Tag Archives: flavor

Sweet Summer Salsa

16 Aug

Summer fruits are bursting with flavors and colors. This season gives us sweet treats with fresh aromatic melon, berries bursting with sweet juice, and gorgeous succulent ripe peaches. But we are rounding the corner to the summers end and need a new way to enjoy summer fruit. How about a yummy salsa?

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This fruit salsa is delicious with meat and seafood. Or try serving it along side a grilled pork tenderloin for a nice pop of flavor and color. Spoon it onto flavorful chicken thighs. Oh…you want it for an appetizer? You can do that too. This salsa is just as great with crisp yellow corn chips.  Or maybe try it alongside some brie cheese and crackers. The possibilities are endless!

As you will see there is so much flexibility with one simple recipe. It has bold flavor and is packed with nutrients.   It is a snap to make and easily customizable to suit your own personal preferences.  I make this fruit salsa with cilantro for a little kick, but I would use basil in place of cilantro it if my mom was going to eat it.  She doesn’t like cilantro.

That is the beauty of a recipe like this.  It is packed with flavor, has good nutrients, and is very colso easy to alter to please your crowd!  Here it is.  But remember…I consider recipes a “jumping off point” if you will.  Recipes that I develop, like this one, can be changed to suit changing taste, available ingredients,  or budgets as often as your like!

Fresh Summer Salsa:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup chopped honey dew melon
  • 2 freestone peaches, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 lime cut in half
  • 1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepperIMG_3399

Mix everything except the lime together. Stir. Squeeze the fresh lime over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Give the salsa another good stir and there you have it.  This is best if it sits for a few hours in the fridge before serving.  Go for it!  Grab up some fresh summer fruits and make a delicious salsa of your own!

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Pumpkin is the new bacon.

19 Oct

Wow!  That sure got your attention, now didn’t it?  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  You bet.  I read it on the internet so it must be true (insert sarcastic tone and indignant faux cough with a hair toss here).  Seriously though, it’s an interesting culinary perspective don’t you think?  When sharing this statement with my teenaged son, he became certain that there is a conspiracy at work here. He says nothing could ever be the new bacon.

What, exactly, does this mean…the new bacon. Well, I took it to mean that pumpkin is the new “must have” ingredient that everyone is trying.  So not to be one left in the dark, I decided that pumpkin was MY new bacon.  Pumpkin became my fall food obsession.  Where to begin?  Where I always begin…I delved into the nutritional facts.

Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A.   That helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, and bones.  Vitamin A promotes good vision too.  Love that!

Vitamin C is also abundant in pumpkin.  This vitamin is an essential nutrient is great for our skin, brain health, and necessary to form certain proteins in our body.  .  Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant and essential for good cell health.  The bright orange color means that pumpkin is bursting with antioxidants!  That also keeps our skin elastic and healthy looking.  We need a continuous supply of this vitamin, so it is crucial to include in our diet.

Pumpkins are a good source of potassium and fiber.  Pumpkins are also naturally sodium free and low in calories.  It is a heart friendly food too.  And since studies show that canned pumpkin has all of the health benefits that fresh pumpkin does,  there is no reason not to jump on this bandwagon!

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.  Recipes!  Oh, I looked at them all!  Appetizers, desserts, pumpkin dice, pumpkin pureé, pumpkin seeds.  At first I was amazed that pumpkin is so versatile.  Thrilled, in fact, by the possibilities.  But in the end I followed my affinity for grilling and pizza to my very own pumpkin heaven.  Yup.  I made grilled pumpkin pizza.  And it was delish!

I did two pizzas.  One pizza had pumpkin puree as the sauce, and a second with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Here is what I did.

I bought 2 “sugar” pumpkins, or pie pumpkins, a smaller variety. I cut them in half, took out the seeds and strings, placed the cut side down on a baking sheet, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I pulled them out, turned them open side up, and let them cool.  I could then easily cut the skin away.

2 small sugar pumpkins, roasted and cut out of their skin.

Next, I cut the meat of one pumpkin into a small dice, and the other one I used for the puree.  The puree was intended to be a pizza sauce, so I wanted it thick.  I blended the pumpkin meat for the sauce with a little butter and milk until it was a good space consistency.  Then I tossed in a smidgen of salt and pepper.  That is it. Simple.

I started by grilling 2 pizza crusts on the grill.  After pulling the 2 pizza crusts off the grill, I met Denis at the island in the kitchen.  Denis and I discussed toppings, seasonings, flavors, and technique ahead of time.  We had a blast loading up our pizza pies!  For the toppings of the first pizza, we decided on goat cheese, grilled ham, and pesto to add to our pumpkin sauce.

Pumpkin pizza. This pizza has half pesto sauce and half pumpkin sauce. Next, we threw some savory toppings on!

The other pizza had diced pumpkin on it.  Since pumpkin is so moist, sauce wasn’t necessary on this pizza.  It was just the pizza crust and toppings.  Two pizzas, 1 with pumpkin sauce and one with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Very different consistencies, mouth feel, and taste sensations.  Both were very pleasant, and had the essence of fall.   These pizzas certainly elicited some moanable moments while being taste tested!

Now it’s your turn.  Get some pumpkins.  Cook them up.  Develop your own recipes,  Mix diced pumpkin with pasta, puree with bread.  Pumpkin risotto.  Pumpkin pancakes.  How many other things can you think of?  For me, this is simply a jumping off point with so many places to go with pumpkin.  Denis is a genius at soups, so I know that an amazingly delicious pumpkin soup is in our future.  Any way you make it, start having fun with this nutrition packed food.  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  It sure is-minus the fat, but with all the flavor!

Pesto Passion

23 Aug

Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking. An August birthday makes me a Leo, and I must admit, I am a lover of the sun.   Summer sunshine means amazing herbs springing to life in my garden.  I love them all, but my favorite of the summer herbs has got to be basil.

I wash my hands before I pick the delicate leaves so I can allow the delicious scent to linger on my fingers for a few extra minutes.  After first admiring my herbs, I pick some basal,  close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breathe deep.  Inhaling this fresh basil is simply a culinary delight.  It plays a starring role in many of my summer recipes.  Everyone has basil around in the summer, and there are a million ways to use it, from simple bruschetta to complicated sauces.  Summer bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil is as refreshing as a popsicle!   Mix diced fresh tomatoes with freshly cut basil and goat cheese.  Douse this with a bit of olive oil and vinegar.  Drop a spoonful on some crusty bread and voila!  Instant delish!

My favorite thing to make with basil is fresh pesto.  It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish.  It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish.  I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner.  Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment.  I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto on most everything!  It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times.  Who wouldn’t love that?

Pesto is very forgiving too.  I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too!  It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty.  Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts  as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste.   I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great.  I have used both the parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference.  Use freshly grated parmesan if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it!  I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta.  If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil.  Go ahead!  Play with this recipe!  Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!  And don’t forget to freeze some rouse later.

 

 

Seven super spices-Let’s keep going!

18 Nov

So far we have covered 2 super spices.  Let’s take a break from discussing the savory brown spices of cumin and cinnamon and move on to a spice that boasts other fabulous benefits.  We go to the  green…and the third super spice is oregano!  Yum!

Not only has oregano been used in culinary circles for ages, it has been used as an herb with medicinal properties for thousands of years.  Surprise!  It actually belongs to the mint family.   In addition to its flavorful pop to so many dishes, it is great for the body too!

First and foremost, oregano is very high in dietary antioxidants.  Antioxidants are beneficial for our bodies because they boost the immune system, help promote healthy cells, and defend against free radicals.  Free radicals attack the cells in our bodies every chance they get.  It is oxygen based damage to the cell structure, so we need to protection.   Antioxidants are a good defense from free radicals.   Each antioxidant has different beneficial qualities, so getting them from different dietary sources is beneficial not only to our cells but our immune system as well.

Oregano also has been found to have anti-bacterial properties.  Oregano oil is touted as a germ killer.  Some studies have shown that a few drops of oregano oil can actually cut down on infections in the house hold.  Compelling studies worth mentioning!

Oregano is a rich source of vitamin K.  This is valuable to bone growth and bone density.  And here is a surprise…oregano is also rich in fiber.  We tend to not consider spices when thinking of fiber, but it is time to change that thinking!

Oregano, like most spices, is best fresh.  When storing fresh oregano, it should be wrapped and stored in the fridge.  Dried oregano should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container.  Try to keep not only this, but all dried spices in a cool dark part of your kitchen, like a cabinet away from the heat of the oven.  Buy it in small amounts because spices should not be in your cabinet longer than 6 months.

Oregano is typically associated with greek and italian cooking, but its great with most anything.    Try making a dry rub with oregano, parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary.  Pat on dry chicken or pork prior to cooking for a nice flavorful dish.  Add it to tomato sauces too.  Lots of folks sprinkle oregano on their pizza.  Put a dusting of it on your fish.  Toss some into soup.  Add it to an omelet.  There are so many ways to enjoy oregano!

Spices are typically nutrient dense and calorie free. They are cholesterol free.  Why not dig in and start changing your recipes to include more spices!  It’s time to boost your immune system and add flavor to everyday dishes!  Start having fun with spices and you are on your way to better health!

Pumpkin. The new bacon.

18 Oct

Wow!  That sure got your attention, now didn’t it?  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  You bet.  I read it on the internet so it must be true (insert sarcastic tone and indignant faux cough with a hair toss here).  Seriously though, it’s an interesting culinary perspective don’t you think?  When sharing this statement with a friend, he became certain that this is a conspiracy at work here. He says nothing could ever be the new bacon!

What, exactly, does this mean…the new bacon. Well, I am not sure.  I took it to mean that pumpkin is the new “must have” ingredient that everyone is trying.  So not to be one left in the dark, I decided that pumpkin was MY new bacon.  I became determined to begin cooking with pumpkin.  But first, I delved into the nutritional facts.

First, pumpkin is a vegetable but called a “pumpkin fruit”.  Ironic, but not when you consider that food is often classified in many ways.  Pumpkins date back centuries in our history, and for good reason!  They are delicious, moist, have loads of health benefits, and are a heart healthy food.

Second, we recognize that most varieties of pumpkin are orange.  Color is important in the food we eat.  The pigment has “non nutritive” health benefits.  Pigment in food contributes important antioxidants to our diet. In other words, it is super beneficial to our cells relating to oxidation, a reaction similar to “rust” as we see on metal.  Same basic principle.  The bright orange color means that pumpkin is bursting with antioxidants!  And antioxidants keep our skin elastic and healthy looking.

Another great point to consider is that pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A.  They are low in calories and sodium free.  Pumpkin is also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  It is a heart friendly food too.  Studies show that canned pumpkin has all of the health benefits that fresh pumpkin does, so there is no reason not to jump on this bandwagon!

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.  Recipes!  Oh, I looked at them all!  Appetizers, desserts, pumpkin dice, pumpkin pureé, pumpkin seeds.  At first I was amazed that pumpkin is so versatile.  Thrilled, in fact, by the possibilities.  But in the end I followed my affinity for grilling and pizza to my very own pumpkin heaven.  Yup.  I made grilled pumpkin pizza.  And it was delish!

I did two pizzas.  One pizza with pumpkin puree as the sauce, and a second with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Here is what I did.

I bought 2 “sugar” pumpkins, or pie pumpkins.  They are a smaller variety. I cut them in half, took out the seeds and strings, placed the cut side down on a baking sheet, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I pulled them out, turned them open side up, and let them cool.  I could then easily cut the skin away.

2 small sugar pumpkins, roasted and cut out of their skin.

Next, I cut the meat of one pumpkin into a small dice, and the other one I used for the puree.  The puree was intended to be a pizza sauce, so I wanted it thick.  I blended the pumpkin meat with a little butter and milk until it was the consistency I desired.  I also tossed in some salt and pepper.  That is it. Simple!

I made my basic pizza crust on the grill.   But I must digress for a moment for the sake of accuracy.  I certainly had a partner in crime for this event.  Denis was the partner by my side to discuss toppings, seasonings, flavors, and technique.  So I say I, but certainly mean we.  These recipes are the genius of both us.  Now back to the recipes!

I pulled the 2 pizza crusts off the grill and met Denis at the island in the kitchen.  We had a blast loading up our pizza pies!  For the toppings, we decided on goat cheese, grilled ham, and pesto to add to our pumpkin.

Pumpkin pizza. This pizza has half pesto sauce and half pumpkin sauce. Next, we threw some savory toppings on!

The other pizza had diced pumpkin on it.  We did not have a sauce, just the pizza crust and toppings.  Two pizza toppings, 1 with pizza sauce and one with pizza chunks as a topping.  Very different consistencies, mouth feel, and taste sensations.  Both were very pleasant, and had the essence of fall in the flavors.  Fantastic!  These pizzas certainly elicited some moanable moments while being taste tested!

Now it’s your turn.  Get some pumpkins.  Cook them up.  Develop your own recipes,  Mix diced pumpkin with pasta, puree with bread.  Pumpkin risotto.  Pumpkin pancakes.  How many other things can you think of?  For me, this is simply a jumping off point with so many places to go with pumpkin.  Denis is a genius at soups, so I know that an amazingly delicious pumpkin soup is in our future.  Any way you make it, you will be enjoying a fantastic nutrition packed food.  Keep in touch and let me know where pumpkin takes you!