Salsa is one of my favorite sauces. It is easy to make as it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. You can spice up many dishes with it and can be made of course as spicy as you like it.
The most important ingredient is the tomato. You will need ripe, soft and tasty tomatoes. My favorite heirloom tomatoes are not ready yet but I find the hydroponic tomatoes a nice alternative. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes, of course the results will not be the same. I personally just use the tomatoes as they are and don’t remove the skin or the seeds.
3 medium sized tomatoes, cored
1/2 of a small red onion, chopped or 3 scalions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1 lime or lemon or 2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
handful of cilantro,chopped
1/2-1 fresh chili pepper or jalapeño pepper, chopped or to taste
Chop up the tomatoes. I prefer using a very sharp knife. You can use a food processor but your salsa will be more liquidy and IMO not as strong tasting.
In the Mid-West, early April is the time when it gets really hard to eat local vegetables. There is nothing out there growing yet. But wait there are some crops from last fall like turnips … in fact raw turnips make a great spring salad. Past few weeks, I have been adding grated raw turnips to all my dishes. I have to admit it felt great to eat something raw. Try this simple salad, you can add a little olive oil, black pepper and carrots but honestly I often eat it just as it is, nothing added.
Turnip (Brassica rapa var) is a member of the mustard family that grows in temperate climate around the world. It has a neutral thermal energy and is slightly sweet, bitter and pungent … just what we need right now in the spring. It helps the liver, kidneys and spleen to function better and protects the lungs and blood vessels. It is especially high in fiber, nourishes digestive tracts and helps detoxify the body. It is considered to be high in many essential nutrients and minerals. Sounds like a super food to me …
1 lb of turnips, medium or larger size
carrots strips (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp of lemon juice (optional)
Clean, peel and grade the turnips. For grating, I use the largest hole of my cheese grater.
Cut up carrots into thin trips.
Add into a bowl. Serve with olive oil and black pepper if you wish.
This is a simple tasty salad that is great for the winter. I just cook the beets and then use vinegar, oil, caraway seeds and salt to prepare the salad. I like to make a big jar full and keep it in refrigerator. You can serve it as a side dish.
For me, beets are the perfect plant to transition from the the winter into spring. Yes! Spring will come sooner or later, OK most likely later in the Midwest …
Beets are grounding, nourishing and detoxifying making it to be the perfect vegetable for this time of the year for the winter and the spring. They are sweet and rich in nutrients for healthy body with important vitamins and minerals. They nourish and detoxify the liver getting the body ready for the spring.
I used only one spice, caraway seeds. The bitter and aromatic caraway seeds have been around for a long time and used in many European countries to make food taste good. It is one of the herbs that the ancient Greek doctors first started using in cooking because of its health benefits especially for digestion. I often take caraway seeds for granted but it is such a neat little herb that needs a little more attention. Please check this website for more info on caraway seeds .
4 smaller beets (about 1 lb)
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
1/8-1/4 cup vinegar + 7/8 -3/4 water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
pinch of sugar
black pepper, to taste
Cook beets for 1 hour until soft but not mushy. I like to put them on a steamer.
When done take the peel off with a sharper small knife. Slice or shread the beets thin. You can do this with a knife or a slicer.
Make the dressing. Put 1/8 cup of vinegar in 1 cup cup. Add enough water so the cup is full. So you are adding 7/8th of a cup of water. Pour it in a medium sized bowl.
Add sliced cooked beets, caraway seeds, salt, oil and a pinch of sugar. Mix.
Grind some black pepper on the salad if you wish. Mix.
Serve at room temperature on the side of any dish.
My recipe today is potatoes with rosemary … yes that is it, just the two main ingredients plus the garlic, oregano and the salt. They should complement many winter meat or vegetarian dishes easily. I like using them in cooking because they both taste great and are good for digestion. I get very excited about rosemary in general as it has such rich and colorful history steeped in the culinary world, legends and folklore.
Rosemary is such a culinary delight, a popular plant in the kitchen especially during the colder months. Chefs use it in a wide variety of dishes from soups, bean dishes to meats particularly for lamb and chicken. It is not just used for enhancing the flavor of a dish but it also helps digestion. Also, it can preserve food, an important consideration in the old days before refrigerators were invented so I can imagine that rosemary was essential in a Medieval kitchen…
The aromatic rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has been around for thousands of years. It is native to the Mediterranean region. Its Latin name is derived from the words ‘ros’ which means dew, and ‘marinus’ that means sea and as its name suggest it can in fact survive on the spray of the sea air. Persian doctors valued it as one of their best remedies. It has also been recognized as a powerful medicine in the Mediterranean countries. Rosemary along with the other digestive remedies of the region like thyme, oregano, fennel have been used in the culinary world for their medicinal values. Earlier, the ancient doctors started using them in dishes so people could get their benefits on a daily basis. So yes we can thank these wise doctors for all these fabulous dishes.
Ancient cultures thought of rosemary as a protective plant that could ward off evil. If we look at all the benefits that rosemary has, this statement would become more clear and less mysterious. Its health benefits come from its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer abilities. It is also a restoring remedy as it can improve heart, liver, gallbladder, brain and kidney functions, circulation, digestion and the nervous system. It brings warmth to a cold, debilitated body. In the 13th century, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary claimed that rosemary wine was the secret to her long life and cured her paralyzed legs.
I’m now sitting here at my desk with a bunch of rosemary and sniffing its aromatic oils…
2 lbs of red potatoes
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
leaves of 4 stalks of fresh rosemary or 2 tsp of dried rosemary
1/4 cup of oil
Preheat oven to 475 F.
Soak the potatoes in cold water so the dirt can come off easily. I like to leave the peel on but if you prefer you can peel the potatoes without soaking. If using fresh, take the rosemary springs and pull the rosemary leaves back on the vine to get the leaves off. Cut the potatoes into cubes (halves and quarters) and put them in a larger bowl with the oil, crushed garlic, oregano, salt and the rosemary. Toss until the potatoes are well coated.
Oil a baking sheet and spread the potatoes on it.
Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden and tender. Flip the potatoes twice during baking to ensure even browning.
According to my mother-in-law, a good cranberry sauce should have whole cranberries and a nice sauce, so as to not be mushy or dry. I created this cranberry sauce keeping this in mind. It is gently infused with oranges and pungent spices and is slowly baked in the oven. In addition, the alcohol will elevate it to another level that gives an unexpected kick to the sauce. It will go nicely with any savory fall or winter dishes. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving, go ahead and you can try it now!
I really like how this cranberry sauce turned out. Here is my little story… As a foreigner I did not grow up eating cranberries so I have been relying on the Joy of Cooking cookbook for the recipe. I was contemplating whether to make some changes to the basic recipe or just let the cranberries be what they are and enjoy their true taste.
I started experiementing. First, I put the oranges to the test. Why add oranges, another bitter fruit?!? Ok orange peels are bitter but are also sweet. I found that the sweet oranges paired nicely with the sour cranberries. Perhaps because their common denominator is the bitterness ?!?
In the culinary world, it is well known that pungent spices offset the sour flavors so I also added cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice. They bring a little warmth to the sauce, too. In addition, the allspice gave a nice citrusy flavor. They balanced out the sauce nicely and resulted in a pleasant sweet and sour dish. Again, I can’t imagine the sauce without them.
Oh and the sugar! Most recipes use sugar for cranberry sauce; after all it is a sour dish and sweet can offset sourness. I have nothing against sugar if used well in a dish, meaning it does not overpower the foods that it is added to. I am excited to say that I was able to reduce the sugar a bit in this recipe just by adding the seasonings. Not bad ehhh …
There is more! I used to cook the sauce in a pot that yielded a rather mushy appearance. It did not bother me, I did not even realize I did not cook the cranberries properly. To make sure the cranberries stayed whole, my mother-in-law used to prick each berry one by one with a needle so they didn’t burst open in the pot. I have recently learnt from a chef that slowly cooking them in the oven would give very nice results and the berries stay whole. I would like to mention that cranberries carefully made in a pot can stay whole as well.
I think my recipe made the cranberries more suitable to eat with savory foods, it has a pleasant flavor without overpowering the cranberries. You can keep it in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. The flavors come together while the sauce sits in the fridge. Hope you will enjoy it! Of course, there are many other techniques to cook cranberries that yield beautiful results too.
Cranberry sauce recipe
Serves 2-3 people
1 cup of fresh cranberries (frozen is fine just make sure they are fully defrosted)
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted) or 2 tsp fresh ginger
1 orange (chopped up 4 Tbsp peel and the juice) Chop up the orange peel into very small pieces it tastes great in the sauce.
or 2 Tbsp dried orange peel and 1/3 cup of orange juice
If you don’t have orange juice you can use 1/3 cup of water and maybe even a little orange essence
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 pieces of all spice berries
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2-3 Tbsp of spirit of your choice: whisky, fruit brandy (optional)
touch of freshly ground black pepper and salt, to be added at the end
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Wash cranberries, discard any with blemishes. Combine all ingredient in a baking/glass dish and wait until cranberries start releasing their liquid for about a half an hour. Set oven to 250F and slowly bake for about two hours. Cranberries are ready when nicely cooked but not raw or mushy.
When done take the dish out of the oven and remove the larger spice pieces (cinnamon, allspice).
Add the salt and the pepper.
Serve at room temperature.
You can triple this recipe for Thanksgiving for 9-10 people.
Eggplants are still thriving here in the Midwest! So I’d like to take the opportunity to post more recipes of this amazing plant. Before I post my vegetarian moussaka recipe, I would like to have a little preview of what is coming. Eggplant is the main ingredient in moussaka so I can get a head start with this recipe. Also, this makes an easy side dish if you don’t want to make something more elaborate.
1 purple Italian eggplant
2 tsp salt
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tsp of oregano
hint of cinnamon
Parmesan cheese for the top
Wash and slice the eggplant. I use a serrated bread knife to make the slices thin but not paper thin. They should be about 1 cm thick.
Soak in cold water with 2 tsp salt for 15 minutes. Putting them in salty water takes away the bitterness and I belive I can work with the eggplants easier.
Take the slices out of the water. Place them into a colander and wait until the water drips down. You can also dry them with a towel but honestly I never do and they come out fine.
Heat up a large frying pan on low medium heat. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Be careful, olive oil burns easily as it has a low boiling point. Add the slices. You will most likely have to add more olive oil as eggplant loves to soak it up. Cook for about 10-20 minutes on each side or until they are slightly brown and soft. I keep turning them to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic in a little oil on the side, mix for 10 seconds and add the tomato sauces and mix in spices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, oregano and ground cinnamon on the top.