Carol’s Gazpacho 2014

I add watermelon to balance the acid. Not as a dominant taste.

4-6 pickle cukes, peeled and coarsely chopped
6-8 ripe garden tomatoes, peeled, cored, de-seeded
2 bell peppers, de-seeded, chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, de-seeded, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 slices day old bread, crusts cut off
6 2″-cubes watermelon, de-seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
6 tbs. red wine vinegar
celery salt, ground black pepper to taste

Soak the bread in water and wring dry. Put bread and all above ingredients in layers in a blender and pulse so consistency is smooth with a few chunky bits. Stir and taste for seasoning, vinegar balance.

Put in a container and chill. Serve cold with chopped garden veggie garnishes.

Cioppino Estivo

Summer Seafood Stew for Two


~Tilapia. Vongole. Pomodori. Aglio. Olio. Prezzemolo. Pane. Questo è tutto.~

2 Tilapia filets
2 dozen + Little Neck Clams
1/2 cup fresh American parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 Garden tomatoes, chopped
1/2 Bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 Jalapeño pepper, sliced and de-seeded
1 cup seafood broth
6+ fresh garlic cloves, minced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Ground black or white pepper to taste
1 Lemon, zest


Chop 1/2 cup fresh parsley into a large measuring pitcher. Add 2 tbs. unsalted butter, 6 cloves minced fresh garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil. In a stock pot heat little neck clams in 2-3 tbs. vegetable oil over medium high heat until they start to open and release nectar. Add the parsley, butter, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, ground pepper to taste, 1/2 cup broth and stir. After all clams have opened, 5-6 minutes, remove clams and discard shells and any unopened clams. Reserve clams. Cut the tilapia into chunks. Add to the pot with chopped tomatoes and another 1/2 cup broth. Poach until fish is flakey, 2-3 minutes. Don’t overcook. Add back the clams, take off heat and stir. Serve in large bowls with chopped bell and sliced jalapeño pepper as garnish. Top with lemon zest. Dip a baguette. Delizioso.


Recipe and photos created by Gary F. Levine.


Vicious Ssoise

Vichyssoise with a little heat. Cut the white parts of 2 leeks into thin slices. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Peel and cut 4 cups potatoes into small chunks. Peel and chop 1 large zucchini into thick slices. Shred 1/2 head Savoy cabbage. Unseed and chop 2 jalapeño peppers. In a large saucepan, sauté the leeks, garlic and jalapeños in 2 tbs. butter until tender, but not brown. Add potatoes and zucchini and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, bring to boil, then simmer covered for 15 minutes. Add cabbage. Simmer until everything is tender.

Drain liquid, then pour potato mixture into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. In batches liquify in blender until smooth. Put into container and add 2 cups skim milk. Stir. Less milk for thicker consistency. Cream or half and half makes a richer soup. I like it lighter. Refrigerate for several hours. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Serve cold with chives on top.

Summer Bouillabaise

Wednesday Florence farmer’s market. Coarsely chop one large onion red or white; a large native tomato; an orange or yellow bell pepper. Brown in a little olive oil in a stock pot. Add chunks of meat from a firm white fish (monk, grouper, hake), a dozen cherry stone clams from the Atlantic brought in same-day. Season with fresh chopped chives and ground white pepper. Cover with a little water. Bring to quick boil then cover and simmer for 10 minutes until clams open. Clam juice will add to broth. Blend unseeded chunks from half a honeydew or quarter watermelon until smooth. Add for a balanced sweetness. Scoop out clams from shells and discard shells and any unopened. Stir.

Serve in bowls with a fresh baguette. Or, try Cioppino Estivo. A richer version.

Hurricane Arthur 4th!

Hurricane Arthur Day. Watch World Cup. Go Nederlands!
Cookout will have to wait for Saturday or Sunday:

Grilled Quick Corn in Husks- Fresh corn on the cob not out yet, but there is some ‘quick corn’ around. It’s small and edible, but not as good as summer-end sweet corn. Peel back the husks and take out the silk. Put the husks back up and soak the corn in a pot of cold water until ready to grill. Place soaked corn with husks still up on the hot grill and turn as necessary on the outer edge of the grate, so as not to burn. Cover to heat and eat.

Grilled Flank Steak- 1 1/2 lb. flank steak. Pound with textured pyramid meat mallet to tenderize. Season with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder. Cook over hot charcoals, but cover immediately so that it stays moist. 5-6 minutes on a side. Let rest for 5 minutes off the heat. Slice against the grain and add favorite barbecue sauce.

Summer Slaw- Red cabbage slaw is my favorite. I shred a small fresh cabbage into a large bowl. Toss in 3 thinly sliced scallion ends, 2 tbsp. Boar’s Head Pepperhouse mayonnaise, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, a handful of sesame seeds, 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. celery salt. Check for tanginess, I like it more vinaigry than mayonnaisey. Toss well to coat the cabbage. Cover, refrigerate until ready to serve as a summer side.

Cucumber Salad- Thinly slice: 6 pickle cukes, 1/2 large red onion in bowl. Dress with 3/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. crushed oregano, tear fresh basil leaves, celery salt, black pepper to taste. Stir, cover and chill. Add chopped native tomatoes when serving. They get tough in the marinade.

Red White Blue Dessert- Fresh strawberries, sliced; fresh blueberries in small bowls. Melt Herrell’s malted vanilla ice cream and pour over the berries. Or, strawberries and blueberries on baking powder biscuits from Atkins Farms and homemade whipped cream from Smiarowski Creamy. DSC_0110-2

Summer KaBobs

Skewers. Grill. Charcoal. We like to separate ingredients on each skewer for optimum cooking time. A typical KeBob roast will include bell peppers of all colors, onions red or white, Roma tomatoes (they stay firm), whole mushroom caps. Beef, lamb or chicken chunks on their own skewers. DSC_0010

Brush the veggies with olive oil, sprinkle garlic powder and pepper, both sides. Coat the meat with Catalina French dressing. Yup. Grill in stages over hottest fire. Meat and onions take longer than peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes. All should be charred but not burnt.DSC_0017-3

Slip all veggies and meat onto a platter. Serve! DSC_0019

Hadley Grass Salad

It’s finally up. Hadley grass. Pioneer Valley’s famous asparagus. No need to shave tender stalks, just cut off the ends. Blanch until cooked but still crisp. Stop cooking with cold water and divide on small plates when room temperature. On each plate, sprinkle the asparagus with dried oregano (crushed in the palm of your hand), ground white pepper, halved cherry tomatoes with a pinch of celery salt, fresh basil leaves chiffonade, crumbled Stilton cheese, and drizzle with the best Balsamic vinegar you can get.

My favorite Balsamic vinegar is Fini.

Best Veggie Pasta Ever

If I do say so myself. Inspired after watching favorite Lidia Bastianich’s Saturday show. Yet, I didn’t want meat or fish in the dish. A bright balance of ingredients came together just as I tasted them in my mind. A perfect supper with Frog’s Leap Zin. A little sauce dominates the taste.

So. Make linguine or spaghetti as directed. Half a DeCecco box for 2. Meanwhile, drain and chop a can of Cento whole Italian tomatoes. Chop 10 fresh Crimini mushrooms into quarters. Chop 12-14 Kalamata olives. Chiffonade 20 fresh basil leaves and julienne half a lemon peel (no pulp). Mince 2 cloves garlic.

In a heavy cast iron fry pan, brown the mushrooms in olive oil. Add ground black pepper, dried oregano and thyme, to taste; half the minced garlic. Deglaze with a quarter cup of the Zinfandel. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and 1 tablespoon low-salt capers. Stir and heat for a couple of minutes only. Should stay chunky.

Stir the drained pasta with a little butter and pepperoncini flakes, rest of minced garlic. Serve in bowls. Spoon sauce on top of the pasta, then finish with the fresh basil and lemon peel. Amounts of ingredients need to be balanced so that none of the tastes overwhelm others. Basil and lemon shine.