Ajo Blanco

Is autumn already lapping at summer’s heels where you live? Where I live, crisp fall days can’t be counted on until Halloween, and September can hold some intensely warm days. That means chilled soups still have a place on the menu, and this one is not only refreshing and simple to make; it also gets bonus points for making delicious use of the leftover bread I always seem to have hanging around.

Ajo Blanco is a garlicky Spanish soup that gets its non-dairy creaminess from blanched almonds, and additional body from the bread. The traditional garnish is green grapes but Penelop Casas, in La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain, suggests green melon balls, which I found to be a lovely alternative.

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Blackberry Bread Pudding

After a day of trying to lay my oven hearth, and ending up with very little to show for it, I went to forage a few early blackberries. They wound up in this bread pudding, along with the last of my (now 3-day-old) sourdough. Now I am fortified for another day of oven-wrangling.

Click to see the recipe…

Watermelon Gazpacho

Combine two-day-old bread with a craving for a cold, light summer soup, and what do you get? Gazpacho, of course! (Did you know that stale bread is a defining ingredient of original Andalucian gazpacho? I didn’t, until a year or two ago, although I’ve been making “gazpacho” for years.)

I have no tomatoes, but I do still have half of the best watermelon ever. Watermelon gazpacho it is, then. We ate this light, bright, refreshing soup with grilled flank steak for the perfect summer supper.

The bread I used was a fairly sour sourdough. If your bread is less sour, you may want to increase the amount of vinegar. Of course, all of the ingredients are to taste anyway.

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The (Obvious) Pudding

Sugar High Fridays. If you have a sweet tooth (and I admit it, yes, I do), it’s hard to ignore this incredibly sumptuous and well-attended monthly sweet fest founded by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess. But I bake bread, not desserts (Daring Baker challenges notwithstanding).

Even so , when I opened my inbox to discover an invitation from Zorra to participate in this month’s event, Pudding, I really wanted to, because, well, it was an invitation from Zorra.

So I thought, let’s see, pudding… There’s chocolate, although last time I made it, the texture was, shall we say, suboptimal … I love rice pudding and I might not screw that up… or I could probably handle plum pudding for Christmas, but I don’t really like it… [Fret, fret] what pudding can I make?


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Summer Defined: Tomato-Bread Salad

I’m not growing any tomatoes this year – summer kind of snuck up on me before I got to planting them – but the farmer’s market and produce stand tomatoes are plentiful and wonderful. Even the supermarket tomatoes are darn good eating this time of year.

This simple salad is possibly the dish that says “summer” the loudest around our house. It’s a terrific way to use up that two-or-three-day-old bread that can’t quite stand on its own any more.

I’m told the Italians call this “panzanella,” but to me it will always be just “tomato-bread salad.” It’s great with your favorite grill fare, or on its own (with a glass of wine, of course) for a light supper.
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