Sunday, July 31, 2011

Greek Salad Gazpacho: First It's a Salad... Then It's a Soup ... for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I seem to be on a gazpacho kick these past few weeks--in the warmer, humid weather it really hits the spot and you have to love anything that takes just a few minutes to prepare in the morning and sits chilling in the fridge and mingling flavors until it's ready to eat. The ultimate in effortless cooking.

The theme this week for I Heart Cooking Clubs is "We Be Chillin"--all about cold foods and I found a recipe for a simple Greek Salad on Jamie's Oliver's website here. I love Greek salads, so flavorful and cooling, and then when I saw Jamie's suggestion to whirl the leftovers in a blender and make soup, I was sold. With last week's Cucumber-Lychee Gazpacho and Ming Tsai's Gazpacho with Shiso Oil the week prior, I am calling this Greek Salad Gazpacho "my third entry in my Summer Unique Gazpacho Series." (It sounds much better than "I was lazy and made Gazpacho three weeks in a row" doesn't it?!)

Jamie says, "This salad is known and loved around the world. Those of you who’ve been lucky enough to eat this salad in Greece will know that when it’s made well it’s absolute heaven. Hopefully this recipe will help you achieve the big bold authentic flavours that it's known for. The trick is to pay attention to the small details that make it so wonderful: things like finding the ripest tomatoes, good Greek olive oil, beautiful olives, creamy feta and lovely herbs.

P.S. I’ve been known to pop leftover Greek salad into a liquidizer with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a few ice cubes, then blitz it up to a smooth consistency so it's basically a Greek gazpacho. It’s not a classic thing to do, but it is very delicious, not to mention a great way of using up leftovers!"

Greek Salad (& Greek Salad Gazpacho)
Jamie Oliver
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 medium ripe tomato (1 used 3 small Roma tomatoes)
200g ripe cherry tomatoes (I used 1 cup multi-colored cherry tomatoes)
1 beefsteak tomato
1 medium red onion, peeled
1 cucumber
1 green pepper (I used red bell pepper)
a handful of fresh dill
a handful of fresh mint leaves
a large handful of black olives, stoned
sea salt
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsps good-quality
Greek extra virgin olive oil
200g block of feta cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
(I added 2 Tbsp capers, drained)

Jamie's Directions:

I think it’s quite nice to have different shapes and sizes in a salad, so cut your medium tomato into wedges, halve the cherry tomatoes and slice the beef tomato into large rounds. Put all the tomatoes into a large salad bowl. Slice the onion very finely so it’s wafer thin and add to the tomatoes. Scratch a fork down the sides of the cucumber so it leaves deep grooves in the skin, then cut it into thick slices. Deseed your pepper, slice it into rings and add them to the salad along with the cucumber.

Roughly chop the dill and most of the mint leaves, reserving the smaller ones for garnish. Add the chopped herbs to the bowl of salad, then squeeze your handful of olives over so they season the vegetables, then drop them in.

Add a pinch of salt, the vinegar and the extra virgin olive oil. Quickly toss everything together with your hands. The minute all those flavours start working with the veg is when the magic starts to happen. Have a taste, and adjust the flavours if need be.

To serve, pop the block of feta right on the top of the salad. Sprinkle the oregano over the top along with the reserved mint leaves, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and take it straight to the table. It’s confident and scruffy with a bit of attitude. Delicious.

This simple salad is full of the flavors of the herbs and veggies and perfect for a warm summer's lunch of dinner. The key as Jamie mentions is to use the freshest and best ingredients you can find. I of course had to add a couple of tablespoons of capers, just because. ;-) I ate a couple of servings of the salad and then put most of the rest in the blender, without the feta and saving out some of the salad mix to top off the soup bowls. When blended, the fresh taste of the herbs comes out even more and it is a nice change from regular gazpacho, with the Greek flavors. I would make both the salad and the soup again.

You can see how the other IHCC participants chilled this week by going to the post here, and following the links.

Now let's take a look in the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Also rockin' the gazpacho this week is Lauren from Healthy. Delicious. here with a fruity Watermelon Gazpacho. She says, "Loaded with cucumber and yellow bell pepper and enriched with an almond-cilantro pesto, this gazpacho doesn’t have the cloying sweetness of so many other fruit-based soups — you definitely won’t mistake it for dessert! Requiring little more than a blender and a refrigerator, it’s the perfect way to beat the summer heat. Serve it with a side of store-bought breadsticks for a satisfying dinner that even the staunchest tomato-hater will love."

Carol of There's Always Thyme to Cook has Jamie Oliver's Red Pepper Summer Soup to share and says, "Have to say, we're kind of iffy with cold soup so I served it room temperature. We loved it. Definitely a keeper, and easy as can be. Didn't have to use the oven and heat up the kitchen, on top of the stove worked out really well. Love this recipe. Very quick and very easy. Had more than a few grape tomatoes that were a bit past their prime as far as serving in a salad but cooked down they added tremendous flavor."

Kim from Stirring the Pot tried Ina's Roasted Shrimp Salad and although it wasn't the recipe for her she thought others might enjoy it. Kim says, "The major problem with this recipe for me was that there was just too much flavor. "Too much flavor" usually isn't ever an issue for me, but in this case I felt that the flavor of the shrimp was masked by the other ingredients. While I love the flavors of orange zest, dill, capers, and red onion it was just a little too much for the delicate flavors of the shrimp. However, this recipe has received a five star rating on the Food Network and quite a few people have sung it's praises, so it could be that it's just me."

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made an Arugula, Grapefruit and Radish Salad and says, "Salads eases us into hot summer. Last year, it was smoothie craze. This year, salads. For today, this salad is made from farm-fresh radish (red, white, pink), juicy grapefruit, peppery arugula, sprinkled with some plump sweet raisins. The balance of flavors is right on the spot! Peppery, tangy, citrus, sweet. Additionally, the salad also offers a variety of textures in a mouthful - the radish crunch, plump and juicy grapefruit with the firm-tender leaves of arugula, chewy raisins."

Roz of la bella vita has a Panzanella--Italian Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad to share. She says, "Bread is perfect for mopping up sauces and broth! That's the basic idea of this wonderful, traditional Italian, fresh tomato and bread salad known as "Panzanella": crusty, hefty, day-old bread chunks tossed into tomatoes, onions, and fresh basil with a vinaigrette dressing. This simple and delicious salad is a creation from the central region of Italy. Panzanella is also another great way to use those juicy tomatoes that are in the peak of the season. You won't even have to use the oven or stove; it's a cold, lovely, and light salad full of rich flavor!"

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina is here with a Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. She says, "What to do with a small basil harvest, too little to prepare the pesto, but too much to use as a condiment, few leaves at a time? I had harvested some vegetables and greens to be consumed raw in a salad, so I decided to use basil for an aromatic dressing. This vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for many salads. If you are curious, I used sorrel, purslane, rainbow and rhubarb chards, purple beauty pepper, cucumber lemon and some lemon plum tomatoes."

Elizabeth of The Law Student's Cookbook made a Grilled Mozzarella "BST" sandwich and says, "Rather than the beloved BLT sandwiches that are filled with bacon, lettuce, and tomato this sandwich features my favorite green: spinach. ... In terms of my greens, I really don't like lettuce. I find it boring, flavorless, and I would just much rather eat something else. It also doesn't hurt that spinach is full of healthy ingredients to keep a girl strong and healthy (that girl being me of course)."

Finally Joanne of Eats Well With Others isn't a fan of the cucumbers she has been getting in her CSA box but she has found the perfect use for them in this Smoked Salmon and Ricotta-Dill Sandwich with Cucumbers. She says, "... And then it dawned on me. The only two sandwich toppings that could make cucumbers worth ingesting. Ricotta. And smoked salmon. Yum. Throw some CSA dill into the mix that had been sitting on my counter for...days. Let's go with days. And you've got yourself some sandwich."

Wonderful soups, salads and sandwiches this week. Thank you to everyone who sent in their dishes. If you would like to join in sometime, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

BTW: There is still time to enter to win your own copy of French Lessons by Ellen Sussman and get swept away to Paris. Enter here and check out my review and a recipe for some yummy fig relish too.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gelato al Limone (Lemon Ice Cream) and Sgroppino (Lemon Chill--a "Milkshake" for Grown-Ups) for Food 'n Flix: Letters to Juliet

In the foodie romance film Letters to Juliet, Sophie is a fact checker for The New Yorker, but she dreams of being a writer. Before marrying her finance Victor, a chef, they go on a "pre-honeymoon" trip to Verona. Victor is so consumed with researching and trying Italian food as he prepares to open his restaurant back in New York that he ignores Sophie. Wandering the city alone, Sophie finds herself in the courtyard of Shakespeare's famous character, Juliet. There Sophie meets a group of women answer all of the many letters to Juliet left by the lovelorn. Sophie finds an old letter that has been tucked away, hidden for decades, and answers it. Soon after, the letter's author Claire and her slightly uptight grandson Charlie appear. Claire is looking for her long-lost love and Charlie is looking to protect his grandmother. Sophie uses her fact-checking expertise to help Claire and to write a story that she hopes will kick start her writing career.

Letters to Juliet is a sweet romance full of the charm, scenery and food of Italy. Charlie and Sophie, at odds from the time they meet, first begin to bond over a day of exploring and some shared gelato. You can't watch people devour gelato in Italy without craving the cold creamy treat yourself. I have had the Gelato al Limone recipe in Tessa Kiros' gorgeous foodie & travel porn cookbook Venezia: Food and Dreams, tagged to make for quite some time, and although this cookbook explores the food of Venice rather than Verona, gelato is welcome anywhere. ;-)

I have to confess that half (OK maybe 3/4!) of the reason I wanted to make this lemon gelato recipe was to make the Sgroppino (Lemon Chill) recipe that follows it in the book. The only thing more appealing than a big bowl of creamy gelato is combining it with prosecco and vodka (or limoncello in my case) into the best kind of adult "milkshake." Who knows... Charlie and Sophie probably would have warmed up to each other much quicker if they had shared a few sgroppinos... thus I bring you both recipes to represent the movie.

Gelato al Limone (Lemon Ice Cream)
Venezia by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 6)

zest of 1 lemon, cut into big strips
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup and 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup chilled cream

Put the lemon zest and sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer gently, without stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy and tastes of lemon. Take out the pieces of lemon zest. Allow the mixture to cool, then pour in the lemon juice.

Whisk the cream until it's fairly stiff and then whisk in the cooled lemon syrup. Allow to cool, then transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer. After 1 hour give the mixture an energetic whisk with a hand whisk or electric mixer. Return to the freezer and then whisk again after another couple of hours. When the ice cream is nearly firm, give one last whisk. Alternatively. pour the mixture into an ice cream machine (if you have one) and churn, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Notes/Results: If it were possible to float away on a perfect cloud of lemony goodness, it would be made of this gelato. A glorious combination of sweet and tangy, this creamy, rich ice cream is full of sunny lemon flavor. When I first saw the gelato come out of the ice cream maker I laughed that it was supposed to be six servings-worth, however it is so rich, thick and creamy, a small serving is the perfect amount. If you truly love lemon, I urge you to make this easy recipe, savor a little bowl, but save the rest to make....

Kiros says, "You can make your own or buy lemon ice cream for this recipe. If you are making the ice cream, make it the day before so that it has time to become firm and then all you have to do on the day is briefly whizz the ice cream with the alcohol. You can add as much prosecco and vodka as you like here, depending on how soft your ice cream is and how strong you want this to be. Since I like to serve this after lunch, I've made it fairly mild, bearing in mind that you may have started the meal with prosecco, then moved onto wine and are not looking at passing out for the afternoon. It's much more summery with less alcohol anyway. Many people serve this as a palate cleanser instead of as a dessert. If it's very hot then put your glasses in the freezer for a few minutes before serving."

Sgroppino (Lemon Chill)
Venezia by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 2)

1/2 lb lemon ice cream
about 4 Tbsps chilled prosecco
about 2 Tbsps chilled vodka

Scoop the ice cream into a blender. Splash in the prosecco and vodka and whizz (the more alcohol you add the more liquidy the mixture will end up). Pour into glasses and serve immediately before it melts.

Notes/Results: Heaven in a champagne glass! Whether as a dessert, or palate cleanser this is pretty incredible drink. Thick and creamy like a milk shake, with full lemon flavor and a cocktail kick. It is wonderfully cooling and perfect for a warm day. The recipe mixed prosecco and vodka, but since I had part of a bottle of limoncello I thought it would be an even better mix to replace the vodka with it. Wowza, this was delicious--I love how refreshing it is. I am already craving more. ;-)

I will happily make both of these recipes again and again.

My good friend Kim is hosting this round of Food 'n Flix over at her blog Stirring the Pot, and she is accepting entries for Letter to Juliet through July 31. Kim will be doing a round up after the deadline, so stop by her blog and check it out. Next up for August F 'n F is Fried Green Tomatoes hosted by Glennis at Can't Believe We Ate

Need a romantic escape from it all? Enter to win a copy of French Lessons by Ellen Sussman and get swept away to Paris. Enter here and check out my review and a recipe for some yummy fig relish too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Book Tour Stops Here: "French Lessons" by Ellen Sussman with a Delectable Fig Relish & French Cheeses (+ a Giveaway!)

I have never been to France. I hope to go there someday and when I do, I want to get a sexy French tutor and spend the day walking the streets of Paris and being immersed in the culture and the language. In Ellen Sussman's new novel French Lessons, three American tourists do just that, each one paired with their own French tutor and each of their stories unfolding as the day goes on.

In the first chapter we meet the three French tutors; Nico, an about-to-be-published poet who has fallen for fellow tutor Chantal and has recently spent the night with her. Chantal has been in a relationship with tutor Philippe, who has a tendency to sleep around, so it has become a bit of a strained triangle. Their clients are three different Americans and Sussman tells each of their stories separately. Nico is paired with high school French teacher Josie, who was supposed to be on a vacation to Paris to buy shoes with her married lover. His sudden death has left her alone and grieving. Philippe's client is Riley, a frustrated ex-pat wife with two small children and a husband who grows ever more distant every day. Chantal has been working with Jeremy, a carpenter and husband of a famous actress. Jeremy has tagged along on the film shoot for his wife's new movie and is fighting feelings of attraction to Chantal.

All of the characters are flawed, some are not all that likable, but their stories pulled me in and moved me in different ways. The city is such a large part of the stories, it is almost its own character, and Sussman's descriptive writing immediately swept me away to Paris. I read most of this book in one sitting, while going through a long day of jury duty, mostly spent waiting around to see if I would have to serve. The story took me from the stuffy, noisy jury lounge and the cold silent gallery of the courtroom to another country, providing much needed escape. If you can't actually break away to Paris, this novel will help you get least in your mind.

You can see what some other bloggers had to say about this book by going to the TLC Book Tours page and following the links. you can read more about French Lessons author Ellen Sussman, here.

The book inspired me to put together a simple market-style meal of baguette and cheese, jazzed up with some delectable Fig Relish from "Plum Gorgeous" by Romney Steele. (You can read my review of this wonderful cookbook and see the recipes for Cherry Clafoutis and Cherry Salsa here.) I bought a small quantity of fresh sweet figs from the farmers market and this relish seemed like the perfect way to make the most out of them.

Steele says, "The relish can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator. ...enjoy with cheese and wine in the afternoon. It will keep for several months in the refrigerator."

Fig Relish
From "Plum Gorgeous" by Romney Steele
(Makes About 1 Cup)

1 basket Kadota or Mission figs (about 1/2 lb), stemmed and peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 tsp mustard seed
pinch salt
about 1 tsp dry mustard (optional)

Coarsely chop the figs and place in a small pot with the sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, salt and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer, stirring on occasion, for 20 minutes, until it resembles a loose jam. Stir in the dry mustard to taste, if using. Transfer to a glass bowl or jar. Refrigerate once cool.

Notes/Results: A great use for figs--if you can stop eating them long enough to make the relish. ;-) The relish is sweet and delicious, with the mustard seed and chunks of fig adding texture and the dry mustard and vinegar keeping it from being too sweet. My figs were ultra ripe, so I didn't bother peeling them and it was just fine. The book uses the relish in a ham panini, but I wanted to serve it with a baguette from the farmers market and some French cheeses from the gourmet cheese section of a local store. I thought I would like it best with my favorite Fromager d’Affinois, a double cream, brie-like cheese, but it was equally nice with the lightly tangy herbed Le Roulé. A few cherries and a glass of sparking wine rounded out this simple summer dinner. I will definitely make the relish again.

***French Lessons Giveaway***

In need of a little Parisian escape of your own? TLC Book Tours and the publishers have offered to send one lucky U.S. reader their own copy of French Lessons.
  • If you would like a chance to win, just leave a comment telling me where in the world you would like to escape to. Be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you if you win.
  • You have until 10:00 PM (Hawaii time) on Monday, August 1 to enter.
  • I'll randomly draw a winner and post it on Tuesday, August 2.
  • Good Luck!

Speaking of giveaways...

The randomly-drawn, lucky winner of a copy of the beach-friendly novel Sunset Bridge, plus a couple of small fun Hawaii foodie treats is...

Vicki of I'd Rather Be Reading At The Beach. (With a blog title like that, it must be fate that her name was drawn for this book!) ;-)

Vicki said, "My favorite thing about summer is lounging on the beach with a good book. That's why my blog is called "I'd Rather Be Reading At The Beach!"

Congratulations Vicki! Email me with your mailing address and I will get your prizes out to you.

Happy Summer Reading!

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Review and giveaway copies of French Lessons were provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours but I was not compensated for this review or influenced by anyone--as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lemon Verbena Crème Brûlée: From the Herb Garden for Cook the Books: "Garden Spells"

The Waverley women have always been seen as different in their small Southern town of Bascom, North Carolina because of their peculiar gifts or powers. Older sister Claire has turned her gift for growing and cooking with plants, herbs and flowers into a successful catering business, but she sticks close to home and the unusual Waverley garden and she has trouble letting people get close. Her food causes those who eat it to think, feel and do things according to the different charms and properties of the plants, but nothing seems to work to resolve her own fear of being abandoned since her mother left her and her sister when they were young. Claire's younger sister Sydney chose to follow their mother's pattern and run away from her past, the town and her gift, but with nowhere else to go, Sydney and her young daughter Bay seek refuge with Claire, and the two estranged sisters start to form a bond.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is our current selection for Cook the Books, hosted this round by Rachel, The Crispy Cook. I am a big fan of all of Addison Allen's books, but Garden Spells was the first one I read a few years ago and it holds a special place in my heart. It's a fun and charming novel with characters who are all unique and engaging--including an apple tree that has a personality of its own. It's a fairy tale story for foodies--sweet and magical but with some darker moments woven in, and it is an irresistible summer read that will have you headed for your garden to make some magic of your own.

I thought I had decided what to make to represent the book but the past month got away from me and then I found myself making a last minute change from a multi-lemon herb sorbet to a Lemon Verbena Crème Brûlée that I came across in July issue of The Herb Companion.

I love lemon verbena with it's lovely citrus smell, and it always has a prominent spot in my herb garden. Since my verbena was getting a bit "leggy" (desirable in a fashion model but not so much in an herb), it was prime for harvesting. Add to that a new gadget for my kitchen--a kitchen torch I bought with a languishing gift card fromt Williams Sonoma, and it seemed like the perfect match.

About Lemon Verbena:

From the Waverley Kitchen Journal: "Lemon Verbena--Produces a lull in conversation with a mysterious lack of awkwardness. Helpful when you have nervous, overly talkative guests."

From The Herb Companion: "Lemon Verbena: The leaves contain vitamins A, B and C and they are digestive, antioxidant, antispasmodic, and a sedative. A tea made from 3 to 5 leaves last thing at night helps the digestion, and is a mild sedative and calmative, it also aids a good night's sleep."

Deb says: "Must be why it creates a lull in the conversation--it sedates your guests!"

McVicar says, "My mother made the best crème brûlée. Alistair, my son, has inherited her passion and always rates restaurants and cooks on how well they make this pudding. This is a wonderful recipe, the flavor, with its hint of lemon sherbet, is unique, and makes this brûlée very special."

Lemon Verbena Crème Brûlée
by Jekka McVicar in The Herb Companion, July 2011
(Serves 4)

1 cup milk
1 handful lemon verbena leaves, finely chopped

7 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup Demerara or light brown sugar
lemon verbena sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Put the milk in a small pan with chopped lemon verbena leaves; bring to simmering point, remove from heat and leave to cool and infuse.

Place egg yolks in a bowl with sugar and whisk until pale and thick. Add the cooled, infused milk and the cream and whisk well. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve.

Ladle the mixture into 4 ramekin dishes and set them in a roasting pan. Pour in enough water to come three-quarters of the way up the side of the ramekins, pop into the oven and cook for 1 hour or until set. Leave to cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle Demerara sugar or light brown sugar over the top of each pudding and caramelize with either a blow torch or by putting them under a hot grill. Decorate with fresh verbena sprigs.

Notes/Results: Creamy and good with light lemon flavor. The recipe author describes it as a lemon sherbet taste and I would agree--it is a softer lemon essence, sweet rather than tangy. Although I have made all manner of puddings, pot de crème, etc., this is my first homemade crème brûlée. Obviously my sugar torching needs some work. ;-) (Note: Broiled sugar is HOT! Says the girl with a burn on her finger) But over all I am pretty happy how it turned out. My verbena plant sadly lost it's tiny white blooms this week too, but the leaves are still pretty. This is a simple recipe that I would make again.

I am sneaking this in right at the deadline tonight. Rachel will be rounding up the entries and posting them on the Cook the Books site soon. If you didn't make it to this Cook the Books round, I will be hosting the August/September selection; blogger Molly Wizenberg's foodie memoir, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table. Hope you join us!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cucumber-Lychee Gazpacho with Feta Crostini: Unique, Cool & Creamy for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I caught an episode of Aarti Party with Aarti Sequeira, last year's Next Food Network Star a few weeks ago and was intrigued by her Cucumber-Lychee Gazpacho with Feta Crostini. I like all of the ingredients individually but I was not sure how they would mix together. No worries... it makes a unique and cooling soup--the slight sweetness contrasting nicely with the salty-smoky feta crostini.

The recipe is from Food Network, here.

Cucumber-Lychee Gazpacho with Feta Crostini
Recipe courtesy Aarti Sequeira
(Serves 4)

For the Feta Crostini:
1 small baguette, sliced into eight 1/2-inch rounds
1 small block feta cheese (about 6 oz)
smoked paprika (optional) or regular paprika

For the Gazpacho:
1 large English cucumber, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 (15 oz) can lychees, drained and rinsed*
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
4 large sprigs mint (soft stems too)
10 sprigs of cilantro (soft stems too)
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

*Canned lychee can be be found in the international aisle in supermarkets

For the crostini: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set baguette slices on the baking sheet, and bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a little feta cheese and paprika, bake another 5 minutes.

For the gazpacho: Add the cucumber, lychees, almonds, mint, cilantro, yogurt, salt and pepper to a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Chill before serving. Top with warm crostini and serve.

Notes/Results: I was surprised by how good this soup is. You don't get a strong individual taste of any ingredient, it just all works together nicely. I think if I had not made the soup and known the ingredients, I would have had a hard time identifying the flavors but they work together very well. I would have liked to use fresh lychee, but there was none at the market, so a well-rinsed can sufficed. I did use herbs from my garden and a local cucumber. Toss the ingredients for the soup into the blender in the morning, chill it all day, then when you are ready to serve, prep your crostini.
A small bowl makes a refreshing and unique starter on a warm evening. I would make this soup again.

We have a few wonderful dishes and good friends waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen, so let's go take a look.

Elizabeth from The Law Student's Cookbook has a Coconut Chicken Soup from her newly moved into kitchen and says, "This first untested meal was absolutely delicious. Despite how hot it is outside, the soup was really refreshing, probably because of the coconut. I apologize the picture isn't more appetizing and that I didn't spoon the soup into the bowl without getting it all up the sides. I am not the neatest person in the world. But forget the picture and make the soup."

Janet from The Taste Space has a soup and a salad this week. Her soup is this Luscious Lentil and Basil Soup. Janet says, "In an effort to use my bountiful basil crop, without resorting to the typical pesto (yet), I found this delicious lentil soup with veggies and basil in The Natural Vegan Kitchen. ... I seem to have an affinity for lentils and carrots, and this soup did not disappoint even though it was a minor component. I don’t often cook typical Italian, but the hint Italian flavours of basil, oregano and thyme were lovely in this soup beefed up with sweet potato and cabbage. Of course, the full cup of fresh basil is what brings this soup out of the standard Italian fare."

Janet's salad offering is this striking Asparagus Ribbon Salad with Mosto Cotto and Almonds, about which she says, "Ribboning asparagus can be a tedious process, so this is when you actually want to buy the big, fat asparagus (usually I aim for the thinnest stalks possible since they tend to be sweeter). It is easier to grasp the plump spears and lay them flat as you peel away each layer. Highlight your peeling efforts with a remarkably simple, yet sophisticated dressing. You can never go wrong with mosto cotto, an aged condensed balsamic vinegar, and here it is complemented by the sweet earthiness of asparagus and the sweet crunch from the almonds."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a main course Radish, Raisins, Cauliflower Quinoa Salad and says, "Making salads out of quinoa is a recent discovery for me in terms of utilizing quinoa as the ingredient. Since then, I have been making quinoa salad repeatedly and frequently because it is just so easy to prepare, definitely nutritious and very flavorful. Kept light and easy by incorporating raw and/or lightly cooked (e.g. gently steamed or instantly blanched) ingredients such as raw radish, and blanched/ steamed cauliflower."

Stash from The Spamwise Chronicles is back with us this week and here with a colorful Summer Vegetable Salad, with Gambas al Ajillo and Quick-Pickled Young Onions. Stash says, "Gambas al ajillo, or “garlic shrimp” in Spanish, is just that — shrimp sautéed in olive oil and garlic. It’s a classic Spanish tapa that’s also a favorite in my kitchen. After all, it’s just shrimp, salt, olive oil and garlic. You could make this a meal all by itself, with some crusty bread on the side to sop up the juices. What I love about this salad is the interplay between the shrimp and the vegetables. It’s truly a symphony that’s more than the sum of its parts."

Finally Pam from Sidewalk Shoes has a bit of a combo with this Smoked Turkey Sandwich with Salad Topping. Pam says, "...I prefer the stuff in the sandwich. The more interesting the stuff, the more interesting the sandwich. So, after smoking a turkey breast the other day, I couldn’t deny the fact that some of that turkey would become a sandwich, it would be sacrilegious not to. Knowing that my favorite smoking cookbook, Smoke & Spice - Revised Edition: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue also had recipes to use up your smoked goodies, I turned to it. I found “Smoked Chicken Sandwich with Summer Confetti”. Smoked chicken/smoked turkey pretty much the same thing in my book. I used the part of the recipe dealing with the salad topping.It was stuff. Stuff for my sandwich. Good stuff. So, even though there were scraps of bread left all over my plate, I managed to eat every last bit of this salad topping."

There you have it--some lovely dishes this week! Mahalo to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar for all of the details.

BTW: Don't forget to enter to win a copy of a Sunset Bridge--a great summer read, and a couple of little Hawaii foodie treats thrown in for good measure. ;-) You have until tomorrow (Monday) at midnight (Hawaii time) All the details are here.

Have a happy, healthy week!