I ♥ Heart ♥ Tomatoes

Appetizer, Mediterranean, Soup, Vegetarian

I heart ♥ tomatoes.

My sister hearts tomatoes too.  We are a family that is somewhat addicted to tomatoes and can easily use 20 tomatoes in a week.

I very clearly remember opening the refrigerator as a young girl looking for a snack mid-afternoon and reaching into the vegetable drawers to grab A TOMATO!  Yes, we were and still are a healthy family.  A dear friend of mine who has many fond memories of us growing up together reminds me every single time we meet about how I used to snack on celery, which he hated, instead of having a brownie or a meringue.  I clearly remember visiting my family here in Miami when I was a little-er girl and eating tomatoes as a snack sprinkled with a little bit of salt. I am sure that if you ask my cousins about this, they will remember.

Mati, I hope you had a fantastic weekend and I cannot wait to see the Botanical Garden pictures that you told me about.  I love flowers too and Botanical Gardens are a special place. Last year A and I spent 3 days in Montreal in June and we visited their spectacular Garden and few weeks ago we also visited the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Boca.  Gardens are such a special place right?

Fran at the Botanical Gardens in Montreal

Back to tomatoes ehh?

I got the cravings for tomatoes.  I could eat a tomato with every single one of my meals, and I almost do!

I told you about this really amazing book that I got a few weeks ago, Appetizers Finger Food Buffets and Parties, and last week I decided to give it a try.


Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalusia.  Gazpacho is mostly consumed during the summer months, due to its refreshing qualities, and yes, we are in summer mode in Miami already, even though we woke up to torrential rains this morning and had Flood Advisory warnings.  But summer is here.

Gazpacho is easy, and now that you have a blender it will be your next favorite summer soup.


  • 2 slices day-old bread
  • 600 ml/ 2 1/2 cups chilled water
  • 1 kg/2 1/4 lbs tomatoes (I used 7 roma tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber peeled and seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped– I also added some yellow peppers.
  • 1 fresh green chilli, seeded and chopped (I could not find– just used a hot pepper)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • few drops of Tabasco sauce
  • salt and ground pepper
  • handful of fresh basil for garnish
  • 1 ripe avocado (Hass avocados for superior flavor)
  • Croutons a la Matina


  1. Make the soup first.  Place the bread in a shallow bowl and cover with water. Let it soak for about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for about 30 seconds, then peel, seed, and chop. I do not mind the seeds so I did not seed it.
  3. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half length-ways. Scoop out the seeds and chop.
  4. Place the soaked bread, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, garlic, oil, lemon and lime juices, Tabasco and some water in the food processor or blender, and blend until mixed but still chunky. (*I think that the 2 1/2 cups of water is a lot and did not add it all.  I wanted mine not to be too watery. Play with the amount until you get it just right!*)
  5. Season with Salt and Pepper
  6. You can add croutons if you want and follow the Croutons a la Matina recipe or just buy them from the supermarket.
  7. Place the gazpacho in the refrigerator to chill.
  8. Just before serving cut up the avocado and toss it with some lemon juice to prevent it from turning brown.
  9. When you are ready to eat serve the gazpacho and garnish with basil avocado and serve the croutons separately.


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Risotto Tricolore

Italian, Main Course, Rice, Risotto, Vegetarian


Inspired by your risotto posting a few weeks ago I decided to make risotto a couple of days ago one Sunday evening that A and I were watching some TV and organizing the house. Now I had made risotto quite a few times before this one but never this way that I am about to tell you.  A good family friend of ours has family from Italy, so all my attempts at making Italian food have been after learning from her.  I should set up another ‘class’ with her because she is just a phenomenal cook, and her daughter is even better!  So she gave me a risotto recipe that I have been following for quite some time now. This time though, I combined two recipes together into one.  I also have never used truffle oil or saffron and my risottos are always delicious.  The risotto tricolore  is a combination of my friend’s recipe together with a recipe from the New York Times – Red Pepper Risotto.The one thing I have never been able to accomplish is making risotto like you eat in restaurants. For some reason, the risotto they make at restaurants is almost like  soup, like a creamy soup and I have not been able to get to that point.  Practice makes perfect right?

Arborio Rice

So I think that risotto is pretty simple. The difficult part is that you cannot just put it in the pot to cook and come back 20 minutes later to see if it is done. Risotto is an active food – meaning you have to be active and constantly interacting with it in order for it to come out right. Risotto should also always be eaten fresh, even though leftovers are not bad at all.


  • 6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion or shallot
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 large green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 ounce of mushrooms
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • A generous pinch of saffron threads (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or a mixture of parsley and thyme
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)


  1. Cook the mushrooms and peppers in a pan with oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. While the vegetables are cooking, place the oil with the onion and garlic in a large pot and cook until the onion is translucent and in a separate pot bring the stock to a simmer.  I usually boil water and then add vegetable stock powder, about 1 Tbs.
  3. Add 2 cups of rice to the large cup and cook constantly mixing.
  4. Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The wine should bubble, but not too quickly — you want some of the flavor to cook into the rice. When the wine has almost evaporated, stir in about a cup of the stock, just enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring often, until the stock is just about absorbed.
  5. Add the vegetables into the mixture together with about 1/2 cup of the broth and continue to stir until the stock is absorbed.
  6. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry. Continue for 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked through but still a little chewy. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. When the rice is cooked through, add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, and stir in another half cup of stock, the Parmesan and the herbs. Remove from the heat. The rice should be creamy; if it isn’t, add a little more stock. Stir once, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve.

*If you want to prepare in advance, the NYT article suggests cooking it halfway through step 4, about 10 to 15 minutes, then spreading the rice out in the pan or on a baking sheet. Reheat and proceed with the recipe shortly before serving.

*You can use any types of mushrooms and even combine a few types. Frozen peas also make for good risotto.

The pictures are not so good this time…. they were taken at the wrong time of day…. 9PM!

This week there will not be that much cooking as Passover starts tonight. I will be making a dessert for my mom’s Seder which is tomorrow night. Not a boxed cake that you buy at the supermarket. I already did one of those for my grandma and it turned out terrible.

Disney Princess Half Marathon: Ginger Garbanzo and Peppers Salad

Appetizer, Indian, Salad, Thai, Vegetarian

Hi Mati!

I hope that you are feeling better after. your last post.

Well, I am just getting around to writing about my meal last Friday which was a TOTAL success. I got a lot of help from my mom and my aunt that made delicious Salmon and Beef and I took care of the rest.  I really have no idea how working moms do it all. Not that I am a mom or a soon to be mom, but every time I put together an event on a day that I work, I cannot imagine doing the same when children are in the picture.

My weekend was great! Packed and didn’t have much time for resting.  Friday night we had dinner at our place and we  had 13 people over for dinner. Saturday morning we packed the car early and headed towards Orlando with my in-laws for a wedding. That night A dropped me off at the Disney Hotels because I was waking up at 3:00AM on Sunday to ran the half marathon.  Mati, what an amazing accomplishment to finish that race, 13.1 miles running nonstop…well only to take pictures with the different Disney characters.  There were about 13,000 people running, mostly women, there were only 95 men I think.  When I saw the finish line I almost hyperventilated from the excitement. Here are my times and positions:

Francine's Race Times

Then we spent the whole day at Epcot walking and enjoying the beautiful day.

So, what have I been cooking?

Friday I made a yummy Ginger Garbanzo salad with peppers and  a flavorful vegetable curry. I also made Poppy Seed cake for my mom’s birthday and I will post them all separately.

Here are the recipes.

Ginger Garbanzo and Peppers  Salad

I got this recipe about a year ago from the NYTimes- Mark Bittman. Sometimes they have his 4 minute recipe on the front page in the form of a video and I have played with this recipe a lot. I absolutely love it!  And Mark Bittman is great. Take a look at his site: http://www.markbittman.com/ and his site on the NYT.


1 tablespoon cumin seeds or ground cumin

3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas (rinse canned ones)

3 bell peppers, red, yellow, orange, or green; cored, seeded and diced (You can use all colors too)

1 red onion, diced

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced, or more to taste

1 tablespoon sugar, optional but recommended

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves.


1. In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind to a powder using a spice mill, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. If using ground cumin, lightly toast.

2. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients but cilantro. (You can prepare dish up to this point in advance; let sit for up to 2 hours.)

3. Taste and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if you like, garnish with cilantro, and serve.

* I did not add the onion because my dad does not like onions much but it adds delicioso flavor to the mix!