Friday, June 29, 2012

Tomatillo Gazpacho and Barley Salad

When I saw tomatillos, I decided to do something different with them. Instead of making a salsa, I decided to use them for soup.

While tomatillos are only very distant cousins of tomatoes, there are some similarities. So I thought they'd be great in a gazpacho.

Not a traditional gazpacho, that's for sure. This is a soup you can slurp from a bowl or drink from a glass. So is it a soup, or is it a vegetable smoothie?

Does it really matter? It tastes good, no matter what you call it.

The tomatillos add a nice tartness, and to me they taste a little bit like lime. The fire-roasted red pepper is cooked by the fire-roasting - at least a little bit - and it adds a nice sweetness.

I considered making the gazpacho green by using a yellow tomato, and roasted yellow pepper instead of red. But then I changed my mind and went for red.

Tomatillo Gazpacho

4-5 tomatillos
1 medium tomato
1/2 English cucumber or 1 picking cucumber
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded
1/2 fire roasted red pepper, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh herb, for garnish
Olive oil (optional) for garnish
Freshly ground white or black pepper

Remove the papery skin from the tomatillos and wash them to remove the sticky substance on the fruit - that stuff tastes bitter, so you want to make sure it gets washed off. Quarter the tomatillos and put them in your blender or food processor.

Core and quarter the tomato and add it to the tomatillos. Peel the cucumber, cut it in chunks, and add it as well. Cut the green pepper and roasted red pepper in pieces and add them as well. Add the salt and one tablespoon olive oil.

Blend until you have a relatively smooth mixture. If it's too thick, add a bit of water. Taste for seasoning and add salt, as needed. If you want a little more tartness, add a splash of wine vinegar.

Serve, garnished with a bit of your herb of choice (chopped chives, fresh thyme, dill, basil, or marjoram would ll be nice. Add a small drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

Serve chilled.

This can be made in advance and refrigerated until serving time.

 Want some grains in your salad?

To me, barley seems like a winter food. It goes well in beef soup, or along with hearty dishes.

But why does it have to be that way? Why not use it in a summer dish? I decided to find out, and cooked some barley and let it cool to see what it would be like.

It turns out that barley makes a good grain for cold salads. To keep my kitchen a little cooler, I cooked it in my rice cooker using the brown rice setting. It emerged fully cooked

For the olives, I picked up a variety at the olive bar - a black wrinkly one, a bright green, and

Barley Salad

3/4 cup barley, cooked to yield about 3 cups cooked barley, chilled
1 cup mixed pitted olives
6 spears asparagus, cooked and shocked in cold water
1/2 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put the cooked, chilled barley in a medium bowl. Chop the olives roughly. It's fine to leave some large pieces, but if you cut each one at least in half, you'll know you don't have any remaining pits. Add the olives to the barley.

Cut the asparagus in 1/4-inch pieces and add them to the barley. Dice the bell pepper to about the same size as the olive pieces and asparagus and add it to the barley. Add the marjoram, thyme, and rosemary. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Finally, add the olive oil and stir one more time.

You can serve immediately, or make it in advance and refrigerate until needed. I think it's best after at least a few hours - after the herbs have had a chance to hydrate a bit and flavor the barley.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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