Archive | Dips/Spreads RSS feed for this section

Spicy Tomato Salsa

11 Sep

9 dried chili peppers

Hot water

12 cups diced cored peeled tomatoes (1/2 inch/1 cm dice) * See How to Peel Tomatoes.

3 cups chopped red onion

1 1/2 cups tightly packed, finely chopped cilantro

15  cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped * If you like your salsas extra spicy, leave in all or a portion of the seeds and membranes.

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp salt

3/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

1. In a heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl, combine dried chilies with hot water to cover.  Weigh chilies down with a bowl or a weight to ensure they remain submerged, and soak until softened, about 15 minutes.  Drain off half the water.  Transfer chilies and remaining water to a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine chili puree, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa.  Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

I haven’t been able to stop talking and thinking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which chronicles the year she and her family  committed to eating 100% local produce.  She talks about asparagus the way some men talk about women in fishnets; and I can tell you, I’ve been as excited to see asparagus in local markets after a long, food-dull winter as many are to see beer, nachos and Bears football today. Maybe the book has stuck with me because I share her utter excitement in juicy, sweet tomatoes after months of unripened, tasteless toms from god-knows-where at grocery stores, but really, it’s just that she makes it sound so incredibly easy and doable.  And it turns out, it is.

I don’t live on a farm and I share my yard with 6 other units (currently 11 people total) so although the City of Chicago does allow its residents to raise and keep both chickens and roosters on their property within city limits, I figured all 11 neighbors would not be welcoming to a little brood of chickens between the 3 grills,2 tables and my garden.  Space is tight as it is.  These were the sorts of things I thought immediately as she described ordering her little box of chickens and the variety of wild turkeys for her property.  Literally every can-not that I’ve come up with has been followed by a very easy solution in the city.  For example, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, which is 3 blocks from my house, sells free range, organic chickens from a farm in Wisconsin and there are nearly always local eggs and meat at the farmers markets (and there is a farmers market somewhere in this city every day of the week).  I haven’t fully boarded the all-local-bandwagon (it’s so hard to resist avocados in summer) but I would estimate that well over 80% of the items I’ve cooked at home this summer have been local.

So as fall is setting in, I’m contemplating how to continue supporting local farming and how to save the tastes of summer.  This weekend was momentous because I finally started jarring.  This was yet another task that I had found completely daunting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy and, between you and me, fun it can be.  I started with this salsa recipe but I also made a peach salsa that I hope to post soon.  It’s so convenient to have homemade salsa available when you need it and each of the individual ingredients shine in the homemade salsa rather than condensing into a homogenous stew like many of the store-bought options.  If it seems like too much work for you alone, get friends together to split the jars (this recipe makes 12 8-oz jars).  And I happen to know the local Ace Hardware on Lincoln Avenue is having a sale on jars and canners through the end of the month.  I’m happy to burst your can-not bubble, but no excuses,  you can do it too.

Advertisements

Grilled Grape Leaf-Wrapped Goat Cheese

12 Jul

6 to 8 grape leaves (sold in a jar), drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 3/4-to-1-pound round piece goat cheese, such as bucheron, at room temperature (or 2 smaller pieces, stacked)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat a grill to medium high. Wrap the grape leaves around the cheese to cover it completely; tie with kitchen twine.

Brush the wrapped cheese with olive oil and grill, turning once, until the leaves begin to char and the cheese is soft, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, the rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste in a bowl.

Transfer the warm cheese to a serving plate, pour the oil on top and remove the twine. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, June 2010

This recipe absolutely made my Sunday night.  This is so incredibly simple, but packs enough flavor that you’ll be thinking about those last few bites for days.  Tom and I made this as an appetizer for our Shrimp and Charred Lemon and Zucchini dinner.  There is nothing better than sitting out on a hot summer night, drinking chilled white wine, playing dominoes and eating this.  If you’re free tonight…

My food pyramid already has a solid base of cheese, beer and chocolate.  Slightly melted, warm goat cheese is downright dangerous.  Add a little olive oil, rosemary and crushed red pepper and I’m a goner.  Plus, its always an extra bonus when I find new ways to use my 5+ year-old rosemary plant in new and easy ways (hands-down, the easiest herb to grow).  Goat cheese is the perfect choice for its sweet, tart flavor and it maintains its shape during grilling better than most alternatives might.  The rosemary adds the perfect earthy spice which complements the slight acidity of the brined grape-leaves.  Crushed red pepper for a bit of spice and you have created the perfect starter.  Perfect for date nights or hosting friends.  Serve with sourdough or nice french bread.

Easy Summer Pico de Gallo

4 Jul

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 mangos, peeled, seeded and chopped

1-2 jalapenos (depending on your spice-tolerance/preference), seeded and finely chopped

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 lime

2 avocados

1. Combine chopped tomatoes, red onion, mango, jalapeno and cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.  Add fresh-squeezed juice from 1 lime.  Stir to combine.  Add salt to taste.  Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to serve, preferably overnight.

2. Before serving, add chopped avocados and stir to combine.  Serve with tortilla chips.

I have to give primary credit for this recipe to Mary McMullin who asked me to come up with a salsa to serve with simple grilled chicken breasts, using her 2 mangos, a few tomatoes and an avocado.  I insisted that we add onion and jalapeno to spice it up and have since added the lime which helps to preserve the ingredients and adds a nice citrusy splash.  I just served this on a camping trip in Michigan.  I divided the batch into two servings, tossed them in the cooler and added 1 avocado per serving to keep it fresh.  Great way to use those farmer’s market tomatoes and serve a big crowd.  You can also mix it up by adding different peppers such as any bell pepper or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

Ricotta, Gorgonzola and Honey Spread

29 Dec

1 15-oz. carton whole milk ricotta cheese

6 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/2 tsp. snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crushed

1/4 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary or 1/8 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1 Tbsp. honey

36 toasted baguette slices

Sliced apples, fresh thyme, and/or toasted chopped walnuts

Honey

1. Place ricotta in a large mixing bowl.  beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in Gorgonzola, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon rosemary until combined.  Fold in 1 tablespoon honey until just combined.  Spoon mixture into a serving bowl.  Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours.

2. To serve, spread on baguette slice and top with apple slices, thyme and/or walnuts.  Drizzle with honey.

Makes 36 appetizer servings.

Better Homes and Gardens, December 2010

I made this one for Christmas and it was perfect for just such an occasion.  Rosemary and Thyme have both always reminded me of the smell of pine trees and everyone kept saying they tasted just like Christmas.  Perfect!  The honey works to soften up the otherwise coarse cheeses and helped create a creamy finish.  Total genius.

Chickpeas with Spinach and Smoky Paprika

13 Dec

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced onions

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup organic vegetable broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 (9-ounce) package fresh spinach

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic to pan; cover and cook for 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute.  Add white wine, vegetable broth, and tomatoes; bring to a biol.  Add chickpeas; reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens slightly (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Add spinach; cover and cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Stir in parsley and vinegar.

Yield: 10 servings

Cooking Light, December 2010

I made this for the holiday party we had at our house over the weekend.  It takes about 20 minutes total, but only uses one pot, so it’s great for a last minute snack at your house.  Perfect for me considering our sinks were backed up until 5:30 p.m. the night of the party, at which time an awesome plumber from Amazing Plumbing came and saved my party.  The only substitution I made was using balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar because I simply couldn’t find it.  But it tasted great none-the-less (although it was easily overshadowed by the Date and Walnut Cheese Ball – see post).