Aug 27, 201410:25 AM
Bon Vivant

Exploring finery, fun and the good life with New Orleans Bride editor Melanie Warner Spencer

Fresh and Fast

Easy eats that help maximize your summer leisure time.

Some evenings, especially during the hot summer months, call for a light, easy dinner. As mentioned in an earlier post, fresh fruits and vegetables of the season provide much flavor, for little actual work. This is important, because summer is built for catching up on your reading list, tending to correspondence and sitting on the porch, drinking lemonade, as opposed to slaving away in a sweltering kitchen. Which brings me to gazpacho, the cold soup of Spanish origin.

 Admittedly, I’ve never made gazpacho. Recently, an Austin friend, the  lovely and talented Carla McDonald of the Salonniere posted her blog  entry on the subject to Facebook. Then a few days later, another Mobile  friend posted his gazpacho before and after photos to Instagram. By the  time Monday rolled around,

I was craving it and decided to give it a  whirl. It being a Monday, I was looking for the easy way out and found a  recipe calling for canned, rather than fresh tomatoes. If you are using  fresh tomatoes, I recommend McDonald’s recipe. Otherwise, see below  for the quick, canned tomato version.

In the mood for something with a bit more substance than just the soup, I also took the opportunity to try a recipe for avocado baked with an egg that was on my things to try list. The original recipe called for chorizo on the side, which sounds delightful, but I decided to go vegetarian this particular evening and added shredded cheddar cheese. My colleague Sarah Ravits, editor of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles, Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile, also made the baked avocado, opting for Parmesan instead of cheddar. The next time, I’ll go with Parmesan, as I kept thinking mine could use something salty (which is why the chorizo works so well), but I think shrimp or lump crabmeat and maybe some Creole seasoning might also be delicious additions.

I made the gazpacho first, so it could chill in the refrigerator (but consider doing it the night before for maximum flavor punch). Next, I got the avocados going in the oven. While mine were baking, I used my time wisely and whipped up some of my friend Dan’s Quick Pickles. Having visited Dan in Houston the prior weekend, he shared a few servings of his most recent batch, so I was keen to take a stab at the recipe. Confession: I also got the sweetest vintage French canning jar with a hinged latch at Aux Belles Choses on Magazine Street last week and was dying to use it.

While the gazpacho was chilling, the avocadoes were baking and the pickles were pickling, I relaxed with a glass of bubbly and the 66th Annual Emmy Awards. Fifteen minutes and a few awkward award presentations later, I was spooning cool gazpacho into a bowl and plating the delicious avocado with egg. A slice of crusty French bread with a pat of butter on the side is a treat.

This easy, satisfying and flavorful meal is perfect for brunch or a light dinner. Tonight I’ll be having the leftover gazpacho for dinner, with a side of the next book on my summer reading list.

 

Recipes:

 

Quick Gazpacho

From Allrecipes.com recipe by USA Weekend columnist Pam Anderson

 

2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes

½ cup ice water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/4 –inch dice

1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, basil or cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Process ½ cup of tomatoes, water and oil until ureed. Transfer to a medium bowl with remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 

Avocado baked with an egg

Adapted from a recipe that ran on the Guardian website 
1 avocado
2 eggs
Olive oil
2 teaspoons of Parmesan or shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and black pepper
2 slices of bread, preferably multiseed 
2 teaspoons chopped, flat-leaf parsley

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop a little extra of the flesh out, so you can fit more egg into it. Break the first egg into a bowl. Using a spoon, place yolk in one half of the avocado, then carefully start to add white (you may not manage to add all the white). Season with salt and pepper, then repeat with the other egg and half of avocado. Place the avocado halves in a small baking dish that fits them snugly, so they won't tilt and the egg will not spill out – scrunched-up foil in the base of the dish helps to hold them level. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the white is opaque and the yolk is done to your liking. Meanwhile toast the bread. Add cheese during the final 1 to 2 minutes of baking. Serve the avocado on a plate, seasoned with salt and pepper and a scattering of herbs, with toast on the side.

Serves 2.

 

 

Dan’s Quick Pickles

1 large cucumber, sliced

2-3 teaspoons sea salt

1-2 tablespoons dill

½ cup distilled or apple cider vinegar (the latter if you want sweeter pickles)

 

Place all ingredients in a jar or some other container. Seal the container and give it a few shakes until contents are mixed up. Give it a good shake every 15 or 20 minutes for the next hour. “Not bad after an hour,” Dan says. “Really good after about six.” 

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Bon Vivant

Exploring finery, fun and the good life with New Orleans Bride editor Melanie Warner Spencer

about

Melanie Warner Spencer is a native Kentuckian, but says she got to New Orleans as fast as she could. For more than 12 years, Melanie has covered lifestyle, design and entertainment at various publications, serving as the design columnist at The Austin American-Statesman, a senior staff reporter at the Houston Chronicle and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Houston Brides magazine. Her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and Reuters in the United States and across the globe. In her spare time, Melanie is an award-winning fine art photographer and has been honored by the Texas Press Association for her editorial photography. Cooking and eating fabulous food and taking road trips with her spouse of 15 years, fellow writer and filmmaker Mark Patrick Spencer however, is at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. Click here to like Spencer's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @MelanieSpencer. 

 

You can reach her at melanie@myneworleans.com.

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