22 September 2017

BLT rice salad

We are frantically trying to pick and use as many tomatoes form our garden as we can before the frost starts, because everyone knows tomatoes have the most give-up in them when it gets a little chilly outside.  Well, tomatoes and basil.  Basil is such a weak baby. It reminds me of my ex-boyfriends. 

So, I started cutting the tomatoes and making the vegan microwave baconish the other night before I realized we had no bread in the house. But we did have a bunch of cooked frozen jasmine rice and a glorious cucumber from the neighbor's garden, so BLT rice salad it was. This was our dinner, but I think it would be a great side to some grilled fish or chicken or this nice lentil salad

BLT Rice Salad

Serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as a side

2 cups cooked rice (any kind you like)
1 large fresh tomato, cut into chunks
1/2 cucumber, cut into chunks (try to match the size of the tomato chunks)
1/2 avocado, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, chives, parsley), optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 strips of cooked bacon or bacon-like product, drained and crumbled

You can eat the rice hot, room, temperature, or cold.  If it's a long grain rice, best to keep it warm or it will get too dry and hard to eat.  Stir in the tomato, cucumber, avocado, fresh herbs, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the crumbled bacon.

15 September 2017

Recreating those great salsas from your neighborhood taco joint

...oh, you don't have a neighborhood taco joint?  Neither did I until I moved to northern Colorado, and my first trip up to the salsa bar was mind-boggling.  I've settled on three favorites, which I find work perfectly with everything from barbacoa to zucchini tacos or just dipping the chips you use to soak up your tequila-induced alcohol poisoning, and they're all quite simple to make.  Get to work on these recipes while you can still get fresh tomatoes and peppers from your garden or local farmer's market!

Creamy Avocado Salsa

3 ripe avocados
3 tomatillos
1 serrano chile
1 small lime
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons Mexican cream or sour cream
6 tablespoons water
1 tsp salt

Pit the avocados and remove the flesh. Peel and wash the tomatillos. Remove the stem from the serrano chile. Peel the garlic clove. Squeeze the juice from the lime.

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until very smooth. If the salsa is too thick to blend add water 2 tbsp. at a time until the salsa blends smoothly. Add salt if necessary.

Classic Pico de Gallo

4 fresh tomatoes
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lime
salt to taste

Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze the seeds and excess juice into a bowl. You can reserve this for soups or freeze into cubes in your ice cube tray for later use to add tomato flavor to anything. 

Dice the tomato flesh and add all other ingredients in a serving bowl.  Mix and salt to taste. 

Smoky Four-Pepper Salsa
8 ripe plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 poblano peppers
4 Anaheim chile peppers
1 jalapeno chile pepper, or more to taste
1 large green bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon mesquite flavored liquid smoke concentrate (optional)

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat.

Rub tomatoes with oil and grill for 10 minutes, turn. Place poblano, Anaheim, jalapeno chiles, and the green pepper on the grill. Grill 5 to 7 minutes per side, being careful not to let them burn. The skins should blister and brown. Remove tomatoes to a separate bowl. Place the chiles and pepper in an airtight container to let them steam while they cool so they're easier to peel.

Peel tomatoes and drain excess liquid. Peel and seed peppers. Place the tomatoes, chiles, green pepper, cilantro, vinegar, onion, garlic, and salt in the container of a food processor. Pulse 4 or 5 times. Add liquid smoke and more jalapenos if desired. Pulse until salsa as chunky or smooth as you like.

08 September 2017

Mexican Corn Salad revamped

There have been several versions of this dish going around the interwebs this summer, from Taste of Home's Pinterest account to an overly complicated vegan version in which you make queso out of tofu and use precious vegannaise in the dressing. It's not a bad combination of flavors, and reminds me quite a bit of the corn on the cob I had in Rhode Island to accompany my fatty-ass lobster dinner there in June. But there are a couple of things I've changed about these recipes--the vegetable content and the amount of mayo, for starters.  I have a lot more (not very Mexican) basil than I do cilantro in the garden, so I made that trade, as well. Here's my version.  Since it's no longer just corn, I guess we should call it...

Mexican Corn and Squash

Serves 4 as a side

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. corn kernels (frozen is fine, but thaw and drain first)
2 small-ish yellow summer squash, sliced and cut into half-moons
2 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 small jalapeno, minced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil leaves
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat and dump in the corn and squash with about a teaspoon of salt.  You want to get it a bit charred in places, so spread it all out into a single layer and let it sit there for a minute or two, then stir it up and do the same again.  When you're satisfied, lower to medium heat and add the scallions, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the jalapeno has softened a little.  Remove from heat and stir in the mayo, lime juice, paprika, and basil leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the goat cheese on top.

01 September 2017

Tastes like Asian...noodle edition

I love, love, love noodles of every kind. And while I'll never turn down a homey pasta bolognese, I think I might like Asian noodle dishes the most. These two are stupidly easy and definitely worth the investment of those fancy oils and vinegars you've been putting off buying. 

Cucumber-Soba Bowls with chile oil

Serves 4

1 medium seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
9 ounces soba noodles
14 ounces silken tofu
Hot chile oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Large handful torn fresh basil leaves

Place the cucumbers in a large bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside, tossing occasionally, until the cucumbers have release some of their liquid, about 15 minutes.

Drain off any accumulated juices into a separate medium bowl, and whisk in the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and oil. Pour over the cucumbers and toss to combine.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, then drain once more.

Add the drained soba noodles to the cucumber mixture and toss to combine. Divide the noodles and cucumbers among 4 bowls and top each with a spoonful of tofu. Drizzle each bowl with some hot chile oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and basil, and serve.

Fried tofu and Maifun

Serves 4

14 oz. extra firm tofu
6 oz. thin rice noodles (maifun)
1 small serrano chile, thinly sliced
3 cups washed baby spinach (or larger leaves roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

Press tofu. In a large bowl, soak rice noodles, chile, and spinach in hot water. While the tofu is being pressed, mix together Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar.

Slice the tofu into slabs, heat vegetable oil in a high-sided skillet, and fry the tofu pieces until brown. Chop the fried tofu into chunks, spoon over drained rice noodle mixture, then pour the dressing over everything.