Monday, August 30, 2010

Fresh Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Before we begin, let's learn the proper pronunciation of this dish, bruschetta. It is not "brew-shet-a". There is no "shh" sound. It's "sket" with a "k" and a short "e". "Brew-sket-a". Now all together: "brew-sket-a". Bruschetta!

Bruschetta actually refers to the crusty bread part of the dish. So, really any crusty bread appetizer topped with some sort of antipasto is bruschetta. I'm covering the one that we, as Americans, normally think of: made from tomatoes and basil. OK, enough schooling. Let's get to it!

This is the ultimate summer appetizer. Fresh, garden tomatoes, aromatic basil, onion, and garlic are like old friends who never grow apart. Any time they're together, it's a damn good time. Bruschetta is good enough to eat straight with a spoon, but it's best with some buttery, crusty bread.

With a food processor, this dish comes together within minutes. A little chopping action by hand will give you the same results. Just chop to desired chunkiness, let rest for at least a half hour, then spread onto some buttered French or Italian bread.

Combine 3 cups of chopped tomatoes, 1 to 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup (packed) freshly chopped basil, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 3 Tbsp chopped onion. Let rest, covered, in the refrigerator. Spread onto bread and top with a sprinkling of Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 23, 2010

All fired up! Habenero Salsa!

This summer has been the perfect summer for growing tomatoes. I've been getting loads of free tomatoes from my family, so the next few recipes will be very tomato-y. This week I'm going to set you on fire with some homemade salsa. This recipe can be adapted to different heat strengths, so no fear weenies, you can tone down the pepper to suit your pallet. Onward!

Once you make your own salsa, you will have a hard time returning to the canned stuff. Fresh salsa is And refreshing! Start by quartering 1 and a half pounds of Roma or cherry tomatoes. Add them to a food processor. Roughly chop a quarter of a medium onion, a 1/4 cup of cilantro, and add them to the tomatoes. Add 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. sugar, and 1 and a half Tbsp. of fresh lime juice. Carefully mince one large habanero and add as well. (See notes below.) Pulse 12 times and store in an air tight container. Let the flavors meld for at least a half hour. (If you don't have a food processor, just dice everything to desired chunkiness.)

Please note the glove. If you don't have gloves, it is possible to cut a habenero pepper barehanded without making yourself cry for hours afterward. You just have to be careful and follow my instructions: slice, dice, and mince the pepper; DO NOT TOUCH YOURSELF OR ANYONE ELSE; put the pepper pieces into the salsa; wash your knife and cutting board; wash your hands vigorously with generous amounts of dish soap; while your hands are still soapy rub your fingers into the lime pulp/inner peel, getting under your fingernails the best you can; rinse well; repeat washing steps if you feel the slightest bit of heat.
This isn't just an old wives tale. The dish soap has anti-grease properties releasing the capsaicin, the pepper's heating element, from the oily crevasse of your fingers. The lime acts as a brush and counteracts the heat as citrus juice tends to do.

Here's how to customize the spiciness. For mild salsa, use only a quarter of the habenero, discarding the membranes and seeds. For medium, use half of the pepper, deseeded. For hot, use the whole pepper, deseeded. For volcanic, cut up the entire pepper, seeds, skin, membrane, and all.

Pick up a chip and enjoy! I hope I didn't "burn" you out. Har har har.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Get to the State Fair!

Ah, the Indiana State Fair. It's really all about the food. It's a celebration of what our Hoosier soil, plants, animals, and hard working farmers give us every year. So come and eat heartily!

I took the above photo because this sight was the epitome of state fairs: abundance and indulgence. It's only once a year, so why not?!

This was the year of the pig and the winning food item for 2010 was the Garbage Burger. Yes, it does look like garbage, but it's pretty darn tasty. A Garbage Burger is a pork burger topped with BBQ pulled pork between a hamburger bun. Get to the Indiana Pork Farmer's tent to order one.

Hook's Drug Store is a must see. I love the artifacts and how well preserved the store is. There are so many fun facts to read about throughout the place. They have a working soda fountain with real phosphates and floats. They even have the old timey Green River soda.

Fried cheddar cheese. You can't go to the state fair without eating something that's been battered and plunged into boiling oil. It's just un-American. Every year, I swear to order a fried candy bar, but I always punk out. Some day, greasy candy bar, some day!

There is a giant cheese sculpture in working progress. It is pig and Colts themed. It's oddly shiny. Should cheese be shiny?

Taffy. It's really easy to eat in this stifling weather. At a temperature of 95 degrees, taffy becomes significantly less taxing on dental caps and fillings.

I finished this regional gastronomic tradition with honey ice cream, which is surprisingly frothy, but perhaps it's the heat again. I hope you don't let the weather detour you from attending your state fair.

Come for the pineapple whip ice cream and a Garbage Burger. Stock up on Indiana maple syrup and local honey products like soap and other beauty products. Any way you look at it, there's a little something for everyone at the state fair.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Guacamole for Two

So these fancy friends of mine got me a beefy mortar and pestle for my birthday. I named it Brutus. It smashes things. Cracks, crushes, and mashes things. Yes, indeed. Brutus really throws his weight around in the kitchen. I don't mind, less muscle use for me.

Brutus makes great guac for two. Chop up one avocado, five cherry tomatoes, a thick slice of onion, and four basil leaves - or you could use cilantro.

Pour in 1 Tbsp of lime juice, 1/4 tsp of garlic salt, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Mash, mash, mash. Mush, mush, mush. Guacamole for two. If you don't have a beefy mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor, a fork, or even your hands if you're feeling frisky. Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not Your Kid's Granola

We could probably all agree that granola is good. It's very versatile and can be adapted to please many pallets. That's a very good thing for me because I don't like chewy dried fruit in my crunchy granola. I also don't like the enormous sugar content in the typical, grocery store stuff. That's why I make my own. Here's my lightly sweetened, home-baked, yogurt topping granola.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F, and grease a 9x13 inch metal sheet pan. In a medium sized bowl, I combine 2 cups of rolled oats, 1/2 cup of wheat bran or germ, 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds, 3 Tbsp of kasha (whole buckweat), 2/3 cup of walnut pieces, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, and 3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds. Mix to combine.

In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. water, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup honey, 1 Tbsp sorghum, and 3 Tbsp of canola oil. Stir to combine and pour into the oat mixture. Stir to coat.

Bake for 30 minutes and stir. If you like dried fruit in your granola, now is the time to stir it in. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the mixture becomes lightly browned.

Store in an air tight container. Again, granola is completely adaptable. If you don't like walnuts, use your favorite nut. If you don't like seeds, omit them. If you'd rather have your granola sweeter, add some brown sugar. Granola is hard to mess up, so just experiment. Oh, if you like it clumpy, press the pre-cooked granola into the pan and don't stir it at all. See, something for everyone!