Tag Archives: Fresh

Seasonal Recipe: Homemade Salsa

20 Jul

Snack of champions: chips and homemade salsa.

Grace’s hippie sister, Emily, here, surfacing for the first time in months to share a recipe that should come in handy for anybody who has a vegetable garden (or a neighbor with a garden).

That’s right, kids: It’s salsa time.

Use an entire head of garlic. Seriously.

Start by throwing a big handful of cilantro (one bunch from the grocery store or whatever you have in your garden will do) into a food processor and pulsing it until it’s nice and fine and feathery. Next, take a head of garlic, separate and peel the cloves, cut off the ends, and throw ’em into the food processor. Give ’em a good whirl to mince them, then add hot peppers to taste. Four serranos will give you a nice medium-hot salsa; adjust the quantity to suit your taste, and feel free to substitute whatever peppers you prefer (or need to use up).

I like red onions, but red or yellow will work as well.

Next, add three cored, quartered bell peppers in any color and a peeled, quartered onion, processing after each addition. Add the juice of two or three small limes — proportions aren’t critical, but you want to get a little extra acid in there for canning purposes — and process to mix.

Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes with husks.

If you can put your hands on some tomatillos, peel and core about five of them and add them to the mix at this point. If you can’t, don’t worry about it; they aren’t absolutely necessary, but they do add a nice flavor if you happen to have them. Process, then dump the mixture into a large bowl to make room in the food processor for your tomatoes.

Core and quarter about three pounds of tomatoes (Romas are ideal, but any kind will do; just be aware that the juicier varieties will make a finished product that’s more like picante sauce than salsa) and chop them in the food processor.

Now, here is a neat trick: If you have extra cucumbers that you need to use up, you can add a couple to your salsa at this point, and nobody will be any the wiser. Just chop them finely and stir them in. You’ll never notice them by the time they’ve absorbed the other flavors. You could probably do this with zucchini, too, although I wouldn’t use too much, lest it compromise the texture.

Unless your food processor is huge, you'll have to do half the tomatoes at a time.

Stir everything together in a huge bowl. At this stage, the salsa will probably look kind of bubbly and unappealing. Remedy this by stirring in ground cumin until the froth goes away, then stirring in chili powder until the color looks nice and red.

Salsa cans well in a boiling-water bath.

You can either eat the salsa now or pack it into clean pint jars with an inch of headspace and process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. Serve nice and cold with plenty of tortilla chips or fresh vegetables for dipping. Makes about three quarts.

I like to bring this salsa to office parties. It always impresses people, and it’s safe for vegetarians, diabetics, and various other dieters, especially if you bring celery sticks and cucumber slices for low-carb dipping.

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Cheap Recipe: Broiler-Kissed Apricots & Sweet Vanilla Glaze

24 Jun

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This glaze could make an old army boot palatable. So just imagine what it does for farmstand-fresh fruit.

I picked up some fresh apricots at Save-A-Lot the other day. They seemed so bright and cheery and just, well, summer-y.

Until I took a bite. Yowsa, were they sour!

I don’t mean a little tart, either. I mean that type of sour bite at which your tonsils spontaneously cramp up, clench down, and begin to twist inward on themselves as they create a gravitational singularity within the event horizon you previously referred to as your neck.

A black hole of sourness just devoured my tonsils. (Photo from gwu.edu)

That’s right. I’m talking “your-digestive-system-just-became-a-black-hole” SOUR.

And yet, they still looked good. They had plenty of flavor and a good, firm texture, if one could just get past that whole sourness issue–which, with a little creativity and some homemade vanilla syrup, I finally did.

The easy solution with sour fruit is to peel it, slice it, sugar it up, and leave it sitting out until it makes its own juice. The problem with that method, however, is that 99 percent of the time, your fruit comes out of its sugar bath completely limp and texture-less. Not to mention that it takes forever.

Cut apricots in half, leaving skin on but removing pits.

My way is quicker, healthier (leaves more pectin/fiber intact for your body to break down), and makes for a perfectly festive little summer side dish/dessert.

Flip upward to retain more firmness & tartness.

Convert oven to BROIL setting and turn on. Slice 6 fresh apricots in half, leaving the peels on. Remove pits.

Place apricot halves in a deep, broiler-safe pan. (In retrospect, the ceramic dish I used probably is not considered broiler-safe, so you might want to stick with metal or glass.)

Now, depending on how soft or firm you prefer your fruit (and how ripe it was to begin with), you can prepare the apricots one of two different ways: 1.) Arrange halves pit-side-up to keep a firmer bite, or 2.) flip them over (pit-side-down) to absorb more moisture and soften up.

Rest centers face-down for a softer, sweeter result.

After placing the apricots in the pan, take a measuring cup with a spout and fill with about 1/2 cup very hot tap water. (Or you can take lukewarm water and nuke it for about 45 seconds.)

Vanilla, sugar and hot water are all you need for this easy syrup.

To the water, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (cheap imitation will do fine, too). That may seem like a lot of vanilla. And you’re right. It is.  🙂

Stir the mixture until sugar dissolves, forming a thin syrup. Pour syrup over the apricots in the pan.

Drizzle apricots with the warm syrup before broiling.

If you’re broiling them center up, Be sure to fill the pit cavities with liquid. Pour over all parts of apricots and allow syrup to collect in the bottom of the pan surrounding the fruit.

If you want, you can garnish the centers with smaller fruits (like berries) at any point, but you might want to let the apricots broil a few minutes first before adding; the berries tend to broil (and scorch) faster than the firm apricots.

Garnish with berries if desired.

(You can alternatively just garnish the completely cooked fruit with berries after it comes out of the oven, or leave the garnish out altogether. Doesn’t matter.)

 By the way, your kitchen will smell SO heavenly when the broiler temps hit that vanilla sauce, too. Man, oh man. You may feel your cheeks flushing red, it smells so wonderfully delicious.

Serve as a side dish alongside cottage cheese or green salad; or spoon a little bit of whipped cream over it for a fresh, light dessert. I served mine in place of applesauce alongside a slow-cooked pork roast (shown below).

Adding color and variety to a platter of seasoned pork roast.

Cheap Recipe: Mushroom Salad with Bacon Raspberry Vinaigrette

26 Mar

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

You can tweak this salad to suit everyone’s tastes.

On a cold, sloggy day, a lone clearance-priced package of spring mix was calling my name from across the produce aisle.

I spent the whole of yesterday dreaming up this salad to make with it.

The camera really doesn’t do justice to all of the pretty colors in the salad. And it’s important to note that you can swap out any of the individual ingredients if you find something you like better; think of this post as more of a guide than gospel, and play around with whatever’s on sale in your own local produce bin or farmer’s market.

First things first, boil some eggs. At least 2. (I always like to make lots of extras to keep in the fridge, though. After all, if you’re going to the trouble of making your kitchen reek of that evil egg-fart smell, why stop at one meal’s worth?)

You need some sort of "lettucey" produce. 🙂

Start with about 3 or 4 cups of any leaf vegetable–lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, whatever. (There’s always something on Manager’s Special that doesn’t look wilted quite yet–try something new.)

Next, make about 1/2 cup of VERY thin slices of onion (red or otherwise). I can never seem to slice them thinly without butchering the rings, but snaps to you if you’ve got some mad onion-slicing skills.

Or maybe you have some other great skills:

“…You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” — Napoleon Dynamite

Evil onion!!!

(Seriously, though–that was the most WICKED ONION I have ever sliced IN MY LIFE. Just look at my eyes. I look like Ramona Quimby on smack.)

Anyway, divide the sliced onion pile and toss half of them into the salad mix.

Next,  add about 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms to the salad. Don’t waste money on the pricey Baby Bellas or anything like that. Plain old white mushrooms will do just fine, and even look a little flashier against the darker colors of the salad mix.

Throw in about 1/2 cup fresh (washed) raspberries. If they’re not in season or on sale, you

Sunflower kernels: Save your walnuts for the prom.

can always swap out this ingredient with something else–fresh strawberries, even canned mandarin oranges work nicely and make a fine salad/vinaigrette substitution on the cheaps.

I also like walnuts or pecans in my salad, but that can drive the price of the meal way up. I’ve found that substituting dried sunflower kernels is much, much cheaper–a giant jar of them I can’t use up in six months is only $1.19! And no one seems to notice the difference. Same texture, flavor, etc.–at a fraction of the price.

Sizzle, sizzle.

Heat a medium-sized skillet and place 5-6 strips bacon in the bottom. (You’re wanting the grease mostly, so if you don’t want crumbled bacon bits on your salad later you can just use any reserved bacon grease you’ve got rocking around!) Fry until crisp; remove bacon from pan, leaving the grease. Move skillet to a cooled surface.

By now, the eggs should be getting closed to hard-boiled. When ready (after boiling 15-20 minutes), place them in ice water to cool so they will separate from their shells more easily.

Meanwhile, take another 1/2 cup of ripe raspberries (or whatever fruit you’re using) and mash with a wooden spoon until juiced.

"...Say 'hello' to my little wooden friend! Muwahahaha!..." (insert maniacal laughter)

Sprinkle mashed fruit with 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or equivalent minced garlic) and 1 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Stir in 3 tablespoons salad oil (the type of olive oil that’s been cut with soybean oil is a REAL money saver) and 2 tablespoons red wine- or cider vinegar.

Dump vinegar mixture into liquid bacon grease and stir well. Add the other half of the sliced onions to the vinaigrette; mash into mixture with wooden spoon.

Allow vinaigrette to sit for a minute or two while you slice the boiled eggs and add them to

Strain vinaigrette mixture before serving.

the salad. (Throw crumbled bacon on the top, too, if you like.)

So sweet and tangy.

Strain the dressing mixture with a spoon and drizzle liquid over salad. Serve immediately.

I like to sprinkle crumbled crackers on mine. 🙂