Tag Archives: garden

Fresh Summer Salsa

28 Jul

The flavors of summer are ripe, juicy and bursting with colors. This season gives us sweet treats with fresh aromatic melon, juicy berries, and gorgeous tree ripened peaches. And we can’t overlook the herbs exploding in our gardens. Need a new way to enjoy the essence of sunny days and warm breezy nights? Summer salsa here we come!

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Look at this versatile summer fruit salsa!

Need some ideas as to what to do with this summer treat? This fruity delight is delicious with a spicy grilled tenderloin. Or on top of shrimp tacos. Or along side juicy 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. It is a can’t miss with some baked brie cheese in puff pastry. The possibilities are endless!

Want more choices, more flexibility? This salsa recipe offers plenty. It’s bold flavor lends itself to endless substitutions to customize anything seasonal. This salsa is yummy with cilantro, but if your herb garden is overflowing with fragrant  rosemary or leafy basil, add that in place of the cilantro. Got blueberries? Toss those in with or in place of something else. Any firm fruit will do.

But first, lets start with the basic recipe. Where you go from there is up to you.

Begin by chopping your cantaloupe and peaches. Add them to a large bowl. Don’t crowd the ingredients as you will have more to add and a little stirring to do.

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Chop up some cantaloupe and peaches. Side bar-if you have a little leftover, sprinkle it with some bleu cheese and enjoy!

Add some luscious summer blackberries.

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Just look at those gorgeous colors!

Now it is time to jazz up the works a bit. Add in your cilantro and finely chopped onions. Give that all a good gentle stir. You are going to love how these flavors work together.

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A little salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lime, another good stir and your summer salsa is ready! This gets better over time so make it ahead of when it will be served and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. See the full recipe below.

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Amy’s Fresh Summer Salsa

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped cantaloupe or 1 cup each canteloupe and honey dew melon
  • 2 ripe peaches, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or thinly sliced scallions including green top
  • 1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro (may substitute basil)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 lime cut in half
  • 1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients together and gently stir. Refrigerate until use.

Secret Ingredient-splash 1 or 2 tablespoons over tequila on the salsa. Then serve with margaritas and fish tacos! Be sure to let me know how your salsa turns out and what you love about it!

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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.

 

 

No Labels Please.

22 Jun

Labels. I loathe and reject them! They are so limiting. The smart one. The athletic one. The workaholic. The baby of the family. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. That’s right. I hate labeling everything including meals. Boring! And limiting!

Breakfast does not have to be oatmeal. eggs, toast, bagel, or cold cereal. These foods can be eaten any time of the day. And if it’s last night’s leftovers for breakfast who cares? There is nothing wrong with chicken, rice, and broccoli for breakfast. If that is what sounds good, go for it.  Dinner has to be a big hunk of meat and a couple of side dishes?  Nope.  Not in my book.  Sometimes a bowl of cereal is perfect for dinner. Sometimes eggs and toast work. My youngest son’s favorite dinner is breakfast! For many years his special birthday dinner request was breakfast, or what some would label as breakfast food.

I am going to tell a story through pictures. It is the story of a meal. But I will not label it. And I will not reveal what time of day I enjoyed this meal (which, by the way, features several servings. I only had one!). I will toss a caveat in saying that it is not a story for the faint of heart. It is of adult nature….it features…dare I say it….bacon and bacon fat. Totally obscene! Outrageous! But it is moderation in the use of the fat that allows my conscience to let this dirty little secret out.

Fresh!  Beautiful!

Fresh! Beautiful!

Lucky for me I have friends who have what I lack…namely a green thumb. This bowl is full of fresh peppers and tomatoes. I was the lucky recipient of this lovely fresh bounty, and I let it inspire me. It took me to a very unexpected place.

Bacon.  Decadent!

Bacon. Decadent!

I began my homage to these fresh ingredients by frying up some bacon in my beloved old cast iron skillet. While the bacon was crisping, I started cutting up the peppers and tomatoes.  When it was done, I scooped out the bacon to drain on  paper towels and disposed of most of the bacon fat in the skillet.  I  left a bit of the grease in my skillet though. The aromas in my kitchen started deepening, layering. Man, was I hungry now!

Pepper mania!  yes!!

Pepper mania! yes!!

I tossed those fresh peppers and tomatoes into that bacon fat. Yes, that’s what I said. Right into the fat. Well here is where I kind of compounded the naughty factor. While the peppers were frying up I went to the fridge and hung on the door. Hunting. Digging. Then I popped to the pantry. Nope…nothing there…went back to the fridge. Here comes more of the naughty…I was seriously misbehaving with that bacon grease!

Peppers to the side...eggs in front!

Peppers to the side…eggs in front!

I pushed the veggies aside and tossed in eggs. Frying eggs in bacon fat. Yup…I warned you! Totally obscene! And completely delish! But my conscience would not allow this dish to be totally devoid of some sort of nutrition. So I made some whole grain toast. No butter.  Next I just  tossed eggs, peppers and tomatoes on the toast. The bacon was on the side.  Fabulous!

YUM!

YUM!

I will not label this meal, nor will I reveal the time of day that this meal was consumed. Let me just say that it was amazing! I cook with bacon grease maybe once or twice a year. I love great food cooked in different ways. And in moderation, I think that everything can be enjoyed. As I said, I only cook with bacon fat occasionally. This dish was certainly worth the wait..and totally label free.

 

Passionate for Pesto

30 Apr

Our winter was cold, snowy, and the weather was, well, dreary.  Spring has sprung, and it was a bit of a whimper, not a big bold leaping launch.  Rats.  I love spring, but our spring this year has limped in. Not with tulips and daffodils, but with gray skies and cold rain.  I am not complaining, mind you, just missing the beauty and newness of spring this year.  But darn glad that it is finally here.

With gray skies above, imagine my excitement when I zipped down to the back yard for something and realized that my parsley was absolutely bursting out of the garden!  I instantly forgot my purpose for having gone to the back yard and leaned over my garden.  I blinked and blinked again.  Yes!  Not only was the parsley happily standing up to greet me, but so was the mint, the rosemary, and rocket arugula!  Yum!  I could not resist bending over, pinching off some leaves even though there was no imminent culinary purpose, and putting the herbs up to me face.  I breathed in, my head went back, and it was a moanable moment.

I try to have pots of herbs growing in my kitchen all year long (once in a while one of my foodie friends may sneak one out of my kitchen, so I have to keep more than one plant around!). My favorite thing to make with herbs is fresh pesto. It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Flexible foods are my favorite, and pesto is super flexible.  How flexible?

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 in or 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 it 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 make a big batch and freeze some for another night when time is short.

 

Let the pesto pop!

17 Aug

Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking.  Summer sunshine means amazing herbs spring to life in my garden.  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. Then I close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breathe deep. Yum!!  It is an herb I simply cannot live without. It plays a starring role in many of my recipes.

Everyone has basil around in the summer.  It is easy to grow, but if that’s not your thing, its super easy to find in the grocery store and farmers markets.  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!  But one of my all time favorite ways to use basil is fresh pesto.

Pesto 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 and keep it handy in the fridge or freezer.  Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves (or 1 cup dried)

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (adjust to taste)

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 “el cheapo” parmesan cheese in the can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference. Use it if you can, but if you only have the 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!

1-2-3-GO!

6 Mar

Alright.  It’s March.  Let’s get rolling on thinking about the upcoming summer.  No, I don’t mean go try swim suits on.  Ugh!  Who wants to try on tiny cloths with pale dry winter skin that hasn’t seen the sun in months!  And shave my legs?  Forget it!  That is not what I am talking about!  It’s time to start planning a garden!  I started mine.  Yahoo!

I get spring fever really early in the season.  I just love warm sunny weather.  So I start to get jazzed about the upcoming summer long before the lawn needs cutting.  Long before warm breezes allow me to enjoy the screen porch.  I simply can’t help myself.  Therefore, I need to placate myself (and NOT by swim suit shopping!).  I find winter joy in planning my spring and summer garden.

The reality is, though, that I am a really busy working mom.  My fantasy of languishing in my fragrant blooming garden, dressed in crisp cotton khaki’s and a sun hat (channeling the lovely Katherine Hepburn!), fielding compliments from jealous neighbors is, well, just that.  A fantasy.  But that doesn’t stop me.  I have learned to reign myself in a bit.  I have a small garden.  But even that is very rewarding.

First, I can start planning my spring summer garden in the late winter months, which is fun.  Second, I go small and easy.  I have mostly herbs in my garden.  My time is tight, and I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world.  In fact, I am a bit clumsy in the garden, so I won’t quit, but I do work within my, shall we say, limitations.  Time, space, and ability are constraints I need to be mindful of when planning my garden.  As much as I would love to devote hours to a fabulous garden, I can’t.  And I learned that lesson the hard way, but I did learn it!

I have already put my seeds in their little peat moss pots.  I have a great sunny window seat, so I move the cushions and plunk my little seedling wannabe’s there to sprout.  My pots are in neat little rows all labels with popsicle sticks and labels.  Simple.  It is very inexpensive to set up because I stay away from the gimmicky “potting and watering systems” for new seedlings.  I go the old fashioned route.  Little cups, good seeds, rich potting soil.  I shove my finger in the filled pot and sprinkle seeds in.  I water them, keep them in a spot where they get good sun, and watch my garden begin.  Happily.

So far I have started herbs including rosemary, 2 kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint.  I also started arugula, mesculin, and other lettuces.  Again, lettuces and greens are super easy to grow.  I am practically guaranteed success.   I added green onions and red peppers.  That’s it.  Simple dimple.

My little garden scratches my spring fever itch for many months.  It’s so gratifying to watch my little sprouts peek up out of the soil and take root.  When the weather warms up, I will head out to prepare a spot in my yard.  I will spend a morning transplanting and fussing a bit over the garden.  Then I will step back and let it go!  Stepping out of the kitchen into a garden is pure magic.  Picking fresh greens and herbs is gratifying.  And the smells are amazing.  You can’t help but throw your head back, breath the fresh herbs in, and begin creating a flavorful dish in your mind.

So I can’t have the huge blooming garden I think that, as a foodie, I should have, but my little one sure makes me happy.  So go get your supplies, plant your seeds, and enjoy some summer simplicity.  It’s fun.  I promise!