Worms and Flowers

Simply Salsa

Posted in Recipes by Lzyjo on September 1, 2009

Ah, salsa. The cherry on the nacho cake.  Okay, lousy metaphor for a wonderful condiment. Salsa comes in smaller, pricier jars than tomato sauce, so surely it must be harder to make? NO?! NO! It’s not. Blast! If anything, it is easier. It can be made in a frying pan using just 2 pounds of tomatoes! No kidding.  The following recipe is for salsa as simple as it gets. K.I.S. I like to leave of the last S, becuase it’s unnecessary, but inevitably I think Stupid, anyway!

Preparation

Rinse two pounds of tomatoes and blanch in a large pot of water to a boil.

Let the water come back to a boil and cook for approximately five minutes.

The skins of the tomatoes should be just splitting open. Cook too quickly and the skin will still be attached, cook too long and pulp will exit the cracks in the skin.

Cool tomatoes under running water or in an ice bath.

Peel the blanched tomatoes. The skin should come off in one piece (hopefully 😉 fingers crossed, knock on wood, pray to god….)

After your tomatoes are peeled you can take a break and let them rest overnight and a lot of the water will drain off, or if you’re feeling energetic, proceeded with the salsa. Draining the additional water off can help produce a thicker salsa more quickly.

Cooking the Salsa

Chop one onion

Chop the two pounds of blanched tomatoes

Chop 3- 5 ounces of green chilies for a mild-medium salsa. Approximately 8 oz for hot.

Bell peppers can also be added, but are optional.

Combine the ingredients in a skillet and simmer for about 40 minutes until the tomatoes break apart, mostly.

Season to taste with salt and sugar.

I used about 2 tsps of salt and 1/4 C of brown sugar for two pounds of tomatoes. Salsa, being a condiment, known for being piquant, (as in Picante) requires stronger seasonings than you would normally add to a sauce or main dish.

Yields approximately 3 Jars.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Easy as Tomato Sauce

Posted in Recipes by Lzyjo on August 31, 2009

A lot of things in the kitchen come with hype, whether is a grilled sandwich called a panini  or gourmands who brag that they would never touch anything other than homemade tomato sauce. In most cases the hype, is exactly that, something that dissolves when the truth is discovered. That is exactly why I am posting today, to dispel myths that tomato sauce is hard to make.  The one truth about homemade tomato sauce is that is IS more intensely flavored and overall a different animal that store bought- sauce.

There are two simple methods for making tomato sauce, one is best suited for making it “by hand” and the other using a food mill.

Begin by finding as many tomatoes as possible. To make one quart of  sauce it takes approximately 5 pounds of tomatoes.

Equipment Free Pasta Sauce

Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add rinsed tomatoes, let the water come back to a boil and cook for approximately five minutes.

The skins of the tomatoes should be just splitting open. Cook too quickly and the skin will still be attached, cook too long and pulp will exit the cracks in the skin.

Cool tomatoes under running water or in an ice bath.

Peel the blanched tomatoes. the skin should come off in one piece (hopefully)

After your tomatoes are peeled you can take a break and let them rest overnight and a lot of the water will drain off, or if you’re feeling energetic, proceeded with the sauce. Letting the tomatoes drain on their own, makes for a thicker finished product, requiring less cooking time

Sauce

Chop all of the tomatoes and 1 onion. (Use onions and other seasonings sparingly as they become stronger during long-term storage.

Add additional flavorings if desired, bell peppers, hot peppers, roasted peppers, etc.,

I also add a little parsley, oregano, and basil.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

After40 minutes the tomatoes should smell cooked and they should be at a sauce like consistency.

Season with salt and sugar to taste. The amount required depends on the quantity and flavor of the tomatoes used, which varies every time.

I used 2 tsps of Salt and 1/4 C brown sugar.  1 tsp Salt and 2 TBSP of Brown Sugar should be suitable for smaller batches. I found brown sugar to be most pleasant in the sauce than white. The richer molasses flavor blends much more easily than the blunt sugariness of granulated sugar.

Thicken with a flour/water slurry if necessary. Ideally the tomato sauce should coat the spoon.

Now your tomato sauce is done, how easy was that! Give it a good taste, notice how it taste like tomatoes, notice how you can taste the freshness and nuance of every ingredient in the sauce. Amazing! Package and enjoy!

Photobucket

If you happened to have a food mill/squeezo, etc., that’s great because they can make massive quantities of sauce very quickly. Chop tomatoes with their skins on and follow the “Sauce” section of the recipe, after 40 minutes of cooking, run the mixture through the food mill. If you wish, reserve some of the sauce to make it chunky, or run it all through the food mill for a smooth puree.

Removing the skins, either through a food mill or by blanching, is important because of their bitter taste and leathery texture.

On the right is my BST tomato sauce mill. It is one of the most simple food mills, a crank, a bladed wheel and a fine mesh screen and is not changeable, unlike Squeezos. It also has a large hopper than can be filled to the brim.

For $10-$15 on eBay it’s so worth it! Squeezos are SO expensive brand new. I definately recommend checking on eBay you never know when someone wants to get rid of a food mill they never use!

Tagged with: , , , ,

Many Words about Knives

Posted in Kitchen by Lzyjo on August 28, 2009

Last Sunday I was diligently working in the studio, finishing up eight pillow covers for my MIL. Four for gifts and the others she bought, anyway, I just love NPR’s fabulously funny Sunday programming. Last Sunday’s Splendid Table featured an interview with domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, who shared several delicious ways to enjoy in season fruits and even make jam, her recipe “Handsfree Raspberry jam” is featured on the Splendid Table website.

Next, weekly Splendid Table guests and food/travel writers Jane and Michael Stern shared tales from their travels sampling Kansas City B-B-Q. I really had no idea, but Kansas City is a likely home as any for B-B-Q. Kansas City barbecue is known for it’s spicy orange sauce, colored by tomatoes. The sauce in Kansas City not as sweet as other types of BBQ sauce. According to Jane and Michael the holy grail of BBQ in Kansas City is L.C.’s their description leaves nothing to the imagination, a small restaurant, with TVs blaring, and rolls of paper towels on every bare-top table. According to the experts don’t bother with any of the side dishes what you want is the barbecued meats, particularly a sampling of burnt ends, the charred ends of the beef briskets. Almost enough to make a vegetarian’s mouth water….almost.

Next up in the show was Chard Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro.An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro Knives

An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives -- How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro

Knives always put me on edge, no pun intended. They are often costly, and require a certain respect and caution to be used safely. As the host Lynne Rossetto Kasper introduced the knife man my heart filled with dread, I felt like he was going to say, much to my chagrin, that all the knives I had were crap and that had no clue what I was doing when I used them. Fortunately, that is not at all what he said.

The knife man clearly and concisely explained the misconceptions and truths about knives. One of the first things he said what that most of out preconceptions about knives are comparable to medieval medicine. He debunked many myths about pricey forged cutlery, once a gold standard. According to the knife man, in this day and age it is unnecessary to buy unaffordable hand forged knives. I was positively excited when the knife of all knives he recommended was the very Photobucketknife I own!!!!! According to the knife man the very best knife for the value is by Fibrox by Victorinox/Forshner, (the Swiss Army knife company) A chef’s knife from this line costs about $20-$30 . They are stamped from a sheet of steel, making them cheaper to produce, but according to the knife man, the steel is high quality and holds an edge very well.
When it comes to keeping those knives sharp and in tip-top shape the knife man really broke it down. Electric knife sharpeners remove metal at an alarming rate, they should be used for emergencies, like if a knife has been severely dulled (Knife man used the example of a child dulling a knife on the sidewalk!) For maintenance a knife steel should be used before and after use. A knife steel does not actually sharpen the blade, but smooths out microscopic bends in the edge.
I have watched this “How to Use a Knife Steel” video on About.com numerous times just to make sure my technique is proper. I love the way this chef explains the process, the folded paper example is wonderful! Do check it out.
I bought most of my Victorinoxes from Cutlery and More they have a fabulous selection of Victorinox. The knife man says all you need is a chef’s knife, a few paring knives, and a serrated bread knife and he says you’ll be happier with those than “blockheads,” people who buy a set of knives in a block with a pear of shears for 39.99., or something, you get the point.
PhotobucketOn the left are my Victorinox parking knives, all about $4.95 each. A sheep’s foot paring knife( in the front) 3.25 inch paring knife, serrated knife, and two four inch paring knives. All, except the serrated, I keep sharp with the steel.
Most jobs in the kitchen are easily accomplished with these tools. Not to make an example from a mistake, but DH used the paring knives to chop green chilies on a regular kitchen plate with slightly cupped edges. Needless to say, he cut him self due to this unfortunate cutting arrangement. I took over cutting, after we covered DH’s cut, and immediately noticed how dangerous it was cutting on a plate. By all means use a flat cutting board surface, I don’t nag, but I really wanted to say, “what, are you trying to do? Chop you hand off, or make the knives really dull, cutting on this plate!!!” But I didn’t.

Have you noticed people using knives in TV shows? Often they look pouty as they angrily pound a chefs knife on the cutting board, using it like an axe, gosh, that makes are horrible noise. Loud walloping of the knife is not how this utensil was meant to be used. If you look at the photo on the right you can see how the tip of Photobucketthe knife does not touch the cutting board. The point of the knife, an inch or two below the tip should be used like a pivot point. It is unnecessary and quite dangerous to lift the knife all the way off the cutting surface. Depending on the diameter of the item to be cut, move it further to toward the handle for a larger cutting angle. Always try to use the natural curved shaped of the blade to your advantage, rocking as you chop.

After your are done chopping, put the knife in a safe place where it is out of the way. I know that is common sense, but an ounce of prevention,… well, you know…I like to wash the knife as soon as I am done using it, if not I put it out of the way on the side of the sink. Never in the sink. I always take any knives out of the sink before I start doing dishes. I know this because I HAVE cut myself reaching into murky dish water.

After the knife is clean, steel it a few times on each side of the blade, wipe with a clean towel and put your baby in the drawer. With proper care your knives can stay sharp for a lifetime and with respect you will always chop safely.

Blackberry Season with Recipe

Posted in Recipes by Lzyjo on July 27, 2009

It’s mid July the height of blackberry season.Photobucket

Berries, like black gold, are a seasonal treat to be savored while they last.

Photobucket

We always manage to eat all the before before we get around to making anything, but if you have a ton of berries to use, a lovely seasonal Blackberry-Apple pie would be a great way to use them! Here’s a Recipe from “Farm Journal’s Best-Ever Pies” cookbook. I haven’t tried it, but their recipes are always spot-on.

Double Pie Crust

2 C. flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 C.  oil

3 Tbsp ice water

Sift or whisk flour and salt. Blend in oil with a fork or pastry blender, sprinkle ice water over the crumbly (sand-like) flour mixture. Form into a ball and divide roughly in half, one half slightly larger for the bottom. Chill. Roll out when ready to use

Blackberry-Apple Pie

3 C. Blackberries

1 C. Tart apples, pared and sliced.

1 C. Sugar

3 Tbsp Quick cooking tapioca (I would substitute corn starch for this)

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

2 Tbsp butter, chopped.

Mix fruits together. Whisk dry ingredients. Mix  dry ingredients with the fruit. Pour into your pastry shell, dot with the 2 Tbsp of butter. Cover with the top crust and slit for steam to escape.

Bake at 425 for 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbly.

Cool before eating, if you can wait!

MMMM!!!!

Tagged with: , , ,