Salsa Verde

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When given a choice between the green salsa or the red salsa at a Mexican restaurant, I always go green. The thing is, I know what the red is going to taste like and this usually has to do with whether the tomatoes were ripe (rarely the case), or if they came from a can, which is not bad if you’re drinking beer on the couch and watching a game, but a big let down if you’re dining out. The green salsa always feels more exciting. It’s invariably a bit sour, a bit spicy and loaded with cilantro.

One thing you should know about me is that I am a sauce fiend. I want extra BBQ sauce for my burger, extra nuoc cham for my rice, and definitely extra salsa on just about anything. And chutneys, fuhgeddaboudit.   You can imagine how proud I was when my one and a half year old demanded that we put sauce on her plate so she could “dip spicy.” You know what they say; teach your children well.

One of the main ingredients in salsa verde is the tomatillo. Not to be confused with green tomatoes, tomatillos are closely related to gooseberries and are often used in Mexican and Central American cooking. They have a slightly sour flavor and should be cooked, though just barely. This salsa verde recipe is wonderfully versatile. It can be used fresh as a salsa or as a sauce cooked over chicken or pork. It can also be made in mass quantities for a party and freezes well.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that it uses a technique that most home chefs assume is impossible without access to a grill. It’s called fire roasting and is basically the process of searing your vegetables in a dry pan, ideally cast iron. The process is actually quite simple on the stovetop and creates so much warm flavor. If it’s summer time and you’re already on the grill, you can for sure take this outside. But on a rainy spring afternoon, the stovetop works just fine.

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Homemade Yogurt

yogurt with granola

Some things like mom jeans, turtleneck sweaters, and rayon are better left to past eras. Other things our moms tried with their glasses the size of small saucers, their hair hanging long and straight, with us clinging to their wide-leg bellbottoms fare a little better. Questing after better, healthier food, our parents sprouted their grains, banned their children from eating anything with sugar, kneaded loaves of whole grain dense bread, knit us sweaters in bulky natural yarns, and smoked inside. Here are my parents in all their glory.

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As a young parent, I know right now I’m taking the very photos my children will look back at and laugh with their friends. But our parents had one thing right, they made their own yogurt. It was cheap, delicious and way cheaper than those fancy individual greek yogurt containers that didn’t exist back when our parents introduced yogurt to the everyday breakfast menu of America. If you look in our fridge it’s stacked high with Nancy’s yogurt containers. To quote a friend’s husband “which yogurt container actually contains yogurt in here?”
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Dilly Beans

It started as an experiment to squeeze a little more out of the summer and try to extend fresh produce into the rainy winter months. It has transformed into a many-year long hobby of perfecting technique, that’s still on-going, as well as a collection bordering on art. Pickling is a part of the routine of our lives and a space requirement for every nook and cranny of my pantry with shelves groaning from the weight of pint and quart jars.

When you bring out a jar of pickles, the inevitable impression that people have is that somehow making pickles is somehow difficult, bordering on dangerous if done incorrectly, and something outside their reach. I felt the same way when I started, but armed with a supply of glass jars and nothing else, I dove in.

Spices

Pickling is essential preserving produce by using the process of fermentation to stop the growth of bacteria that causes spoilage. You use acidic ingredients, mostly vinegar, to accomplish this, creating an environment that’s unfriendly for bacteria and adds delicious flavor enhancing the existing taste profile of your produce. The basic technique is pretty much the same, it’s the raw ingredients and flavorings that vary and where the art and fun come in. I’ve recently started experimenting each season with new flavor combinations and the aesthetic appearance of pickles (more on this later).

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