Purple is the New Green

Trying new foods is one of my favorite things about participating in our CSA. Let’s be honest – how often do you buy the exact same things at the grocery store? Broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots. Lather, rinse, repeat. So, when tomatillos first showed up in our CSA, I was stumped. Especially since Andy doesn’t really “do” sauces. What was I going to do with them?

If my memory is correct, I ran them through the blender with some garlic and lime juice and called it salsa verde. And while I’m sure we ate it (probably at a taco night), we must not have loved it, or I wouldn’t have gone looking for another solution.

Thank goodness for the internet. And food bloggers who know their way around Tex-Mex. The next time tomatillos rolled around, I was prepared. I roasted the tomatillos along with some garlic and peppers (jalapenos or poblanos, depending on what came in our CSA, since hatch chiles aren’t plentiful in my neck of the woods). I gave it all a quick spin in the blender, and bam! I had the answer to all of my tomatillo problems, along with a fantastic batch of enchiladas for dinner.

The original recipe calls for Greek yogurt (which I sub for sour cream, nine times out of 10). I add the yogurt/sour cream when I’m making the enchiladas, but I skip it if I’m using the sauce in the crockpot or freezing it. (I’m not sure how well the sour cream would hold up to 10 hours in the crockpot.)

There’s just one problem – my salsa “verde” has never actually been green. It’s usually a rather unattractive tan, but when the latest batch turned a bright pinky-purple, I figured I’d try to get a picture to share with the world. (Of course, the lack of daylight at dinner time makes for not-so-hot pictures… details, right?) So there you have it. Purple is the new green, at least at our house.

TomatilloSalsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Approximately 1 lb. tomatillos, rinsed, husked and sliced in half (Our CSA usually gives us between a pound and a pound and a quarter – I just use them all.) 
2-3 jalapeno or poblano peppers (I use two if they’re jalapenos; three if they’re the more mild poblano peppers.) 
3 garlic cloves, peeled
juice of 1 lime
2/3 cup sour cream, optional (it makes the salsa creamier and helps tone down the heat, if your peppers ended up giving you more than you bargained for.)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, then lightly brush the foil with olive oil. Place the tomatillos, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Arrange the peppers and garlic around the tomatillo halves. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Remove the pan from the oven.

Place the tomatillos and garlic cloves in a blender (or a large bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender). Let the peppers cool until you can handle them, then remove the seeds and skins. Place the peppers in the blender with the tomatillos and garlic, and then add the lime juice. Puree until smooth. Stir in the sour cream (if using) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Use in your favorite tacos or enchiladas .Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Adapted from The Brewer and The Baker / Confections of a Foodie Bride

Click here for a printable version.

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Ready for Summer

A few weeks ago, I put a new salmon recipe on the menu. The salmon was tasty (probably a 3.75 on the Andy scale), but, for me, the dressing was the real winner. I love having something new for my salads, especially when it’s an easy as “cook, blend, stir, serve.”

The recipe called for fresh blueberries, but since I put several pounds of blueberries in the freezer last summer, I saw no reason to buy out-of-season, trucked-for-miles blueberries in the store. (Obviously, I did buy the out-of-season blackberries a few weeks later. They were on sale, and it’s a LONG time till berry season here, OK?) Per Annie’s instructions, I did remove a few tablespoons of blueberry sauce (to glaze the salmon) before I added the vinegar, but unless I’m making the fish again, I don’t think I’ll bother with that step. And since I’m still not the biggest fan of goat cheese, I opted for feta on my salad.

The result was a fresh, slightly sweet twist on a standard side salad, which will definitely come in handy when our lettuce is ready in a few weeks. (We planted seeds two weeks ago, and now we have the cutest little lettuce plants popping up in the garden!) Come on summer! We’re ready for you!

Blueberry Salad Dressing

Blueberry Vinaigrette

4 ounces of blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw if using frozen berries)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, oil and honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until the berries are soft and juicy.

Remove the pan from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until the berries are smooth. Add the vinegar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the dressing to cool before putting it on a salad.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Mine kept for a few weeks without any issues.)

From Annie’s Eats

Click here for a printable version

Dressing for One

Between our CSA and our garden, we’ve been blessed with an overabundance of lettuce this summer. Which means that we’re eating a lot of salads. Side salads. Grilled chicken salads. “Loaded” chef salads. Good thing Andy likes his greens. 😀

However, when it comes to salad, we are a house divided. There’s the normal my side (you know, the one with salads that are lightly dressed with a fresh vinaigrette or drizzled with a tangy buttermilk ranch), and then there’s the weird Andy’s side. The one with plain salads. Don’t get me wrong, Andy is all about toppings on his lettuce – as long as those toppings are things like peppers, strawberries, cranberries, onions, tomatoes, cheese, chicken, shrimp, broccoli, nuts… anything OTHER than dressing. He says dressing is unnecessary, and that his salads are healthier. Whatever. 🙂

The plus side of this situation? I get to make/eat whatever dressing I want, and right now, that’s a zesty homemade Italian dressing. It’s made from pantry staples and mixes up easily. It also makes a great chicken marinade – you know, for those grilled chicken salads that we’re eating.

Italian Dressing

Italian Salad Dressing

For the dressing mix:
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For a batch of dressing: 
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil (or salad oil)
2 tablespoons dressing mix

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. To make a batch of dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons of dressing mix and vinegar. Pour the oil into the vinegar mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly to combine. (I actually prefer to use my immersion blender for this, as I’ve found that it emulsifies the dressing the best.) Store dressing the refrigerator.

From Peace Love & French Fries

Click here for a printable version.

Saving My Cilantro

I have a love-hate relationship with cilantro. (And no, not the “love to hate it” type of relationship.) I love its bright, fresh flavor in my salsa, soup and sauces. I hate how it seems go bad faster than any other green item in my fridge. It never seems to last more than a few days, even in my produce-saver bags. Which means I throw out more cilantro than I’d like to admit. (Food blogger fail, I know.) 

Enter this recipe. It’s a great way to use up cilantro before it “turns.” (Side note: I think of Mater every time I hear someone say something has “turned.” Anyone else?) As I was prepping this, I realized that this sauce is essentially a nut-free, cilantro pesto. It was simple to make and worked well on both the grilled shrimp and rice and beans.

Cilantro Sauce
The sauce is a much brighter green when you make it. After a day or two in the fridge, the color darkens (but the flavor is just as good).

Cilantro Sauce

1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoon oil (I used canola because I didn’t want to deviate too far from the original recipe, but next time I’ll use olive oil instead.)

Combine the cilantro and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped and the garlic is minced into tiny pieces. Add the ginger and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Add the oil and process until the mixture is smooth.

Brush over shrimp or fish while grilling, or use as a dipping sauce or dressing for shrimp, chicken, rice, etc. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Adapted from Cooking For Two, Spring 2007

Click here for a printable version.

Maple Mustard Greatness

When I was in college, one of my favorite places to eat on campus was a little chicken place inside the student center. I’d order a chicken strips and waffle fries, and then proceed to dunk them in either barbecue or honey mustard sauce. Or both. Mmm. (No judgment about my less-than-healthy choices, OK? I was young. And I did have to walk halfway across the KSU campus to get my dinner…) 

Now that I’m all grown up (when exactly did that happen, anyway?), dinners of waffle fries and chicken strips are few and far between. However, my love for honey mustard has not faded, and this salad dressing is definitely a grown-up version of my favorite college condiment. It’s sweet, thanks to the maple syrup, with a little bit of a kick from the garlic and mustard. It’s good for salads, sandwiches AND chicken strips, in case you want to relieve your childhood (or college days).

And while I am a fan of dressings, sauces and all things mustard, Andy is not. Which means this stuff is all mine. 😀

A couple of notes: The full recipe makes a LOT of dressing (about two cups), which is much more than you need if you’re making this with the salad. It does, however, scale down very well, by both 50 percent and 25 percent. I’m including the full recipe below, since it keeps pretty well in the fridge, and if you’re making chicken strips, well, you want to have enough for eating with a spoon dipping. 🙂

If you’re looking for a way to use up any remaining butternut squash, I would definitely recommend the salad. (I’ve made it for both a work potluck and our Easter dinner, and it’s been well-received both times.) If you do make the it, I’d suggest roasting the squash and apples separately, as the apples seem to get mushy long before the squash is done.

MapleMustardDressing

Maple Mustard Salad Dressing

4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
2/3 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste, if needed (I found I didn’t need to add any.) 

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the oil, in a large measuring cup or blender. (I used my glass four-cup Pyrex and my immersion blender.) Blend until the garlic cloves are smooth and integrated. Slowly stream the oil into the measuring cup while the blender runs. Blend until emulsified and smooth. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

From Two Peas and Their Pod

Click here for a printable version.

Getting Saucy

There’s a slight chill in the air, the nights are getting longer, and my Saturdays involve college football. (GO BUCKEYES!) Fall has arrived! For Karen some people, fall is ushered in by all things pumpkin. For me, fall means apples. Apple pie, apple crisp and applesauce.

Some might say that I’m somewhat of an applesauce snob. I remember being a kid and telling someone (maybe my aunt?) that I wasn’t going to have the applesauce with dinner because it was from the store, not homemade. (In hindsight, I bet I sounded a little bratty then. Sorry ’bout that.) I don’t think of it as being a snob, just having high standards. This is one of those times where the homemade stuff really is better. It’s not hard to make, and since I freeze mine, rather than can it, it’s a cinch. (Plus, frozen applesauce makes an excellent snack. It’s like a slushy, only better.) 

My sauce set-up: pan to catch the sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, a bowl to catch the skins, seeds and cores, and two bowls to place the warm, sweet goodness.

Don’t let that picture scare you; homemade applesauce is easy.

Here’s what you’ll need: 
Apples (I use a mix of apples for the best flavor; some of my favorites are Cortlands, Macs and Jonathans.) Sugar
Spices (I use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
A large stock pot for cooking down the apples
A food mill/sauce maker OR a vegetable peeler and a potato masher
Freezer containers

First, rinse off your apples and cut them in quarters. (If you don’t have a strainer like the one pictured above, you  will also need to peel and core the apples. If you’re going to make a lot of sauce, I’d suggest investing in one. It’s a huge time saver!)

Place the apple chunks in the stock pot with about an inch of water. Simmer over medium heat until the apples are soft and mushy.

Just about ready for their time in the strainer…

Pour the cooked apples and juice (yes, with the seeds and all) into the strainer. Place a pan underneath the strainer to catch the applesauce and another bowl underneath the waste spout to catch the seeds, cores and skins. Crank away! If you don’t have a strainer, take out your potato masher and smash the apples until they’re the consistency you want.

Pour the fresh applesauce into a bowl and season to taste with sugar and the spices. I use 1-2 tablespoons of sugar for that giant red bowl shown in the picture, and I add the spices until it tastes good! Fill your freezer containers, label, date, and you’re done! Don’t freeze it all though – the only thing that tastes better than frozen applesauce is fresh, piping hot applesauce!

From my mom

New Favorite Condiment

Or, at least, my favorite after some good guacamole. (Apparently I like green dips. Who knew?) I discovered this one while I was searching for a solution to our squash situation. While the soup didn’t rate high enough to go into our regular rotation, this avocado lime cream blew me away. I ate it on stuffed peppers, in tacos, on pretzels and then proceeded to lick the container clean. (What? Waste not, want not! 😉 ) 

It was a welcome addition to taco night, and Arron, Karen’s hubby and the master of sauces, gave it a thumbs up. Best of all, it’s super easy to throw together – always a good thing in my book.

I realize this isn’t a picture of JUST the cream. I also made homemade lime tortilla chips and salsa verde. It just happens to be my favorite of the photos.In case you’re wondering, the cream is on the left, the salsa verde on the right.

Avocado Lime Cream

1/2 cup sour cream (I used the reduced fat)
1 avocado, sliced
handful of cilantro, large stems discarded
juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor. (I use a glass bowl and my immersion blender.) Process until smooth and creamy. Store in the refrigerator.

The flavors meld together after some time in the fridge, so I like to make this 12-24 hours in advance.

From Erin’s Food Files