So many exciting things to make this week, from raw salsas to chowders to a simple and divine tomato paella that really lets the tomatoes shine. Happy cooking! Sorry my computer died as I was working on this post. I was able to recover most photos but not quite all!
Cold Beet Borscht (link)
Pico de Gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
Poblano, Corn and Feta Pizza
Raita (with Beets)
Simple Tomato Paella
A SIO member sent me this link for a cold borscht. It sounds perfect for this week.
–adapted from Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanaz
Another SIO member sent me a variation of this salsa she had made and I varied it again for the share this week. It’s fresh and delicious and I ate it more like a salad than a dip/salsa but serve it any way you like.
Yields about 2 ½ cups
About 3 medium beets, boiled, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons Walla Walla onion, minced
½ green bell pepper, minced
1 Jalapeno, minced (they vary so widely in heat level so taste before you decide how much to use and whether or not to use the seeds—I used a whole one, with seeds and had barely any heat and then I used two whole ones with seeds in the Roasted Salsa, below, and the salsa was on fire!)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Splash of olive oil
I tend to boil my beets these days because it’s quicker and I don’t want to heat up my house with the oven. I rinse the beets, cut any larger ones in halves or quarters and cover with water and bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until tender—30 minutes or so. Drain, cool and then peel and trim away any roots and stem ends.
Dice the beets finely and mix together with all other ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as you like.
Pico de Gallo
Fresh, sweet, savory and good as is with chips, in tacos, mixed with black beans, etc.
I haven’t yet tried any alapenos from SIO this season but from experience they generally vary in heat level so taste before you start adding to determine how much you want to use and remove seeds to reduce heat if it seems like too much.
Yields about 2 1/4 cups
1 1/2 lbs tomatoes (4 medium more or less), washed, cored and finely chopped or diced
½ – 2 jalapenos, finely minced (de-seed the pepper if you’re unsure of your comfort with the heat level—my guess is that you can leave the seeds in, for at least part of it)
2 tablespoons, finely chopped onion
¼ cup cilantro, well washed and dried and chopped (more to taste)
1 large clove garlic, minced and then mashed with some coarse salt and the side of a chef’s knife into a paste (or just mince)
Squeeze of lime juice (optional)
Mix everything together well and adjust seasoning with salt. Serve with chips or with fish tacos or any kind of tacos or with quesadillas or as a side for grilled fish or vegetables or pretty much anything.
This is a nice variation to the fresh pico de gallo like salsas. The roasted peppers and garlic add nice depth and smoky flavor. Jalapenos vary widely in their spice level. You might start by using the flesh but not the seeds and add the seeds if you want more heat.
Yields about 2 cups
3 cloves garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 ½ lbs tomatoes, diced
1/3 – ½ cup chopped cilantro
Fresh lime juice (about 2 tablespoons)
Dice the tomatoes and put them in a strainer over a bowl and let sit while you prepare the rest of the salsa.
In a dry, ungreased skillet over medium heat roast the garlic cloves (unpeeled!) and jalapenos. You want them to get brown, in spots here and there and to soften and do it fairly slowly. The garlic will take 12-15 minutes and the peppers about 10. You want to turn both frequently to evenly brown and soften them.
When the garlic and peppers are done, peel garlic and remove stems from jalapenos. If you’re very averse to spice you can remove seeds and membranes from peppers (see headnote) but they add flavor and heat so leave them in if like a bit more spice. And Jalapenos vary so much in heat level so it’s best to taste before adding all teh seeds. Now you can either chop them both very finely or process briefly in a food processor or blender.
Shake the tomatoes around in the strainer a bit just to remove a little of the juice. Now either finely chop them or toss them briefly in a processor as well. Mix with the remainder of the ingredients and taste and adjust for seasoning with lime juice and salt.
Corn, Poblano and Feta Pizza
(I had a beautiful photo of this pizza I tested for you and it seems to be the one casualty of the crashed computer and recovery saga! Trust me it’s a beautiful and delicious pizza!)
This pizza was a last minute creation one fall night and was a big hit. I grabbed some whole wheat pizza dough from Grand Central Bakery and used it—it was perfect. By all means make your own if you have time.
1 ball pizza dough (14 ounces, more or less)
Kernels form 3 ears of corn
2 tablespoons minced onion (optional)
3 anaheims (or poblanos), broiled until black and blistered, peeled and deseeded and finely chopped
½ cup crumbled feta
½ or so cup finely diced tomatoes
Preheat oven (or grill) to 500 degrees with a pizza stone if you have one.
Flour a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet. Stretch out your dough into a nice big round-ish shape and place on the peel. Working quickly brush the dough with a bit of olive oil and then evenly distribute the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the whole thing with salt.
With a decisive but careful couple of jerks of your wrist transfer the pizza directly onto the hot stone. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges are browned and the toppings are beginning to brown as well.
Corn chowder is quick to make, adaptable, and a rich yet fresh late summer dish that takes advantage of corn, peppers of any kind, potatoes and herbs. You can cook the potatoes longer and have them thicken the soup a bit or less long and have distinct chunks. Adapt as you see fit.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced or 1/2 and onion and 1-2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
1-2 leeks, trimmed (though I use a fair amount of the green parts) washed well, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch half rounds (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bacon, diced (optional) or 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or dried thyme (optional but very good)
1 large or 2 smaller sweet green or red peppers, seeds and membranes removed and diced or 2 anaheim or poblano chiles roasted, peeled and deseeded and chopped
1 small jalapeño or serrano, minced (if you want a little heat, especially if you’re using sweet peppers instead of anaheims or poblanos)
Kernels from 4 ears of corn (or more if you have it), sliced off the cob
2 cups (or more) potatoes, well scrubbed but not peeled and cut into 1/2 –inch dice
2 1/2 cups whole milk (or part milk, part cream)
3 cups homemade vegetable broth or stock or broth of your choice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little chopped parsley (optional) for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and bacon (if using) and thyme (if using) and sauté for about 5 minutes. If you’re not using bacon and have smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton) add a teaspoon of it at this stage. Add the garlic and the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and all the milk (or milk and cream) and stock or broth. Add salt if your stock is not very salty. Bring to a boil and let simmer briskly for about 8 minutes. Add the corn, and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until everything is tender. The potatoes should be falling apart and will help thicken the chowder. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley if you’d like.
Raita is a cool yogurt and cucumber dish that’s used as a dip, topping, or sauce in Middle Eastern and Indian foods. It’s versatile, delicious and easy to make.
Yields about 2 cups
2 smallish cucumbers (you want about 2 cups grated cucumber)
½-2/3 cup of plain whole-milk yogurt or Greek yogurt
Juice 1 lemon
A little minced onion or scallion
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of ground cumin and ground coriander
Cut the cucumber(s) in half lengthwise (no need to peel). Scoop the seeds out with a spoon and then grate the cucumbers on the large holes of a box grater. You want small pieces so if they come out long, chop them a bit with a knife when you’re done. Squeeze some of the liquid out with your hands and place in a bowl. Sprinkle a little coarse salt on the garlic and mash with the side of a chef’s knife until you have a paste. Add this and all the remaining ingredients to the cucumbers. Gently mix and let stand for a few minutes so the flavors can come together.
You can serve this as a dip for pita (or other) chips. Serve it with rice, dhal or any Indian (inspired) food. It’s also very good with roasted beets and its cooling qualities are particularly good with spicy dishes, particularly lamb, beef and chicken.
There are many versions of this classic Spanish soup, served cold or at room temperature (when it was first made, before refrigeration) and most include tomatoes, cucumbers, stale bread, a bit of sweet pepper and olive oil and wine vinegar. You can play with the ratio based on what you have and/or your tastes.
2 lbs ripe, juicy tomatoes (about 4-5 medium)
1 small-to medium cucumber, peeled
1 poblano or Anaheim pepper, roasted and peeled and seeded
About 2 tablespoons chopped onion or shallot (optional)
1-2 slices good, day old crusty bread (crusts removed) (if you want a thinner soup use the smaller quantity)
Generous pinch of ground cumin
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup water
If you have the time, bring a small pot of water to a boil and dunk the tomatoes in the boiling water for few seconds. Remove and peel the tomatoes. The skin should slip right off. You can omit this step and the soup will be fine.
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process for a few seconds. You can leave it a bit chunky or puree it until quite smooth. I prefer a bit of texture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate briefly. I prefer mine not too cold but chill as you please.
Garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil and/or finely minced red onion, sweet pepper or cucumber (or any combination of them) or toasted bread crumbs.
Simple Tomato Paella
–inspired by Mark Bittman
This is a delicious, quick, and inexpensive (and vegetarian) twist on a classic paella. It’s perfect this time of year with beautiful, juicy tomatoes. It’s very important to season the ingredients properly as you go. It’s really a shame to under salt this dish. Taste your stock or bouillon to make sure it’s well seasoned.
3 1/2 cups stock, water vegetable broth
1 1/2 pounds ripe, slicer/heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges (about 4 medium to large tomatoes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Large pinch saffron threads
2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika
2 cups Spanish or Arborio or other short-grain rice (I use Arborio)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt (if the stock isn’t very salty or you’re using water)
Warm stock or water in a saucepan. If using water, add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in saffron if you are using it and pimentón and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another two to three minutes. Add hot stock or water and stir until just combined.
Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Cook over medium heat undisturbed, for 15 -20 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, keep cooking for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving. If you have time you should definitely do this last part. The crust is fabulous.