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Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Delights

It's high summer at last and the farmers' market is at its peak array.   How to choose from the bounty?  When days are at their warmest, I indulge in the nightshades--tomatoes, eggplants and peppers of all types, which cool the body, nourish the yin and body fluids and reflect the warm colors of the season and the fire element in Chinese medicine.  Cucumbers, too, offer lots of moisture and a touch of bitter flavor in the peel which is said to enter the heart, the proper organ to nourish in summertime.  Summer squash is my least favorite of the season's veggies, but it appears faithfully in my CSA box every week in August.   I like it grilled, mainly, and try to sneak it unnoticed into soups, or decadently turn on the oven to 450, slice the squashes in half, spread each side with a thin layer of chickpea or white miso and roast for about 20 minutes until browned, tender and reliably delicious.  Not cooking is in order, too, in this lazy and/or busy season, so I often lunch on some form of gazpacho which keeps well in the fridge and can incorporate much of the harvest of the season.  This is today's version, enjoyed best with the summer sun kissing your shoulders as you dine.

Eggplant Gazpacho
More of a concept than a recipe, gazpacho is something to throw together in a hurry in warm weather, keep on hand in the fridge, and eat as a first course or a snack. I like it best with at least one component roasted, such as eggplant, summer squash or red peppers, in addition to the usual raw vegetables, to create a richer flavor and a less energetically cold dish. I find that the added bread in many recipes is unnecessary. The use of sauerkraut or pickle brine here adds probiotics, a tart flavor and aids in digestion.  You can also sub in a touch of miso or some fish sauce instead.
Makes about 1 quart

1 cup roasted eggplant, coarsely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons red onion
1 small handful basil leaves
½ cup sauerkraut or pickle brine or whey*
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Dash cayenne
Bay shrimp, avocado slices or other garnish

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a blender, food processor or 2 qt. pot and blend, process or puree with a hand blender. Add water if needed to get a texture you like. Serve room temperature or chilled with above or other garnishes.

*You can substitute 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar or other vinegar plus water to make ½ cup, and add salt if needed.

THIS WEEKEND: I'll be reading, signing and cooking from Real Food All Year Saturday at the Foster City library.  Come by and sample some pesto.   Details on Facebook here.

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