Icy Spicy Gazpacho

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Well…it is May and the dog days of summer have arrived, bringing soaring temperatures with them. May is my least favorite month here, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The other eleven months are favorites though, as the climate here is just about perfect year round. If you can make it through May, I’d say you’ve got it licked! If you can’t stand the heat don’t turn on the stove. That is why this gloriously good version of Gazpacho reigns as a summer soup. There is no need for turning on a stove because there is no cooking involved! Cooking no…chopping yes, but worth every knife stroke.If you’re too hot and burned out to chop up the ingredients, then by all means  throw everything into a blender and blend away. If, on the other hand, you’ve got an air conditioned kitchen and a sharp knife…do it the clown’s way…by hand. The results, I, and those to whom  I’ve served it,  think are sublime. Serve it icy cold. Best to start preparing this refreshingly zingy, tangy, chunky, spicy, cold, wonder of a summer soup early in the day, so it has plenty of time to chill out in the fridge. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Ingredients:

1 qt. bottle Clamato juice

16 oz. can whole tomatoes

1 cup minced onion

2 cups minced celery

2 cups minced green pepper

2 cups diced cucumber

3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press

1/2 cup sliced green olives

juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce( I used a habanero hot sauce)

Garnishes: Crumbled bacon, garlicky croutons, sour cream, diced avocado, cilantro sprigs

Directions:

Empty the tomatoes into the bowl of either a food processor, or a blender. Pulse briefly, just enough to have a small, chunky, consistency. Pour into a medium to large bowl. Add the Clamato juice. Finely dice the onions, green peppers, and celery. Add to the tomato mix. Peel the cucumbers, slice lengthwise and remove the seeds.(I use a serrated grapefruit spoon). Dice the cucumbers and add to the bowl. Add the olives, oregano, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, hot sauce, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to combine and taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and chill till really cold. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with diced avocado, garlicky croutons, crumbled bacon, a dollop or squiggle of sour cream and sprigs of cilantro.

Yield: 3 qts.

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Heartwarming Lentil Soup

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There was a time, long ago and far away, when Kitchenclown’s sister, Catherine, refused to share things with her punk sister, moi. We’re all grown up now, and one of the things I love about my dear sister, is the fact that now she willingly shares her secrets, and triumphs in the kitchen. Like me, she is a fanatical foodie , and a fabulous cook to boot! So, when she called me the other day, raving on about this soup, I asked if she would share. She happily obliged, and I immediately marched my clownish self into the kitchen to make a pot of this magic, and to see if it was worthy of the incessant raves. I’m happy to report that her raves were warranted. She has yet to fail me, because she definitely knows a good thing when she sinks her fangs into it! So, be kind and share this outstanding soup with familly and friends on a cold winter’s day. You will warm their hearts and they will love you for it! Thank you, thank you, thank you dearest Catherine, for warming mine!

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

8 to 12 oz. mushroons, sliced

1 cup dried French lentils

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

4 to 5 cups home made chicken stock

3 cups dark leafy greens, such as spinach or swiss chard, roughly chopped

1/2 cup flat-leafed Italian parsley, minced

1 to 2 Tablespoons toasted cumin seeds, ground. ( I used almost 2, because I’m a cumin junkie).

1 generous teaspoon ground coriander

salt and pepper to taste

Optional:

1 1/2 cups diced potatoes, shredded chicken, sliced Italian sausage, or turkey kielbasa.

Directions:

Saute onions and carrots in oil until tender, 8-10 minutes.Add garlic and mushrooms, and saute another 6 to 8 minutes. Add  cumin , coriander, salt, and pepper and saute 2 more minutes.Add tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, lentils, parsley, spinach or swiss chard, and any of the optional ingredients you choose to add. Continue to simmer, over low heat, stirring often, until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings Add more stock, if you prefer a thinner version. Toss in a loaf of crusty, cheesey garlic bread, and be prepared to be enamoured! Pour into warmed soup bowls and hunker down by the fire! Absolutely warming, delicious, and cuddly. Just like a winter food partner should be.

Yield: 6 healthy servings