Fresh Salsa

My dad suggested a few weeks ago that we try to make salsa from the vegetables in his garden. I easily got on board with this idea, but had to break it to him that we would need more than his garden offers. Luckily, though, his plentiful tomatoes offered an excellent base for a fundamental salsa recipe.

SalsaI had never made fresh salsa, per se, but I did have some starting expertise from two sources. First, I’ve made a good bit of guacamole in my day, and the ingredients are similar (sans avocado, of course). Second, my friend and chef mentor of yesteryear, Lisa, used to make salsa and advised me on the key to her approach–namely, that vegetables should be diced small in a careful and deliberate way, not pulverized in a food processor. I never attempted salsa back in my college days, but I remembered her advice and remembered the very particular and positive effect it had on her salsa recipe.

SARAH’S FRESH SALSA

2-3 lbs. medium tomatoes, just ripe (flesh should be firm, not grainy)
1 large onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 jalapenos, or other hot pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
cilantro, several sprigs, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Quarter the tomatoes, seed them, rinse clean and then place on a paper towels to dry a bit.

Meanwhile, dice the vegetables. All vegetables should be chopped into small pieces, but not so small that they lose their shape (as would happen in pulverized in a food processor). This process isn’t as labor intensive as you might think. Onions can be sliced first to create rings, and the cut into tiny cubes against the grain of its natural layers. Slice peppers in half length-wise, seed them, and then cut long, slender strips. Make slender cuts in the other direction, now, to make small pieces. Once tomatoes have dried a bit, do the same.

Combine diced onion, minced garlic, chopped jalapenos, and chopped tomatoes in a medium bowl. Juice the lime over the bowl. Snip the cilantro into the mix, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand in the refrigerator at least a half hour. I usually try to make it a day ahead of time to let the flavors meld together. Serve with chips or tacos or any dish to which salsa is a good compliment.

Quiche

DSC01469Over the weekend, I found myself planning a brunch menu, and so could not help but be reminded of an old favorite recipe–quiche! Perfect for brunch and very customizable. Of course, a traditional quiche uses a pie crust, but in my experience, the pie crust adds a pretty big extra inconvenience. Not only must it be made and baked first, but the exposed crust must be guarded against getting burnt while the middle of the pie is left uncovered. Unless you have a special pie crust guard, an unwieldy make-shift tin foil guard is necessary. If you’re so intent on a classic pie crust that you’re willing to deal with the annoyance, go right ahead–I recommend buying a pre-made pie shell at the store and preparing it according to package directions. But given my family’s preference toward low carb, I have every reason to eschew the inconvenience of the pie crust and make a crust-less quiche.

My favorite sort of quiche to make is with bacon, but over the weekend I made a vegetarian quiche with spinach. In the past I have combined bacon and spinach, and truly, any combination of vegetables and/or protein would work in this recipe.

SARAH’S QUICHE

butter & almond meal
4 eggs beaten
1 cup light cream or half n half
1/2 cup sour cream
3 or more green onions, chopped or snipped
1 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg
1/3 lb chopped crisp bacon, or 10oz spinach, or other meat, fish or vegetable
1 1/2 cup shredded swiss or other cheese
1 tablespoon flour

DSC01464Pre-heat oven to 325. Prepare a 9 to 10-inch shallow casserole pan by greasing it with butter and then coat with the almond meal. In the absence of almond meal, breadcrumbs could be used, but that would predictably make the dish a bit higher in carbs.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, cream, onions and spices. Add meat and/or vegetables. In a small bowl or plastic bag, toss the flour with the shredded cheese. Add to the rest of the quiche ingredients.

Pour the quiche contents into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 for at least 45 minutes. Test done-ness by inserting a butter knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Otherwise bake for longer, and test every 5 minutes or so.

Risotto

Until maybe a year ago, I didn’t know much about risotto. I remember as a kid and young adult, people on TV seemed to order it a lot in restaurant scenes, but then I hadn’t heard much about it until watching one of these chef competition shows where the contestants were challenged to make the perfect risotto–a task that is somewhat tricky, in large part because timing and temperature issues come into place. The rice must be cooked slowly and at a constant temperature, and so the broth used cooking it must be kept hot in a separate saucepan.

I did some online research and began experimentation. I don’t know if my risotto could stack up against the chefs on the competition show, but I’ve found that produces what is essentially a “rice alfredo” with the option for much customization; vegetables, mushrooms, fish & meat, and even nuts and lemon provide great options for dressing up the dish. I’ve found that risotto has become of my favorite dishes to cook, in large part because it is just fussy enough, requiring time and attention, but not so much that I can’t be working on other dishes at the same time.

Roasted Pepper RisottoSARAH’S RISOTTO

3 cups broth (chicken is standard, but I’ve made and used fish broth for salmon risotto)
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup medium grain rice (arborio rice is traditional)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
add-ins, such as spinach, roasted peppers, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, salmon, almonds, pesto, wild mushrooms etc.

Heat the broth in a small saucepan and keep over constant low heat. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Saute the onion and garlic until softened.

Add the rice to the onions and garlic. Fry for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until wine is absorbed.

Add broth gradually to rice, keeping it hot in its saucepan in the meantime. You should aim for there to be a thin veil of broth over the rice at all times during cooking.

Once broth is used up, add the cream, cheese, seasonings and add-ins and heat through. Serve and enjoy!