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This has been an unfortunate, yet necessary hiatus from posting for me, for personal reasons. Chaos in life does not always make for smooth blogging. But I just got back from such an amazing trip to Santa Cruz, full of delicious food and drink, that I couldn’t not blog about it.

Many of my favorite food memories center not around eating out, but eating in. Being around a table in a home, with good people and good conversation really can’t be beat for me. California in particular, with its eucalyptus trees and beaches and bouganvilla bushes just reminds me of my childhood in such a warm, comforting way. So when I have a chance to visit, I do. Close friends of mine (one of those just ridiculously well-matched married couples that secretly give you the warm fuzzies) just moved to Malaysia for a few months, and were spending their last few days stateside in Santa Cruz with her brother, a recent culinary school grad now working at a great winery called Bonny Doon.

One night we took advantage of the pork belly he had hanging around (as culinary school grads do) and made a simple arugula salad and roasted potatoes with Romesco sauce to accompany it. Paired with some amazing wines (including an excellent Tempranillo given as pay-in-trade with literally duct tape as a label — how do I sign up for that?) this was a meal that made me so glad that I took this last-minute trip, despite the obstacles. Not to get sappy, but this is why I love food and chose to blog about it. I’m going to try to approximate the romesco sauce recipe here — we added spices as we went so I’ve estimated an amount but then don’t be afraid to add a little more at a time until you’re happy with it. You want this to be spicy, smoky, tangy and bright.

I’m also pleased to announce that the leftover sauce was used on eggs and homemade pizza on subsequent nights — the gift that keeps on giving!

And, because it’s California, a pic of the excellent tacos I ate on my last day. So fresh!

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I can’t believe I haven’t done a post on Tortilla Soup before. It is absolutely one of my favorite soups on the planet. A bit spicy, a bit tangy with lime juice, tomatoey-chickeny broth…and all my favorite toppings, including tortilla chips. This soup is great with or without the actual shredded chicken, but use the best quality chicken broth possible, homemade if you can. You don’t want to compromise this because of funky chicken broth. The best part is that it’s really, really easy to make. You can simplify even more by adding the corn straight to the soup (or not at all) and just topping with avocado instead of making a relish (or salsa? what’s the difference?), but I figured I’d have a little fun with it. If that’s not your idea of fun, well, I get it. I’m a weirdo.

Like most soups, this gets even better a day or two later, so make a big batch and take it for lunch. Recipe after the jump.

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corn

The thing I miss most about summer produce once it’s gone is fresh corn on the cob. I think it is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It’s too bad we’ve made mutant corn the staple of our diets (I’m of course talking about high fructose corn syrup, and other freaky genetically modified corn products lining the shelves of pretty much every grocery store in the country) because it gives the corn I love a bad name. Corn straight from the grill with herb butter, or a squeeze of lime, or queso fresco. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

So when I was thinking up uses for the tomatillo salsa I had left over from the other night, I went to Eugenia Bone’s book Well-Preserved. She includes a tomatillo salsa recipe specifically for canning, and with it, three recipes to use said salsa. The beauty of adding something like a pre-made salsa (in this case, still home made) to a soup is that you get the complexity of that flavor added in one spoonful. You’ve done all the hard work making the salsa already, now you get to capitalize on the tangy, slightly spicy, salty note it adds to the dish.

It’s sort of funny that I seem to keep doing stews and soups despite the season — yesterday was the first miserably hot day here, and I’m hoping it was a fluke. Frankly, I’ve been enjoying not sweating profusely all day long. But I guess that was too much to hope for. Luckily, I made this before the 10 ton brick that is “summer” in New York hit us.

cornsoup

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salsaingredients

I finally bit the bullet and bought a digital SLR camera and I love it already!! I got the Canon Rebel XS, with a 50 mm 1.8 lens for close shots. (I don’t know what any of that means). I have tons to learn, but it’s going to be a fun challenge. As if I need a new hobby!

For dinner tonight, I made a tortilla casserole from one of Martha Stewart’s cookbooks, which involved a tomatillo salsa. Word to the wise: don’t make a Martha recipe unless you are willing to dirty a lot of dishes. That woman does not mess around.

Here’s the recipe for the salsa. Good luck finding tomatillos — there is one grocery store in my area that carries them, and they are pretty pricey. But if you love salsa verde, it’s worth it to make it yourself.

salsajar

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pesto

I love pesto. I love it because of the flavor, because it is the easiest thing to make, and because it is so versatile. Traditional pesto is perhaps not a particularly budget-friendly dish, if only because of its reliance on pine nuts, which are absurdly expensive. Luckily, the definition of “pesto” is quite broad, at least these days, and can include other types of herbs and greens, different nuts, and totally different ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes. I love basil, but it usually comes in enormous quantities — perfect for pesto. Round out your basil with parsley, arugula, pea shoots, or other tender greens, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly versatile sauce. Here are a few ways to use your batch of pesto.

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salsa_withdish

This may be a perfect meal. Quesadillas = Mexican grilled cheese. Beans = cheap and tasty and filling. Pineapple salsa = sweet and spicy and kind of fancy-looking but also super easy to make.

I don’t think I need to go into how to make quesadillas, it’s just 2 tortillas filled with cheese (and in this case, leftover chicken) and then cooked in a pan until melty and crispy and delicious. Pretty much the same goes for the beans. I just took one large can of beans (a 28-ouncer) and drained most of the liquid but not all, cooked up some onions and jalapeno and bell pepper, added the beans, threw in some chili powder and cayenne pepper and salt, and let them simmer until the flavors all melded together.

The salsa is just as easy, but I will actually provide a recipe for that part, since it may not be every day that you find yourself making a salsa, and possibly never that you find yourself making one with pineapple. This particular salsa would also be amazing on fish, pork, or chicken — it’s super versatile, so make a bunch and eat it with different main dishes over a few days. That will justify the probably slightly steeper price tag for the pineapple (my little one was $3, but I go to the cheapest fruit & veggie place ever).

salsa_ingredients

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