Gazpacho

There are a ton of Gazpacho recipes out there. I’ve read a bunch of them over the last few weeks – they keep showing up because it is summer and tomato season in most of the country. You have a lot of tomatoes and its hot outside, so a cold tomato soup sounds perfect. I thought it sounded pretty good, so I gave it a go.

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For this one I started with a classic gazpacho recipe from Food and Wine. I figured if I was going to try a cold soup recipe, I might as well go for a classic. I did cut this down a little and ended up using about 2 pounds of tomato and just the ends of the peppers I had roasted for the antipasto. The rest, I kept the same. I marinated the vegetables overnight and then blended them the next day.

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I did add a little more sherry vinegar when I finished blending, and I strained the soup through a fine mesh to get rid of the skins from the tomato and peppers. I garnished the soup with some chopped cucumber and red onion, and seasoned everything with salt and pepper.

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This is not the most filling dish, but it worked. I loved the flavor of the sherry vinegar that came through and the tomatoes did shine here. I don’t think this would work as well with tasteless tomatoes, but the ones I managed to pick up this week had flavor to them. This worked for a light lunch, or it could work as an appetizer.

Kale Pesto Pasta Salad

I was never a fan of pasta salad. Something about cold pasta, and the general tendency to include mayonnaise in recipes turned me off to it for a long time. It was only recently that I discovered that pasta salad made with pesto is actually really, really good.

Mom gave me a small bunch of kale last week and I decided to use it in a kale pesto. I didn’t work from a recipe for this, I just went with what I thought would be good; it worked surprisingly well.

Kale Pesto

  • 1 small bunch kale, de-stemmed
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 bunch (1 stem) basil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup mild cheese (I used Comte here because I had it on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put everything except the oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until it begins combine. Add the olive oil and blend until the pesto is a paste consistency.

One thing I like about pesto is that you can really change it depending on what you have on hand and it doesn’t impact the dish all that much. Don’t have almonds, use pistachios, pecans or hazelnuts. Don’t have a particular kind of cheese, use what you have on hand. I ended up using the Comte because I didn’t have any Parmesan. I used almonds instead of more traditional pine nuts because they were in the freezer and convenient. I like a lot of garlic, so I used three cloves. If you like less garlic, use one or two.

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For the actual pasta salad I used a half a box (8 oz) of whole wheat penne pasta, cooked 10 minutes, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Mix everything together. For a hot pasta dish, serve immediately and for a cold pasta salad, chill for two hours. I’m not sure how this would hold up in a picnic since there is cheese in the pesto, but I have to think it would be better than a mayo dish in the hot sun or sitting out for a few hours.

Look Mom, a tomato!

While Bob and I were roaming around Munich and Salzburg, Mom kindly stayed with the pets and spoiled them as they should be spoiled. She also had some fun playing in the dirt and planted some tomatoes.

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I have to admit, I am super excited about this tomato. I am also worried as it has rained every day for over a week now, and not the typical Florida afternoon shower. It has rained, and rained all day to the point where mushrooms are growing in the lawn and if you try to walk in the grass, you sink into what feels like a marsh. This is better than the west coast, I know, but I do worry about my baby tomato. I’m not expecting Jersey tomato great (really, is there anything as good as a fresh, true Jersey tomato??? I think not) but I’m hoping for lots of real tomato taste. It has been a while since I’ve had the bliss of a really, really good tomato so if we can get the right conditions for the tomatoes to grow, I would be very, very happy.

I know I haven’t posted in a bit and it hasn’t been for lack of trying. I typed up a little post of the antipasto I made, but when I tried to add pictures, it ended up deleted.  Sigh. So here is the short version.

I wanted to recreate, as best as I could, the antipasto I had at the beer garden in Munich. I figured it wasn’t going to be the same, so I took some liberties and went for the memory of the dish instead of actually trying to remake it. Here is what I ended up with:

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Not bad. It came out really, really good.  I tried to find good recipes on-line for a dressing or marinade, but I didn’t come up with anthing that I really thought would work perfectly, so I ended up creating my own.

Recipe:

  • 1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise (increase to 2 next time)
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 carrot, sliced lengthwise (increase to 2 next time)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, one of each color, red, yellow, orange (cut down to one next time)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon basil, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper

The vegetables, I sliced lengthwise, coated in some oil and roasted for about twenty to thirty five minutes at 400 degrees. The carrot took the least amount of time and the peppers the most, so it is just a matter of keeping an eye on everything and taking them out before they turn to char.

Once roasted, I covered the peppers in a bowl with plastic wrap and let them steam so I could peel the skins off. Once I did that, I sliced them down into strips.

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It was a nice little dinner and it did remind us of the antipasto in Germany. Definitely not the same, but it had the same feel and made a nice, light dinner. Next time I’m using less bell pepper and more eggplant and carrots. I’m also going to try to find a nice soft cheese to pair with everything. The hard cheese worked, but I think a soft cheese would work better.

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And I had to include a cute kitty picture …. just because.

Home

Lots of people comment about the length of our trips, especially those we take overseas. Why one week? You can’t see everything in that time. If you are going to spend the money to fly, you should stay longer. Etc. etc.

We learned, early in our relationship, that both Bob and I have about an eight day, max, travel limit. Long weekends are perfect, a week is good, but about day 6 we are ready to be home. We want our bed, home cooked meals and the furry creatures. Anything longer than that and we (ok, mainly me) get cranky and tired. I also found that after about six days my appreciation for everything I’m seeing starts to diminish. I know the ancient palace or church, or the gardens or whatever else I’m seeing are incredible, I just can’t enjoy it as much as I did around day three. And honestly, after a while, all the gold foil detail work runs together.

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So one week. One week to experience a new country, see some very cool things that we don’t normally see, eat food we wouldn’t cook ourselves, attempt a foreign language and see how far I can get with it, and appreciate where I am, where we are from and the fact that we can take these trips.

A quick recap of the trip:

  • Six days
  • Five airports
  • Two countries (I’m not counting Amsterdam even though we flew threw it)
  • Three cities
  • ~11: Miles walked per day (estimated average from both Bob’s cell phone fitness app and mine)
  • 14.8: Most miles walked in one day
  • One new pair of shoes
  • Four blisters (including one under a callous, which I didn’t know could happen and not related to the new shoes)
  • Three multi course tasting menu meals
  • Three beer gardens
  • One cat cafe
  • Five churches
  • Four royal palaces/castles/residents
  • One Science and Technology museum
  • 343 pictures (don’t worry, I’m not asking anyone to look at them all)

The trip was wonderful and I can honestly say Bob picked well. He gets the credit for the location, I get credit for the planning. But … I am so glad to be home. I am perfectly happy hanging out at home for a while and appeasing the furry creatures.

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My one tip for travel: travel how you want and forget what everyone says you should do. Go where you want, do only what you want, and stay for as long as you are comfortable. Appreciate where you have been and the home you return to.

Munich Day 6, Part 2  – Deutsches Museum and Our Last Dinner

On our first trip to Europe a few years ago, Bob and I found that we could only take so much art and elaborately decorated rooms. We became overload and just couldn’t appreciate the beauty of these after so many. Our solution was to find a science and technology museum and it had become somewhat of a tradition for us.  The Deutsches Museum is considered one of the world’s oldest and largest science and technology museums. It is huge and could easily take an entire day or more to see. We didn’t spend an entire day there, but we appreciated the few hours we did wander the museum.

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As with most technology oriented museums, there were a number of transportation exhibits. The boats were impressive and thinking about flying in some of the planes just scared me.

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It was a nice way to spend our last day, especially since it was now cool and rainy instead of hot and sunny. We, of course, pick the weird weather week to be in Germany.

For our last dinner we had reservations at Tian.

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This upscale, all vegetarian restaurant (yep, that is not oysters, but a cucumber salad with yogurt cream) was high on my list to try in large part because I thought it would be difficult to find non-meat dishes in Germany. (I was wrong and fully admit it.) This was an experience. The restaurant was beautifully decorated and I had a nice view of the kitchen as we ate. The pots of herbs that lined the plating area were used on the dishes that were sent out. This was also one of the few times I didn’t have to worry about the menu – I can eat everything on it. And eat everything I did.

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This was also the best service we had in Munich. The other restaurants we went to had very good service, but start to finish, this place was special. The food was amazing and was as good as any Michelian starred restaurant I’ve been to. (It still feels VERY weird to think that I have eaten at one, let alone several of those. Really weird.) the food is beautiful and flavorful and spiced to perfection.  Between Cafe Katzentempel and Tian, this was a perfect way to end the trip.

Munich: Day 6, Part 1 – The Cat Cafe

If you read a lot of tourist information on Munich, and I did before coming over, almost everyone talks about the traditional foods. The snitzel come up, the bratwurst and the pork shanks. For someone who prefers less meat in my diet, I did some research to find some vegetarian friendly placed to eat. It turns out almost every place in Munich, including the beer gardens and the street vendors have non-meat options. However, I’m very glad I didn’t know this before I came over because I would have missed Cafe Katzentempel.

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I found a description of this almost vegan cafe on line and I told Bob we had to go one day. My only regret is that we didn’t fit it in earlier in our trip so we could have gone more than once.

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The cafe is located in the University section of Munich, so it is a little out of your general tourist area. It is right on a main street and close to several public transportation stops. As soon as we got there, everyone, including a particularly cute cat, made us feel very welcomed and at home. We didn’t even need my very basic German as the (I’m assuming owner) immediately switched to English and talked through the menu with us and told us about the cats.

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The important things first – the cats. There are six cats who live at the cafe. They are all rescues, including one former street cat who lost a leg. They all have a private area in the back and can come and go as they please. If they don’t want to interact with people, they don’t have to. All of the cats have decided to stay at the cafe and all of them are fairly social. The two Siamese were particularly playful as they seemed the youngest of the group.

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The food. The food was quite simply fantastic. It’s not fancy but there is a ton of flavor packed into those dishes. I had the summer bowl with hummus and Bob had a sandwich and salad. The ingredients are clearly fresh and high quality, which makes a huge difference in the overall meal.

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I really wish we could go back, but it was our last full day in Europe and we head back to the states tomorrow morning. If you do get to Munich and even kind of like cats, make the trip for brunch or dinner. You will smile the entire time you are there, and it will be one of the most memorable things you do.  And definitely the most unique.

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Salzburg (Munich Day 5)

I debated about heading to Salzburg. I was very, very excited about it before we came over, but with Bob not feeling well, the two hour train ride and the forecast for rain, I just wasn’t sure.

I am so glad we went.

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We headed out early and we’re lucky enough to be relatively alone in the train car for the trip. The scenery alone was worth going for, but once we arrived in Salzburg our adventures began.

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Bob had been saying he needed insoles for his shoes for a few days, but we never got around to getting any. I suggested he look for another pair of shoes so he could alternate, but he didn’t want to do that. About 300 meters from the train station in Salzburg, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Yep. The sole of his shoe split from the shoe itself. There was no way he could walk around all day like that. Luckily we are in a major city and there are lots of stores – if we can find them. We did, Bob got a new pair and we headed into the old city to explore.

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On the map, Salzburg looks huge. When I planned the day I thought getting from one place to another would take some time, but it really didn’t. From one spot in the square you are within rock throwing distance (not that I would rough rocks) at the Cathedral, the Residenz, the monastery and the Salzburg museum. Further afield, a up a very large hill, is the fortress.

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We started with a small church, mainly because we ran into it and I wasn’t sure if it was the cathedral or not. (My map reading skills are questionable) it was a beautiful church.

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We found the cathedral and went in to explore. This church was majestic. It feels weird to say it wasn’t as grand as the Cathedral at Sienna (my standard for churches); it was just as ornate in a totally different way. While Sienna is marble and carved stone, Salzburg is carved plaster and all of the detail blend into the building. It is still impressive and it still shows the wealth and power of the Catholic Church, but in a subtler way.

One of my favorite parts of the Cathedral was the crypts. I expected dark, a little creepy and maybe something a touch different. What we saw was amazing and not anything I could have thought of.

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After the church we decided we had to see the fortress. Just the sight of it sitting on he hill reminded both Bob and I of Edinburgh (still my favorite city). We were going to take the tram up (it is a steep and long walk) but sort of missed the ticket area. So … we walked. We stopped a few times for a picture of two of the views because they are that beautiful.  But when you get to the fortress itself, and look out over Salzburg, you are truly impressed.

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Luckily we made it up to the castle and through most of the open areas before the rain started in earnest. We were up at the highest point in the castle when the rain and wind kicked up and we decided to continue with the interior portions of the castle.

After walking down the hill (cannot take the tram just down) we wander across the river and stopped for coffee and a brownie so we could warm up, dry off a little and just rest out feet. After our break we headed to St. Peter’s Monastery.

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The church here is small, but once again, elaborate and detailed. The most impressive part to me was the cemetery: the graves are all so well maintained and if you didn’t notice the markers (although how you could miss them, I’m not sure) you would think you were In a beautiful garden.

Speaking of beautiful gardens … Since we had time before our dinner, we wandered to Mirabell Gardens  where parts of The Sound of Music were filmed. Erin. I took this photo just for you.

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The gardens were gorgeous. They were well maintained and manicured to perfection. The roses alone were stunning, but the effect of the overall garden is pretty special.

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We had dinner at the restaurant at St. Peter’s Monastery. The restaurant has been open since 803. Yes, 803, not 1803. I’m sure it has not been a traditional restaurant since that time, but as it has served food to the public since then, I’m counting it.

We did a lot in our one day in Salzburg. Possibly too much; I know we didn’t see everything. That’s ok, we go into these trips with a few things we really want to do and if we miss things, we miss them. We enjoy what we do and don’t try to do everything. So far it’s worked for us.