It being tomato season, I thought we’d take advantage of it and make some Gazpacho for a quick weeknight meal, and get a chance to cook a vegetarian recipe from this Spanish cookbook I got a few years back. It’s part cookbook, part guidebook for Spanish culture and food. Because of that, this is a fun book to flip through when you want to learn the origins of a particular dish, get excited about a trip abroad or learn something about how Spanish chorizo is prepared. As a reference, or when you want to find a recipe quickly, though, its less useful. Regardless, this version of gazpacho is fairly straight-forward – prep time is minimal, and as long as you’re willing to wait for the soup to chill thoroughly, this is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make.
Up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there’s an amazing restaurant, Polly’s Pancake Parlor, that has been around for decades serving delicious breakfast and lunches to hungry locals and tourists alike. I’ve been going to Polly’s since I was a little kid, whenever I would visit my Mom’s family in nearby Bethlehem. The routine is always the same – piling in the family station wagon/mini-van/rental car, driving along verdant, curvy New Hampshire roads, reading the roadside historical signs until suddenly we come around a curve, see the sign for the country’s first ski school and ten seconds later arrive at breakfast paradise – Polly’s Pancake Parlor! The pancakes are served in two batches of three, made fresh by your server, and you get to customize both the batter and the ingredients. Buttermilk with blueberries? Whole wheat with walnuts? Whatever you’d like. After a delicious meal of pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, or pretty much anything that is made more delicious with the addition of maple syrup, everyone lumbers outside, soaks up the beautiful view of the mountains, and poses for a picture on Trot-trot II, the wooden horse out in front of the restaurant.
The family who has run Polly’s since it opened, the Dexters, put out this small, spiral bound cookbook with recipes from the restaurant. So many of them are delicious bread and pancake-based recipes, but the one I made for lunch today is a chilled yogurt soup with a surprising kick of maple flavor. It’s a nice complement to a breakfast full of fried or griddled foods, and we usually get a bowl of it to pass around the table towards the end of our (nearly) annual pilgrimage. It’s an incredibly quick and easy recipe, basically straight from the blender to the bowl – no chopping or heating required.
This week I picked a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook How to Eat: The Pleasure and Principles of Good Food. I’ve had this cookbook for more than a few years, (a card stuffed in the back of the book says it was a birthday gift from my folks in 2004). It’s hard to focus on the cookbook, though, with Mrs. Lawson’s eyes staring through me from the cover:
It looks like the most recent version of the cookbook has a different, less Mrs. Robinson-esque cover to it, which is probably a good thing. The book is structured around complete meals, and while I appreciate that sort of approach to cooking, it makes it a difficult book to use, since rarely do I have the time or foresight to make several dishes consecutively (or simultaneously). In addition, her tendency to use a lot of game and seafood that are not easily available at the local grocery store make a lot of these recipes inaccessible. And for someone whose cooking persona is that she cooks with passion, a lot of the recipes sadly seem to fall into the the stereotype of bland British food.
This soup (pg. 144), however, was good and came together quickly. Not a ton of flavors involved – mostly just butternut squash, onion and vegetable stock, topped with some Parmesan cheese. But that simplicity works well for a cold-weather, quick weeknight meal (never mind that March in Texas is hardly cold weather). The whole thing came together in about 45 minutes, and only half of that was prep time or time spent standing in front of the stove. I added some Italian parsley we had sitting around the kitchen, and it worked fine but didn’t contribute as much to the flavor as I would have liked – another herb like sage or basil would have been a better choice.