September 10, 2014
I don’t know why it took me so long to make salsa. I make so many other things from scratch, like salad dressing, hummus, granola, sometimes peanut or almond butter…why wouldn’t I make my own salsa, too? So this summer I’ve been making salsa as often as I make hummus, like, weekly! It’s so much better than store bought. I’m posting this recipe because it’s the easiest, quickest, and most fresh tasting for all your garden tomatoes you’re harvesting (and I’m pining after!).
The original recipe called for grilling the tomatoes, but I tried that once and found that it just dried them out too much, and the salsa ended up really thick. If you have exceptionally juicy romas, it might work better, and then you would get that nice fire-roasted charcoal flavor, but I recommend sticking to the oven method if not. I got the idea of broiling them in the oven from a Martha Stewart chili recipe that we also love. The oven method still chars them, and really brings out the flavor of the tomato (we also love oven roasted tomatoes around here…if you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it).
Roasted Tomato Salsa
This makes a pretty small batch…just a little more than a jar of salsa that you would buy at the store.
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1-2 jalapenos, sliced in half and seeded (*note on spiciness below)
1/4 red onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper
Preheat your broiler on high, and place the rack 3″ from the heat source. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place vegetables on sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, until they start to char. Take jalapeno and onion off and place in a food processor or blender. Turn tomatoes over, and broil for another few minutes until they start to char on the other side. Remove from oven, take skins off of tomatoes, and place in the food processor or blender. Pulse a couple times, then add cilantro, lime, salt and pepper. I add about 1/4 tsp salt, and then pulse a few times until it’s the desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, taste, and stir in more salt and pepper if needed. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.
*Note on spicy. We like our salsa really spicy, and our son likes it kind of spicy, and our daughter likes it mild. Ha. So it all depends on the jalapeno seeds. If you don’t take out any seeds, you’re gonna have pretty spicy salsa. If it’s a good jalapeno, it’s gonna be really spicy. For medium spicy, I take out all but a tiny bit of the seeds. For mild salsa, I take out every trace of seeds from the jalapeno.
September 5, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I learned how to make this Creole okra stew from friend Cliff Domio many years ago . . . let’s just say decades! But I haven’t made it in several years, and I’m not sure why it fell off my rotation. Maybe the difficulty finding okra here in the upper Midwest of the U.S. When I first moved here in the 90’s I almost never saw it at the farmer’s markets or grocery stores. Or maybe it was because not many people here were familiar with okra or avoided it because of its slimy reputation. So I had sort of forgotten about this dish.
All of a sudden this year it seems that many of the farmers at the market have oodles of okra, especially the Hmong. (They are a great study in adapting to market demands and I wonder if the recent immigration from countries where okra is a staple has prompted them to grow it.) On a recent trip to the big farmers’ market downtown, I thought the okra looked really good so I decided to revisit a favorite. Serve this over rice for a satisfying meal. You might also consider a side of cornbread or a baguette to round things out.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 medium green pepper small dice
3-5 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1-2 links smoked sausage, sliced 1/4-inch rounds (I like andouille)
3-4 cups okra, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
4-5 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small can tomato sauce, optional (I rarely use)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry rice, cooked according to directions (we used brown)
Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the smoked sausage and saute for another minute or two. Add the okra and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Note that if the heat is maintained, it won’t get slimy. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, if using, and crushed red pepper and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 min or so till okra is done but not massacred.
Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5-8 minutes till shrimp is just cooked through. Serve over rice – we used brown rice. Enjoy!
September 1, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
This weekend I signed up to bring dessert to a get-together with friends. I wanted to make peach pie, but couldn’t find ripe peaches. I remembered it’s the height of blueberry season and one of our farmers grows “everbearing” strawberries, so both were in the market at the same time. I searched the web for some ideas and came across an unusual approach I’d never tried – cooking some of the fruit into a compote and serving the shortcakes with a combination of cooked and fresh fruit. I had some trepidation about this, but thought what the heck! It was declared delicious by all, both with and without whipped cream! (I think this could be made with just blueberries, just strawberries, or a combo of blueberries and peaches as well.)
We recommend one of two recipes for the shortcake base. One uses butter and cream and one is the Joy of Cooking’s classic cream scones which I like to use when in a hurry – only 4 ingredients, plus heavy cream! Or use your favorite shortcake, biscuit or pound cake.
6 cups total fruit, mixed blueberries and strawberries
4 tablespoons total sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
Make the compote: Place 4 cups fruit (I used 2 cups blueberries and 2 cups strawberries, sliced in half) in a medium saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and the lime juice. Stirring constantly, bring to a low bubble over medium heat, then simmer for 3-4 minutes until fruit is a little soft and juice is slightly thickened. Take off the heat, turn into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Prepare the fresh fruit: Place 2 cups fruit (I used 1 cup each blueberries and sliced strawberries) in a bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit at least 30 minutes to macerate.
Make whipped cream by beating 3/4 cup heavy cream with a mixer on high speed. Just before it’s completely whipped (soft peaks) add 1 tablespoon sugar and whip to moderately stiff peaks. Don’t forget you’re not making butter! Or buy your favorite pre-made whipped cream if you’d like. We won’t tell :-).
Split the shortcakes horizontally. Spoon compote on top of the bottom, top with fresh fruit and then with whipped cream. Place top half of the shortcake on to of the prepared shortcake at an angle. I’m looking at our photo – we were in too big of a hurry to eat this to arrange it all per instructions!
September 1, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I’ve been making these sautés for a while now, using veggies that are in abundance this time of year. The source of my idea was this sweet corn sauté from a couple of years ago. I thought it would be delicious with other vegetables and maybe some pasta. And maybe a little Parmesan . . . what’s not to like when Parmesan cheese is part of the equation?!! This is ultra flexible and the “3-Ways” reference is that it can be served as a side with a couple of variations and as a vegetarian main dish with small pasta shapes added. I made it last night in about 45 minutes, including chopping and cooking the pasta. Pretty fast, I would say!
When Aunt Suzy mentioned a new easy pasta dish for dinner, I was all for it! I love the sweet corn saute dish that she mentioned, and make it pretty often in the summer. I loved the idea of adding pasta to it, along with the kale, zucchini and tomatoes. And it’s beautiful when you add the tomatoes! We were all oohing and aaahing about it while I was taking photos. I will definitely be making this again before summer is over. It’s delicious with the pasta and Parmesan!
Late Summer Veggie Saute
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, cut in thick slices then in quarter rounds
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
4-5 small garlic cloves, or to taste
2-3 ears of sweet corn, husked and kernels cut from the cobs
1 bunch Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, tough stems removed and cut in 1/4-inch slices cross-wise
1 zucchini, small dice (optional)
10-12 large cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 pound pasta, small shapes of your choice, regular or whole wheat, cooked al dente, 1/4 cup pasta water reserved
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies before starting cooking because there is no time to chop once the cooking is started! Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add the butter. When butter is melted and bubbling, add the onions and turn up heat slightly. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes till they become translucent. Add the thyme, oregano and garlic and stir/cook for about a minute. Add the sweet corn and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the kale ( and optional zucchini if using) and cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and cook another 2-3 minutes. You can serve this as a side dish – way #1.
However, if you want to keep going, add the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring then place a lid on the pan and cook another minute or two. This is way #2 – an awesome side dish as well! Maybe add the fresh basil or serve as is. To make the main dish with pasta, add the pasta to the veggies with a little of the reserved water. Stir to combine completely and add the fresh basil. Once served pass the Parmesan!
August 28, 2014
We recently got a new gas grill, which replaced an ancient double hand-me-down (it was handed down to us from someone who had it handed down to them). Our new one is also a hand-me-down, but much much newer, with no rust and *GASP!* it actually evenly cooks the food. The other bonus to the new one is I can use it! The old one had all these quirks, and it wasn’t easy to get started. I could do it, but not very easily, and definitely not on a weeknight with two crazy kids hanging on me. This new one is easier to use than the stove! So I’ve been grilling every other night…no pan to clean up, and the kitchen stays nice and cool. This is one of my favorite grilling recipes, an adaptation from the recipe magazine I use all summer long. It’s not as quick as some of them, and doesn’t take 30 minutes like the magazine says, but it’s still quick enough that I can do it on a weeknight. Plus, I kind of make it more complicated by doing veggie skewers for my vegetarian son along with it. The recipe calls for serving it along with grilled pita, but I usually also serve with grilled veggie skewers and a green salad.
Greek-Style Chicken Kebabs with Grilled Flatbread
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Fall 2010 edition
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 red onions, cut into 1″ chunks
4 pita bread rounds
1. Whisk yogurt, 2 tbsp oil, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in bowl. Toss oregano, cayenne, and chicken with half of yogurt mixture.
2. Thread four 12-inch skewers with chicken and onions. Grill over hot fire, turning skewers every 2 minutes, until onions and chicken are cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer skewers to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Brush both sides of pita rounds with remaining oil and grill until lightly charred and warm, about 1 minute. Transfer to platter with chicken.
3. Toss cucumbers with remaining yogurt mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve with chicken and pita.
August 15, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I made this dish a year ago after seeing Romano green beans at the farmers market and fully intended to post this recipe then. But time got away from me it seems. Just last weekend, we were in Vermont to visit Randy’s brother and his professional gardener partner, Bill, for their wedding. It was non-stop eating and cooking out of the garden. Bill had an abundance of runner beans he wanted to find a use for and, shazam, it just so happens that I had a recipe. Plus, he had almost all of the ingredients right outside.
This is a delicious vegetarian “stew” that can be served as a side dish or as a main, as we did on the last night of our visit. It was a treat to have this lighter supper after feasting for three days although, speaking for myself, I sorta stuffed myself on this meal as well. :-) I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of this year’s version. In looking around at the various recipes, I learned that “ladera” means braised in olive oil, hence a larger quantity of oil than you might expect in a recipe like this. With all those recipes in mind and some advice from a Greek friend, I decided to make this dish as follows. It is HIGHLY adaptable, however, so have at it! Once finished, serve with slices of feta cheese and a nice crusty bread. A dry rose on the darker, richer side goes really well.
Margaux says . . .
I’ve been wanting to make this since my friend Beth from Tasty Yummies told me about it a few years ago. She even wrote a blog post about it after we talked about it, and I just completely forgot to make it! I’m kicking myself now for forgetting, and I’m very happy that Aunt Suzy brought it up again, because I TOTALLY love it. This is like comfort food, for summer. I will be making this often, I think. Beth’s recipe has beef or lamb in it, and I think that would be a nice way to try it when the weather gets cooler. Speaking of the weather, it worked out perfectly that I planned to make this when I did, because it got unseasonably cool here in Chicago, perfect weather for eating stew. I actually had to wear a lightweight sweater today! In August! So weird.
1 to 1 1/2 pounds runner beans (also called pole or Romano), ends snapped off and snapped in half if especially long
2-3 carrots, cut in half length-wise then sliced in 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 onions, sliced then each slice cut in quarters
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano
3-4 large round ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 large can diced tomatoes)
4-5 whole allspice berries, optional
1 cup of water
3 large potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks (if using russets, peel, if using white or gold, no need to peel)
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Warm the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When shimmering turn heat up to medium high and add the onions. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, till translucent, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and mint and all of the oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beans, the carrots, the tomatoes and allspice berries, if using, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and press all ingredients down into the juices so they are just covered. Cover the pot, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the potatoes and press all ingredients down into the juices again. Bring back to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. While the potatoes are cooking combine a few tablespoons of parsley, 2 tablespoons of mint and the minced garlic. When the dish is finished, stir this herb/garlic mixture into the pot. Turn into a serving bowl or just serve right out of the pot!
Aunt Suzy: The quantities of ingredients are what I would call guidelines. I’ve seen many recipes that use dill in addition to other herbs and many that use solely parsley. The oregano is my addition. I saw a couple of recipes that said “DO NOT forget to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon at the end”. I asked a Greek friend for advice, and he suggested the carrots and said he adds zucchini when he adds the potatoes (but had not heard of the cinnamon :-)). If you cannot find the flat, longer type of beans called for here, you can use “regular” green beans. I see runner beans occasionally here in the farmers markets, but have not seen in supermarkets in Minnesota. There are versions of this dish that include meat – beef, veal or lamb – but I really like this as a vegetarian meal.
Margaux: I added about a teaspoon of salt when I added the potatoes, because I really don’t like potatoes cooked without salt. Then I added pepper at the end with the herb/garlic mixture. Also, I used regular beans and it turned out great!
August 12, 2014
My aunt Judy lives in North Carolina, and my mom and I went to visit her several times through my childhood. One of the times we were there, I’m thinking when I was in junior high, she served this homemade lemon ice cream. That lemon ice cream stuck in my mind for YEARS…it was SO GOOD. Then on one of our more recent visits, she made it again, without me even suggesting it, and it was exactly as I had remembered. Creamy and tart, and so, so good. But I didn’t have an ice cream maker, so I wasn’t able to make it myself. I’ve always wanted an ice cream maker, though, with this ice cream in mind as one of the first things to make.
Well, this spring I found an ice cream maker at a thrift store…a vintage 1970’s Master Chef. And it works perfectly. I made vanilla ice cream first, just as a test run, and to serve with a chocolate cake I made. But I was dying to make the lemon ice cream. I emailed Aunt Judy for the recipe, and she sent it, along with it’s origins.
She first tasted the lemon ice cream at Maldaner’s Restaurant in Springfield, IL, when my Aunt Annie took her there when she was a teenager. Back then, they called it Lemon Creme Sherbet, and they claim it is based on a recipe from Mary Todd Lincoln. It obviously had the same influence on Judy as it did me, because she went home and tried to recreate it! She says this recipe has the same flavor and texture as the restaurant’s, as far as she can recollect. Now I kind of want to make a trip down to Springfield to check this place out, and taste the sherbet for myself!
I also thought this was really good in an old-fashioned ice cream soda! When I was a kid, whenever my dad took me to Dairy Queen, I would order an old-fashioned chocolate ice cream soda. It was my absolute favorite. They took it off the menu when I was a teenager, and I rarely see them on menus at ice cream shops. They should make a comeback, because they’re really good. My dad said that when he was a kid, there was an ice cream soda stand in Peoria, IL, that had every flavor you could imagine. I had some lemon flavored La Croix on hand, so I thought it would be fun to try a lemon ice cream soda. I’m sure it’s supposed to have lemon syrup in it as well, but to me this was perfect. Not to sweet, nice and tart and creamy, and the soda makes the best ice crystals with the ice cream. Just pour some soda water over ice cream and you’re set! Of course, I added some whipped cream, too.
Lemon Creme Sherbet
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/3 c. sugar
4 tsp. flour
1 1/3 c. half and half
1/3 c. milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1⁄2 c. milk
1⁄2 c. lemon juice
1 1⁄2 tsp. grated lemon rind
Beat egg and yolk in medium bowl until fluffy. Set aside. Mix next five ingredients in heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly till mixture thickens (10 – 15 min).
Slowly add small amount of hot mixture to eggs whisking thoroughly. Return this mixture to pan. Cook and stir 1 additional minute. Chill.
Add remaining milk and lemon juice. Mixture will be curdly. Process in ice cream maker, folding in lemon rind just before packing to freeze.