Salsa season is here!

My teen is bored, the dogs are hyper with anticipation of a fun activity, probably involving balls, frisbees or sticks. My husband is on a month long working trip. I’m trying to keep up with all things involved in being a business owner, mom, homeowner, activity director, pet owner, and daughter. Yay. It’s summer.

What are you doing to celebrate the season? If it involves food, salsa is a great way to enjoy some of the seasonal fresh veggies out there.  With sweet corn currently priced in my local stores at 5 for $1, and cilantro at 2 bunches for $1, my frugal self is delighted. My daughter told me she could live on this stuff.

7214CS-107

Corn Salsa
4 ears of fresh, grilled sweet corn
1/2 red onion, diced small
2 avocados, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Lots of chopped cilantro
Grill corn with husks on for 10-15 minutes (see below). Cut corn off the cob, and combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate before serving.

My favorite way to grill corn: Pull the husks back to the corn stalk, but don’t remove. Pull off the silks and discard. Return the husks back to their original position, and tie with string. To keep the husks from burning on the grill, soak the corn in cold water for about 10 minutes. When they’re sufficiently soaked, fire up the grill, and roast uncovered on medium high for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally.

63014GR-104

63014GR-105

Up next: tomato season. Tuck this one away, it’ll be here before you know it…

Garden Tomato Salsa
Start with 9-12 medium sized ripe tomatoes
Cut them in half and take out the seeds.
Chop them coarsely and throw them into a food processor
Add:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of cilantro
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 spicy pepper (I used an ‘Italian Roaster’ because there were some ripe ones in my garden, but you could use jalapeño or serrano, if you want extra spice)
1 teaspoon coriander (you could also use cumin if you like the flavor… I don’t)
Blend until the salsa is a slightly coarse consistency. Not too chunky, not too pureed. Perfect for scooping up with a corn chip. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

92412S-139

After all the salsa ingredients have gotten to know each other, call a few good friends, blend up some margaritas, grab a bag of corn chips… and all the good things summer has to offer!

Simple salad sauce

62714SD2-108-Edit

Who else is loving the abundance of fresh local veggies right now? My garden is overflowing with spinach, lettuces, peas, squash, raspberries and several herbs. Due to the wet, warm, humid weather we are experiencing here in Portland, my hair is constantly curly, and many varieties of weeds are thriving in our yard. But lets ignore those things for now, okay?

I’m grilling, sautéing, roasting… or simply tossing raw veggies into bowls and devouring them in the form of salads every day. When it comes to a dressing for my colorful creations, however, the store bought options are usually … ho hum. The bottled salad dressings are often laden with trans fats, sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial flavors. They can quickly turn fresh, crisp, organic goodness into something unthinkably unhealthy. No thank you!

Fortunately, by blending a few basic ingredients,  you can quickly and easily create healthier, delicious salad dressings, and feel much better about what you’re ingesting. This honey mustard dressing is my current favorite. It’s slightly tangy, sweet, creamy. It’s also great on grilled, sautéed, or roasted veggies, or drizzled over chicken.

Honey-Mustard Salad Dressing

2 Tablespoons pure honey
2 Tablespoons yellow or brown prepared mustard (I used yellow for the sake of a prettier color, but spicy brown is good too)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup Greek non-fat, plain yogurt
Whisk these ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or so. Recipe makes one cup.

Yay, another use for my Weck jars! I can’t seem to get enough of these.

62714SD3-103

Bounty at last!

In early spring, after the threat of frost passes, I tuck small, young tomato plants into beds of organic, fertile soil. But the promise of bright red fruit is squelched somewhere in the course of summer. I pluck off the green balls and decorate my window sills with them. But not this year!

Unlike so many previous cool and rainy summers here in Portland, this summer consisted of the perfect combo of heat and moisture that helped create an amazing crop of beautiful red gems.

After roasting, adding to salads, slipping into sandwiches, we still have a tomato abundance. Time to sauce ‘em.

82713TS-107

My search for the perfect tomato sauce recipe led to many methods, ingredients, and a whole lot of opinions and inconsistencies. Gathering from a few tried and true practices, I decided to do some further experimenting on my own. I recalled a recipe that included wine and butter, so I knew those were two essential ingredients. You can’t go wrong with wine and butter, right?

82713TS-139

Many recipes use a plethora of fresh ingredients, and this was a plus for me, so I gathered a few favorites. This sauce turned out more orange than red. I thought this was from the carrots, but I’m pretty sure the culprit is the immersion blender. The blender adds air, which apparently alters the color. The color did not change the flavor, but if you want your sauce to be red, leave it a bit chunky, or mash it instead of blending.

82713TS-132

To make your life easier, I highly suggest using a food mill for this.

Here’s the recipe and method I used:

FRESH CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE
Yield: About 8 cups

24 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stocks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup white wine (American Sauvignon Blanc is a good one for cooking)
6-8 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Wash tomatoes and slice an X onto the top of each one (this will help the skins come off easily). Place tomatoes into a large pot and add enough water just to cover them. Cook covered for about 20 minutes, or until the tomato skins begin to peel away from the flesh.

Pour tomatoes (and all their delicious juices) into a food mill over a large bowl. In batches, mill the mix until you have a puree of tomatoey goodness.

In another large pan (a Dutch oven is a good choice), melt butter, add chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Add white wine and chopped basil leaves and cook for 5 minutes more.

Add tomatoes that have been churned through the food mill to the veggie mixture, and simmer on low until the sauce has thickened, about 30-45 minutes. At this point, you can leave it chunky, or use an immersion blender, standing blender, or food processor to puree the sauce into a smooth, creamy consistency.

I poured about half of the sauce into sealed containers and placed them into the freezer. I then made spaghetti and meatballs with the other half, since that’s about the only way I can get my family to eat tomato sauce.

82713TS2-106