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!

Rustic Tomato Galette

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I’ve always preferred rustic food presentations over fancier ones, but that’s probably because I lack artistry and patience to create more formal presentations.

A perfect example is a pie. I’d much rather make a galette, which must actually look like it’s haphazardly put together, instead of a pretty tart with glistening, criss-crossing lattice.

This is a perfect example – a plum galette made by Tasha, from Tasha’s Artisan Food. Stunning, in spite of its rusticity.

I’ve admired every blogger’s beautiful, summer fruit galettes lately on Instagram. But being that I’ll always choose savory over sweet, I’ve been thinking about how to turn a galette into a savory summer version. Tomatoes, of course!

So I created this galette reminiscent of a pizza marguerite. It’s simple, rustic, and flavorful.

And with summer-ripe tomatoes, it’s perfect for summer!

Rustic Tomato Galette

Pie dough to make a 10″ pie crust
1 cup basil-seasoned red sauce, well-reduced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, sliced, seeded
8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
Salt, freshly ground green or black pepper
Grated Parmesan, about 6 ounces
1 egg, well whisked
Garlic pepper
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread a piece of parchment paper over a cookie sheet and set aside.

Using a minimal amount of flour, roll out the pie dough until it forms approximate 15″ in diameter. Gently slide it onto the parchment paper.

Have everything ready to go because the galette goes together quickly. The tomatoes must have drained on paper towels so as not to water down the pie.

Begin by placing the red sauce in the middle of the pie crust and spread around to about 8″ in diameter.

Add tomato slices in a round for form one layer. Add some of the mozzarella pearls, and season with salt and pepper.

After you’ve used about half of your tomatoes and mozzarella pearls, season again, then sprinkle with half of the Parmesan.

Continue with the layering until all the tomatoes are used up. Add the remaining pearls, remaining Parmesan, and season.

Brush the inside of the pie crust extension with the egg wash. Gently fold over the dough over the tomatoes, about every 5″ or so, letting the dough tell you where to place it.

Brush the egg wash inside the folds and all over the top of the dough. I seasoned it with a little garlic pepper, but that is optional.

Place the galette in the oven and set the timer for 45-50 minutes. Probably a real baker would have chilled the galette in the refrigerator for 30 minutes first, but I was hungry.

Let the galette sit for at least 25 minutes; this will firm up the cheese before slicing into it.

I sprinkled a few basil leaves over the top, and a few wisteria blossoms as well!

When you’re ready to slice into the galette, use a long sharp knife or a pizza cutter.

I must say, I like my addition of the basil-seasoned red sauce. It not only adds more flavor, but also a different texture to this galette.

And the cheeses are perfect. Grated Parmesan is always perfect, but I think the mozzarella pearls are preferable to slices.

This tomato galette is summer perfection, if I may say so myself!

Pastitsio

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My introduction to Greek cuisine began with the set of cookbooks that introduced me to many International cuisines – the Time-Life series of cookbooks called “Foods of the World.” Included in the set are beautifully photographed hardback books describing the cuisines and cultures, as well as smaller, spiral-bound recipe books.

The set was gifted to me by mother, because she owned and loved hers. They were also my first cookbooks, so as I learned how to cook, I also learned about various cuisines. Had I known better, I might have been intimidated, but I just jumped in and started cooking.

One week I’d make meals from the Ethiopian cookbook, the next week Japan, the next Italy, and so forth. One of the cookbooks was “Middle Eastern Cooking,” which included foods from Greece as well as Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and other countries from that part of the world.

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Over the years I made moussaka, chicken baked in red sauce with cinnamon, grilled pork kabobs smothered in oregano, and many more lovely recipes. But one that I really loved was Pastitsio. To me it was way more fun than moussaka.

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When I first made it, my husband loved it. But over the 30-plus years that I’ve been cooking, he’s somehow decided that he hates lamb. It’s just not the same with beef, so I’m using a 50-50 mixture. Who knows, in a future post, I might be writing from my own apartment…

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Pastitsio

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 pound ziti
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 1/2 pound lean ground lamb
2 cups chopped, drained, canned tomatoes
1 cup canned tomato purée
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon oregano crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Black pepper
1/2 cup soft, fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated Kefalotiri or Parmesan

In a large pot bring 6-8 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil over high heat and drop in the ziti. Stirring occasionally, cook the pasta for 10-15 minutes, or until soft but still somewhat resistant to the bite. Immediately drain the pasta and set aside.
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Meanwhile, prepare the lamb and the cream sauce. In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and transparent but not brown.

Add the lamb and, mashing it frequently with the back of spoon or fork to break up any lumps, cook until all traces of pink disappear.


Stir in the tomatoes, purée, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the beaten egg, and set aside.


Sauce:
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

To make the cream sauce, combine 3 cups of milk and the butter in a small pan until bubbles appear around the rim of the pan. Remove from the heat. In a heavy 2- to 3- quart saucepan, beat the eggs with a whisk until they are frothy.

Add the remaining 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of salt and, beating constantly, add the flour, a tablespoon at a time.


Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the heated milk and butter mixture in a thin stream and, still stirring, bring to a boil over moderate heat. Continue to boil until the sauce is thick and smooth; set aside.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. With a pastry brush coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 15 x 2 1/2″ baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the bottom with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and spread half of the reserved pasta on top.


Cover with the meat, smoothing it into the corners with a spatula.
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Then pour 2 cups of the cream sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle with half the grated cheese.
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Make another layer with the remaining ziti, pour over it the rest of the cream sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.


Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is a delicate golden brown.

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If you love moussaka, you’ll definitely love pastitsio. It’s the love red meat sauce, slightly sweetened with cinnamon, layered on noodles, and topped with a rich, cheesy cream sauce that makes it the ultimate in comfort food, Greek style!
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Mediterranean Layered Dip

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A while back my friend had a happy hour at her house, and she served a Mediterranean-inspired dip. She’s a funny person, my friend. She claims to hate cooking, but she always serves the best and prettiest food, and even offers signature cocktails.

She’s also an expert at entertaining – to the point that once she had pressed fresh flowers between glass plates for a spring girls’ lunch at her home. I think she’s in Martha-Stewart-wanna-be denial…

Most of us are familiar with the 7-layer dip; sometimes the number varies. It’s Mexican, or Mexican-American, and typically contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, maybe seasoned ground beef, and so forth. If you love all of those ingredients, then you would love the dip, served with tortilla chips and margaritas.

My creative friend, however, was inspired by a recipe she’d seen in a magazine, and created a multi-layered dip using Mediterranean ingredients. It was fabulous.

We can’t find the recipe, so I’m creating this version with my own favorite ingredients from that part of the world. Whatever you use, you just can’t go wrong.

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Mediterranean Layered Dip

White bean dip, or hummus, preferably home-made
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Goat or feta cheese
Kalamata olives, sliced
Toasted pine nuts
Diced shallots
Pita pockets

Begin with having a plate or shallow bowl for serving. Place the white bean dip or hummus on the serving dish. I have had decent store-bought hummus, but I simply made a garlicky white bean dip. Smooth out the white bean dip.


Prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. This can be done with a knife, or simply with a melon baller or small spoon. Cut up the cucumber and place on paper towels to drain.


Prepare the tomatoes by de-seeding them as much as possible, then cutting them finely, and placing them on paper towels to drain. Have all of the other ingredients on hand.


Begin the layering process by adding the cucumber and then the tomatoes.
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Add the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.
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Then add the olives, pine nuts and shallots.

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Serve with pita triangles cut from pita breads. Alternatively, half the triangles, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned for a crisper pita “chip.” (The photo below right shows the pita triangles halved, but not yet toasted.)


It was a hot day when I made this dip, so I served a rosé.
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The fun wth this recipe, is that you can substitute ingredients as you wish. Capers instead of olives, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and more.

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You can top the dip with black pepper, oregano, sumac, za’atar, or a chiffonade of fresh basil.


Just stick with Mediterranean ingredients and you’ll love it!

Sriracha Gazpacho

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During the years my younger daughter lived in London, I “smuggled” Sriracha sauce in my suitcase for her at every visit. It just wasn’t a product she could find in London. I always double-bagged the 28-ounce plastic bottle with sealable bags. Can you imagine if 28 ounces of hot sauce exploded in your suitcase?!!


On Amazon.com, the 28-ounce bottle of Sriracha can be purchased for $3.74. And imagine how long that bottle will last? Well, everyone except for my daughter who puts it on everything, any time of day. It’s an inexpensive addiction, at least.

My mother recently sent me The Sriracha Cookbook just for fun! The author is Chef Randy Clemens, and his book was published in 2011.

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In the introduction, Chef Clemens tells the lengthy story of the over 30-year history of this now ubiquitous “rooster” sauce. It was originally a Thai product. David Tran, born in Vietnam of Chinese decent, brought it to American after being forcibly moved for political reasons. Once settled in Chinatown in Los Angeles, he started Huy Fong Foods, and in 1983 created Tu’o’ng Ó’t Sriracha. The familiar rooster on the squeeze bottle represents the year of Tran’s birth on the Chinese zodiac.

Being that Sriracha is more of a seasoning than an ingredient, I was a little skeptical about the originality of the cookbook’s recipes. I mean, I think we’ve all squirted some Sriracha into mayo or pho for some zing. But the recipes are overall unique, and definitely embrace spicy foods, which my whole family enjoys – especially my Sriracha addict!

I chose to make a spicy Sriracha Gazpacho from the cookbook.

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Sriracha Gazpacho
from The Sriracha Cookbook

6 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1/2 red onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
3 Persian cucumbers, diced
2 small jalapeños, seeded and minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Sriracha, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, thinly sliced, for garnish
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced diagonally, for garnish.

Puree the tomatoes in a food mill, blender, or food processor. (I used a food mill and didn’t peel and seed the tomatoes first.)

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In a large nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the puree with the onion, yellow and green bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, jalapeños, garlic, parsley, cilantro, Sriracha, lemon juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use, to allow the flavors to marry.

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Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the avocado slices and a squiggle of Sriracha.

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Top with the green onions, and finish it off with a friendly drizzle of olive oil.

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note 1: I made a smaller batch, but I respected the ratio of ingredients.

note 2: I used a regular cucumber, de-seeded.
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note 3: I used lime juice instead of lemon juice.

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note 4: I didn’t use a green bell pepper because I am not fond of them.

verdict: I absolutely loved this gazpacho! Even the next day it was delicious. The whole soup could easily be made in a food processor, but I decided I liked the texture of the bits of vegetables. Next time I wouldn’t change a thing!

Ceviche

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My son-in-law has promised to make me ceviche for a while – it’s one of his specialties.

So recently he lived up to his promise and made ceviche on a night when they were visiting. And, he was kind enough to allow me to document his cooking session for my blog!

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My daughter’s husband, who I’ll call “B,” first had ceviche when his family traveled to Costa Rica, and he’s been making it ever since. B refers to his version as a more Tex-Mex style, rather than Latin American. Whatever it is, it was wonderful, and worth the wait!

B has a recipe, but every time he makes it he judges the ceviche “finished product” on the amount of liquid and also the ratio of red and green. He refers to that as the colors of Christmas. Here is the “recipe.”

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B’s Ceviche

6 lemons
6 limes
4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 jalapenos, diced
1/2 large white onion
Cilantro, finely chopped
1 pound cod, rinsed and dried
Tapatio sauce
Seasoning salt

B first squeezed the lemons and limes into a large baking dish.

He then chopped up the tomatoes and the jalapenos and added them to the juice in the dish.

Afterwards it looked like this:

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He then added the onions and cilantro.

Then B cut up the cod in to 1/2″ pieces and stirred it into the tomato mixture.

He added Tapatio sauce and seasoning salt, stirred, and tested it. The baking dish got covered up with plastic wrap and the ceviche was refrigerated overnight.

In the morning B drained most of the liquid from the ceviche so the vegetables don’t soften up. We had it for lunch that day.

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It’s so incredible how the citrus juices cook the fish.

I really love the jalapeno and the Tapatio sauce in B’s ceviche.

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B also served the ceviche with chips, so it was almost like a cod salsa!

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What a lovely lunch, and a fabulous time. You all know how much I love being cooked for!

Roasted Beets

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There have been times that, when commenting on recipe posts in which beets are roasted, that the beets aren’t really roasted. We’ve all done it – we place whole, trimmed beets in a foil package with a little olive oil and salt, steam-cook them till tenderness, remove the peels, and voila! But they’re not really roasted, are they?!!

So I set out to actually roast beets, as one would potatoes or broccoli. I know they will be good, like all roasted goodies. My husband claims that roasted broccoli is better than candy!
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So here’s what I did.

Really Roasted Beets

3 beets
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degree roast setting, or 400 degrees.

Trim tops and bottoms of beets.

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Peel the beets completely.

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Chop the beets into 12ths. Or just make fairly uniform pieces of the beets, any shape you prefer. Place the beets in a baking dish, and drizzle some olive oil over them. Sprinkle them generously with pepper and salt.

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Place the baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes, use a spoon and toss them around to brown the pieces on different sides. Continue roasting for 10 or so minutes. They should be nicely browned, but also piece a chunk to test for tenderness.

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If they’re still firm, turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

I used them in a salad so as to let the roasted beets really “shine.”

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For the vinaigrette, I used some beet juice strained from a can of beets, along with an equal part of leftover Riesling and reduced it. I then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little heavy cream, and a pinch of salt.

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If you want recipes for other “reduction” vinaigrettes, check out Beet Vinaigrette, or Beet Apple Vinaigrette.

The roasted beets are exactly what roasted beets should be. Tender beets with a lovely roasted exterior!

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