White Gazpacho with Cucumber and Grapes

With the string of seemingly unending 90-degree days we've had lately, it's good to have a refreshing, chilled soup! This white gazpacho makes a wonderful first course, followed by a colorful Salad Nicoise. If you have a Vitamix or other high speed blender, it makes preparing this recipe a breeze. A garnish of toasted, sliced almonds and halved grapes, with a drizzle of good olive oil makes you look like a rock star!

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Recipe

1-1/2 lbs. Persian cucumbers, ends trimmed and sliced
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. serrano chile, chopped (taste first for heat, then adjust as you desire)
3 T. olive oil
1 lb. seedless green grapes (reserve a few for garnish)
8 oz. Greek-style plain yogurt
freshly ground pepper
Sliced, toasted almonds for garnish (optional)

Put the cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic, salt, serrano chile, olive oil, and grapes in your Vitamix and puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the yogurt and add a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 5 or 6 hours. Serve garnished with a few sliced grapes, sliced toasted almonds, and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Serves 6.

– Anna Thomas, "Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore"

Roman-Style Chopped Chicken Liver

If you like chicken livers, you'll love this recipe from Chef Vitaly Paley (Portland, Ore.). Most chicken liver mousse or pate recipes contains up to half a pound of butter! This is a nice alternative and packed with flavor. Serve with toasted baguette, grilled flatbread, crackers, or as a sandwich spread with sliced red onion and cornichons.

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Recipe

1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 lb. chicken livers, cleaned, dried and lobes halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped (or 1 tsp. anchovy paste)
5 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 T. drained capers
1/4 c. Madeira (or port, or cream sherry)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. Cognac (or brandy)
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and coarsely grated

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the livers, season with salt and pepper, and sear until lightly colored on the bottom, about 1 minute. Turn the livers over; add the shallot, garlic, anchovies, sage and capers. Cook, stirring until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Pour in the sherry and balsamic vinegar, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Add the cognac and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, fold in the grated egg and season with salt and pepper. Let it come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold. Can be made up to one day in advance. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

– Vitaly Paley, "The Paley's Place Cookbook"

Broccoli Salad

This is a sweet, sour, crunchy, savory and delicious broccoli salad. Blanch the broccoli first for a minute or two in boiling water, it makes a difference - unless you like your broccoli super crunchy. If you don't have dried cherries, you can substitute dried cranberries or other dried fruit.

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Recipe

6 cups broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked, drained, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c. mascarpone
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. dried cherries
1/2 c. walnuts
1/2 c. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the broccoli and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking; transfer to a bowl and set aside. Cook the bacon, drain on paper towels, and cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve 2 tsp. of the bacon fat).

In a large bowl mix together the mascarpone, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and salt with a whisk until smooth. Add the broccoli, cherries, walnuts, bacon, 2 tsp. of the bacon fat, and gorgonzola. Toss well and serve.

— inspired by Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

Cioppino

Cioppino is such a versatile dish – you can add any type of seafood that you wish (as long as it's fairly firm, like scallops, salmon, halibut, grouper, haddock – and shellfish). The sauce has a great depth of flavor but doesn't overpower the fish. It's a perfect main course for weekend company. You can make the stew (minus the seafood) up to two days ahead, bring to a simmer and add the fish as noted below. Be sure to use a big pot!

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Recipe

3 T. olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
2 T. tomato paste
1 tsp. smoked paprika
(1) 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1-1/2 c. dry white wine
32 oz. fish stock
7 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a little bundle
1 bay leaf
1 lb. clams, scrubbed
1 lb. mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-1/2 lbs. assorted firm-fleshed fish (I used salmon, scallops and halibut)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon (2 tsp. grated zest, the rest cut into wedges)
hearty Italian gluten free bread for dipping

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and paprika until everything is coated. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer about 30 minutes.

Remove the thyme. Add the clams and mussels, cover and cook about 5 minutes, until the clams and mussels begin to open. Add the shrimp and fish. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the lemon zest. Season to taste with more salt and red pepper flakes if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Frisée aux Lardons

This beautiful salad pairs perfectly with the Thai Red Curry Mussels recipe. Use frisée if you can find it. It wasn't available yesterday when I was searching, so I used escarole which was delicious. You could also substitute arugula, radicchio, or a combination of any slightly bitter green. Top with a poached egg — slightly runny yolk so it mixes with the dressed salad greens, croutons and chopped bacon. Yummmmmm!

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Recipe

1 large head frisée lettuce (or escarole, radicchio, arugula), washed, dried and cut into 3-inch pieces
8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
Baguette - cut up enough to make about 40 small squares for croutons
4 large eggs

Mustard-Garlic Dressing:
1-1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 T. sherry vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil

In a bowl large enough to hold the salad, use a whisk to combine all of the mustard-garlic dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Sauté the bacon until crisp, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the pan and add the baguette croutons and cook over medium-high heat, stirring and turning over so they brown on all sides. Set aside.

Poach the eggs. I cheat and use an egg poacher, but if you're comfortable doing it in a nonstick skillet with 1-1/2 inches of water and 1 T. red wine vinegar, go for it!

To assemble, add the washed and dried greens to the bowl with the dressing in it; toss well. Divide the salad among four dinner plates, top with the poached egg and sprinkle the bacon bits and croutons over the top. Serve immediately.

— Jacques Pépin, "More Fast Food My Way"

Thai Red Curry Mussels

After a delightful day of wine tasting, the perfect accompaniment to a great bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir is this tasty recipe for fresh mussels. The broth has the perfect amount of spice, not too hot and lots of nuanced flavor. For the second course, consider Jacques Pépin's Frisée aux Lardons, followed by a cheese course with crackers and fruit.

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Recipe

2 T. peanut oil
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 2/3 of inner bulb smashed and cut into 3 pieces
3 T. Thai red curry paste
1/2 c. white wine
(1) 15-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
2 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
juice of 2 limes
2-1/2 lbs. mussels, cleaned
4 T. basil leaves, chopped
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Rustic Italian bread, or a baguette, sliced, for dipping

In a saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the lemongrass, curry paste, wine, coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice. Bring to a simmer, stirring. Add the mussels, cover the pot and let steam until opened — about 8 minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the chopped basil and cilantro. Remove the lemongrass before serving.

Transfer the mussels to 4 bowls, discarding any that didn't open. Pour the sauce over the mussels, and serve with plenty of bread for dipping.

— Bobby Flay, Food Network