Category Archives: Appetizers

This Salsa is the Rooster’s Beak

Salsa may not be a thing of great consequence, but when you use a great recipe that you love making and everyone loves eating, it settles that one little area of life for you.   No more random store-bought stuff, no more hoping a recipe you found somewhere will work.  This one is it for me, I’m good.

Happiness in a bowl...

In the past when I’ve been in a pinch, I’ve tried choosing a salsa in the grocery store.  And although I’m sure there is a place somewhere that sells something fantastic, I haven’t had much luck yet.  I don’t know about you, but I find the gigantic selection of salsas at grocery stores both overwhelming and disappointing.  I see them all towering there in front of me as I pace back and forth, as though one is going to stop me and say “Look. You don’t need to go back to those jars down there.  That guy over there?  He’s watered down and pasty.  See that one?  He’s so full of sugar and vinegar that he might as well be made out of just tomatoes.  They suck.  I’m the one you want.”.  But as the jars haven’t started talking to me (yet), I stand there, sigh, and finally pick one at the intersection of Costs too Much and Looks Organic.

Being a person who loves veggies and who likes to cook, this is my solution to the salsa shopping dilemma.  This recipe is fresh, it’s chunky and it’s full of great flavors that make salsa worth eating.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Salsa Fresca – Makes approx. 4 cups

3-4 tomatoes, cut in half and squeezed of their juices

1 large green pepper, finely diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (if you like heat, leave some of the seeds intact)

1 red onion, finely diced

1 avocado, pitted and small dice

1/2 c corn (fresh if possible, or frozen)

1/2 cooked beans of your choice (I used adzuki, but any bean will do!)

1/2 Tb salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)

1 tsp chili powder

2 Tb cumin

1 Tb lime juice

1 Tb vinegar

2 tsp sugar

2 Tb olive oil

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt or sour cream, lowfat if possible

How-to:

This recipe is very simple to assemble, there are just a few tips that will make your final product really great:

  1. Prep all your veggies except your avocado.  They brown quickly, and this is one ingredient you are going to add just as you are about to serve it.
  2. Combine everything in a large mixing bowl except the yogurt, avocado and olive oil and let the mixture rest in your fridge for 3-8 hours.  The salt that was added is going to bring out the natural veggie  juices like the dickens, and this way you can just pour them off before you add the rest of your ingredients.
  3. After the fridge/de-liquiding time is over, stir the veggies around and give them a taste.  Some of the seasonings or salt may have been absorbed or poured off when you got rid of the excess juices, you can add more now if needed.
  4. Take 1/2 cup of the mixture and the olive oil and add it to a food processor or blender.  It does not have to be totally smooth, but you are looking to decrease the chunkiness of it.  Add this now smoothed-out mix and your yogurt to the mixing bowl and give it all a nice stir.  Retaste, adjust your seasonings as needed.
  5. Add your diced avocado, and you are ready for business!

There’s not much I don’t love this on: scrambled eggs, my brown rice, pan-fried fish, even cottage cheese.  And of course, chips!

I was wandering around Wikipedia today,  I thought I’d search under salsa and see if there were more things to learn.  It turns out, there were!  I found out a valuable lesson: there are salsa people, and then there are pico de gallo people.  I am a pico de gallo person.

I’ve always called this recipe salsa (and I guess really it is salsa fresca), but I think technically I should be calling it a pico de gallo.  According to those who know, salsa is supposed to be more of a sauce: Salsa Roja (red sauce), Salsa Verde (green sauce), Salsa Negra (yep,you guessed it, black sauce).   And although I’ve had some great salsas like this in restaurants around town, I don’t really want to make it at home.  I enjoy the texture and taste of fresh un-blended ingredients;  I like to see a whole melange of things going on in my salsa as opposed to the texture of the red-liquid type that sits soupily in its bowl, just waiting to fall onto my white t-shirt as it makes the trip to my mouth.

I also learned that Pico de Gallo literally means the “rooster’s beak”.  Nifty little fact!  And since I know you are dying to learn how such a tasty condiment would get that strange name, I’m going to share my new knowledge with you! 

“One of the sources for the name “rooster’s beak” could be the beak-like shape and the red color of the chilis used to make it. According to food writer Sharon Tyler Herbst, it is so called because originally it was eaten with the thumb and forefinger, and retrieving and eating the condiment resembled the actions of a pecking rooster.

Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo in Spanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho”) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.”

Thanks, Wikipedia!  Learning is fun.

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My Favorite Roasted Tomato Soup

I really like tomato soup in the fall.

I like it so much, I don’t think there’s a version of it out there that I haven’t liked: with rice or pasta, finished with cream, topped with tortilla strips and cilantro…they all make me really happy.

Except when it comes from a can.  Don’t get me wrong, I have totally been the girl who brings canned tomato soup in my thermos to work.  It just doesn’t make me particularly happy.  And, since it is tomato season, and I love to cook, here we are!  Ready to make a really great pot of homemade tomato soup that will make us all warm and cozy, leading us to break out any fuzzy socks that are waiting in the sock drawer and snuggle in.

For me, the key to a great tomato soup is to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes with some source of sugar.  Normally, plain white sugar is added to deal with this.  But a trick I learned a long time ago really solves the acidity problem in a way that doesn’t have us dumping sugar into our vegetables: add carrot.  I was taught to add chunks of carrot in the early steps of the soup making, and then to pluck them out before you served it.  It worked, and it did take away some of the bite of tomato soup.  But really, I thought, why take them out?  They add great color, great nutrients, and increase the sweetness factor in the finished product!  And they, like tomatoes, love to be roasted to develop all their great natural flavors.

I use onions, carrots, and fresh garden tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper as the base of this soup.
The three amigos, ready to get some crazy good flavor on.
They make a nice looking group, don’t they?  Nothing can really be bad when you start from someplace like this.
Roasted Tomato Soup
4 to 5 large tomatoes, cut into quarters and squeezed slightly
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into equal sized chunks
2 spanish onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
olive oil to drizzle
salt and pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
5 Tb tomato paste
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tb Spike seasoning, or any all-purpose seasoning
How-to:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take all your chopped veggies and lay them on a sheet pan or large casserole dish (there is going to be some liquid after they roast, so make sure you have a decent lip on the pan).  Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on them, and let the veggies roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 1 hour – taking them out to stir every 20  minutes or so. 

    Your kitchen is going to smell amazing. Just wait.
  • Once the veggies are done, pour the whole lovely lot of them into a large stock pot.  Don’t leave any of the juices in the baking dish!  Add your stock, tomato paste, can of diced tomato, bay leaf and seasonings, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  Give it a taste, and adjust any seasonings if you need to.  If you feel like it isn’t sweet enough for you, then go ahead and add a tsp of sugar.  But remember, the amount of sugar you add is directly related to how much your soup will taste like canned soup!  So take it easy.
  • If you have an emersion blender – lucky you!  I really need to get one.  I only have a regular blender, so I get myself a large bowl and add about 3 ladles of soup into the blender and let it get nice and smooth before I put the now blended soup into the bowl.  I keep doing this until my soup pot is empty and I now have all my veggies blended together and happy.   **Important tip!  Don’t add too much hot soup to your blender (make it less than 1/2 full), or you will find that you and your walls are now covered in hot red liquid.

Here is where you get to make a choice about your finished soup.  Do you love it just as it is, all natural and slightly textured?  Or do you prefer to make it as smooth as you can?  If you are perfectly happy and can’t wait to dig in, then go get some kind of cheese sandwich and enjoy the rewards of your work!  Or, take this one extra step…

  • If you have a food mill or a fine strainer (or some cheesecloth, or painting mesh), pass the blended soup through it and it will remove any of the seeds and pulp that was left over from the blending step.

I used my fine strainer (or chinoise) and I got quite a bit of pulp out of the soup.

This step is totally optional!  For me, I usually only do it when I’m feeling very culinary or when the kids aren’t home to distract me.
Either way, I hope you take the plunge and start making your soup at home.  Try the original first, and then get crazy!  I like to confuse my kids by adding fun shaped pasta to it so they don’t give me any guff about how it is made from vegetables, but that’s just me.  Let me know how it goes!

Use Your Melon! A no-mess guide to cleaning and prepping

For some people, cleaning fruit is no big thing.  They have a way they’ve always done it, they’re happy with what they do, and they’ve manged to make it through life just fine, thank you very much!  For others…cleaning fruit – especially melons and pineapple, and ESPECIALLY in front of other people, can become an exercise in risk management and self-image damage control.

When I was working my way through culinary school, I had a part-time job in the morning prepping food for a cafeteria that fed hundreds of people during the lunch hour.  I worked my way through all of the different culinary stations eventually, but the one that every single cook had to start at first was the salad bar.  Working the salad bar is a difficult job with very little in the way of public adoration; the total opposite of say, the saute Continue reading Use Your Melon! A no-mess guide to cleaning and prepping

First things first.

So this is the first official post for Aubergine & Butterbean!

I have been trying to decide what sort of a place this is going to be, and it’s been holding me up a little bit from doing anything.  And, since that’s never a good start, I decided to just make things really simple and make this a place that I love; where I post pictures of things I have made and really enjoyed, where I can post recipes of dishes that have gotten good reviews from the people who’ve eaten it, and a place to talk about all the foody things floating around in my brain. Continue reading First things first.