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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick Summer Salsa

I have been eating light meals during these summer days and found myself thinking about creating a complex flavored salsa without the work of chopping multiple items.  I hit on the idea of buying a quality salsa from my local health food store, not the thick, jarred kind, but a refrigerated, juicy salsa made by a local farmer. It was loaded with tomatoes and young onions, with a taste of pepper, cilantro and garlic.

 About this time I came upon a sale on mangoes and avocados and bought one of each for my creation. For the past two days they have ripened on the kitchen counter and one more day would have tipped them over the edge of ripeness. So, this morning I snipped a handful of fresh cilantro, basil and mint from my herb garden, took out my salsa bowl and set to work. Into the bowl went the tomato salsa, along with the diced avocado, cubed mango and the minced herbs. The juice of half a lime tied it all together and with a side of whole grain and seed chips a lovely appetizer was born.

Actually, this salsa could be served over fresh grilled fish or shrimp (if you can any that are not contaminated) or for vegetarians serve it over grilled tofu, tempeh or a big fat Sun burger. The complex flavors of sweet and sour, sweet and salty, bitter and sweet, with a distant pungent taste are just enough to put a smile on your face. Let me know how you serve it in your home, I'd love to know.

Summer Salsa
Makes about 4 cups

1 16 ounce container of Tomato salsa, with juice
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 ripe mango, cubed into small pieces
Handful of fresh herbs, minced = about 2 tablespoons each or more of your favorite:
cilantro, basil, mint
Juice of half a lime or more as your taste dictates.

In a medium size bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well. Chill before serving if you can wait that long. It looks great served in a colorful dish to match the reds and golds of the salsa.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pesto Potato Salad

Springtime in New Jersey and we make do with what is growing in our gardens and what the Farmers Market offers to us in the way of herbs, greens and root vegetables. Take this simple potato salad for example. I found the small baby red potatoes in my local farm stand, washed them off and placed them in a pot of water. I brought them to a boil, then covered and removed them from the heat to cook and cool. You can do this just before bedtime and let them cool overnight or just before leaving for work in the morning and they are ready for your return home.

The Garlic Scape Pesto was featured in this blog once before, but I will repeat the recipe here rather than make you try to find it. Make a big batch of the pesto and freeze it to use on pasta, pizza or a dollop in soup or chili. One of my favorite taste treats.

As with all potato recipes the amount of salt is important and you should always adjust a recipe to your taste. If you used more salt in the pesto then go gentle with salting the potatos as it all ties in together. And with the addition of Great Northern Beans you have a protein-fat-starch combination that works for a one dish meal. You can make this for a summer picnic or bring to a pot luck with friends and family. Most importantly, chew well and enjoy the flavors.

Pesto Potato Salad
Serves 8-10

1 pound small red potatoes (about 12-15 potatoes)
1 14.5 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup diced spring green onions
1 stalk celery, slice thin and diced
1/3 cup Garlic Scape pesto (see recipe below)
1/4 cup Vegenaise

1. In medium saucepan cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off heat and leave until cool, about 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the pesto.
3. When potatoes are cool slice into quarters and place in a medium size bowl.
4. Add the beans, spring onions, celery, pesto and Vegenaise, mixing well.
5. Salt to taste. Cover and chill 4-24 hours.

Garlic Scape Pesto

2 cups garlic scapes, chopped
2 large handfuls fresh arugula, washed and dried               
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (as needed)

1. In a food processor chop the scapes into a fine mash.
2. Add a 1/4 cup of the oil and puree.
3. Add the arugula and pulse to combine.
4. Add the basil and pulse to combine, adding more oil as needed.
5. Add the sea salt and keep the machine running while you drizzle the oil in through the chute.
6. Stop from time to time to scrape down the sides then continue to puree until it is a smooth consistency.

A note on garlic scapes: these are the flowering stems that grow out of the garlic bulb. Some people call them garlic curls and they have a short season for enjoying. This makes them all the more precious and can be used in a stir-fry, dressings, to flavor oil, or to make into a pesto. They are aromatic and pungent at the same time, so no need to add extra garlic to kick the taste up a notch.