Oh yes, Summer’s here! Temperatures are slowly but steadily rising to a level where – if you want to survive the stuffy city nights – you have to find somewhere else to be during the day – and don’t even think about looking at your stove too closely, it might get funny ideas… – in order to keep the apartment cool…’ish. Of course, that raises the question of minimal-prep, healthy, filling and refreshing to-go’able meals that don’t turn into a pile of ick once exposed to a bit of sun.
Preferably meals that, should they be forgotten thanks to a busy day at work, a sun-induced comfyness-nap or other outdoor activities, can be easily turned into a delicious dinner within a blink or two. One kind of dish always fitting that job description are Gazpachos – best made the night before and carried around in a chilled thermos. This one is one of Hubby’s favorites and it made quite a bit of distance up on my own hit list ever since I found a tiny little Greek delicacy store that sells kick-ass roasted bell peppers, making it possible for me to go completely cold-kitchen on this one… unless hubby requests it for dinner with the filo pillows to go along with the soup~! Here we go, both items on today’s menu will comfortably feed two hungry tummies.
The Roasted Bell Pepper-Apricot Gazpacho
1 large Heirloom Tomato or 3 Plum Tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 Red Bell Peppers, grilled, cored, skin and charred bits removed – you can find these disguised as glass preserves in the greek/turkish/generally-mediterranean section of well-sorted supermarkets. I’d recommend only resorting to those (mostly because they’re either greasy or preserved in some sort of odd watery-sugary vinegar solution that takes a lot of hot water to come off) if you know and like a particular brand, if you can’t find them freshly grilled and dry-stored on the market or in speciality/antipasti stores or if giving them a quick roast in the griddle or on the gas stove burners really isn’t an option due to time, heat or lazyness issues~
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, grilled, cored, skin and charred bits removed
1 Clove of Garlic, roughly chopped
½ Tsp Ginger, freshly grated
3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Pinch each of Salt, Pepper and Sugar
1 dried Chipotle Chilli, roughly chopped
1 sun-dried Tomato, roughly chopped
1 heaped Tsp Pimenton Forte
½ Tsp Hot Chilli Flakes or a couple of shakes of Tabasco to taste
Opt: for more smokyness, add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Easy on the dosage though, or you’ll find yourself one shot of Vodka short of a Bell Peppery Bloody Mary.
10 Soft Dried Apricots, roughly chopped
Low Fat Yoghurt to dot
50-100ml Sparkling Water
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Have a look at your chipotle – if it’s on the gnarly side of things, pop the bits into a small bowl and shower them with the sherry vinegar. Allow the chilli to soak in the vinegar for 1-2 hours.
2) Once the chilli evolved from “leathery” or “brittle” to “manageable”, start the knife work on the remaining ingredients, moving them all into the jug of your blender as you chop away.
3) Season the lot with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, dust in the pimenton and add a good swig of Tabasco and Worcestershire while you’re at it.
4) Whizz the veggies on full speed until you’re looking at a smooth paste’ish kind of substance in your blender.
5) Add the sparkling water in 50ml increments and whizz the Gazpacho again after each addition – in my experience, 25ml is the way to go, but I really like this soup to be a bit thicker than the average cold soup. Just see where the 50ml get you and decide whether to add 50ml more or stop at 25ml on top.
6) Now that the consistency is taken care of, pop the jug into the fridge for 1-2 hours to chill through.
7) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning with any of the listed ingredients and spices – depending on the kind of peppers you’ve used, the soup might need a bit more in the acidity department.
8) Whizz the soup again once you’re satisfied and place the jug back in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
The Baharat-Spiced Goat’s Cheese Filo Parcels
8 Sheets of Filo Pastry
8 Firm’ish Goat’s Cream Cheese Rounds – make sure they’re well chilled before working with them, otherwise they’ll dissolve before the pastry had time to crisp up around them.
40g Butter, melted
8 Generous Pinches of Baharat – this works deliciously well with a simple Herbs de Provence blend and a few drops of your favorite dark honey, too~ Just in case the Gazpacho has enough smoky/grilled aromas going for you.
80g Pine Nuts, lightly roasted
Groundnut Oil for frying
Sea Salt and Pepper
1) Place a heavy-based pan onto your stove and, using a cheese round as a marker, pour in enough oil to reach ¾ of the way up the side of the cheese.
2) Shape the cheese rounds into squares or triangles, to make the wrapping easier, and press 1/8 of the batch of pine nuts into the surface of every piece. Gently nudge them a bit to reduce the pincushion-look to a minimum and reshape the pillow-fillings.
3) Carefully pick up the first sheet of filo pastry and smooth it out on your work surface.
4) Gently brush it with a dab of melted butter and evenly dust it with the spice of your choice and a hint of sea salt and pepper.
5) Place a cheese square in the center of the sheets and tightly fold the pastry around the cheese into firm little triangular pillows.
6) With a bit of luck or the help of a pair of kitchen scissors, the seams of the pastry blanket will meet on one of the large sides. A hint of butter as a seal now and a first contact with the hot oil on that seam-side will seal the pillow up immediately.
7) Repeat this with the remaining sheets of pastry and pieces of cheese.
8) In the meantime, set your stove to medium-high heat and pop on a lid.
9) Once the oil reaches 180°C, slide the pillows in with the help of a pair of tongs or a heat-resistant spatula. Make sure the seam-side hits the pan first~
10) Fry them for 2-3 mins per side until they’re deliciously golden and crispy all around.
11) Once you’ve flipped them to the b-side, retrieve your soup and go through one last taste-and-adjust routine and, if necessary, another whizz.
12) Take the pillows out of the oil with a slotted spoon and set them down onto a double-layer of paper towels to soak up any excess oil while you proceed to pouring the Gazpacho into bowls or pretty soup dishes.
13) Serve the lot while the soup’s still cold and the pillows steaming hot and…