Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Watermelon Gazpacho

When it comes to warm weather fare, there’s isn’t much as refreshing as a bowl of cold soup. It’s a great choice for a light lunch, and an even better introduction to a warm summer night’s dinner. Because it is a seasonal dish, I find that it is best enjoyed “in” the season, al fresco on a patio or deck, or even just with the doors open.

We all know gazpacho; the tomato-based raw vegetable soup is probably one of the most widely recognized and commonly spotted chilled soups on menus. Putting a little bit of a twist on the original, I made a super-summery gazpacho with watermelon. There is no cooking involved and minimal prep, but it feels elegant and tastes gourmet.

After blending a mixture of raw cucumber, red bell pepper, shallots and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor until almost smooth, I stirred in pureed and strained watermelon. Viola—soup! Inspired by the salty/sweet combination of watermelon and feta salad, I added fresh mint, a bit of lime juice and red wine vinegar to season, and added a hefty spoonful of feta cheese for garnish. Watermelon and cucumber are a great compliment to one another (and p.s. they taste way better than they smell as body splash).

For some, cold soup can be kind of weird. We’ve all been conditioned to think that soup is supposed to be hot, so when a spoonful of chilly puree hits our lips our first reaction is to want to send it back. If you’ve never tried it before or have been turned off by cold soup in the past, I think this watermelon gazpacho may be a game changer. Its bright pink color and smooth, tangy flavor is similar to salsa.You'll love how easy it is, and you don't even have to turn on the stove a little bit. It’s perfect for those days when it’s just too hot to chew.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 cucumber, peeled & seeded, roughly chopped, plus ¼ cup small dice for garnish
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded & roughly chopped, plus ¼ cup small dice for garnish
- ½ shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- About 10 mint leaves, torn
- 2 cups seedless watermelon, pureed & strained, plus ¼ cup small dice for garnish
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
1) Add the cucumber, bell pepper, shallot and olive oil to a food processor; pulse until almost smooth. Add the mint leaves; pulse until finely chopped.
2) In a large bowl, mix the pureed vegetable mixture with the strained watermelon puree/juice. Stir in the lime and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3) Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with small dice cucumber, red bell pepper, and watermelon. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top.

Check out my watermelon gazpacho, featured on Yummly's list of 10 Juicy & Refreshing Watermelon Recipes!

Certified Yummly Recipes on Yummly.com

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In the Kitchen with Karl Ehmer

I was recently given a generous amount of Karl Ehmer products to try. For those who are unfamiliar, Karl Ehmer is a brand of high-quality meats, specializing in sausages, smoked meats, and deli meats. They make a number of great products, but are most well known for their superior sausages. Following the standards of traditional German recipes, Karl Ehmer’s artisanal approach to their products provides a taste that stands out above the more mainstream brands sold widely in grocery stores.

I guess you can say I was full of bologna (ha!). Actually, bologna, chorizo, bratwurst, andouille, chicken sausages, and more! All so juicy and flavorful, each tasted as it were hand crafted by a butcher who really knew and cared about what they were doing. I think that is something special to be said for products that can be found at a reasonable price right at the local specialty shop or deli. To get that quality and care is an unfortunate rarity in a time when the local mom and pop butcher shop up the block is being chased away by big name wholesale warehouses like Costco and BJ’s.

So, what to do with all these sausages? Make a bunch of delicious and easy recipes, of course. Since I couldn’t choose just one, I made three recipes featuring three different sausages. Inspired by my trip to New Orleans a few months ago, I immediately thought to make Jambalaya with the andouille. Traditional in flavor and ingredients, my jambalaya is simplified and uncomplicated with plenty of substance and just enough spice.

Easy Jambalaya

Anything with chorizo is pretty much a winner to me. I love its deep red color, its garlicky flavor and its kick. Two things that happen to go especially well with chorizo are eggs and potatoes. Put them all together and you have a delicious, authentic-style Spanish tortilla. Unlike the flat round corn and flour Mexican tortillas we are familiar with making our tacos with, in Spain, a tortilla or tortilla de patatas, is a potato omelet made in a skillet, very similar to a frittata. To make my recipe, a mixture of thinly sliced potatoes, eggs, and diced chorizo is cooked until set, flipped, cooled and cut into either small portions for a starter or wedges for a meal. I cut mine into small squares to be served as appetizers. It’s like an update to the mini quiche.

Potato Chorizo Tortilla

Now that it’s grilling season, I made an extra little something special that’s perfect for the summer: Beer-poached chicken sausages with beer-braised sauerkraut. Chicken sausages are immersed in a batch of bubbling seasoned beer to infuse them with flavor and juiciness for several minutes before they are branded with crisp toasty grill marks on the barbecue. As the sausages are grilling, the poaching liquid is used to braise sauerkraut with spicy whole grain mustard for topping. For cookouts, I also recommend the Karl Ehmer hotdogs (which are especially good topped with a bit of spicy hot stuff!)

Beer-Poached Chicken Sausages with Beer-Braised Sauerkraut

Karl Ehmer products can be found in specialty and ethnic food stores all over New York, and in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey. If you’re lucky, you may even have one of the Karl Ehmer German butcher shops near you. Their products can also be purchased right from their online store. For more on Karl Ehmer, visit their Facebook page.

Easy Jambalaya
Yield: 4-6 Servings
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ pound Karl Ehmer Andouille Sausage, sliced into rounds
- 1 cup chopped onions
- Cup chopped celery
- ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups seeded and diced tomato (about 3 medium tomatoes)
- 2 scallions, sliced, divided
- 1 ½ cup long grain white rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ pound medium shrimp, cleaned and sautéed
1) In a small bowl, mix the oregano, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper.
2) In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, lightly sauté the sausage. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the drippings in the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
3) Add the tomatoes and half of the scallions and cook until the tomatoes just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the stock, seasoning mix, Worcestershire, hot sauce, thyme and bay leaf. Season the broth with extra salt and pepper to taste, as needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a light simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is just about tender. About 10 minutes before the rice is done cooking, add the sautéed sausage and shrimp to the pot to heat through.
4) Remove the bay leaf from the rice. Serve the jambalaya in bowls. Garnish with the remaining scallions.

Potato Chorizo Tortilla
Yield: Makes about 30 appetizers
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 ounces Karl Ehmer Chorizo, casing removed, finely diced
- 5 eggs
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and potato and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool, about 10 minutes.
3) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, cheese, salt and pepper until smooth. Add the cooled onion and potato mixture and the chorizo to the egg mixture; mix well.
4) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and smooth the surface, pressing the potatoes and onions into a smooth, even layer. Cook for 5 minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the bottom is set. Use a spatula to loosen the side of the tortilla. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, until completely set.
5) Place a large plate over the top of the tortilla and carefully invert the skillet and plate together so that the tortilla drops onto the plate.
6) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and swirl around. Carefully slide the tortilla back into the skillet, browned side up and gently warm. Run the spatula around the tortilla to tuck in the edge.
7) Let the tortilla sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cutting board. Let stand 10-15 minutes more. Cut into small squares and serve as appetizers with toothpicks. You may also cut the tortilla into wedges to serve as an entrée.

Beer-Poached Chicken Sausages with Beer-Braised Sauerkraut
Yield: 4 Servings
- 3 cups lager-style beer, divided
- 1 pound Karl Ehmer Chicken Bratwurst
- ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1 pound bagged sauerkraut, drained
- 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
- 4 hot dog buns
1) Pierce each sausage several times all around with a fork.
2) In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the beer to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the sausage with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and poach sausage for 5-7 minutes. Remove sausage and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
3) Bring the reserved cooking liquid to a boil. Add the sauerkraut, mustard, and the remaining salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, grill the sausages until slightly crisp.
4) Serve the sausages in hot dog buns, topped with the sauerkraut.