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Chat Leftovers: A vegetarian dinner? Cool.

As July steams onward, we are now officially anti-oven. So the Food section's new grilling column couldn't have been launched in a better week, since the weather forecast is calling for temps in the mid-90s during the next few days. And today's Real Entertaining column is equally a propos, with advice on how your grill can help you put dinner on the table all the way through dessert.

You've got grilling questions, right? You're invited to sit in on our Free Range chat at 1 today and meet new Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, who'll be happy to help, whether you want to know more about this week's topic of smokers or just want to ask how long to grill a pineapple.

Me, I get the leftovers. But they're always great questions, like this one that we couldn't get to during last week's allotted hour:

Help! My boyfriend’s parents are coming for dinner, and his mom is a vegetarian. Since I won’t have much time after work before they come over, I need a main dish that I can assemble the night before and pop into the oven when I get home. Most of my make-ahead meatless meals are soups, lasagnas and enchiladas, which all scream "fall-winter" to me. Any ideas for a summery, light but filling veggie meal?

"Pop it into the oven"? Are you not paying attention? It's 95 degrees out there!

Let's solve a few problems at once. Let's give the house a break and leave the oven off. Let's serve something that can be made the night before, so you don't have to rush home from work and start cooking. And let's make it something cold and refreshing. Let's also provide a non-vegetarian component that might make the carnivores happier.

What comes to mind right away is gazpacho, the quintessential cold summer soup that can be quite filling and would be completely suitable as a main course, especially if you serve it with a loaf of good, crusty bread and maybe a green salad.

In our recipe database, we've got several choices that could fill the bill, including Almond and Garlic Gazpacho, Tichi's Gazpacho, Pineapple Gazpacho and Summer Garden Vegetable Gazpacho. (Some might have to be doubled if they're designed as first courses.) But my choice for you would be the hearty Gazpacho With Pesto and Shrimp. The shrimp can be a garnish and would be omitted from the vegetarian's bowl. The chopping that makes some gazpachos a tad tedious is here assigned to the food processor, so the soup can be made faster. And it can be made early. What's not to like?

-- Jane Touzalin

Gazpacho With Pesto and Shrimp.

Gazpacho and food processors were made for each other. Laborious dicing is reduced to a few blasts of the pulse control. Just don't be heavy-handed; each ingredient should remain identifiable, not be pulverized. The best part is that after scooping out whatever you've just diced, you don't have to wash the container because everything winds up in the same big bowl.

This robust, colorful gazpacho was created for a wedding by Deborah Hughes, co-owner of Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, Mass. Unlike many gazpachos, it doesn't have a tomato juice base. It gets just enough liquid from the pesto-marinated tomatoes to justify eating it with a spoon.

If you prefer to make this dish the long way -- without a food processor -- that allows more time for the tomatoes to soak up the pesto.

Though Hughes suggests serving it at room temperature, it's also good chilled, as gazpacho is traditionally served.

If you're feeling extravagant, substitute medallions of lobster for the shrimp. With a green salad and a hearty, chewy bread, you've got a meal.

4 servings

1/2 pound cooked medium shrimp, sliced lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 bunch (1 cup tightly packed) basil leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 medium (10 to 12 ounces) seedless cucumber
1 red bell pepper seeded and cut into 6 pieces
1 yellow bell pepper seeded and cut into 6 pieces
1 green bell pepper seeded and cut into 6 pieces
1 orange bell pepper seeded and cut into 6 pieces
1 bunch scallions, white parts and 1 to 2 inches of the green parts
1/3 red onion, cut in half
3 tablespoons chives, finely diced
Lemon zest, for garnish

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Set aside.

Cut each tomato half into three pieces. Working in two batches, place tomatoes in the food processor and pulse several times until they are diced. Transfer the tomatoes to large bowl and set aside.

In the food processor, combine the basil, garlic, salt, sugar, vinegar and the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and process until smooth to form a pesto. Add to the tomatoes and set aside.

Score the cucumber with a fork, then cut in half crosswise and lengthwise. Place in the food processor and pulse several times, until diced. Transfer the cucumber to a separate, medium-size bowl.

Working in two batches, place the bell peppers in the food processor and pulse several times, until diced. Add the peppers to the cucumber.

Place scallions in the food processor and pulse several times, until diced, then add to cucumber mixture. Do the same with the red onion. Add the chives to the cucumber mixture and stir. Combine the cucumber and tomato mixtures and mix well.

Just before serving, add the shrimp. Garnish with lemon zest.

By Jane Touzalin  |  July 21, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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Comments

Though gazpacho is perfectly delicious, an entirely vegetable soup, bread and green salad hardly seems like a filling vegetarian meal. People don't become vegetarians because they don't get hungry or hate protein. I would not be satisfied if served a meal like this.
Any easy fix would be to add something else with protein, like a hummus to be eaten with the bread.
Or, how about something like a quinoa salad? Quinoa mixed with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and cilantro -- a light, easy and quick meal but also with enough protein to be satisfying (and probably very good with some grilled chicken as well). Quinoa doesn't suffer from a day in the fridge, and the other salad elements can be prepared ahead of time and then added to the quinoa right before serving.
Cooking for a vegetarian guest might be a nice time for meat eaters to look into the healthy plant-based protein sources they don't usually consider -- beans, legumes and whole grains.

Posted by: nlulu | July 21, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree, after a meal like that I would be hungry in an hour or eating way too much bread. I agree with hummus or cheese with the bread.

Posted by: chiquita2 | July 21, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

This recipe for gazpacho was great! I made it over the weekend and it worked out as a super-refreshing appetizer to some grilling I was doing. I did, however, put a little extra something in it. To add a protein-boost, I added some preseasoned chickpeas from the brand Tasty Bite. The added flavor and texture went really well with the rest of the ingredients - I will definitely be making this again! I recommend trying this as well as checking out the rest that Tasty Bite has to offer, all of which is preservative-free, all natural, super healthy and ready-made. Thanks for the great recipe and bon appetit!

Posted by: lorenpbi | July 26, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

This recipe for gazpacho was great! I made it over the weekend and it worked out as a super-refreshing appetizer to some grilling I was doing. I did, however, put a little extra something in it. To add a protein-boost, I added some preseasoned chickpeas from the brand Tasty Bite. The added flavor and texture went really well with the rest of the ingredients - I will definitely be making this again! I recommend trying this as well as checking out the rest that Tasty Bite has to offer, all of which is preservative-free, all natural, super healthy and ready-made. Thanks for the great recipe and bon appetit!

Posted by: lorenpbi | July 26, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I'll disagree with the first two posters. First, the gazpacho has a 1/2 pound of shrimp in it, so there is protein right there. If there is a shellfish issue for one of the guests, diced avocado nicely adds richness to a gazpacho without the need for flesh.

Second, I've had a decent lunch from a bowl of gazpacho and a jicama-apple salad. A little more filling than a green salad, but I think bread would balance it. Mind you, a modest cheese plate and baguette or crackers would make a nice appetizer.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 27, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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