Late Summer Bell Pepper Gazpacho with Mint

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Today, a late summer gazpacho, inspired by Mexican flavors, ideal for those last hot summer days of August. Those days are harder to endure when you’re already back to work, with the burning cobblestones and offices without air conditioning. In Biscarrosse, near the beach, this end-of summer feel was definitely in the air with the last batch of vacationers leaving on Saturday, with a heavy heart and a truck full. Keys are given back to the owners, the kids are seated in the back of the car and it’s the big departure ! Weekends in September are still full with tourists but the atmosphere is totally different, more like Indian summer.

Back to school days are just ahead of us with this slight nostalgia for long lazy days and this hint of sadness when you already think of your next holiday. I’ve always felt a little depressed knowing that I will have to wait 9 more month until the beginning of summer and its sunny perspective. But soon, I will be taken way by the whirlwind of back to school days and the newness there is to it. In a few days, kids will be passing by my windows for their first day, with their new outfit and worried look before crossing the school gates. All in all, the routine will soon get its way and summer days won’t feel as painful as they feel now.

To make it last a little longer and ease the pain of it, make this gaspacho this week, preferably the day before so you can enjoy it directly when you come home from work. If you’re lucky enough to be on holidays, you’re also allowed to make it to enjoy for a long evening by the pool or in the garden :)

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Bell Pepper Gazpacho with Mint

Serves 4

Ingrédients

1 yellow onion, minced
4 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp of Espelette pepper or other mild pepper powder
500ml of vegetable stock
Mint leaves
Salt and pepper

Instructions

1. In a saucepan, sauteed the onion with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the garlic and 2/3 of the bell peppers. Cook for 5 minutes then add the pepper powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to boil. Then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Mix the soup until smooth and let it cool first on the counter then in the fridge.
3. When the soup is cold, add the lemon zest and the rest of the bell peppers. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and serve !

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A picnic in the garden : carrot salad with bulgur, cranberries and cilantro

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Enjoying the summer going by, already at its height, already fading, but just ignore that and gorge yourself on sunny days until the dreaded Autumn arrives. In order to change things up, go eat lunch outside, in the nature : in a cute corner of my garden, on the empty beach after a good walk, at the quiet lake, or in the deserted park. Anywhere will do the trick as long as you can create your own haven to daydream in the shade.
Just remember to bring a nice throw or a cotton rug to take a nap after lunch. If you stay at home, take this opportunity to take your bucolic tableware. If you don’t, don’t bother, what matters is in the plate.
Speaking of which, I recommend this fresh and easily transportable carrot and bulgur salad. Don’t hesitate to double or triple the recipe for the following days :)

Profiter de l’été qui avance, déjà à son pic, déjà déclinant, mais on préfère ne pas y songer et se gorger de soleil avant la rentrée tant redoutée. Pour bousculer un peu les habitudes, on part déjeuner dehors, dans la nature : un joli coin de son jardin, la plage vide après une bonne marche, le lac paisible, ou le parc municipal déserté. Se créer son petit havre personnel, pour buller à l’ombre des arbres.
Penser à emporter une jolie fouta ou un tapis en coton (comme ici) pour pouvoir faire la sieste après déjeuner. Si l’on reste chez soi, sortir de la vaisselle champêtre, sinon, ne pas s’en préoccuper, l’essentiel est dans l’assiette.
Justement, dans l’assiette, je vous propose une salade très fraiche et facilement transportable. Ne pas hésiter à en faire de grandes quantités, pour les jours suivants :)

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Carrot Salad with bulgur, cranberries and cilantro
Serves 2

Ingredients

2 carrots
120g (4.2 oz) of bulgur (uncooked)
1 red onion, minced
2 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp of cumin
A 3 cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, grated
1 handful of dried cranberries
1/2 bunch of cilantro

Instructions
1. With vegetable peeler, cut the carrots in ribbons. Cook the bulgur in a large pot filled with boiling water.
2. Prepare the dressing : mix the lime juice, oil, cumin, ginger, cumin and onion. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the carrot ribbons, bulgur, cranberries, and cilantro. Mix well and serve.

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Sagres and the Vicentina Coast : Ceviche with avocado, cilantro and ginger

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First part of our trip to Portugal with the Algarve region. This region in the southern part of Portugal is renowned for its beautiful beaches but is also a destination of choice for tourists during the summer months. When we were researching where to stay during this trip, we got a lukewarm reception from our friends and family. They said that Algarve had the reputation to being very crowded and filled with seaside towns with high-rises and multilingual menus in restaurants. So that was very far from the small village atmosphere we were looking for. We kept looking and quickly crossed of our list some towns but in the middle of it we found Sagres at the western point of Algarve. The guidebooks were describing it as a surfer’s town with an end-of-the-world feel. We were sold !

When we got there, it totally lived up to our expectations. The town in itself is very charming, quite small with a port, a market to get fresh produce and fish, some traditional cafes where the local grandpas are meeting. But there are also some cool surfer bars and restaurant that serve grilled meat and fish on the beach. We even found some places with good design without being show-off.

It was the perfect base camp to explore the region which offers magnificent landscapes within 20 km. In the south, we found beaches surrounded by ocher cliffs, covered with perennial plants, calm and clear water and frequented by families.

In the west, never-ending beaches with black cliffs or sand dunes (like in the Landes region where I’m from) with unrelenting waves perfect for surfing (which we did ! you may not know but I surfed a lot when I was a teenager and I got back to it 2 years ago). On all the beaches, there are small cafes and snack where you can have lunch or just a drink, the atmosphere is very laid back as this coast is mostly frequented by surfers and families going camping in the nature.

Also, a day when the coast was windy with misty rain, we went farther inland to find small villages with white houses built around an old church, a greener nature, and meandering roads. We explored Monchique, a mountain town that is a starting point of hikes in the Serra do Monchique. We chose to hike in Mt Picota, through a forest of eucalyptus, cork oaks, strawberry trees. Up there, the view on the region is breathtaking.

Well, it is quite obvious how much I liked this region, its wild nature and the variety of its landscapes. We took it day by day, doing what we were in the mood for, exploring different beaches according to the direction of the wind of the swell, going swimming in sheltered beaches like you do in the Mediterranean, reading in the shades, having lunch with a view on the sea.

I loved wandering the streets of Sagres, going to the market with the locals stocking up on vegetables and fresh fish for the barbecue, taking l’apéritif in our deck at sunset, getting wild in the bars in town after dinner. This town definitely feels like the windswept end-of-world, slightly old-fashioned with a California vibe.

One of the dinners we made was this ceviche with avocado, cilantro and ginger. It’s really fresh and bright, perfect to end a sunny day spent at the beach. You can make it after the beach, with your pareo wrapped around your waist, you feed covered in sand and you hair still salty. I serve it with basmati rice but you can also eat it as an appetizer.

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Ceviche with avocado, cilantro and ginger

Serves 4

Ingredients
600g (21oz) of whte fish filet like seabass, sea bream or cod
2 avocados, sliced
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 small onion (white or red), minced
1 bunch of cilantro
2 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 lime
4 cm (1.5 inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 pinches of Espelette pepper (or some mild pepper powder)
Salt

Instructions
1. Prepare the marinade : mix the oil, juice of the lemon and lime, lime zest, grated ginger, pepper and onion.
2. Dice the fish filets and add it to the marinade. Mix well. Put the marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3. A few minutes before serving, add the cilantro, cucumber, avocado slices. Salt to taste.
4. Serve with rice for a full meal

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Chilled Zucchini Soup with Feta and Dill

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I’ve been home from holidays since Sunday. I visited Portugal and came back tanned, rested and truly amazed by this country. I don’t actually realise that we’ve been gone for 10 days, it went by so fast and at the same time it was so dense and rich that I feel I’ve been away for a longer time. I’m already editing and selecting the photos for two posts to come (one on Lisbon and the other on the Algarve region) with recipe that have inspired me while I was there.

Today, I’m sharing a recipe that fits in the category “easy, quick and to do today”, it’s totally in season and really convenient ! Zucchinis are overflowing our markets in France and it’s probably one of my favorite summer vegetable (even if I’m guilty of consuming it all year). I think it’s a very versatile vegetable, I use it raw in salads, roasted with a fish, sauteed in an omelet, grated in a gratin. You got it, I can’t stop using it :) . However it was new to me to have it as a chilled soup, I think it is really worth sharing as it offers a good alternative to the traditional summer gazpacho.

I strangely have a similar problem with feta cheese, I always have some in my fridge and when I’m think about new recipe it always finds a way to pop up in my head. In my defense, it really adds a new layer of flavor here as it counterbalances the “green” flavor of the zucchini and gives a salty and creamy note to the dish.

As a finishing note, I added dill, which I love, to vary from mint or basil, our summer staples.

I will come back next week to share my Portuguese adventures :)

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Chilled zucchini soup with feta and dill
Serves 2

Ingredients

2 medium size zucchini (300g), diced
1 onion, minced
1 1/4 cup (30cl) of vegetable stock
1.8 oz (50g) of feta, crumbled
2 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 bunch of dill
Salt & Pepper

Instructions

1. In a saucepan, cook the onion until translucent with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then add the zucchini. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add the stock, and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Let the soup cool down.
4. Mix the soup with the dill, until smooth. Serve with the crumbled feta, some springs of dill and 1 tbsp of olive oil.

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