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Gazpacho Soup: A healthy and unique pot luck or block party contribution

I first heard about gazpacho back in the late 80s, while watching a hysterically funny subtitled movie from Spain entitled Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (ladies, Antonio Banderas is in it!)  ;-).  It tomatoes galoreseems they were always drinking and eating the stuff, and they made it look really delicious. It was not long after then that I found a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated and after trying a few different recipes, decided that was my favorite—with just a little bit of adjusting.

fresh summer vegetables for gazpachoI would make a batch every summer, when my garden was producing loads of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It’s the most refreshing, delicious way to drink your veggies: much healthier than juice because you’re getting little more than a variety of fresh, wholesome raw vegetables (organic, especially if you grow your own) with the fiber included. Every time I’d serve it to friends they would say they’d never heard of it before, but they all loved it. They would then ask for the recipe, which I was always happy to share.

gazpacho in thermos or pitcher

Go low tech at gatherings with gazpacho in a pitcher or thermos and use plastic cups with spoons.

It wasn’t until I lived in a suburban neighborhood with one block party, pot luck or picnic after another that I realized gazpacho would be a great side dish to bring. I mean, really, how many more bowls of potato, macaroni or fruit salad does one need? NO ONE thinks of bringing gazpacho and so far it’s been a huge hit. I usually put it in a Rubbermaid pitcher with a lid, or a soup thermos and throw in some ice cubes to keep it chilled. The soup can just be poured into plastic cups (don’t forget spoons). Nothing can be easier to serve! And you don’t have to worry about it going bad (translation: no mayo) if it’s warm out. Since it’s more of a first course, it usually disappears quickly anyway. There are rarely any leftovers and everyone ends up loving it (even kids) and asking for… surprise!… the recipe. I also get the personal satisfaction of sneaking in something that’s so healthy at gatherings where the norm is hot dogs, chips, carb-loaded salads and too many sweets.

chopped vegetables for gazpacho

A nice dice size and variety for texture.

SO, here’s my recipe. I happen to LOVE cutting up vegetables (it’s my Zen activity) so I do all of mine by hand, but if you’re not as wacky as I am you can use a food processor or even a hand chopper (such as something like this OXO chopper ). The goal is to chop the fresh veggies into small enough pieces so that they can be swallowed easily (without the necessity for chewing) but big enough so that there is a nice texture and some “tooth” to the soup that can be chewed if so inclined. I usually bring along a few cups filled with toppings (my favorite is avocado) so people can dress up their soup to their taste.

Yum! Summer in a cup! Make some gazpacho soon and send your admirers here for the recipe!

Gazpacho (cold vegetable soup)
Print Recipe
A fresh, delicious and healthful combination of summer's bounty. Caution: Will cause annual cravings!
Servings Prep Time
3 quarts 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
0 ! 4+ hours
Servings Prep Time
3 quarts 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
0 ! 4+ hours
Gazpacho (cold vegetable soup)
Print Recipe
A fresh, delicious and healthful combination of summer's bounty. Caution: Will cause annual cravings!
Servings Prep Time
3 quarts 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
0 ! 4+ hours
Servings Prep Time
3 quarts 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
0 ! 4+ hours
Ingredients
Servings: quarts
Instructions
  1. Combine tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar, sherry and pepper in a large non-reactive bowl. Let stand until vegetables begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable juice and hot pepper sauce. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, 1 day preferable.
  2. Adjust seasonings and drizzle about 1 tsp olive oil per serving. Serve cold with any combination of toppings: croutons, olives, chopped hardboiled eggs, diced avocados, parsley... or ?? your choice.
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Bastard Strangles: the “it’s not textbook” case that almost killed my horse

I had a horrendous experience two summers ago with a Strangles infection in my horse. It was a calamity of errors due to misdiagnoses (plural intentional) by several different vets, because the symptoms of the illness were “not textbook.” The misdiagnoses prolonged and exacerbated the illness. Strangles (bacterium Streptococcus equi, also known as Equine Distemper), an illness that would normally resolve itself within three weeks, dragged on for three months, escalated in severity and almost killed my horse. I won’t even go into the cost of all of this. JoeBWThe vets involved had thought, in retrospect, about writing papers about the experience because it was “the weirdest thing.” As far as I know, the papers have not been written. A good friend recommended that I take it upon myself write about the experience, just to get the word out and help others that may end up in the same situation. This post will be long and involved, but I feel it’s necessary to get the details out since the situation was so unique and everything turned out to be related in the end.

The beginning of the story actually goes back four years. I was taking riding lessons at a ranch in Elisabeth, Colorado. A horse owner at the ranch had a palomino named Joe that she needed to sell, but was having no luck. She finally told the ranch owner, Teri, that if she were to find someone  who would really take good care of Joe, she would consider just giving him away. Continue reading

Beets: try them, you’ll like them!

Beets — four+ ways to use them.

Having been raised in a somewhat ethnic family (the “old country,” in this case, being Russia/Poland), I tend to be more open to trying– and usually liking–foods that most Americans would not even consider touching. Heart, liver, kidneys, trotters, blood puddings: my relatives had a real “waste no part of the animal mentality.” Nose to tail consumption. As I’ve always been slender and healthy, I figure I must be doing something right. I’ve also never met a vegetable I didn’t like. I’ll never starve to death, that’s for sure!

beets for kvass

All you need are beets, salt and clean H2O to make Kvas.

One vegetable that I enjoy, yet a lot of people will turn their noses up to, is the humble beet. Beets are typically a deep, rich ruby red in color, although you can also find orange and two-tone ones (alternating layers of red and white). Vegetables that have deep colors tend to be supersaturated with nutrients, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

I grow beets in the garden and have come to love the beet greens (tops) as well. Some people say that beets taste like dirt (maybe that’s why I like them, lol), but the tops, when sautéed, taste similar to spinach. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time from several plants throughout the summer and early fall will cause replacement leaves grow, thereby creating a sustainable situation. The leaves can also be added to salads, raw and chopped, therefore retaining their nutritional value.

beet kvas

Kvas: day 1 and ready to ferment.

Some of my favorite ways to use the beet roots is pickling (these can also be canned), roasted and cut into pieces for salads, grated raw into salads, fermented pickling, beet kvas and a cold or hot soup called borscht. Beets also have a natural earthy sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with salty/sour pickling and fermentation.

Pickled Beets
This makes a great cold side dish, especially with summer barbecues or added to a chopped salad. Food Network has a nice Alton Brown pickled beet recipe that calls for roasting the beets first, and then letting them soak in a seasoned brine mixture for up to 7 days before serving. I’ve tried this one and it’s a winner!

beet kvas

Ten days later…

Old Fashioned Fermented Pickled Beets
I’ve tried the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for whey and it’s just “okay.” I prefer not using whey for fermentation, the results just don’t taste the same as natural fermentation. Here’s a good fermented beets recipe that calls for simply beets, salt and water. Personally, I would also add onions. And fermentation = probiotics!

Borscht
I’ve never actually made this soup, but I have had it a few times in both Russian and Jewish restaurants. In those instances the cold soup was puréed, served with a dollop of sour cream, and I couldn’t identify what was in it other than beets. Served in this way, the soup makes a nice appetizer (as opposed to a meal, which calls for a heartier recipe).

My search on the internet brought up a variety of recipes that include all sorts of ingredients, some with meat, some without. This Borscht recipe from Cooks.com has the best rating and comments from cooks. I am tempted to take the advice in one comment about using tomato paste, fried in butter, rather than canned tomatoes. Note: Try not to use canned anything, unless you have no other option! Fresh is best!

beet kvas

After 10+ days the Kvas is ready to drink. Yum!

Beet Kvas
This is a fermented, naturally carbonated beverage made from only three ingredients: beets, filtered water and salt. The first time I made and tasted this I just knew it was a tonic for the blood. There’s something about the combination of salty-sour-carbonation that I crave at times. And Kvas practically makes itself.

Update: A week in the fridge and the little kvas I have left has turned a brownish red. But it still smells and tastes good, so keep that in mind.

Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Ingredients
  • 3-4 beets a generous medium size
  • 1-1/2 quarts water filtered
  • 1 TB sea salt (or a little more if you like)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic Optional
Servings: quarts (roughly)
Instructions
  1. Wash beet roots to remove any dirt but don't overdo it, you don't want to remove all the good (lactobacillus) bacteria.
  2. Chop into, roughly, 1" chunks.
  3. Add beets to a half gallon jar.
  4. Add 1 TB sea salt.
  5. Add filtered water to within 1/2" below lip.
  6. Cover with lid and write the date on the jar with a Sharpie.
  7. Allow to ferment, out of direct sunlight, for 1-1/2 weeks or more.
  8. When done, this can be strained, or just serve right out of the jar, chunks and all. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don't drink this if it smells or looks bad or has mold growing in or on it. Natural fermentation can sometimes go wrong, so be smart! My beets sometimes turn almost black, but there is nothing wrong with them and the kvas smells sweet and earthy. Delicious!

The Kvas could become syrupy towards the bottom of the jar. Just mix it back in before consuming.

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