Sunday, June 24, 2012

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

One of my fave, go-to party side dishes is a salsa bar. It is so easy, inexpensive and flavorful to buy a couple bags of tortilla chips and let my friends dip to their hearts' content. I normally like to have at least a tomato based salsa and a fruit based salsa to satisfy my love for all things savory-sweet! For years, my go-tos were a simple homemade pico de gallo and my Mom's kick-butt mango nectarine salsa []. My salsa bar needed another component. It was craving a sour foil to the savory and sweet. Enter tomatillos!

I had tried a few different salsa verdes while out to eat. It wasn't until I tried one that was packed with cumin and was the perfect balance of spicy, sweet and sour that I realized that I HAD to figure out how to make this awesome dish. I had never cooked with tomatillos before but was very willing to experiment if it meant eating this salsa on a regular basis.

Tomatillo Salsa
1 jalapeno pepper
15 tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 T olive oil
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 T cumin, as per usual, I love mashing cumin seeds in my mortar and pestle
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons
1 t sugar

Turn your broiler on. Add the whole tomatillos and jalapeno to a baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil. Broil until skins on tomatillos have begun to turn black and the jalapeno has begun to blister. You will have keep an eye on these. I am convinced that I have a really slow-working broiler, I can let things sit under my broiler forever. Alas, this means that I can’t give you an estimated broil time.  

Once tomatillos and jalapeno have blackened a bit, remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. I have made this salsa by immediately putting the blackened tomatillos in with my fresh ingredients, it still tastes great but the fresh flavor in the other ingredients gets lost a bit. Also, you don’t get as pretty of a color because the cilantro turns brown from the heat.

Place your onion, cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro, lime juice and sugar into a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to incorporate and reduce the size of the chopped onion and cilantro.

Add the cooled tomatillos, pepper and pan juices into your blender or food processor and pulse several more times until there are no large chunks of tomatillo and all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

This is awesome with chips. You could also use it as an enchilada sauce by smothering your stuffed and rolled tortillas with the salsa, then covering with cheese and baking at 375 for 15 minutes until gloopy and bubbly.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oven Dried Tomato Panzanella

A few years ago, my friend served me panzanella for the first time. How could I not have known this existed? How could I not want to eat a "salad" made of bread that tastes like delicious tomato bruschetta and crostini?

Panzanella is super simple and so delicious. In essence, you make tomato bruschetta and rather than slathering it on top of toast, you toss it in a giant bowl with homemade croutons. 

Panzanella is also a great pantry buster. You can add anything into it. Replace your tomatos with a mixture of roasted zucchinis or mushrooms. Chuck in some pancetta or bacon. Use olive tapenade instead. Add in some fresh mozzarella. Basically, whatever you would want to eat on top of toasted bread, throw in!

 I have made panzanella for quite a few gatherings but this time, as a side for Sam's bacon-wrapped birthday party [I was looking for excuses to use up my year's supply of bacon], I think I perfected it.

My only contention with panzanella is that it can get  mushy. In the past I have chopped up a bunch of tomatoes and mixed them with fresh basil and garlic and tossed them with the bread. The tomatoes contain a lot of liquid and so the "salad" albeit delicious, can get pretty mushy, pretty quickly.

Enter my beloved oven dried tomatoes []! Uggghh, these made it! The oven drying removed most of the excess liquid and amplified the tomato flavor! To die for!

Before we begin, know that you can absolutely still use fresh tomatoes in your panzanella if you don't feel like taking a couple hours to oven dry tomatoes. It is still delicious!

Oven Dried Tomato Panzanella
1 pan of oven dried tomatoes, approximately 8 tomatoes 
*For the panzanella, I cut my roma tomatoes into eighths rather than quarters to better fit into the salad
1 loaf of crusty bread
3 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 large handful of basil, chopped
1 T chopped fresh oregano or 1 t dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste 

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the loaf of bread into approximately 1 inch cubes. Toss the bread with 2 T of olive oil and spread over a baking sheet. Bake until cubes have toasted slightly, approximately 15-20 minutes.

*Since I was oven drying my tomatoes anyway at 300 degrees, I added my bread cubes to the oven for the last 30 minutes of the tomatoes cooking time.

Once your tomatoes have roasted, toss them with your basil, garlic, tablespoon of olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let sit and marinate for a little bit, a half hour is fine.

Once your tomato bruschetta flavors have melded, toss in your delicious toasted bread until the bread looks evenly coated by the bruschetta mixture.


*I got caught up in birthday party planning and forgot to take a picture of the final product, but, believe me, it is sooo good!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Uh-mazing Roasted Corn with Feta and Cumin

Please forgive the two week hiatus...we have been living it up in Montana. Yes, there was much celebration [we did have to frolic around our beloved Emily and Doug for their wedding day] and much food but I was on vacation and wasn't feeling very motivated to document my cooking. 

In case you were wondering, I did "have" to make homemade ricotta for all of the ladies at the bachelorette, I was "forced" to make my take on steak au poivre for my in-laws' 32nd wedding anniversary and I "choked down" the piggy pumpkin lasagna made for wedding guests. It was hard to eat such delicious food and spend time with such amazing people, but I did it!

We drove back to Denver and, lo and behold, summer was waiting for us with 90+ degree heat. We assembled the kiddy pool and quickly made some awesome summer food.

My fave summer dishes take full advantage of the fresh veggies available, are quick to make and use minimal oven times [I swear my kitchen stays hot for hours after I bake something].

I could eat this roasted corn dish everyday and never tire of it.

Roasted Corn with Feta and Toasted Cumin
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t pepper
1 T  olive oil
4 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 t salt
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 T chopped chives or green onion

Pre- heat a frying pan over medium heat for about a minute. Add your ground cumin and pepper and toast for another minute. [I am slightly addicted to freshly smashed cumin seeds in my mortar and pestle but feel free to use ground cumin].

Once cumin has toasted, add the olive oil to the pan. Add the shucked corn and salt to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn starts to get a little translucent and some kernels have some toasted edges. Roughly 15-20 minutes.

Once corn has cooked, remove from heat and stir in the chives and feta cheese.

We had our with the cumin yogurt sauce and quinoa couscous from a few posts ago and with fresh chopped tomatoes tossed with a little salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. 

Sooooo delicious!