San Antonio is no stranger to triple-digit heat this time of year. That's why Jason Dady likes to keep it cool in the kitchen of his northern Italian-themed restaurant called Tre Trattoria.
This time of year, the tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh, the veggies are bountiful, and Dady says it's one of the season's highlights to have fun with light and refreshing food.
For the gazpacho, Dady chops cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers, then adds some water. Then he blends it, a couple times.
With red wine vinegar, pepper for taste, and bread for thickness, Dady summons some tropical flavors for garnish — mango and avocado. It's so smooth a baby could eat it.
Dady's not much on rules. "Everybody asks the chef, what size, what's the shape?" he says. "You know, it's like, do you want to spend 15 minutes cutting your mango or do you want to spend 15 minutes enjoying it?"
Dady's been in the restaurant business for 12 years. He started out with his own restaurant at the age of 24. His smoked trout salad is high on the list of his summer favorites.
"This is one of those wild crazy things," he says, "that just comes to you in the middle of the night type of dish, you know?"
For the smoked trout, Dady says don't go to the store to buy oak chips.
"I think a lot of people spend, especially here in South Texas, spend a lot of money going and buying wood chips from the store when they can just go out to their tree and chip off a little bit of bark."
Dady recommends fingerling potatoes, but it's all interchangeable and relaxed, both in measurement and ingredient. He uses thick slices of bacon — southern comfort on a plate — chopped into chunks and fried. He chops some fancy lettuce called frisee and flakes the trout on top.
With dishes like these, Dady says, a cook could try new things, take a few risks. "It's just about having fun and trying different things out," he says.
2 or 3 heirloom tomatoes, in season
Half dozen cherry tomatoes
Fennel, leafy part
3 bell peppers (yellow, red or green)
1 loaf day-old bread (like French bread)
Fresh garlic, to taste
Avocado and mango for the relish
Salt, pepper and olive oil, to taste
Chop vegetables into chunks. Put tomatoes, fennel and cucumber into a blender with a little water and garlic. Blend until it reaches the desired consistency. Jason Dady likes his a little thinner, but a stew-like presentation is classic, too.
Add bell pepper: Green, yellow or red — one of each or whatever you're in the mood for. While blender's going, add a little bit of red wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you like — champagne, blood orange, etc.).
Chop the day-old loaf of bread into chunks. This will help give the soup its thicker consistency. Add the chunks into the blender and blend. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Make a simple relish of diced avocado, mango, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together gently.
Serve immediately at room temperature or chill. A classic gazpacho is served closer to room temperature — and that's when tomatoes taste their best.
Serve soup with relish on top. Add sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Recipe: Smoked Trout Salad
Oak bark chips (for smoking the trout)
6 ounces trout
Frisee or any type of lettuce
1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
Fresh lemon juice
Horseradish, 1/8 cup fresh grated or prepared
Sour cream, 1/4 cup
A touch of whipping cream
Mix the lemon, horseradish, sour cream and whipping cream into a dressing. Add fresh cracked black pepper.
Chop the thick-cut bacon into large chunks and cook it in a hot pan to render the fat. Sear it and evaporate the water. Don't mess with it a lot in the first minute or so, so it starts to caramelize. Cook in small batches so it crisps up. Pour off the fat as it renders out.
Cut fingerling potatoes into half-inch coins and poach in simmering water for 15-20 minutes.
Flake the trout into chunks. You can substitute already-smoked trout — or smoked salmon or smoked sturgeon — if you don't want to smoke the trout yourself. Mix the trout with the potatoes and dressing.
Tear frisee lettuce and put on plate. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon. Top with potato-trout salad mixture and the bacon chunks
Mix the caviar with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, then drizzle it overtop of salad and serve.
Editor's Note: These recipes have not been tested by NPR.