Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's all in the presentation.......

There are few (if any) foods that wouldn't benefit from artful least in my humble opinion.  Even humble food is elevated to "good enough for company" status when presented with flourish.

Too often we sit down in front of our food and without thought or appreciation for the effort and love that went into the preparation; just wolf it down.  When I first met my husband (7 years ago this September), he had the most appalling habit of either eating at the stove or flopping something out on a paper plate and going off to his evil chail (lazy boy) to eat...completely unconcerned with whether anyone else in the house had food or was even aware that the food was done.  In all fairness, it was probably better that way given his mastery of Tuna Helper!  I was taking a bit of my morning oats and had trouble swallowing them when I typed that!

His half grown children would stand at the refrigerator door with a spoon and eat from the bowls or containers of leftovers.  Once I remember making a bowl of my grandmother's banana pudding and arranging the vanilla wafers in beautiful little concentric circles in the sides of the trifle bowl and on the top.  BEFORE dinner, I walked into the kitchen to discover his 25 year old son, 25 year old daughter-in-law, 19 year old daughter AND 15 year old son ALL standing at the counter with spoons eating out of the trifle bowl...shoving each other out of the way and having a duel with their respective spoons.

For someone like me, who takes so much pride and puts so much care and love into everything I make that was tatamount to a slap in the face!  Needless to say...the evil step-mother put a stop to that business in one hot-damned hurry!  I was flattered that they liked my food so much but...sucking mashed potatoes out of an ice cream scoop whild standing at the stove with me trying to work AROUND them does NOT fly in my kitchen!

After a few months, when it became understood that food was eaten at the table, from dishes (not paper plates), with proper utensils, napkins and MANNERS they began to notice the little things that gave the food that extra sump'n sump'n. 

Now that dinner is only just myself and my husband (and most recently my mother who moved in with us), were it up to me we would eat by candlelight with some nice jazz playing quietly in the background everynight.  I am idealistic yes, but realistic also and I know that is not always possible.  I do however TRY to make that happen at least 3 nights a week.

Today, I'm posting a very simple recipe for a summertime classic and a go-to starter course in our, refreshing gazpacho.  I know, everybody, their brother and the horses they rode in on knows how to make gazpacho so the recipe is not really the point.  The point is the BOWL!

Since gazpacho is undisputably best eaten chilled, what better way to keep it that way than glittering, herb studded ice bowl.  Yes...a serving bowl made of ice!  I must warn you, that the process surely must be started three days before you need the bowls, but the WOW factor is well worth the effort.  It hardly takes any of your TIME except for waiting because the freezer does the work.  You just have to know the tricks.  I will include the recipe for the gazpacho as well and directions for these incredibly impressive serving vessels.

Gazpacho in Glittering Herb-Studded Ice Bowls

To create these stunning ice bowls you'll need two different sized bowls.  Use either a jug of purified water or boiled and cooled tap water to create the clearest ice.

Begin the process by filling the larger of the two bowls with approximately 1 inch of water.  Repeat with the other larger bowls.  I generally do four at a time so I use a total of eight bowls; four of each size.  Place a cookie sheet on a shelf in your freezer.  It is necessary that the sheet set level.  You can't prop it up on top of your sacks of frozen veg or balance it on a rump roast!

Place the bowls un the freezer on the sheet and allow the base layer of ice to freeze solid.  It should only take a couple of hours. 

Step two is to place the smaller of the bowls in each of the larger on top of your ice base.  Carefully pour water down into the gap between the two bowls.  Slighlty over halfway up the sides will do because they will run over once weighted.

Now, using a butterknife, slide whatever fresh herbs you like down the sides between the two bowls.  I recommed working with one at a time and leaving the others in the freezer so as not to melt the foundation layer of ice.  Return this set to the freezer and repeat with the remaining bowls.  Once all are back on their baking sheet in the freezer, you will need to weight the top bowl down.  LOL...the first time I did this, I used cans of tomatoes which froze and bulged of course...what a mess!  I actually use rocks to weight my bowls down but any heavy objects that won't freeze and explode will do.  Some suggestions: another dish such as a heavy mug filled with water or you can even use masking tape ( X shaped) across the top and down the sides of the outer bowl to hold the inner bowl down.  The critical thing is not to let that inner bowl float AND to keep it as centered as possible in the larger bowl.

I sounds like a pain in the tush but the end results speak for themselves.........

Remember to place a cloth napkin under your bowls on the serving plate for two reasons.  One, to absorb the water and two so the ice bowl doesn't fly off the place as you are carrying them to the table!

For the Gazpacho:

5-6 heirloom or other meaty tomatoes) skins scalded off
2 cups low sodium vegetable juice cocktail  *may sub the spicy blend
1 english cucumber washed and cut into chunks
2 stalk celery, washed and cut into pieces
1 small sweet onion, peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
2 slices day old italian bread or ciabatta
1 large handful Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
chopped herbs, sliced black olives, minced bell pepper and lemon slices for garnish

This is complicated now....

Everything down to the parsley in the food processor or blender.  Blend to desired texture.  Pour into a bowl and season with salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice, sugar.  Lastly stir olive oil through all.  Chill and serve in your oh-so-chic Ice Bowls!  Garnish as desired.

*To unmold your ice bowls...simply leave at room temperature for a few minutes.  Slip the small bowl out first and the carefully tip the larger bowl and let the ice bowl just slide out into your hand...dont drop it!  If they seem to be stuck you may dip quickly in warm water for a couple of seconds to loosen them.  Store back in freezer until ready to serve.

When serving remember...the ice bowl waits for nobody so make sure all your dinner guests are present and at the table when you serve the first course!


  1. Gorgeous! I once saw this idea in a magazine as suggested for serving ice cream in it :) I love how you added the herbs to yours! Your soup looks even better served in those gorgeous bowls, yum!

  2. The soup looks great...but the bowl, what a fantastic idea and such a perfectly beautiful way to present a summer dish! I am way impressed:)

  3. Thanks! They look way cool but are actually very easy to make.

  4. I've always wanted to try gazpacho, but alas I don't have any homegrown tomatoes which seem to be something that NEEDS to be in one as they have so much more flavor and the price is right :)

    So I'll have to just drool over yours until I can get my hands on some :D


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Fort Myers, Florida, United States