For those of you keeping track: I will accept tomatoes when they are cooked or in juice form. And I’ve just learned, for the first time, that I can also tolerate them when they are raw but pulverized into gazpacho.

Orange soup!

For a long time, I thought gazpacho was really just watery salsa, and it never much appealed to me. But every now and then, I’d see someone order gazpacho and get a bowl of something altogether different—smooth, velvety, and bright orange, not a chunk of tomato in sight. Eventually, I learned that this is proper Andalusian gazpacho, made with bread and olive oil and then carefully strained. It’s a somewhat finicky process, but absolutely worth the effort.

Unrelated: Apparently there is a hot-dog stand in Chicago called Felony Franks (“home of the misdemeanor weiner [sic]”). I think I have no choice but to go there.

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Flan is so delicious that I thought it had to be hard to make.

It’s not. At all.

The end.

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When I moved into my apartment,  I’d hoped that I might be able to grow some plants on my back patio. I had visions of herbs of every kind, tiny eggplants, okra, chili peppers, an endless flow of zucchini, and maybe even some lettuces in the shady parts of the patio. It turned out, though, that my patio is nothing but shade—and I could not bring myself to go to the trouble of gardening at all when my only yield would be lettuce. I’m sad about the herbs, but I’ll confess to a slight relief that I’m not subjecting myself to the torrent of zucchini that gardeners complain about come summertime. Now I can procure precisely as many zucchini as I need. No more, no less.

And then you can make things like this, which requires exactly one zucchini:

Zuke me.

While I’ve never much cared for sweet zucchini breads (despite my general glee at sneaking vegetables into desserts), this savory one hits the spot. I was inspired to make it by the lovely ladies of Whisked, who enticed me with a sample of a similar bread a few weeks back. Everyone should check out their wares at the U Street Farmers Market—but in case they’re out of their savory zucchini bread, this one is almost as good.

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Given my dislike of tomatoes, a recent visitor to my apartment was startled to see two beautiful raw tomatoes sitting on my counter. For a moment, she was delighted at the thought I’d been converted. But I quickly assured her that I still hate them—I just came across a recipe full of things I like (eggplant! chickpeas! pomegranate molasses!) with  a new way to transform them from nasty raw goop into delicious, thoroughly cooked, sauce.

Raw tomatoes nowhere in sight.

Thank you, Martha Rose, Shulman, for this trick: “Rather than peeling, seeding and dicing the tomatoes, I grate them on the large holes of a box grater. This is a technique I learned in Greece; it’s used throughout the Mediterranean. Cut the tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds if instructed to do so, and rub the cut side against the grater. Don’t worry: the skin is tough and you won’t scrape your hands. When you feel the holes of the grater against the inside of the tomato skin, you’re done. It goes quickly, and it’s a nifty time-saver.” It means you have to get your hands in some nasty, foul-smelling tomato goop, but it’s worth it.

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My recent acquisition of a grill has, unfortunately, left me with fewer “recipes” to write about—much of my cooking these days is throwing assorted bits of protein or vegetable on a hot grill and hoping for the best.  It’s been tasty, but not necessarily something worth writing home about. I mean, everyone knows that meat and veggies (especially eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms) taste great on the grill, right?

But here’s something I, at least, did not know until last night: okra is fabulous on the grill. It gets charred and tender and not at all slimy. In fact, grilled okra is probably the most addictive vegetable I’ve encountered in ages. I highly recommend making its acquaintance as soon as possible.

Okra, OK!

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That black squiggle in my previous post was hiding another Smitten Kitchen delight: a cool, refreshing mango slaw.

Black squiggle, we meet again.

It was utterly lovely all by itself, but with the Thai-inspired chicken, it was divine. Additionally, I’ll confess that as I’m learning to grill, I’m appreciating, perhaps for the first time, how nice it is to assemble a dish while not swathed in smoke and sweating out your eyeballs.

I recently learned from Bon Appetit that “the main difference between salad and slaw is a perfect julienne.” I was too lazy for either the perfect hand-cut julienne or hunting for my mandoline, so I suppose technically my version is more of a salad. Oops.

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I am on the record as being not all that fond of chicken. More often than not, I’ve been known to say, it’s tasteless and sawdusty; there’s almost always something else I’d rather eat. But I’ve been trying to overcome my prejudice, and this Thai-flavored chicken went a long, long, way.

Pay no attention to the black squiggle. (Coming soon: a post about the black squiggle!)

It’s moist and flavorful and altogether fabulous. (My coworkers have been coveting my leftovers.) It doesn’t hurt, I’m sure, that I got to use my brand-new grill, thereby avoiding asphyxiation in the kitchen. I kept seeing the smoke pouring out of the grill and worrying that something was wrong—nope, that just what happens sometimes when you cook things. Thanks to D for trusting that nothing would catch on fire even though I—very evidently—had no idea what I was doing.

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