Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my favorite florist Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.


You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.


I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

Peach Salsa

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I don’t buy into too many food trends, as you know. I don’t put lavender into ice cream, I don’t like rosemary in cocktails, I like lemongrass only in Thai food, and I don’t stick bacon into everything possible. It will probably be 20 more years before I ever make kale chips. No, I’ll probably never make them.

So years ago when I spotted peach salsa at a gourmet food store, I really surprised myself when I purchased it. I mean, peaches in tomato salsa? I don’t remember the brand, but it really was pretty tasty.

Being me, I knew I could make it even better. Not to say I’m that great of a cook, it’s just that anything home-made will beat anything jarred commercially.

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Anymore, peach salsa doesn’t really even sound very trendy. It’s become as commonplace as boysenberry barbecue sauce and the like.

The salsa works well with good canned tomatoes as well as fresh ones right out of the garden, but that peach needs to be ripe, so I only make it in the summer.

I serve this salsa slightly warmed. Oh, it’s good.

Peach Salsa

2 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 peach, peeled, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Have all of your tomatoes seeded and chopped before you start with this recipe. It doesn’t take long to make.

In a medium enameled pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

After cooking for a minute, stir in the peach, cilantro, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

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Give everything a stir, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. There should be little or no liquid in the salsa.

Add the apple cider vinegar, stir, and cook for about 1 minute.

Then add the lemon juice. Stir to distribute evenly.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly before serving.

This warm, slightly fruit-sweetened salsa is really good with tortilla chips. But it’s also good on a basic cheese quesadilla.

Try out this salsa if you’re skeptical like I once was. You’ll taste the peach and the touch of cinnamon, but also the ripe tomatoes with Mexican seasonings.

And think about how much less expensive this salsa is to make at home!

Cherry Salsa

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The prettiest cherries I’ve ever seen was on a drizzly day in Trier, Germany. Coincidentally, the white asparagus was at its peak as well! This is a photo from 2006, while walking through a square on our way to lunch, where I failed miserably attempting to speak German and read the menu!

Later on this trip, we visited the Schwarzwald, or the Black Forest region of Germany, known for Schwarzwald Torte, or Black Forest cake. At the Black Forest open-air museum we ran in to these ladies wearing their bollenhut.

The tradition is that the hats/bonnets with the giant cherry-red woolen bobbles must be worn while ladies are single. After the point they are married, they get to switch to a black version. I think I would have just moved to a different part of Germany.

Recently I was lucky enough to pick cherries from a friend’s trees. As I mentioned when I posted on the baked goat brie topped with roasted cherries, I wanted to create recipes for these fabulous fresh cherries that went beyond the basic cherry pie. That’s when I decided on cherry salsa.

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Now I know that I’m the first to gripe when terms are loosely used in the culinary world – words like confit, coulis, pesto, and yes, salsa. But it’s the only word I could think of to describe this lovely seasonal condiment.

It not cooked like a chutney, and it’s not a sauce. It is similar to the fresh tomato salsa I make in the summer, which really is a salsa, and also the cranberry salsa I make for the holidays. I used fresh cherries,orange, cilantro, shallots and ginger. It has zing, a freshness, some tartness and sweetness.

Use it with any kind of meat and poultry, just like you would a chutney or cranberry sauce. Here’s what I did.

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Fresh Cherry Salsa

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 shallot, minced
1 slice of ginger, approximately 1″ in diameter x 1/4″ thick, minced
Zest of 1 small orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave, if cherries are tart
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne
2 cups cherries, halved if they’re large

Combine the cilantro, shallot, ginger, and zest in a bowl. Add the liquids, the salt and cayenne.

Then add the cherries and stir gently to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

I love using sesame seed oil, and I thought it would enhance the shallot, ginger, orange and cayenne.

Serve at room temperature.

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I served the cherry salsa with a simple roast chicken and butternut squash.

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The flavors are spectacular.

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Fresh Salsa

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We love salsa in our family. All kinds. I guess we’re all Mexican food addicts as well. I found this on Facebook, and it could have been written by anyone of us!

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On this blog, I’ve posted on home-made salsa, which I can every year, and also an exquisite peach salsa. Both are cooked salsas.

But this post is on a fresh salsa, or salsa fresca, sometimes also called pico de gallo. I’ve been making it for over 30 years, and I never change what I do, which is odd for me.

It must be made during the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak of ripeness. Other than tomatoes, you only need a few other ingredients.

So the following salsa I serve with tortilla chips, often along with guacamole for an appetizer, but it’s also good on tacos and fajitas. Heck, it’s good on eggs, fish, you name it.

I never make a large batch because I don’t feel that it keeps well. It’s something about the tomatoes.

As I sometimes do, I’m not giving an exact recipe. You’ll be able to tell from the photos what my ratios of ingredients are, and I can assure you that it will be a completely satisfying salsa! Adjust ingredients as you wish to suit your own taste!

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Fresh Summer Salsa

Fresh tomatoes, finely chopped, I use Romas
Purple onions, finely diced
Green onions, rinsed, drip-dried, thinly sliced
Cilantro, rinsed, drip-dried, chopped
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Tabasco sauce, or your favorite hot sauce

First de-seed the tomatoes by cutting each Roma into 4-5 lengthwise pieces, then removing the seeds. I even place the tomatoes on paper towels first so that they’re not watery.


Then dice them and place in a medium bowl.

Dice the purple onions and place them with the tomatoes.

Slice the green onions, and place them with the tomatoes and purple onions.

Then add the cilantro and mix everything together gently. The salsa should look like this.


Here’s the fun part. Add as much Tabasco sauce as you’d like. I added quite a few glugs, but the hotness of the salsa is up to you.
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Stir gently but thoroughly and let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes.
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Serve at room temperature!


And of course it’s best with Mexican beer!

Enjoy!
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Refried Black Beans

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Today I want to show you something else to do with leftover cooked beans, which I originally wrote about when I posted on black beans. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love beans, and although canned are useful, it’s so easy and so much less expensive to cook your own from dried. So if you are scared to cook dried beans from scratch, check out that link.

Since I made that pot of beans, I’ve posted on a couple of different ways to use the cooked beans, and today is the final post. I’m making refried beans, although there’s no frying involved. By simply using the food processor, you can process cooked beans into the same texture as refried beans. Only a little liquid or broth is required.

So once again, no recipe is required, I’ll just show you what I do to make the refried beans, and turn them into black bean burritos.

1. Place the cooked beans in the jar of a food processor.
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2. Process, using a little leftover bean broth if you have some, or water, just enough to mush up the beans.
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3. For burritos using this refried bean mixture, simply place the amount you want on a tortilla. I’m using whole-wheat tortillas.
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4. Continue doing this with the remaining tortillas and refried beans, placing them in a greased baking pan.
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5. Pour on your home-made ancho chile sauce or even salsa if you have that on hand. Just make sure the salsa isn’t watery. Then sprinkle with cheese. I used a white cheddar, but goat cheese, or Mexican cotija cheese are wonderful as well.

6. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has browned slightly.

And that’s it! You can also fill these burritos with grilled veggies, steak, or chicken, but I typically leave these as is for our one vegetarian household member.
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Besides, they’re really good and meaty on their own.


If you want to season the beans, I would add cumin, dried oregano, and coriander.
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Summer Sea Bass

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I actually went to the store to purchase salmon, because I promised Stefan, from the blog Stefan Gourmet, that I would sous vide salmon. I’ve used my beloved sous vide demi for a variety of meats, but never fish. When I met Stefan in person, he made me promise I’d try salmon.

But, they had no salmon. Not really surprising. I kind of live in the middle of nowhere. We’re landlocked here, so seafood is always a challenging purchase. But I also remember going to the store in this town many years ago with two different grocery lists. If I was having company, I planned two different menus, because most likely a significant ingredient was not available. Like, green beans or cilantro. Or pork.

Fortunately, grocery shopping has improved from those days, but honestly, I shouldn’t have high expectations from the seafood department.

So, no salmon. But I spotted a beautiful filet of sea bass. I always remember Julia Child suggesting that you ask the guy who works seafood who doesn’t really care about seafood fish monger to smell the fish you want to buy, to make sure that it is fresh. Great advice, but I’ve never been brave enough to do this. Fortunately the bass smelled really good when I got a piece of the filet home.

It’s a truly beautiful white fish. I got Stefan’s recommendation for sous vide’ing the filet. After all, he is the King of Sous Vide. Water temperature 118 degrees Farenheit, for 20 minutes. One end of the filet was quite thick, otherwise 10-15 minutes will do it.

It’s quite simple. You set the temperature, vacuum seal the fish, and watch the time.

Afterwards, pat the fish filet with paper towels.

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Meanwhile, make a topping for the fish. This really isn’t a salsa, or even Southwestern, in my mind, mostly because I didn’t use hot sauce or chile peppers. To me, I wanted the flavors of summer to shine with the sea bass.

I mixed together purple onion, avocado, freshly cooked corn, tomatoes, and cilantro. Plus a squeeze of lime. Simple. Mango or peach would have worked with the other ingredients, but I hadn’t planned ahead when I purchased the sea bass. Stir the ingredients well and set aside.

To prepare the fish to serve, only a slight bit or searing is necessary, since the sous vide does the cooking. The searing just adds a little color. You can sear as much as you wish; I went for a modest sear.

I love fish cooked in butter, but because of the summer-inspired topping, I decided on olive oil. Simply add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and turn on the heat to its maximum. You might want to turn on your ventilation system as well.

Add the fish, which I cut into four pieces to make things easier, to the skillet. Stefan suggested only searing on the skin side, but I did both. The fish flesh was very firm, so I knew it wouldn’t fall apart from being flipped over in the skillet.

Serve the sea bass immediately along with the summer-inspired topping.

I paired the meal with a Tecate, which is one of my favorite beers. A crisp Riesling or Pinot Blanc would be wonderful as well.

As you can see, the fish is glistening. It’s perfectly cooked – tender and moist.

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This was so successful and impressive. I will definitely use my sous vide machine for more fish experiments. After all, we must eat!!!

Quesadillas

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It was my mother who first made a quesadilla in our home about the time I was in high school. Of course, she was the one who did the cooking, but there had never been Mexican food prepared in our home before. She cooked food from a lot of international cuisines, like Greece, Russia, France, India, Ethiopia, and China, but somehow had never been exposed to Mexican. Which is funny to me, because she really loves everything spicy. I think she eats more jalapenos than I do, and I love jalapenos!

The way we all discovered Mexican food was at a restaurant in Park City, Utah. It was there where we fell in love with cheesy quesadillas, as well as other Mexican and Southwestern specialties.

And being my mother, she went home and made them herself. So this is recipe I’m presenting for quesadillas is how I learned how to make them, from copying my mother’s technique. I honestly think they’re better than in any restaurant – browned, crispy, with cheesy wonderful goodness inside. Whatever ingredients you choose will work, I promise you, as long as there’s enough cheese to hold everything together!

And that’s the fun part. Today I’m simply using chicken, purple onion, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, cilantro, and lots of Monterey jack cheese. Plus tortillas, of course. But you can add any meat, any kind of cheese, and any accessory ingredients.

On two different occasions, back when I catered, I made quesadillas to order at parties. I had 2 skillets going, and used smaller tortillas, since one larger one can easily fill a person to the brim! The guests got to pick their ingredients. I even had chopped mango, which I love to mix with spicy beef and cilantro in quesadillas. Avocados work well, and are a good meat substitute, if necessary. It’s a really fun thing to do, even at your own party. For a smaller group, of course.

In any case, today I present to you my way of making quesadillas. This will hopefully inspire you to try your own, using your favorite ingredients!

Quesadillas

Olive oil
Red bell pepper, diced
Poblano pepper, diced
Purple onion, diced
Tortillas, I used a multi-grain variety
Grilled chicken, I used one I’d marinated in a lime-garlic marinade, then grilled, sliced thinly
Butter
Grated cheese, I used Monterey jack
Chopped cilantro
Hot sauce or salsa for serving


Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, then add all of the peppers and onion. Saute just until soft and set aside.

Get out another skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Have all of the ingredients nearby; the quesadilla cooking process goes fairly quickly.

First begin by adding about 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot skillet. It will brown, but that’s good. Place the tortilla in the skillet.

Working quickly, place half of the cheese allotted per quesadilla on top of the tortilla, then place the chicken slices over the top.

Quickly add the chopped cilantro and the remaining cheese. Top with another tortilla. Press down on it, then reduce the heat to practically nothing, and place a lid on the skillet.

After a few minutes, flip over the quesadilla. That’s why it’s important to lower the heat, because you need the cheese to be melted to keep the two tortillas sticking together. Otherwise you won’t be able to successfully flip it.

Raise the heat just a little bit to get some browning on the other side, but leave the lid on to heat everything through on the inside. Remove the quesadilla from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board. It will cut better when you rest it.

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Continue with remaining tortillas if you’re making more.
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I am a huge fan of salsa, but for these quesadillas, I used green and red hot sauces that were given to me by Richard, from REM Cooks, when I met him in Dallas. He has recipes on his blog for both of these hot sauces, so if you have an abundance of chile peppers coming up in your garden, check them out.

Quesadillas are best hot or warm, when they’re really crispy. The butter really does the trick in this recipe, but making adjustments with the flames help as well. If you have an electric stove – I’m sorry, I can’t help you. You probably have to be a little more careful!

Home Made Salsa

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

Of course, this is only the second summer that I’ve canned, so it’s only the second summer I’ve made an abundance of salsa. I don’t think last year’s salsa even made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. So I’m determined to do that this month.

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. I mostly like flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

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Canned Salsa, or, Salsa for Canning

Lots of tomatoes, probably about 4-5 pounds – I used so many different varieties from my garden that I can’t really quantify them, and I didn’t weigh them ahead of time because I wasn’t sure how many I was going to use
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 green chile peppers like Anaheims, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – cartons Pomi chopped tomatoes, 26.8 ounces each*
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, seed the tomatoes and finely chop them. Set them aside.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions, green bell pepper, and the Anaheim peppers. Saute them for about 5 minutes.

I often chop jalapenos by hand, without gloves. But as a result, I have burned my eyes and nose many times. It’s not pleasant. So it’s really not worth being defiant about jalapenos and other hot chile peppers.

Fortunately, I was given a gift of this chopper, and it works really well on jalapenos! No touching necessary, except for removing the stem. I don’t even de-seed them first. But if you want to remove the seeds, which are what supposedly supply the most heat, use a latex glove. Then throw the jalapeno flesh into your chopper along with the garlic cloves and chop away! It’s just one way to make a nice jalapeno and garlic dice. No chopper? Use your knife!

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Add the jalapeno and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute. Then add the canned tomatoes and the fresh tomatoes.

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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. Add the apple cider vinegar and cook for about 1 minute. You shouldn’t be able to smell the vinegar any longer. Turn off the stove, add the lemon juice, and give everything a stir. Let cool.
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Someone selling salsa at a trade fair told me that he uses vinegar for that little bit of zing, but then adds lemon juice to cover up the flavor of the vinegar. I don’t know if that really works. Heck, I’m not sure it even makes sense. But I have done it that way for years.

To prepare to can, you need a large sturdy pot with a lid, preferably one with a heat gauge, like this one.

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You can purchase the same one as mine at Wiliams-Sonoma.com.
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One thing about canning, is that it will burn up your stove. What I mean, is that any bit of residue will burn, and because of the high heat, the brown spots can never be removed. At least I can’t. So I just use the same burner for canning.

You also need jars and lids that have been sterilized. I sterilize mine in the dishwasher. Remove them carefully and lay the jars and lids on paper towels. The important thing is to not put your fingers inside the jars and lids.

Then carefully scoop the salsa into the jars. There a wide-mouth funnel that you can use, but I didn’t use mine today because the salsa wasn’t that messy. Using a clean knife or narrow spatula, tamp down the salsa to remove any air bubbles within. Always leave a “headroom” of half an inch. Trust me on this. Otherwise the jars will leak. Then, if necessary, wipe off the tops of the jars with a clean paper towel.

I filled 4 – 12 ounce-capacity jars and had some left over salsa to refrigerate and enjoy over the next few days.

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Place the lids on the jars, and then place the jars in the large pot. Fill the pot with water, at least 1″ above the top of the tallest jar. Place the lid on the pot and turn up the heat to high.

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My gauge tells me when to begin counting the minutes to can. I can’t start counting until it reaches the green.
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To know how many minutes your jars should be in the waterbath, use a reliable reference, like the one below, because canning times vary drastically. This has a lot to do with the acidity of what you’re canning. Tomatoes are acidic, so all tomato products require only 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, remove the jars from the boiling water. It helps to have this tool, which securely grabs the jars for easy and safe removal. This guy is also available at Williams-Sonoma.com.

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Let the jars cool. You will hear a pop from each jar from the vacuum seal. After cooling, test the tops of the lids to make sure they don’t move or pop. They should be somewhat concave, especially if you used the 2-part lids. And as a note, you can re-use the rings, but throw away the used flat lids and replace them the next time you can. They’re cheap.

Store the jars in your pantry and use as necessary. Once the salsa jars are open, of course, refrigerate them. It’s probably wise to always inspect the jars for any strange bubbles or discoloration, and give the salsa a good smell after opening. It’s just about being safe. But seriously, canning is really straight forward.

* If I used approximately 50 something ounces of canned tomatoes, then I’m assuming I used about the same weight of fresh, seeded tomatoes, because it was about a 50-50 mixture of canned and fresh. I weighed a medium, round tomato on the day I wrote this post and it weighed 5 ounces exactly. So, that’s at least ten tomatoes for this recipe. Hope that helps.
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note: If you’ve read my notes on how I cook, then you’ll understand why I don’t have precise recipes. The reason? Preciseness doesn’t really matter in home cooking. You can omit the jalapenos and this salsa will still be good. In fact, the above chile peppers came out of my garden, so I wanted to use them. If I had to buy salsa ingredients only at a grocery store, I might have chosen different ones. Also, you can add more cilantro and it will still be good. I encourage you to make this salsa your own. Trust me, it will still work.