Cooked Salsa

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This salsa recipe is the one that I make in abundance during the summer months for canning purposes. That way, in theory, we have lots of salsa to open during the winter months.

Last year’s salsa only made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. I’m determined to do that this month.

I refer to it as a cooked salsa, as opposed to my go-to fresh salsa, shown below, which requires summer ripe tomatoes.

The great thing about making your own salsa is that you can make it to your own specifications. My husband doesn’t like salsa that’s too vinegarry and I don’t like them sweet, which many purchased salsas are.

I will give you an approximation of my cooked salsa recipe, but I encourage you to create your own recipe that fits you. I don’t like my salsa to be burning hot, but I do like heat and lots of flavor flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

Cooked Salsa

Lots of tomatoes, about 5 pounds, of any variety but all red
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green chile peppers like Anaheim or Hatch chiles, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes, or equivalent product
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, peel and seed the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling on the stove, and have a bowl of icy cold water set to the side. Cut a shallow X opposite the stem end of each tomato, and place a few at a time in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Remove them to the icy water and repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Let rest on towels once they’re out of the cold water for about one minute. With a paring knife, the peel with come off easily. Then core each one, and remove the seeds.

Chop and place in a bowl; set aside.

Next, chop the onions, finely chop the red bell pepper, stem, de-seed and chop the chile peppers, and dice the garlic. I used a gadget for much of this chopping.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper, chile pepper, and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute.

Add the fresh and canned tomatoes. Notice I’m using New Jersey crushed tomatoes. It’s a great product!

Cook the mixture, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. It should not be watery. If it is, cook a little longer. Then add the cilantro and seasonings. Taste.

Stir in the vinegar and cook for about one minute, then stir in the lemon juice. The theory is that the zing is needed from the vinegar, but the lemon juice removes the odor from it. Turn off the stove and let the salsa cool before adding to sterilized jars, if you’re canning..

This post is not a primer on canning but I recommend doing it. We’ve all worried that food will explode, but it won’t! Get yourself a few products, plus a good book. There are safety concerns, but canning is not a big deal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. If you want to make salsa during winter months, you can simply use all canned tomatoes, perhaps a mixture of diced and crushed, depending how chunky you want your salsa.

One can certainly get more creative as well, using roasted chile peppers, including chile pepper powders, adding other ingredients like beans, corn, and peaches. It will all work!

Torta di Pomodoro

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During the summer, I was showing a friend the four tomato pies I have on my blog, after discussing tomatoes growing profusely in her garden. Lucky her! I shared my recipe for Mimi’s Tomato Pie, and my Rustic Tomato Galette, and Chef JP’s Tomato Pie. I guess I love tomato pies!

But the fourth blog post, for torta di pomodoro, was missing. I’ve deleted many posts from the “early years” because of bad photography, but typically I’ll save the text. Interestingly enough, I found the photos only. So here I am again making this fabulous pie. It’s a great problem to have!

I discovered this recipe in a wonderful cookbook called The Best of Bugialli, by Giuliano Bugialli, published in 1994.

The tomato pie, shown on the cover, quickly became a family favorite. And instead of using garden-ripe tomatoes, it’s made with a rich sauce from canned tomatoes, so it can be made year round.

Chef Bugialli has been a favorite Italian cookbook author of mine for a long time. He’s quite passionate about regional Italian cooking, and will scold Americans for indiscriminately putting cheese on pasta! (Guilty.)

Torta di Pomodoro

For the crust:
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold sweet butter
5 tablespoons cold water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the filling:
1 medium-sized celery stalk
1 carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized red onion, cleaned
1 small clove garlic, peeled
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 pounds drained canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian (of course!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sweet butter
3 extra large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
Fresh basil leaves to serve

Sift the flour onto a board and arrange it in a mount. Cut the butter into pieces and place over the mound. Use a metal dough scraper to incorporate the butter into the flour, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time and seasoning with the salt and nutmeg. When all the water is used up, a ball of dough should be formed. Place the ball in a dampened cotton dish towel and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

(I followed the crust recipe, but used a food processor. I remember watching a Julia Child show when Martha Stewart made a pie crust in a food processor for her, and Julia was hooked! So I feel justified in doing this.)

To make the filling, coarsely chop the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley and basil all together on a board. Place the canned tomatoes in a non-reactive casserole, then arrange all the prepared vegetables over the tomatoes.

Pour the olive oil on top. Cover the casserole, set it over medium heat and cook for about 1 hour, without stirring, shaking the casserole often to be sure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom.

Pass the contents of the casserole through a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a second casserole. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Place the casserole over medium heat and let the mixture reduce for 15 minutes more, or until a rather thick sauce forms. (Seriously, it can’t be watery.)

Transfer the sauce to a crockery or glass bowl and let cool completely.

Butter a 9 1/2” tart pan with a removable bottom.

Flour a pastry board. Unwrap the pastry and knead it for about 30 seconds on the board, then use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to a 14” disc. Roll up the disc on the rolling pin and unroll it over the buttered pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cut off the dough around the rim of the pan by moving the rolling pin over it.

Using a fork, make several punctures in the pastry to keep it from puffing up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the pastry, then put pie weights in the pan. Refrigerate the pastry for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and lift out the foil and weights. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs and Parmigiano-reggiano to the cooled tomato sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and mix very well with a wooden spoon.

Remove the tart pan from the oven after the last 10 minutes, leaving the oven on. Let the crust cool for 15 minutes, then pour in the prepared filling.

Bake the tart 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 15 minutes. In the past I’ve also let the pie sit in the turned-off oven for 10-15 minutes. The filling should not be jiggly.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Slice the tart like a pie and serve it with the fresh basil leaves.

If I was serving this for company, it would be accompanied by a green salad.

But it was just for us!

by the way, this pie dough recipe is fantastic, and made a seriously flaky crust, although it shrunk, and I’d let it rest.

Puttanesca Relish

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My mother gave me this lovely book simply called Charcuterie, published in 2014. “How to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats.”

For the blog I’ve already made an eye catching and incredibly tasting salad – chorizo and red cabbage.

This little book is full of surprisingly unique recipes using charcuterie, making charcuterie, or for charcuterie.

Case in point, puttanesca relish caught my attention. Being that pasta puttanesca is my favorite pasta dish, I could easily imagine all of the puttanesca flavors together, served as a relish.

From the book, “This relish is quite like tapenade, but it’s lighter and not as rich. It can be used to add to sandwiches and recipes, but it’s also lovely served with a charcuterie board and spooned onto the meats.”

I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s as easy as making a tapenade, because you can use your food processor.

Puttanesca Relish
Slightly adapted

2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
Big pinch of fresh chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes

Place the first six ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the pieces are nice and small and the texture is relatively smooth.

Add remaining ingredients. Leave some small chunks, don’t let it become a purée.

Transfer the mixture to a small sterilized jar or an airtight container and cover, if not using immediately.

I served the relish with soft bread, Parmesan, and soprasetta. It is outstanding.

This relish will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and is suitable for freezing.

If you freeze it, make sure to test the relish. It might need a boost in flavor.

I will definitely be making this again and again.

I used a new product for this recipe – capers in olive oil. Excellent.

Pasta Puttanesca

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I recently looked at my recipe index for pasta ideas, because a girlfriend was visiting. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, served with a salad. A perfect meal.

Creamy and cheesy pasta always comes to mind. But of course pasta with various types of red sauces, raw or cooked then pop into my brain… and I began dreaming of pasta puttanesca. It’s not something I can make for my husband because he is not fond of olives and capers… but my girlfriend is.

So, I looked up my own blog post for pasta puttanesca, because I knew I’d made it early on in my blog, and it was missing! All I had were these photos.

The “finished” pasta photos don’t look horrible, which many photos of mine did in the “early” days (2012-2014…) but for some reason the post had disappeared. And this pasta is my favorite pasta if you had a gun to my head.

Well, I got to make it again! And my girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.

The recipe I used is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Kitchen,” – the story of her love affair with the kitchen.

Quote from Lady Nigella regarding pasta puttanesca: “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore’s pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

I really wish I could talk and write like Ms. Lawson.

Pasta Puttanesca
Aka whore’s pasta
Printable recipe below
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons strong extra-virgin olive oil, like Hojasanta
8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cayenne chile pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti (I used linguine)
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost “melted”, then add the garlic and cayenne flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.

This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to package instructions.

Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the garlic-anchovy mixture, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your wok or pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce. (I don’t do this step.)

Scatter with chopped parsley, if there’s some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

What’s slatternly? No idea.

I served the pasta with a pinot noir. It was perfect.

 

 

Kefta Meatball Tagine

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The whole name of this recipe is Kefta Meatball Tagine in Tomato Sauce with Eggs. It’s from the cookbook Morocco, written by Jeff Koehler, published in 2012. I think I bought the cookbook because of the stunning photo on the cover, which is a beet and potato soup.

The subtitle describes this book as “a culinary journey with recipes from the spice-scented markets of Marrakech to the date-filled oasis of Zamora.”

From the book, “Tagine is the name of the dish as well as the round, shallow-based terra-cotta (clay or ceramic) casserole with a tall, pointed, conical lid. The lid fits into the base’s grooved rim and acts as a closed chimney. The steam rises and condenses on the wall of the lid, and the moisture falls back onto the simmering food, preventing the loss of moisture or flavor. Tagines are perfect for slow cooking, whether over an ember-filled brazier or the low to medium heat on a stove.”

There is some prepping to do if you’ve just purchased a tagine, similar to seasoning a cast-iron skillet. But care must be taken always to not overheat the tagine or it will crack. Medium direct heat is the maximum suggested for using a tagine on the stove.

Also from the book, “To season a tagine, submerge the base and lid in water for at least 2 hours (overnight if not glazed). Remove and let dry completely. Brush the inside of the base and lid with olive oil. For an unglazed tagine, paint the entire vessel with oil. Place in a cold oven and turn on to 350 degrees. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the tagine to slowly, and completely, cool. Season the tagine again if it goes unused for a number of months.”

Which is probably what happened to my first tagine. I hadn’t used it for a while, and didn’t realize I should re-season it, so the bottom cracked.

I recently decided to purchase one again. Because I love the look of La Chamba cookware, I purchased a La Chamba tagine. Seasoning directions were included.

This recipe is reminiscent of shakshuka, with the eggs cooked in red sauce, but then, with meatballs?!! I just had to make it.

Kefta Meatball Tagine in Tomato Sauce with Eggs
printable recipe below

1 1/4 pound ground beef, not learn
1/2 medium red onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Heaped 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heaped 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups canned peeled whole Italian plum tomatoes, seeded, with juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large eggs

In a mixing bowl, add the meat, onion, one of the garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon each of the cumin, paprika, cinnamon, parsley, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and blend into a consistent, smooth paste.

Taking spoonfuls of the mix, roll meatballs that are about 1 1/4” in diameter. There should be about 36 total.

In a food processor, using quick pulses, purée the tomatoes and their juice. (I used tomato sauce I’d made from my fresh tomatoes.)

In a tagine, add the olive oil and tomatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium-low heat until deep red and thicker, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic, spices, and herbs.

Gently set the meatballs in the tomato sauce. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, gently turning the meatballs with a pair of spoons until browned on all sides.

Dribble in 1/4 cup of water, loosely cover, and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. The tomato sauce should be a little loose. Add a bit more water if necessary to keep the sauce loose.

Make four spaces between the meatballs and gently crack the eggs into the tagine. Cover and cook until the eggs set, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I served with a little bit more chopped parsley and cilantro, as well as a flatbread on the side.

I didn’t make my own flatbread, I purchased pita bread.

Wow this is so good, just as expected. The spices make this dish, as do the herbs.

Of course, you don’t need a tagine to make this dish, so don’t worry if you don’t own one. Use a braiser or deep skillet.

 

Chicken with Chick Peas, Tomatoes, and Chorizo

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You all know that I’m kind of a stubborn gal. Trends of all kinds send me in the opposite direction. I did love bell bottoms, but I was young and silly then. I will never get long pointy fingernails that seems de rigeur these days. I’m too practical. Besides I’d mostly like slice my eyeballs.

When it comes to food, I’m the same, although I’m the first to admit that I’ve been wrong. I married a guy with an orange crock pot. Never used it. Now they’re called slow cookers. I bought one and use it. Pesto and sun-dried tomatoes were on every menu in the 80’s, so none for me. Very silly. And then there was cauliflower rice. Made my eyes roll, but the recipe I made was really good! Bowls? Why does food have to be in bowls? I’ll never have an instapot, but that’s mostly cause I don’t need anything insta anymore with no kids at home.


Which brings me to when I first started noticing tray bakes and sheet pan bakes and the sort. Even my beloved Nigella put food baked in a jelly roll pan on Instagram. Really? A jelly roll pan is just a shallow baking dish!!!

Once again, I broke down once I saw the cookbook, The Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer. It’s “simple one dish dinners.” Which I’m assuming are different than one pot dinners?!! Sorry, I can’t help myself.

The Roasting Tin, below left, was published in 2017, followed in 2018 by The Green Roasting Tin.

To be fair, I bookmarked a number of good sounding recipes in the cookbook. The recipes are easy and I trust that the main ingredients come out of the oven all cooked properly, because the authors seems quite popular. One pot tray-bake meals do cut out any preliminary steps like sautéing or browning or par-boiling.

This is the recipe I chose to make first.

Chicken with Chorizo, Chick Peas, and Tomatoes

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
100 grams or 3.5 ounces chorizo, roughly chopped
1 – 400 gram tin of chickpeas, drained
1 – 400 grams or 14 ounce tin of tomatoes
300 milliliter or 10 ounces water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.4 kilograms or 3 pounds chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. Place the onion, garlic, rosemary, chorizo, chickpeas and tomatoes in a roasting tin, and use the water to rinse out the tomato tin before pouring it in with everything else. Season well with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken thighs over the tomato mixture, and rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, then transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes.

Turn the heat up to 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F and roast for a further 50 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

Taste the sauce, season as needed with salt and black pepper, and serve hot.

So, have I ever in my million years of cooking thrown purple onions in with sweet potatoes when roasting? Sure. Have I ever cooked chicken and sausages in the same roasting pan? Of course.

However, this book does have some unique ideas, and I can’t deny the fact that it is fun to cook a whole meal in a “tray” with minimal preparation and mess!

Although if you noticed, I did use a roasting pan. My jelly-roll pans warp when they’re in the oven, which would have created a terrible mess.

I’m sure the author will forgive me for not using a tray.

Tomato Basil Soup

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There was a little bistro here in my town – a sandwich, soup, and salad kind of place. It was successful, but the owners eventually retired and moved to Texas to be closer to their extended family.

The one thing I always ordered was their tomato basil soup. It was rich, tomatoey, and perfumed with sweet basil. And I don’t typically order soup at restaurants.

This is my attempt to recreate something hopefully similar, and definitely good, based on the following criteria.

1. I believe in using good quality canned tomatoes. Summer fresh tomatoes are lovely, but can lack in sweetness, or worse yet – can be tart.

2. I’m adding a carrot to provide a sweet boost, something I learned from making an Italian tomato tart.

3. I’m including a few sun-dried tomatoes for sweetness; they also help thicken.

4. Dried basil goes into this soup. I know that it seems unsophisticated, but I feel both fresh and dried herbs have their places in cooking.

Tomato Basil Soup
printable recipe below

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 – 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes, or other high quality brand
6 sun-dried tomato halves, jarred in oil
1 tablespoon (or more) dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large enameled pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic halves and stir for about 30 seconds, then pour in the canned tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.

Simmer the tomato mixture for at least 30 minutes, uncovered. Cook longer if there’s still too much liquid; you’ll be adding cream later.

Stir in the sweet basil and salt, and season to taste.

Let the soup cool. Then pour the soup into a large blender jar, along with the cream.

Return the puréed soup to the pot and heat through before serving.

Even with the cream, the soup remains tomato-red, and definitely rich in flavor.

If more richness and creaminess are desired, you can always add a little sour cream or crème fraiche.

Alternatively, crumble a little goat cheese on top.

This soup is fairly quick and definitely easy. If you don’t have sun-dried tomatoes, just use a good quality tomato paste instead, about 3 tablespoons. I like tubular tomato paste for a small job.


Add more dried basil if the soup isn’t basil-y enough. You should definitely taste the tomato-basil combination!