For the love of food

I have a new(ish) local friend who is, like Otto, a professor, and therefore is free to do all sorts of things in the summer which she will be far too busy for once classes start up again. Me, I’m all slacker, all the time, but I’m coming to the realization that summer is a mystical time for most people here in Universityland. For one thing, most folks are working a lot less in the summer. For another, you can actually go downtown for pizza or whatever and FIND A PARKING SPACE. It’s lovely.

Anyway, my new friend—let’s call her Foodie, because it will make her laugh—and I have been engaged in an educational project of sorts. Yes. The education is mine, and it has to do with the fact that I’ve lived here for over a year and yet I’d only been to maybe three different restaurants in town, because we hardly ever eat out. But it’s SUMMER and she’s not teaching and there is parking to be had, so we are studiously touring many of the finer local eateries for lunch.

Here’s the reason that this is interesting: Foodie is a vegan. And I am an omnivore. Also, prior to meeting Foodie, every vegan I’d ever met was somewhat, ahhh, ZEALOUS, shall we say, in their belief that ANIMAL EXPLOITATION IS RUINING THE PLANET. I assume that Foodie ALSO believes that animal exploitation is ruining the planet, but she’s much more reserved in forwarding her theory. Sure, she occasionally sends me links to funny-looking cartoon characters talking about why human beings are designed to eat plants, but she’s not pushy or weird about it. And she has excellent taste in restaurants.

When I say that I’m an omnivore, I immediately think of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but I have to tell you that I disagreed with him, kind of. I mean, the REAL omnivore’s dilemma is “would this be better with cheese or with bacon?” (Answer: BOTH!) Honestly, EVERYONE knows that.

This is to say that it’s possible that I am a bit obnoxious in my animal-product consumption, at times.

But no, really, it is always a delight to go out to lunch with Foodie. I’m actually (*insert martyred sigh here*) trying very hard to cut down on my meat consumption, eat more foods which are local and in-season (like, oh, I don’t know, everyone with a brain is trying to do at this point), and so when we go out to lunch I have been eating vegetarian, though not vegan (as I always tell her—you can take my cheese away by prying it out of my cold, dead hands). And as we live relatively close to each other she often stops by with a homemade vegan ice cream for me to try or berries from her backyard to share.

Well, I’m a firm believer in give and take. And I’ve struggled with this, a little bit, because I also really enjoy cooking, but I rarely have something on hand which I could give her that she would be willing to eat. So one time I trimmed back my basil and gave her enough to make pesto, and that made me happy; but in general, I cannot propose an equitable swap because she doesn’t want any of the that I just made for my family.

Last week we went out to lunch and both had a cup of cucumber gazpacho with our meals, and it was just about the best thing I’d ever put in my mouth.

“Oh my God!” I said, “this is SO GOOD! I wonder what’s IN this?” Because, you know, I had figured out the cucumber part, and maybe cilantro, and I was also tasting something that was clearly citrus, but I was wondering if the secret ingredient was COCAINE, because it took all of my willpower not to lick the cup clean.

Foodie agreed that it was quite delicious. We had a lovely meal and parted ways, and that damn cucumber gazpacho has been on my mind ever since.

Yesterday, I set my sights on a recreation. I had shopped for ingredients carefully, after perusing countless cucumber gazpacho recipes and picking and choosing which ingredients I was sure needed to be included. I peeled and seeded my cukes. I picked over the cilantro with the greatest of care. I juiced limes and chopped green onions.

The result? Not exactly the same as the restaurant, but pretty darn delicious.

We had company for dinner last night and I served the gazpacho and no one died (well, I don’t think anyone did—I might not have noticed, as I was face-down in my bowl, still, as everyone else moved on to the chicken), so I’m calling it to a success. This will become one of my go-to summer dishes for sure. It’s light! It’s crisp! It’s refreshing! Delicious!

I was so excited about it, I told Foodie I needed to give her some! Because it’s so yummy and she would love it! So we arranged for her to come pick some up this morning.

I’m sure she was confused when I contacted her in a guilty panic right before she left.

“WAIT!” I said. “I’M A MORON!”

The other main ingredient in my cucumber gazpacho? Yogurt.

You know, creamy animal exploitation that comes in quart containers?

Whoops.

Fortunately, Foodie is an excellent sport. She picked up her container of gazpacho vowing to give it to her (non-vegan) husband and to have a little taste, herself, to see if she wants to recreate it with vegan yogurt. And she didn’t even call me a moron.

43 Responses to “For the love of food”

  1. 1
    The Other Leanne July 23, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    We’re all going to need the gazpacho recipe now.
    My omnivorous mindset: “If animals aren’t meant to be eaten, why are they made of meat?” Sorry, Professor Foodie.

  2. 2
    Megan July 23, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    Aaaaand I manage to miss the main point because at gazpacho my brain starts quoting an obscure Brit com and all I can hear is ‘as I sat eating my piping hot gazpacho soup!’ Fortunately I have quotes for every occasion. So much better than having to actually think…

    … but aren’t you posting the recipe?

  3. 3
    Aimee July 23, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    Jeez… how can you possibly think you can post a description of soup so tasty that it’s as addictive as COCAINE, and then not post the recipe? Cucumber gazpacho sounds like a perfect summer dish.

  4. 4
    suburbancorrespondent July 23, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Could you use some of my extra salsa with that?

  5. 5
    dcfullest July 23, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    Might I join the chorus of “give us the recipe!”?

  6. 6
    Tammy July 23, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    I’m not normally a cold soup person, but the cucumber gazpacho sounds lovely. Can’t wait to try it. Oh wait, I would need a RECIPE to do that. I suppose I *could* do my own search for recipes but that would deprive you of the joy sharing your new found addiction with us. And I would never do that. Or, it could be that I’m just lazy. Could go either way.

  7. 7
    Janis July 23, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    Oh no you dih-uhnt! We soooo need that recipe! Light? Crisp? Refresing? Please share!

  8. 8
    Mir July 23, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    Okay, seriously, I did not follow an actual recipe because I was MAKING IT UP. But here’s more or less what I did:

    Peel and seed 4 large cucumbers. Throw into food processor.

    Grab a handful of cilantro. Throw into food processor.

    Chop 3 green onions (leave off the last few inches of tough green). Throw into food processor.

    Juice a lime. Throw into food processor. (not the lime, just the juice)

    Add some salt and pepper.

    Puree the ever-loving crap out of it.

    Taste. Juice another lime and add that.

    Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.

    Puree some more. Taste.

    Add a 24-ounce container of fat-free, plain yogurt. Puree.

    Taste. Swoon.

    Serve with a dollop of pineapple salsa (I used Newman’s Own because I was out of homemade) and some strips of Wasa wafers or other similar light-n-crunchy bits over the top.

  9. 9
    justanothercliche July 23, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    I can’t believe you haven’t given us the recipe. I’m dying here and need to go shopping.

  10. 10
    Foodie (snort) July 23, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Ok y’all, I just ate a spoonful and my knees buckled. Mir, you nailed it! I think what we had at the restaurant had more salt, but honestly I like yours better. We’ll have a gazpacho soup-off next week and I’ll make a batch w/ some soy yogurt. I’m thinking we’ll need to wash them down w/ margaritas. :) (and ps, I’m thinking now that the restaurant misinformed me that their version was vegan, b/c I don’t see how they made it w/out yogurt — should I sue for vegan contamination?! My terms for settlement of the suit could be: free lunch for me and a friend, once a month for a year.)

  11. 11
    All Adither July 23, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    If this is as good as you say, it’s going up on my nonfoodie blog http://www.HalfAssedKitchen.com. With credit to you, of course. :)

    Yum!

  12. 12
    Karen July 23, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    yes, I run out of “homemade” salsa all the time too!

  13. 13
    RuthWells July 23, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    Great timing — my cukes are just coming in! As long as the deer don’t eat them all, I’ll be making your soup next week.

  14. 14
    Heather July 23, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    Okay – what restuarants have you tried – because truly this is my husband’s favorite town and we loved it in the summer when he was in law school as it was only slightly crowded. I agree – I can give up meat – but I need my milk and cheese. I can’t wait to try your recipe.

  15. 15
    hollygee July 23, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    How about smmmoooooooth, cooooooooool coconut chocolate pudding? I made it for a lactose intolerant friend and I was sold.
    I based it on a Joy of Cooking version of a traditional Puerto Rican coconut pudding called Tembleque.
    (serves 2-3)

    2 Tablespoons sugar
    2 Tablespoons cornstarch
    pinch of salt
    1 14-ounce can coconut milk, shaken well, opened, and stirred
    2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    (If you want to turn it out of a mold, grease a 1-pint souffle dish or mold).
    Combine dry ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add 1/2 cup (approximately) of the coconut milk and stir until it is a smooth paste. Combine the remaining milk with the mix.

    Place over a medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and allow pudding to come to a simmering boil and continuing to stir. Return to a simmer for one minute, stirring. Take off the heat, add the broken chocolate pieces and the vanilla. Stir to combine the melting chocolate with the pudding. When completely smooth, pour into the serving dish to cool, then chill for an hour.

    If you do not want a skin to form on the surface, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding.

  16. 16
    Astrogirl426 July 23, 2008 at 11:33 am #

    This reminds me of my vegetarian friend’s dilemma when she goes out to eat. She’ll see “vegetable soup” on the menu, and will ask if there’s any meat in it. They say, no, of course not, it’s VEGETABLE soup. So then she asks what stock they used.

    They always answer, without a trace of irony, “Chicken stock.”

    Because we all know chicken is a vegetable.

    The soup sounds yummy. As far as the equitable trade, don’t feel like you have to trade food for food. If you can find other things she’s into, or something she’s been wanting to get but hasn’t, you could always give her that. Or trade work – if she has a big garden you could offer to help in the garden, or help paint a room in her house (ow! ow! stop hitting me! I was kidding!!) lol.

  17. 17
    Katie July 23, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    I hate cucumbers, and I think even I would like that.

  18. 18
    mbbored July 23, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    As a vegetarian, I’ve had more experiences like that than I can count. What makes your pie crust so tender and flaky? Answer: Lard. Gee these pancakes are extra good. That’s because I greased the skillet with bacon fat! Delicious soup! Thanks, I added chicken broth for oomph!

  19. 19
    Susan July 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm #

    I am so making this gazpacho for my book club this weekend!! Thanks for the recipe.

  20. 20
    MomCat July 23, 2008 at 12:07 pm #

    I was just considering gazpacho for this evening because it’s been hot as the breath of Hell lately, and Magic Mir posts one – Voíla! Thanks!

  21. 21
    bad penguin July 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    That sounds delicious! I definitely have to try it.

    Making mistakes when cooking for vegans is easy. I used to adjust recipes because my brother’s girlfriend was a vegan (thankfully she’s just a vegetarian like me now) and there’d always be one ingredient I just hadn’t thought about. i eventually got the hang of it. I make an excellent vegan apple pie.

  22. 22
    Jan July 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    Katie, I hate cucumbers, too, and trust me, if you don’t like the flavor of cucumber, gazpacho is NOT for you. Just trust me.

  23. 23
    Sophia (Adventures of Brown) July 23, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

    I am not usually a gazpacho-eating type but this looked really good. (Maybe I’m just hungry for lunch!) I’m making fish (talapia) for company tonight with fresh green beans and I bet this would go great as a starter.
    I’ll try it! Thanks, Mir!

  24. 24
    toni mcgee causey July 23, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

    You know, I read something like that and it makes me wish I knew what a food processor was. Or a kitchen. (sigh) I’m not allowed to cross the fire hazard line without direct permission from my family. And a fireman standing by.

  25. 25
    Kimmers July 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    There’s no way on God’s green earth that my boyfriend would agree to try this… but I’m definitely going to make it for myself one of these days.

    Just as soon as I buy a food processor. Sounds delicious!

  26. 26
    Springsteen fan July 23, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    There’s even a way to have your gazpacho and bacon, too. On http://www.foodtv.com, there’s an Emeril recipe for cantaloupe gazpacho made w/yellow tomatoes, vidalia onions, cucumbers and yellow peppers, topped with strips of fried prosciutto. Mmmmmm, pork w/my fruits and veggies!

  27. 27
    Mom, Ink. July 23, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    I’ll definitely veganize the Gazpacho and give it a whirl. But I NEED a homemade vegan ice cream recipe Professor Foodie. NEEEEEEEEEEED.

    Oh and Mir, they make both vegan cheez and bac’n. And they also make everything taste better. Mmmmmmm bac’n.

  28. 28
    Tj July 23, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    Sounds delicious, I’m gonna whip up a batch this weekend!

  29. 29
    Laura D. July 23, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    Here’s an already-vegan recipe for cucumber gazpacho… different from yours, probably:

    http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2008/07/12/cucumber-gazpacho/

    I haven’t tried it, though.

  30. 30
    Sara July 23, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Mir- I immediately thought of you when I saw this link:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/96355/How-much-bacon-should-be-added-to-Rice-Krispies-treats

    The fact that today’s post is food related is a happy coincidence. Please know that I would have posted this link even if today’s post had been about Chickie’s dreaded rash or sticky piano keys or anything really! Bacon must be explored immediately….

    Sara

  31. 31
    StephLove July 23, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    Oh, I’ve been looking for recipes with cilantro because remember what everyone said about mint taking over the garden? Well I don’t know about that because we didn’t plant mint this year but yesterday I went back to the garden to pick some cilantro for a corn and avocado salad and I couldn’t find it because it’s gotten rather overgrown back there and there were these bushes covered with white flowers where the cilantro used to be and wait.. aren’t the leaves kind of shaped like cilantro and OMG the we have a whole cilantro ORCHARD now and I don’t know what I will do with it all.

    Um, so maybe I will make this soup. With lots of cilantro.

  32. 32
    Julie July 23, 2008 at 5:36 pm #

    There’s a restaurant in the same town that served a remarkably similar soup last week with crab meat in the center…it was divine!!

  33. 33
    Claudious July 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    I think it sounds tasty, though how dare you pollute it with yogurt when instead you could have used… something… ummm like… water.

    I’m not a Vegan, I’m sure it’s healthy and cleansing if it’s done right, but I have some teeth specifically built (through evolution) to cut into meat, and I’d feel terrible not putting them to the use nature intended.

  34. 34
    Cele July 23, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    I’m sorry I’m still laughing at Sara and Professor Foodie. It’s been years since I’ve had gazpacho, but ohhhhh this is sounding so very good. Ducky won’t be asking me to share… so it’s mine all mine.

  35. 35
    D July 23, 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    Yep, vegans are difficult to “trade foods” with at times. I’ve friends who are what I call “super vegans” – I just ask if they want to eat the grass on the front lawn, then realize it’s probably been treated with chemicals that were once animals, so that’s out. I just offer them water and pray they don’t become Jains soon [I knew one who jokingly yet seriously said he had his non-Jain wife purify tap water so he didn't kill the stuff in there ... shudder].

  36. 36
    LiteralDan July 24, 2008 at 2:43 am #

    Mmmm… cheese and bacon…

  37. 37
    Loth July 24, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    Thanks to a son born allergic to milk and eggs, I make a mean vegan-friendly chocolate fudge cake. If you’ll pay my air fare over, I’ll bring one over and you can give it to Foodie!

  38. 38
    Rebecca July 24, 2008 at 7:23 am #

    Mmm I’ll definitely be trying this. Sounds yum!

  39. 39
    Elena July 24, 2008 at 7:46 am #

    thanks for putting your soup recipe in the comments. I went to a small upscale (read: prices similar to Whole Mortgage) grocery yesterday in Homewood, Tria Market, and they always have soup; since it was so hot I had already melted, I tried the cold cucumber soup. However, my inner Siskel & Ebert gave it a big MEH, as in, well, I finished my miniscule tasting cup but don’t think I will paying for a regular sized portion….

  40. 40
    Laura July 24, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    This reminds me of a saying I saw on a t-shirt last weekend. (No offense to vegetarians meant – I live in Boulder and half the people I know and love are vegetarians, but this is still funny.)

    Vegetarian – an ancient word meaning “the village idiot who can’t hunt, fish, or cook.”

  41. 41
    Scottsdale Girl July 24, 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    Damn Laura beat me.

  42. 42
    Lori, one of several July 27, 2008 at 10:34 pm #

    I’ve had gazpacho many times growing up in Minneapolis, and I don’t think it’s ever had yogurt in it–cukes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, etc., kind of like a salsa soup but with the cucumbers. Is like the difference between New England & Manhattan or something like that? Just curious…of course, I’d love the chance to add dairy to almost anything!

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