Confetti Salsa

For those of you who are little kitchen handicapped, you probably have no idea what to bring to a gathering that will not make you look like…well, that you are kitchen handicapped. The secret to fooling everyone is just to use really great ingredients that will shine no matter what you throw together. Depending upon your skill level, even a simple salsa may feel like it’s over your head. But trust me, it really is not. It is buying and cutting. And seeing as you are reading, I’m guessing you can also accomplish these two things, as well.

I went to my local Farmer’s Market in search of some great ingredients for the next week. What I stumbled upon was this beauty.


So, I will admit, this was a $6 tomato (it weighed in at 1 lb.). BUT. Before you scoff, think about this… When you go to the grocery store, you buy hothouse tomatoes (grown in a dark warehouse) from somewhere else. They traveled a long way to get here. And although they look perfect, they are not yet ripe and delicious and perfect. And when you buy those “perfect” tomatoes, they still cost you $3.99 a pound. A pound is really only 2 or 3 medium tomatoes.

I say, this beautiful, perfectly ripe, local tomato is more along the lines of perfect. What better way to show off the brilliance of your shining Farmer’s Market find than to put it in a dish that features it raw, and happens to be an international favorite: salsa.

To offset the color of the tomato (and correspondingly, the unique flavor), I decided I wasn’t going to put it in a traditional salsa. Here is what I put together.

Confetti Salsa

1# Yellow Tomato (I would choose an Heirloom variety that appeals to you), diced

1 Red Jalapeno or Red Fresno Chile, chopped and de-seeded

1/3 C. Mango, chopped

2 T. Red Onion, chopped

1 T. Cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

This is a sweet salsa, not super spicy. If you prefer more spice, add another chile or put it through the food processor with the seeds. You could even hit it with a dash of lime to change the flavor profile a bit. This portion makes a small bowl, enough for an appetizer for 2-4 depending on the menu. But it will be a big hit so I’d double or triple the recipe. Grab some of your favorite tortilla chips and hit the road. None be the wiser that you were once kitchen handicapped.

Happy sharing!

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Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad

It has been far too long since I have posted anything. There is essentially no excuse. Except that I’m moving soon and getting trapped under a to-do list. Today, however, I’m trying to remember there are more things than our to-do lists that drive us. We are meant to live lives that mean something. Lives that help us and others to see the light. To encourage and create and entrust each other with ourselves. I feel that I am not doing so well on this lately. So, today I remember that this blog is one small way I influence the world positively, with both my food and my words. And although there is a recipe as the primary focus of the post, hopefully those of you reading this will be a little bit encouraged and inspired to live your life to the fullest today. Every day should be a meaningful day for you. We all fail some of the time, but the fact that we are striving for more says something profound about each of us. Be brilliant today in whatever way you are brilliant. You have something unique to give to the world that no one else does.

Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad

1/2 Cucumber

Handful Green Beans, Snapped and blanched

1/3 Fennel Bulb

1 Baby Onion

1 T. Chives, chopped

1 Mint leaf, torn

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 t. Sugar

Pinch Salt & Pepper

2 T. Dill, chopped

This is a “throw it together” kind of salad. nothing extremely fancy, except how the flavors co-mingle. Cut it all up in whatever way you find most attractive. But I would try to make it all a little uniform because we eat with our eyes first. The measurements are for one salad but as you can see, it would be extremely easy to multiply this and bring to a friendly gathering.

It does well to chill this salad before diving in, although you could do that, too. The lime juice will act to marinate the vegetables a little bit and the flavor will be more intense.

Happy eating!

Roasted Root (Mostly) Vegetables Over Blackened Greens

It has come to my attention that I have had a bit of a salad obsession recently. Although most of you in the rest of the country are sweating your you-know-whats off, here in the PNW, it began as a cool and overcast day. It really got me craving something warm and delicious and savory. So, even though, by the time I raced home from work it was sunny, my mind was thinking “roasting”. Here is what I put together for you all to feast on, even if only with your eyes because you are way too hot to even THINK about turning your ovens on…

Roasted Root (Mostly) Vegetables Over Blackened Greens

1 Red Potato

1 Carrot

1 Kohlrabi

1 Golden beet

1/2 Onion

1 t. Rosemary, chopped

1/2 C. Cabbage

Greens from Kohlrabi

3-5 Stalks Rainbow Chard

1 Clove Garlic, minced

Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

Few drops Sesame Oil

1 t. Chives, chopped

1. Chunk the root vegetables to your desired size preference. Remember, the larger the pieces, the longer the roast time. Toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. Bake in a shallow baking dish or sheet pan at 400F for about 30 min-1 hour, depending on size and how tender you like your vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 2. Chop greens into manageable sized pieces. Heat a large pot on the stove, adding olive oil and a bit of sesame oil (for sweetness). Continue to stir greens until oil is gone; let greens get a bit charred. Once they are lightly charred, add a bit more oil and the minced garlic. Cover, cooking until mostly steamed.

 

 

 

 

3. Salt and pepper both before combining as they will require different amounts to bring out the flavor. Create a bed of greens with a well in the center. Add roasted vegetables on top and garnish with chives and a bit more rosemary.

This is such a simple, no-brainer meal. Which is why it’s so great. So many other vegetables can be added or replaced or other flavors incorporated.

Some alternative flavors to consider based on your dietary desires: 

Adding bacon or pancetta to the greens. 

Cooking the greens in butter or rendered bacon fat. 

Adding mushrooms to the greens. 

Garnishing with a bit of sour cream. 

Tossing the roasted vegetables in curry or chipotle powder. 

Garnish with Parmesan cheese. 

Adding lemon to the greens. 

Really, the list goes on and on. Get creative. 

I found that the Kohlrabi was the star of the show. It was perfect, however, since that was precisely the vegetable I was trying to get a little creative with. It actually brought back memories from childhood instantly. I didn’t even realize I ate it as a kid until I took a bite of it roasted!

Happy cooking!

Christmas in July Salad

Who doesn’t like the thought of gifts? Pretty much no one. Especially at Christmas. But there is a whole different kind of gift we are given in the summer. That gift is produce. Fruits and veggies burst forth from the earth like a descriptor I feel a little uncomfortable describing… Anyway. This is the best gift I could be given. Those who know me are pretty well acquainted with the fact that I don’t really like giving or receiving gifts. I feel a little awkward about the exchange. It’s never really even at Christmas, and unexpected gifts just make me feel confused and awkward, albeit thankful and loved. The only gifts I enjoy without stigma is the birthday gift. Except that people remember what they got for you and then you are expected to reciprocate…. Oy, all of this is giving me a headache.

Let’s leave it to the simple fact that produce is my favorite gift. Without exception. So, every summer, every farmer’s market, every trip to the fresh section of the grocery store feels like a holiday to me. I’m not really exaggerating, either.

Today, in my quest for food, I stumbled upon making this. It is what I will call Christmas in July Salad. Partially for its beautiful color, partially for the joy that comes from finally digging into this gift of produce.

Christmas in July Salad

1/2 head Romaine lettuce, torn

1/3 C. Long Grain Rice + 2/3 C. Water to prepare

1 Roma Tomato, diced

2 Strawberries, hulled and diced

1 Lemon, zest and juice

1 T. Chives, minced

1 T. Rosemary, minced

2 T. Olive Oil

1 t. Sesame Oil

Salt and Pepper

1. Heat a saucepan with a little olive oil and the sesame oil. Pour in the rice and stir until all the grains are coated. Add water, boil, reduce heat, cover, cook until fluffy. When rice is finished, salt and pepper to taste and put in refrigerator to take the steam off. Cool until whatever temperature you desire. I like my rice still a touch warm. It wilts the lettuce just enough to be silky.

2. Prepare a bed of lettuce by tearing the lettuce into manageable pieces. Toss with some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

3. Toss together tomato, strawberries, lemon zest, rosemary, and chives in a bowl.

4. Put it all together by layering the rice atop the lettuce. Make a well in the center of the rice for the red fruits to rest in. Slice a lemon to garnish. Enjoy.

Happy eating!

Potato Corn Salad

We have briefly spoken about my love for all things pasta salad. Potato salad is a different story for me, though. I love a simple food. For some reason, I have this idea that potato salad looks simple in form, but is indeed very difficult in compilation. Too many moving parts and pieces. BUT. That’s not really true. It’s just a cop-out.

Truth is, I only partially like it. Potatoes are fine, but not usually my starch of choice. The problem for me lies in the dressing.

Yes, I know. Most potato salad lovers could bathe in the dressing. It’s what they love most. I just can’t get behind it, however. I generally find it to be too bland or too tangy or too thick or…. you get the idea.

Earlier today I planted my herb garden and did some trimming back to ensure greater success. So, I had some lovely herbs to use right away. And one potato. And an ear of corn that needed to find a dish before it found the trash. I sucked up my slight potato salad diversion and did something so completely different that I may never feel wishy-washy about potato salad again. Here are the goods from the garden:

I began by formulating a dressing I would love. I enjoy a mustard-based dressing. I’m not so wild about a mayonnaise-based one. I find it to have a strange mouth feel and generally boring flavor. However, I know that mustard dressing can have its own flaws. It can be too sharp and tangy and kill the salad. The beauty of any salad is that it is many flavors layered atop each other. These layered flavors should complement each other with ease and grace and leave you wanting more. And you can eat more. Because it is salad. And usually good for you.

Potato Corn Salad

1-2 Potatoes depending upon size and how many you want to feed

1 Ear of Corn

2-3 T. Chives, chopped

2-3 T. Basil, torn

2-3 T. Cilantro, torn

Handful of lettuce, use something light. I used butter lettuce.

Dressing:

3 T. Yellow mustard

1 T. Honey

1 T. Deli/brown mustard

3 T-1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 Small clove of garlic, minced into paste

Pinch of salt, pepper, cumin

1. Cut potatoes into even sized pieces, whatever you desire. Cook them until soft, with a bite. This is not as far as you want to cook them for mashed potatoes. Or that is what you will have. Drain potatoes and put in freezer or fridge to cool.

2. Boil ear of corn just until color starts to brighten. Raw corn is perfectly fine to eat and you want a bit of bite and a bit of sweetness simultaneously. This is achieved by not cooking corn to doneness. Cut the corn off the ear and toss with the cooled potatoes.

3. The dressing is easy. Mostly. If you have ever tried to make hollandaise, mayonnaise or vinaigrette, you have come to compete with the laws of nature. These kinds of dressings are known as Emulsions. There are a few different types. They are easy to “break”. Some do not come back from the broken state, like hollandaise. The key is to whisk quickly while pouring slowly. In this case, start with the yellow mustard and pour the olive oil into it while whisking. This mixture will be your base. Once it has come together and added a bit of volume, you are free to add any other ingredients and begin to season. Any ratio of mustard to oil works, as long as you like the flavor and follow the rules of emulsifying.

The left is obviously broken. But the one on the right is lovely. I saved some because it will be a lovely honey mustard dipping sauce in the future.

4. Toss the potato and corn with the dressing. Taste and season for salt. Add the herbs and toss. Taste once more for a balanced palate. Serve atop the lovely bed of greens you prepared earlier.

Happy creating!

The Herb Garden

Okay, so it’s not a garden. It’s a window box with options.

3 days ago I watched a documentary that I cannot stop talking about. No. I mean, really. My friends and family are probably ready for me to shut up about it. But, tough luck.

The film Ingredients inspired me to a level that I haven’t been inspired in a while. There are things I have been interested in and have even been a natural part of my growing up process, but I have never considered them to be a “life path”. These things I would be speaking of are in the general “gardening, eating local, farmer’s market” genre. If you can’t tell that I’m that sort by the way this blog is shaping up, well…I don’t know what to tell you.

ANYWAY, Ingredients was all about farming and the local community. It was about teaching kids to garden and eat the vegetables they’ve grown. It was about our health and well-being as individuals and as a society. It was about a new way of living that is, in fact, a very old way of living. It was about the way things SHOULD be done and what some very fantastic (albeit few and far between) people are doing about it.

There are so many things I could say about the particulars of how it inspired me, but I think the post would go on far too long to keep your attention. Let’s say the inspiration went from a very large, hopeful, thought-provoked pile of long-term ideas all the way down to right now, today, this minute. And what I could do with today.

What I did with “today” was plant an herb garden. I have grown a few herbs in the past, but I didn’t really know what I should be growing and what I would actually use. I didn’t know the best way to take care of them. Then I moved. I started over with Basil and Cilantro but my Cilantro didn’t do so well. Now that my Basil has turned into a lovely and hearty plant, I thought it an appropriate time to start afresh.

Here’s my picture book:

After a little hesitation, I decided to add my Basil in with the bunch. I was afraid of crowding them. However, it worked out well because I had barely enough soil, even with the Basil. I will also be moving again soon, so having them all in one container makes for easier transportation.

Herbs are so inexpensive and great for adding a little bit of organic flavor to anything you are whipping up in the kitchen. Go buy some and let that green thumb of yours have a little fun!

Happy planting!