It is no secret that the desert can often be an inimical and inhospitable place (see any and all posts between May and September where I'm probably complaining about the heat...). The desert takes some getting used to. The mountains are brown and the lawns are "zero-scaped" with stones. Grass is a luxury. Trees are a rarity. Plants attack. Yet, it would be a bold-faced lie to declare that the desert is devoid of life and color.
Green cacti are highlighted all the more by complimentary red sandstone.
Catch a hummingbird between wing flaps, and see the varied green, blue, and purple hues in its feathers.
Even if all that surrounds is drab, the sky never disappoints.
And on that rare occasion, the most precious treasure springs forth and dances in the endless sunshine.
Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook Plenty is just as vibrant as these desert gems. The recipes are simple, yet incorporate a multitude of vegetables and complex flavors. Do not let the number of ingredients in this gazpacho deter you! This soup takes a mere 10 minutes to make. It is the most refreshing, yet filling and satisfying vegetarian dish I have made to date. So much so that I wanted to eat it for every meal of the day (Yes you will find a way to incorporate this into breakfast - omelette... breakfast burrito... soup for breakfast... it's fine...).
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
yields 8 servings
Ingredients:2 celery stalks (including the leaves)
2 small green bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 1/4 pounds cucumbers, peeled and seeded
3 slices stale bread, crust removed (I used multigrain, and would also recommend white or wheat)
1 fresh green chile/jalapeno, seeded
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted
6 cups baby spinach
1 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 cups water
9 ounces ice cubes
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
Roughly chop the celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, bread, chile, and garlic. Place these in a large bowl along with the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yogurt, 1 1/2 cups of the water, half the ice cubes, the salt and a pinch of pepper.
Working in batches, pulse the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, pouring each batch into a bowl and stirring to combine at the end. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup water, a little at a time, to get your preferred consistency.
Serve the green gazpacho immediately, ladling it into bowls and drizzling a little olive oil on top. Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.