 5 mini organic cucumbers and I will use the whole package in this salad. As long as you have enough dressing, the amount of cucumbers and chickpeas is somewhat arbitrary in this recipe so feel free to double or triple the quantities listed.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced, chopped (or cut any way you like)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry (I used dried, but you can use canned)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced or minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh fat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Pink Himalayan salt or Celtic Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked 4 hours
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Add everything to a high-speed blender and puree until very smooth, about 30 seconds. 

DIRECTIONS

Combine the cucumber, chickpeas, red onion, and dill and parsley in a bowl. Gently toss with enough dressing to blend and adjust the seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with a pinch of smoked paprika and serve.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable. I often add a half-cup of raw greens such as spinach, chard, collards or kale to build it up, but you could also add sliced celery, carrots, or peppers for variety. You can also use different beans – kidney beans, white beans or black-eye peas would be nice. 

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Serves 3-4