Berry Salsa and Chips

A bonus recipe for Friday! Yay! Here’s the last creation I want to share from Labor Day. This time of year berries are wildly cheap and abundant. If you recall my trip to the farmer’s market, I bought a whole lot of strawberries for $5. The problem is that they don’t keep very long, so I wanted to come up with a recipe that would use a bunch of them all at once. The idea of a salsa came to me. I had some blueberries in the fridge, so I decided to dice two pints of the strawberries very fine along with about the same amount of blueberries. I tossed them with a bit of agave syrup, about two teaspoons of chopped fresh mint (careful, it’s potent stuff), a pinch of salt, and a dash of vanilla. I served it in a bowl topped with some sweetened ricotta cheese (just mix it with some powdered sugar). The combination of fruit and the soft cheese is really incredible. I actually wanted to use marscapone cheese, but Trader Joe’s was apparently out that day. It’s an ingredient that is available at pretty much every market nowadays, but it can be a bit expensive. Trader Joe’s has by far the best prices for all dairy products and since I’m the starving artist and didn’t feel like going on a crusade for some friggin cheese, I decided to go with Trader Joe’s fresh ricotta. It actually worked quite well.

Now this recipe is quite simple as I was sticking to what I had on hand, but you could easily modify this with any fruit, citrus, zest, and even spices you like. But whatever you do, you’re going to need chips. The chips I made for this was phenomenal, in fact I ate many without the dip. Here’s what you do. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt a half stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Cut 6 taco-sized flour tortillas into 8 triangles each (just like a pizza). In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Take one of the tortilla slices, brush each side with a bit of butter, then toss into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place your chips in a single layer on a half-sheet pan that’s been greased with a bit of non-stick spray. You’ll likely need two pans for this many tortillas. Bake in the oven until deeply brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a bit before eating to allow them to crisp fully. These chips are delicious with all kinds of dessert applications. We were spreading them with nutella and then topping them with the ricotta and fruit. Ridiculous.

Happy Friday!

Apple-Cherry-Peach Sauce

So here’s my conundrum. I love the idea of making pies and cobblers and crisps out of fresh summer fruit. I mean come on, I would bathe myself in blueberry pie if I could. But the problem with such treats is that it requires you to turn on your oven and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to sit in an already sweltering apartment with the effin oven on.

I had this big box of fresh cherries I picked up at Trader Joe’s last week and I was wondering what I could do with them aside from making a cherry sauce to dump over ice cream. I noticed I had some white peaches on the shelf as well as a bag of apples I keep around for my morning green juice. Then it hit me – apple sauce. No oven required and one can eat it cold for a perfect treat on a warm summer night. But what about the crumble topping that makes a crisp so desirable? Easy. Just top with some granola or, even better, some crushed up ginger snaps – ooooo!!! Hell you can even top it with whipped cream or a dollop of yogurt if you like. And look at the color – how can you beat that?

No PDF needed for this recipe:

3 apples, cored and diced
4 peaches, cored and diced
1 lb fresh red cherries, pitted
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tbsp maple sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tbsp honey
pinch of kosher salt
Throw everything in a pot/dutch oven/whatever over medium high heat, cover, and let cook down for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once fruit is soft and syrupy, kill heat and puree with a stick blender, or use a potato masher for a chunkier more rustic concoction. Serve chilled with granola for dessert or as a side for pork chops. Yum.

Hot Cauliflower Mess

So you might have noticed I haven’t done too much cooking the past few weeks. We’ve had some pretty hot days here in SoCal and honestly, the hotter it gets, the less I want to be at home standing in my air condition-less kitchen. Hence why most of my posts have been sweets like s’mores or restaurant reviews. Still, on my last trip to Trader Joe’s (which feels like forever ago… seriously I don’t even know when I was last in TJ’s… clearly I need to get my life together…) I was inexplicably compelled to purchase an entire head of cauliflower. No idea.

Last night I was at home, in the mood for dinner, but unwilling to have yet another meal out. I opened my fridge and there it was. The cauliflower. Staring at me. What the hell does one do with a cauliflower besides chop it up and use it for veggie dip? After a good hard look around my kitchen I discovered a box of vegetable stock on top of my fridge. Though it was not exactly soup weather, I decided a nice hearty yet not heavy stew was in order, particularly considering all the garbage I’ve been feeding myself lately. So I just started throwing sh*t in the pot – bay leaves, basil, sriracha, few cloves of garlic, baby carrots, half a red onion, salt, pepper. I ended up running to the store and getting a can of fire roasted tomatoes for $2.50 (a ridiculously high price for a can of tomatoes. Thank you, Gelson’s.) and one bunch of kale. You can read the recipe for the details, but I ended up with a healthy, flavorful, and chunky… mess. But a good mess. I even managed to dig up some whole wheat penne, which I cooked up and dumped the mess over. Perfect. And honestly there’s a lot of ways you could serve this. Instead of pasta use wild rice, maybe some white beans, or even some noodles. You could even serve this cold with some nice hearty bread instead of penne. Perfect for a summer night. And of course put in whatever you want – any veggies will do, but I literally just threw in stuff from my refrigerator. Not too bad if I do say so myself. Enjoy!


Also, for those of you watching your weight, this is practically a zero-calorie meal if you skip the pasta/beans/rice/whatever. But it will still fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied. So eat as much as you want, guilt-free!

Hot Cauliflower Mess (Recipe PDF)

Weekday Cookout

One of the greatest things about living in Southern California is that nearly every single day is a cookout day. No one has 9-5 jobs, it’s always sunny and gorgeous, so why not have a random cookout at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon?

Well, that’s what I did this past Wednesday. My friends Kristen and Joseph live in a lovely house in Culver City with a back porch and grill to accompany their lemon-tree-filled backyard. And of course being on the westside closer to the water, the weather is even better. I showed up at 2 in the afternoon. We took a walk to the grocery store to find some things to accompany the chicken breast Joe was marinating in the fridge. Kristen already had asparagus and zucchini to grill, but we all decided we needed corn on the cob….mmmm….. fresh corn with butter and salt…. I decided I needed to make some guacamole, and Kristen decided we needed dessert, which led her to a Duncan Hines box mix, which I of course gave her shit for, but ended up being really tasty. I also turned Joseph on to the idea of smoked sausage. I love love Kielbasa on the grill, but for some reason Ralph’s only had turkey kielbasa, which was just not happening. Instead we went for a straight up smoked sausage. And for almost no money at all, we had ourselves quite the feast.

I have to say, the batch of guac I made was really epic. Avocados were on sale for 97 cents each – totally unheard of. So I bought 6 of them, one shallot for like 30 cents, and one bundle of fresh cilantro for 50 cents. With a potato masher, a few spices from Kristen’s rack (ha… rack…), and a lemon from their tree, I had one of the best batches of guac I’d ever put together. If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, you might remember my ludicrous guacamole post from May. I’ve decided to update and reattach the recipe below. Aren’t I just so accommodating? All for you, readers, all for you.

In other news, Joe’s chicken was amazing – super moist and flavorful, marinated in Italian dressing. Kristen sliced up the veggies and I coated them in some herb-infused olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then on the grill they went until soft and a bit charred. Perfect. And of course we killed half of Kristen’s tray of cookie brownies without even flinching. The rest of the afternoon was spent talking, relaxing, and enjoying our friendship. Not too bad for a Wednesday. ;-)

Ludicrous Guacamole – Updated (Recipe PDF)

Simple Stuffed Tomatoes

When cooking for myself during the week (and on most weekends for that matter) I stick to a vegetarian diet. For one it keeps the calories down, but perhaps more importantly it saves on the budget. Nothing racks up a grocery bill like meat. But for some reason, this week I’ve had a hankering for ground turkey. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps I’m pregnant… Anyhow, as you might suspect, I will not be making burgers or meatballs with my ground turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a good turkey burger, but come on – this is the starving artist. Surely we can be more creative than that.

Recently my roommate acquired a bunch of random produce from a friend going out of town for a week. Her friend belongs to one of those farmer cooperatives where one gets a mystery box of produce delivered to one’s door once per week. Part of this particular bounty was a bunch of fresh, Roma tomatoes (not to mention 3 giant heads of lettuce that are currently rotting in the fridge). My roommate asked me what she should do with the tomatoes… I looked in the fridge and saw she had a big pack of mozarella cheese from when she made eggplant parm a few days prior… why not stuff them?

And so my first recipe for ground turkey is born: a simple stuffed tomato. Sauteed with ground up veggies and mixed with breadcrumbs and fresh basil, this is a quick, healthy, and irresistible hors d’oeuvre for your next summer gathering. Or, take the starving artist approach and eat a pile of them for your dinner. If you can spread the stuffing to 20 tomatoes, you’re looking at only 51 calories a pop – not bad at all. I highly recommend finding tomatoes that are just small enough to pop into your mouth in one bite. Tremendous. You can also make this with turkey sausage for an even deeper flavor.

My next trick involves a unique twist on chili. Stay tuned!

Simple Stuffed Tomatoes (Recipe PDF)