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Salsa Verde

September 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

I love chips and salsa.

Give me the salty crispness of tortilla chips and a nice bowl of spicy (but not burn my mouth hot) salsa and I’m nearly good to go.  Just need to throw in an icy cold beer, the remote control, and a sporting event to make it complete.  A couch potato’s dream!

Recently my love affair with green salsa has taken center stage and I feel like its the only color salsa I’ve been eating as of late.

Even though I’ve made home made tomato based salsa many times, admittedly, I’ve always bought the green version pre-made.

Although I’m not sure why, I think I may have initially been intimated by a tomatillo, the vegeta…errrr…I mean berry, needed to make salsa verde.

I feel as though I must give a quick reminder that tomatoes, whether red, yellow, striped or green are all berries. I won’t go in to the details, I trust that those with Botany degrees know what they’re talking about. (Ok, one more tid-bit — strawberries are not berries — weird right?)

Anyway, back to the tomatillo.  You can find them in the vegetable section of your grocery store. You may have to go to a larger grocery store though as not every store I’ve been to carries them. (I get mine from the local Mexican grocer).  They come with a paper husk on them which you will need to peel when you get home.  Once peeled they’re quite sticky so they need a good rinse.  Also, they are $3 or $4 a a pound, but don’t be alarmed, they don’t weigh a ton and you don’t need a lot to make a batch of salsa verde.

Once made, you can store it in an airtight container, refrigerated, for roughly 2 weeks (if  it lasts that long)

By the way, if you’re going to make good homemade salsa, try to pair it with homemade chips.

To make your own, just buy a pack of corn (not flour) tortillas, cut in to triangles and deep fry in 350 degree oil just long enough to make golden brown.  Remove from oil, let drain on a rack over a newspaper lined sheet pan.  Season with salt while hot. Thank me later.

I’ll mention I don’t always want to go through the deep fry trouble, so instead I make sure to use good quality tortilla chips. They cost a bit more but are worth it. Xochitl is my favorite.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb tomatillos
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper (keep the seeds in for heat, or remove for less heat – if you like it hotter add a second Jalapeño )
  • Salt to taste
  1. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well.
  2. Place tomatillos in a large pot and cover with water.
  3. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove.
  4. In a food processor or blender, add tomatillos, onion, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, and Jalapeño. Pulse to incorporate.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Cool in refrigerator.  Serve with chips or on anything you would use salsa (such as a topping for fajitas in the picture below).
Fajitas topped with Salsa Verde

Fajitas topped with Salsa Verde

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Marinara Sauce

September 3, 2012 3 comments
Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

My very first blog entry was homemade pasta where I promised I would have a future entry dedicated to the sauce I use with it.  Nothing.

Then a few weeks later I made the meatball entry, where again, I made promise to blog my sauce recipe. Still nothing.

I did pizza entries (both on the grill and my deep dish) both of which need sauce, but yet, no sauce recipe. (Yikes)

I think the last straw for me to get off my butt and actually write about it came recently when a couple of friends of mine asked “When do I get the sauce recipe?”

Guess I better get to it.

Oh, but before I do, let me mention that a good marinara sauce is one of the simplest things you can make.  It tastes better than jarred sauce (and its better for you).  It’s cheaper than jarred sauce (stock up when canned tomatoes are on sale).  And best of all, it is just as quick to make as sauce from a jar.  Not to mention, other than the tomatoes, most everyone has all the ingredients in their pantry.

Take that convenience argument!

(If you don’t have garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil in your pantry, shame on you – quit reading and run out and buy these staples and keep them on hand – don’t forget the tomatoes)

Finally you might be thinking why canned when there is an abundance of tomatoes in season right now?  Personally, I think they taste better for *sauce.  (*I like fresh tomatoes for things like salsa)

Ingredients:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 – 28oz can of whole tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 small pinch crushed red pepper (more if you want some spice)
  1. To make the sauce, start by giving each garlic clove a quick “whack” with the back of your chef’s knife to smash them.
  2. In a medium sized sauce pot, heat the smashed garlic with 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat.
  3. Heat until garlic is brown (but not burnt).
  4. Add the tomatoes (and juice) to the pot.
  5. Add a good amount of salt, pepper (to taste), and crushed red pepper.
  6. Cook approximately 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
  7. Add 3 tablespoons more of olive oil.  Turn heat to medium-high.
  8. At this point, begin to crush the tomatoes in the pot with a wooden spoon.
  9. Once all the tomatoes are crushed, continue to cook approximately 5 more minutes or until the olive oil that you added is red.
  10. The sauce will be a bit chunky.  If you like it smoother, you can pulse it in a blender to the consistency you’re looking for (but may get a bit watery).

Use sauce for pizza, pasta, meatballs, sausages…..or as is served over a nice piece of crusty bread topped with grated Parmesan.

Fantastico

Fantastico!

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Fresh Garden Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Fresh Garden Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Mid-Summer is here and that means its hot.  Sticky, muggy, soupy, humid hot!  Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

As a kid, I loved everything about this time of year.  I swam during the day and played baseball during the late afternoon until dark.  When the sun went down, I played games such as “hide and seek” (outside).  I would hunt down the ice cream truck and stay up way past my normal bed time.  When you’re a kid, what’s not to love about summer?

Fast forward 25 years and my summers are all about swatting mosquitoes, wondering if the heat is killing the lawn, and praying the air conditioner survives 90 degree days.

Although I’m not a fan of  Summer, there is a huge benefit.  Fresh vegetables from the garden.

My wife hasn’t had much luck with the garden the past couple of years.  She attributes it to the clay soil that makes up a lot of back yards in Western Pennsylvania.  Me, I just think it was bad luck.  Or the stink bugs.

This year, she was determined to bring back the bounty.  She did some research and figured the best way to do this, while remaining as organic as possible, was to try out a few garden beds.

She kept it simple by mainly planting salad staples like tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers.

So far the results compared to last year are night and day.

        

Now that we’re eating fresh veggies all the time, I insist that I top it with an equally fresh dressing.

Here is an easy recipe for buttermilk dressing, that will make you leave the bottled dressings on the grocery store shelf.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper (fresh cracked)

Add all ingredients in a mason jar.  Put the lid on and shake it to blend all ingredients.  Spoon the dressing on lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes (or whatever you like in your salad).

Mason Jar of Dressing

Mason Jars Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

Shooter’s BBQ Sauce

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Ribs with Shooter's BBQ Sauce

Ribs with Shooter’s BBQ Sauce

The 4th of July is right around the corner and millions of Americans will celebrate the holiday in two ways:  Backyard BBQ’s and fireworks.

Growing up, the 4th of July was my favorite holiday, mainly because I ate good food and I got to blow things up.  Sure Christmas was nice with presents and all…but I never got to set off explosions.  It was the one day a year that I could play with  matches and get away with it.

When it came to fireworks, my family had it all.  I don’t know where they came from and I didn’t care.

I started out with sparklers, throw-snaps, and those “snakes” that would leave a black mark on the driveway.  Then I graduated to firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles.  When I got older, I got the privilege of lighting the grand-daddy of all firecrackers, the M-80. Those were rare, and they even scared me a bit.

Of all the fireworks I set off, nothing was better than the tank.   It looked just like a tank, green camouflage “paint” and all.  It was equipped with a “gun” on the front that would shoot sparks of fire.  It even had wheels on the bottom and if it was set on a nice smooth surface, the tank would roll a few feet from the sparks coming out of the back, come to a stop and then the “show” would start.  It was awesome.  If you’ve never seen one in action, here’s a great video.

Firework tank

Tank in action

As far as the food on the 4th of July, my family did the basics: hamburgers, hot-dogs, potato salad, deviled-eggs, and usually some sort of pie or cake.  I loved everything about the 4th.

These days, my 4th isn’t nearly as explosive.  Especially this year since it falls in the middle of the week.

I have plans to spend the day with good friends (shamless plug for their website here).  It will be pot-luck, and it will be great.  I’m not sure what I’m making.  Perhaps I’ll throw together a pulled pork or make some ribs.  If I make either of those, it will need a sauce.  A tangy, lip-smacking, finger-licking, wet-nap using kind of sauce.

This sauce recipe is ideal for anything that calls for BBQ sauce. While I prefer things such as ribs with nothing more than a dry rub, I will use this from time to time — and almost always for my pulled pork.  I like to think of this sauce as hybrid between the vinegar based sauce (traditionally used in North Carolina) and a sweet sauce (typically found in Kansas City).   Its been a hit with anyone who’s tried it.  If you plan on making ribs, chicken or pulled pork at your next barbecue, skip the bottled-store brand and give this a try. ENJOY!

*By the way, the picture of the ribs isn’t meant to tease, but I didn’t think a picture of some sauce cooking would be the proper main image for this entry.  If you’re curious how to make ribs so that they’re just about fall off the bone good, I’ll be writing about it in the coming weeks.

Ingredients:

Shooter's Sauce Ingredients

Shooter’s BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup of ketchup**
  • 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ancho (or other) chili powder

In a medium sized sauce pan, mix together all ingredients.

Bring to a boil.

When sauce begins to boil, set heat to low and simmer for approximately 1-hour, stirring occasionally, until sauce begins to thicken.  If the sauce doesn’t seem to be getting thick, you can add a few teaspoons of corn starch.  However, make sure the corn starch is completely dissolved before adding it to the sauce or the cornstarch will immediately turn to lumps.

When finished, use immediately by applying as much as you like to your cooked meat.  You could also let  it cool and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge.  Should keep about a week or so.

** I use store brand ketchup for this recipe.  Normally Heinz ketchup is the only kind of ketchup that I’ll buy.  However, I found out through trial and error that Heinz actually over-powers the sauce and it winds up with too much of a ketchup taste.  Therefore I stick to store brand ketchup when making BBQ sauce.

Sauce Simmering away

Sauce simmering away

Beer Cheese Burger

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment
Beer Cheese Burger

Beer Cheese Burger

When I was a kid it seemed as though every summer weekend my parents were dragging me to a picnic at South Park (a county park in the suburbs of Pittsburgh).  There was the bowling league picnic, the church parish picnic, and the corner bar patron picnic.  Every picnic seemed exactly like the previous one.  The adults were drinking beer and playing horse shoes while the kids were running around trying to figure out which  half-empty can of Cherokee Red was theirs.  If a kid wasn’t sure, they’d just get a new one.

The food was always the same too.  It was a smorgasbord of  corn on the cob, hot dogs, and burgers.

Even though I ate my fair share of burgers, there was never anything special about them.  The burgers were flat over-cooked discs of meat (in the 70’s it wasn’t safe to eat a burger that was pink in the middle) and the toppings were minimal (american cheese and ketchup or mustard).  But I was a kid and this was really all I knew. And I loved them.

Now that I’m grown, my love for burgers has not changed.  The burgers I make are fatter and its rare (no pun intended) that I’ll eat one that isn’t somewhat pink.  I also like to mix it up when it comes to toppings.  My latest venture was the *Beer Cheese Burger.

*Modified from the recipe found in the June 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

Beer Cheese Ingredients

Beer Cheese Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1/4 pound of ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 cup of beer
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon of grated horseradish

Mix together ground chuck and ground pork.  Form to make 4 patties.  Grill.

Burgers ready for the grill

Burgers ready for the grill. (Not pictured: before grilling put an indentation in the middle. This will prevent the burger from “puffing” while cooking)

While the burgers are grilling, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour, ground mustard, and cayenne to make the roux.  Stir about 2 minutes to cook out the flour.

Roux

Roux: Fancy name for equal parts fat (butter) and binder (flour)

Stir in beer and bring to simmer. Then stir in the half & half and simmer while stirring about 2-3 until thickened.

Roux with the liquids added

Roux with the liquids added

Stir in the cheese and horseradish until melted.

Melting the cheese

Melting the cheese

Pour a few tablespoons over your burger and enjoy!  This cheese can also be served with pretzels, over a baked potato, or on a hot dog.

Finished

Burger topped with beer cheese and jalapenos

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette

May 9, 2012 7 comments
A slice of grilled pizza and side salad with homemade balsamic

A slice of grilled pizza and side salad with homemade balsamic

On Saturday’s, our local PBS would air 2 or 3 hours of cooking shows.  I’d sit and watch but never understood why.  Certainly I didn’t think I could make the types of meals that someone like Julia Child would whip up.  While I didn’t think it was possible to cook like those I watched, it did begin my love affair with watching cooking shows on TV.

Considering the first 10-12 years of my life I had 3 television channels (4 if the antenna worked perfect and there were no clouds in the sky), its hard to believe that now, not only do I have one but I have TWO channels dedicated to nothing but cooking and food (3 if you count some of shows on the Travel Channel).  And it’s no secret, I’m addicted to these channels.  Don’t believe me, ask my wife.  I watch shows related to cooking more often than I watch the 300+ channels that I currently overpay for combined (and this includes sports — yes, sports).  Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, Giadia de Laurentis, Ina Garton, just to name a few, have taught me so much over the years that I feel like I should have paid them for cooking lessons.

One thing I learned while watching these shows is that sometimes making something taste so good can be unbelievably easy.  In addition, making things homemade are generally healthier and can save so much money.   This is easily the case with this balsamic vinaigrette.  Its made from simple ingredients that most people have in their pantry right now.  Best part, it can be whipped up in as quickly as you can chop a clove or two of garlic.  Knowing this, it’s a wonder why I haven’t been doing this my whole life.

This recipe was adapted from the original Food Network star, Emeril Lagasse.

Ingredients:

Balsamic Ingredients

Balsamic Ingredients

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar (original recipe calls for this to be optional and dark brown sugar, but I prefer light brown sugar and I do NOT make this optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a mason (or any jar) with a tight fitting lid.  Shake the heck out of it.  Drizzle on your favorite salad.

All ingredients in the jar before you shake it

All ingredients before you shake

Before

After you shake it

Done. Enjoy

Done. Enjoy

You can easily double or even triple this recipe.  It will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.  Just make sure its covered tightly and you shake it before the next use.

Sorry, this blog entry does not come with a side of grilled pizza,  but a future entry will be dedicated to all things grilled pizza.  Look for it in the near future.