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.

Mango Madness or A Sort of Saucy Mango Chutney

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As luck would have it, Kitchenclown scored yesterday, while flipping through the pages of the latest SPA cookbook. Fine members of the San Miguel de Allende community contributed some of their favorite recipes, as well as photographs of their beloved animals, to this cookbook,  with the proceeds from it’s sale going to the SPA, or Sociedad Protectora de Animales (humane society). This recipe was donated by Henry Vermillion, a gifted artist and gallery owner.Besides knowing his way around a canvas, Henry also knows his way around the kitchen, and this here chutney goes to prove it! KC had the pleasure of working for Henry in his gallery a few years ago, and Henry always whipped this up for openings. Dang…we were all thrilled with his efforts, as you will be, if you decide to give it a go, Poured over cream cheese and served with crackers,  it’ll make your party, as well as your tastebuds zing!

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangoes

1 cup raisins

1 small jar peach, or apricot preserves

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 packages cream cheese

crackers for serving

Directions:

Peel the mangoes.Remove the pits and place the mangoes into the bowl of of a food processor or blender. Add everything, except the raisins, and process to a fairly smooth sauce. Pour into a bowl, and stir in the raisins. To serve, place a block of cream cheese on a plate, and pour half the sauce over it. Repeat with the other block of cream cheese. Serve with plenty of good crackers.

Yield: 3 cups

Devilishly Decadent Cranberry Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

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Kitchenclown has a weakness for all things stuffed, and these little devils just may top the list. They have all the elements for maximum devourability. Sweetness, from the cranberries… saltiness, from the bacon… crunch, from the nuts…and just the right amount of spicy heat, from the peppers. I was fortunate enough, to be introduced to these, by a delightful couple, Kathy and Martin, who served them at a fiesta, while visiting San Miguel de Allende. Bowled completely over by the perfect combination of flavors and textures, I’ve been serving them to delighted guests ever since. Mil gracias to the Koppers! Way up there with the Wow factor!

Ingredients:

10 fresh jalapeno peppers

1  8 oz. block cream cheese, softened in the microwave, in a small bowl

1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped

10 slices bacon, cut in half

Directions:

Cut the  stems off the jalapenos, Slice each in half lenghtwise, and remove the seeds and veins. ( Removing the seeds and veins eliminates the really fiery parts of the peppers, and ensures that they won’t be too incendiary! Using a serrated grapefruit spoon makes the task a snap.)

Add the chopped, dried cranberries, along with the chopped toasted nuts to the softened cream cheese, and mix well

Fill each jalapeno half with a teaspoon, or so of the cream cheese mixture, being careful not to overstuff.

Wrap each half with half a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Turn the  oven on broil, or you may use a toaster oven.

Place each wrapped jalapeno on a broiler pan, and put into the oven. Broil 10 minutes, on one side,or until the bacon is toasty brown, and cooked through. Turn each one over and repeat, keeping a close watch to prevent burning. Remove from oven, and drain them on paper towels, to remove any excess fat. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.
Note: Whenever handling jalapenos, take extra precaution and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Do not rub your eyes, mouth, or nose. Even after careful hand washing, the oils from these little monsters can permeate the skin, and it can take repeated hand washing to remove all remnants.

Yield: 20

Awesome Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Awesome you ask? Absolutely! Addictive? You’re darn tootin’! They are chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, just like a proper cookie should be. I’m including directions for altering ingredients for high altitude baking. If you live and bake at a  high altitude, like i do, in San Miguel de Allende, MX (6,200 ft.), you will definitely have more success in your baking attempts by following these alterations. They are as follows:

Reduce each cup of sugar called for in the recipe by 2 Tbs.

Reduce each teaspoon of baking powder, or baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon

Increase each cup of liquid by 2-3 Tbs

Save these and paste to a handy place (like the side of your fridge),if you’re high…altitude. These changes will make your baking days much happier!

.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda, or (3/4 teaspoon for high alt.)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each salt, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed( less 3 Tbs. high alt.)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats

1 cup raisins

Directions:

In a bowl stir together flour,baking soda, cinnamon,salt, nutmeg, and cloves to combine thoroughly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In mixer bowl combine butter and brown sugar, and beat until well blended. Add eggs,one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix to blend.

Gradually add flour mixture until just blended. Stir in  the rolled oats and raisins.

Drop by tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto a silpat-lined, or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Cool on wire racks.

Yield: Approximately 4 dozen 2 1/2″ cookies.

A trip to the organic farm and the amazing “Stephanie” salad result.

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Kitchenclown took a trip to a local, organic farm, in San Miguel de Allende, La Trinidad, this morning, which inspired the making of this delectable salad. I’m calling it “The Stephanie”, because when my friend, Stephanie, whipped up something similar, my tastebuds jumped with joy!

Ingredients for the salad:

1/2 head red leaf lettuce, washed and dried thoroughly

1/2 head romaine, washed and thoroughly dried

1 bunch arugula, washed, dried, stems removed

2 apples, or pears, sliced thinly

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup pecans

1/4 cup sugar( for caramelizing the pecans)

5 oz.bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup pitted dates

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

3 to 4 Tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press

1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard

Place the  oil, vinegar,salt, pepper, garlic and mustard in a jar. Put a lid on it, and shake it up, until mulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, or vinegar if necessary. Tear the greens into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Place the pecans,along with the sugar, into a small saute pan and cook, stirring often, until the sugar is melted, and the nuts are caramelized. Let cool. When cooled, add the nuts, cranberries, pears, or apples, dates, red onion and bleu cheese to the greens. Slowly drizzle the dressing over all, just adding enough to coat it.Whatever you do, do not drown it in dressing. Kitchenclown frowns on soggy salads!

Yield: 8 servings