SALSA VERDE – Could NOT Be Easier!

Salsa Verde with text

I finally decided to woman-up and learn to make salsa. This was one of the few food items it never occurred to me to make. For one thing, I don’t use salsa that often.  And, for another, I envisioned lots of ingredients and lots of mincing.

But after washing and storing yet another plastic container that held my favorite store-bought salsa, I made up my mind to make my own. (I was running out of storage space – and, really, how many containers does one need?!)

I did my usual research of various recipes and then came up with my own – fine tuning it after the first attempt. I was surprised at just how easy salsa is to make. Since Salsa Verde was a success, next time:  Salsa Roja!

SALSA VERDE – makes 2 cups

  • 1/2 lb fresh tomatillas
  • 1 jalapeño chili
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 3 T fresh cilantro
  • 1 T fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup water

In upper third of oven, broil the tomatillas, jalapeño, and bell pepper. When tops start turning black, flip them until that side turns black, too.

Remove stem ends of jalapeño and bell pepper. Slice open and discard seeds.

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Pulse on a high speed until salsa is consistency you like. Adjust seasoning, if needed.

 

 

 

 

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CARROT-GINGER SOUP: Easter Bunny Favorite!

carrot-ginger soup text

This recipe is perfect for Easter! Why? Because the Easter Bunny is a rabbit…and rabbits love carrots, of course!

Okay, I may be stretching the association a bit (a BIT?!), but this soup is delicious, filling, and low-cal. And, like most soups, is very easy to make.

NOTE: You can make this soup with carrots of various colors – purple, white, yellow, and orange. Choose one, or mix and match. Warning: mixing the colors (particularly with purple) produces a soup color that’s not very pretty, although it’s still scrumptious.

CARROT-GINGER SOUP

  • 2 T butter
  • 2½ cups onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (found in the jarred spice section or bins)
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
  • 2 lbs carrots (buy the ones with tops – they’re the freshest)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ cups carrot juice, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T red cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • grated hard cheese (such as Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan)
  • optional:  chives, sour cream, croutons

Melt butter in a stockpot. Add in onions, garlic, salt, sugar, crystallized ginger, and fresh ginger (or dried). Sauté for 5 minutes.

Remove tops from carrots and discard. Chop carrots into small pieces and add to onion mixture. Add in water, 3/4 cup of the carrot juice, thyme, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Cool for at least 15 minutes. Pour into a blender (in batches, if necessary) and purée. Return to stockpot and add vinegar and the remaining 3/4 cup carrot juice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Heat and serve. Sprinkle on cheese. Add a dollop of sour cream, chives, and croutons, if you like.

COLCANNON – Magically Delicious!

colcannon text

My Irish mother used to say, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” So take advantage of the day by trying a traditional Irish dish.

One of my favorite Irish foods is colcannon, a potato mash and cabbage side dish. Add a protein such as tofu or cheese, and you’ve got a lovely vegetarian main course. It’s really quite easy – not much more trouble than making plain old mashed potatoes.

Be sure to wear green as you prepare this!

COLCANNON – makes 6 cups

  • 1½ lbs russet potatoes, skinned
  • 3½ T butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 cups green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp salt, divided

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cut peeled potatoes into pieces so they cook faster. Add to boiling water and cook until easily pierced with a fork. Reserve 1 cup of the potato water, then drain potatoes. Return potatoes to the empty pot.

While potatoes are boiling, melt 1½ T of the butter in a saucepan. Add in onions and cabbage, and sauté until softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 T butter and add to the hot, drained potatoes. Mash, using a potato masher or food mill. Pour in the cabbage mixture (heat, if it’s gone cold) and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Add the reserved potato water, as needed, to achieve a creamy texture.

NOTE:  Much as I love my food processor, DON’T use it to mash the potatoes – you’ll end up with paste!

To bring leftover colcannon back to life as leftovers, add a bit of the reserved potato water (or, just plain water or milk if you threw it out) and microwave.

 

 

EGGPLANT INVOLTINI – A New Favorite!

eggplant involtini text

I’d never heard of involtini before recently marathon-watching American’s Test Kitchen. (LOVE that show!)

Involtini is a food (such as eggplant or a meat) that’s sliced thin and rolled around a stuffing. They demonstrated a quick and easy version of Eggplant Involtini, which I immediately tried. Fabulous! Naturally, I tweaked the recipe a bit.

It’s fast enough for a weeknight dinner, and special enough for company. A perfect recipe to add to your repertoire.

NOTE: I followed America’s Test Kitchen suggestion to peel the eggplant. But since the skin contains the antioxidant nasunin, I also tested a version without peeling to see if there was a need for this step. Result: leave the peel alone! The Eggplant Involtini tasted delicious both ways – so why bother with the extra work?!

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Buy eggplants no more than 1 day before usage – they don’t keep well.

EGGPLANT INVOLTINI – makes about 10 rolls

  • 2 long (about 8″) eggplants
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T additional vegetable oil
  • 1  28-oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp (or 1/2 tsp for the adventurous) dried pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 T red wine
  • 1/2 cup pecorino-romano cheese, shredded
  • 1 slice hardened bread (I used whole wheat and pita – both worked)
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (don’t use dried!)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • extra pecorino-romano and basil to sprinkle on top

Cut top and bottom off eggplants. In order to keep eggplants steady as you slice them, cut off about 1/3″ from one side in the bulbous area. Lay this cut end down. Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/2″ wide slabs – there will be 4-5, depending on how fat the eggplants are.

Lay slices on a very large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush eggplant with some of the 1/3 cup vegetable oil, then salt and pepper. Turn slices over, then brush again with vegetable oil, and salt and pepper. You may not use up all of the oil.

Bake in a preheated 375° fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

While eggplant is baking, cut up whole tomatoes into small pieces (remove the stem end, and any skin or blemishes), saving the juice. In a very large skillet over medium flame, heat the 1 T vegetable oil. Add in garlic, oregano, dried pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp salt. Sauté 1 minute – don’t let garlic burn. Pour in the tomatoes and juice, and wine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce flame. Let cook 15 minutes.

FINAL NOTE – I PROMISE: If you like this dish, double or triple (or more) the marinara sauce and freeze in portions for future use.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the pecorino-romano, ricotta, basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp salt. Break bread slice into small pieces. Grind them into crumbs in a blender or food processor. Add bread crumbs to cheese mixture.

After eggplant has been out of the oven for 5 minutes, carefully flip each piece. Put about 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture on the wider end of the eggplant strips. Roll up eggplant and place in skillet with the marinara sauce, seam side down. Continue with each slice.

Cover skillet and, over medium flame, heat the Eggplant Involtini for 5 minutes. While that’s cooking, turn on broiler, placing rack about 5″ from top element.

Broil for 5 minutes.

To serve, sprinkle with additional pecorino-romano and basil.

 

 

 

 

FALAFEL – Nix The Mix

falafel sandwich textI was recently in the mood for a falafel sandwich, but when I looked up the recipe in my cookbooks (this is what my generation used before the internet), they all listed falafel mix as an ingredient, followed by deep frying. Yuck on both counts!

For one thing, I HATE mixes. I want to know what’s in my food! Also, much as I love deep fried foods, I try to avoid them when I can. After a little research I found a recipe for falafel mix, tweaking it to suit me.

NOTE:  This Falafel Mix is Queen of Freeze approved! If you like the recipe, next time make double or triple the amount and freeze it uncooked for future use.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Falafels go great in pita bread. No surprise, I’m strongly suggesting you make your own. Click Pita Bread to get my “you’ll-never-go-back-to-store bought” recipe.

FALAFEL MIX – makes 2¼ cups (about 12 patties)

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped in big chunks
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T olive oil
  • about 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • extra olive oil for brushing on patties
  • pita bread
  • tzatziki sauce – recipe follows

In workbowl of your food processor (please, tell me you have one!), blend together the onion, parsley, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, and baking powder. Add in the garbanzo beans, egg, and olive oil, and pulse until the beans are teeny sized pieces, but aren’t pureed (you want some texture).

Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in enough of the bread crumbs to firm up the mixture so it’s not too sticky, but not so dry that the mixture falls apart when you try to form a ball. (I used the full 1 cup.)

Preheat oven to 400º fahrenheit.

Divide mixture into 1″ balls, then press them between your hands to about 3/8″ thick (they’ll be about 1½” in diameter). Place the discs on a well oiled cookie sheet.

Brush the extra olive oil lightly on each patty and bake for 10 minutes. Flip discs, brush with olive oil, and bake another 10 minutes. Broil for 1-2 minutes, if you want them a little crisper.

NOTE: Quite often you see falafels shaped into balls. If you like, you can do this – they’ll still taste the same. But I prefer them flattened so they fit into the pita bread better. (Also, they don’t roll all over the cookie sheet.) If you’re making falafels as an hors d’oeuvre, then I would go with the spherical shape.

To assemble:  Either cut pitas in half and stuff them, or layer filling on top and fold (like a taco). Spoon on tzatziki sauce, and add in tomato, lettuce, red onions, or olives, if desired.

TZATZIKI SAUCE – makes about 3/4 cup

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (click Homemade Yogurt to make your own)
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp salt (I used kosher)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.