Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  



Pork Tenderloin and Cannellini Beans

tues mornThe weather this spring has been fickle; some days are so gorgeous I swear there has never been a more perfect day. Others are a bit on the cool side with wind, rain, and darkness. Mother Nature is having a hard time making up her mind what she wants the weather to be for us. My hope is with the turning over of the month, she’s decided she will continue to give us gorgeous days after her cold shoulder this past winter!

On these cool evenings, I still turn on the oven for a warm meal. And when I saw this recipe, I could already smell the rosemary, sage, and garlic. We have pork just a couple of times a month, since the Eater of the House doesn’t really like it, but I noticed he went back for seconds when I made this dish. I had forgotten how much I loved long-simmered beans with garlic and herbs. They were so delicious and leftovers for lunch the next day were even better!

This recipe is fairly easy and inexpensive to make. Once you brown the meat, just toss the beans, tomatoes, and garlic together, and pop it in the oven. I forgot to buy fresh sage, so I used a dash or two of dried to substitute and didn’t worry about topping with parsley, although the fresh herbs would be fantastic. This meal was delicious and I know I’ll be making it again when it starts to get really cold!

This ain't your mama's pork and beans!

This ain’t your mama’s pork and beans!

Pork Tenderloin and Cannellini Beans
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 3 ounces pork and 1/2 cup bean mixture)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine rosemary, fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture evenly over pork.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add pork; cook 9 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove pork from pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add tomato and sage; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, chicken stock, red pepper, and cannellini beans, and bring to a boil. Return pork to pan, and place pan in oven. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140°.
4. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Heat pan over medium heat; cook bean mixture 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Sprinkle with parsley. Thinly slice pork; serve with bean mixture.

mayaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week
I was saddened to hear about the death of Maya Angelou last week. I blazed through her six-book memoir right out of college; at a directionless period in my life, I found her books inspirational to say the least. I feel fortunate to have been able to see her speak about 20 years ago. While approaching the stage, she recited her poem, “Phenomenal Woman” as she made her way to the podium. For those who know that poem, you know what a powerful moment she created.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to NPR’s Food podcast (it was December, so she kept me company on a snowy drive to work) and I enjoyed an interview with her about her newest cookbook. (Who knew she also was a food writer? Certainly not me!) There was something she said during that interview that struck me and has stayed with me for those three years. A young woman was in her home and they were eating sandwiches for lunch. The young woman insisted on standing at the counter instead of sitting at the kitchen table to eat. “To not sit at the table is to lose something that’s essential to community,” she said.

I have remembered her words ever since hearing that interview, especially in the morning, when I am running around making my lunch and breakfast, trying to get ready for work at the same time, and standing at the counter munching my piece of toast in between washing plates. But I stop myself and sit down, by myself, with my breakfast for at least a few minutes. Until the rush of the day begins again.

Because of the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find the interview for you! Maya Angelou’s Cooking Advice: Ignore the Rules. I like how she said she likes pepper, not too spicy, but enough to say “hello” to your taste buds.

When I finished writing this piece yesterday morning, this article on Maya and cooking appeared in the New York Times. I thought I would share this as well.

One Skillet Pasta

DSCN0321A note to all non-cooks or those who think they can’t cook: this recipe requires no cooking skills other than slicing some tomatoes and onions, chopping some garlic, and putting everything in a pan!

A few weeks ago, I stopped by my friend, Richard’s, home on a cold and very wet Saturday afternoon. He had the latest issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine (June 2013) and he wanted to cook lunch together. But honestly, there wasn’t much for me to do, he put some pasta, sliced onions, minced garlic, and basil in a skillet, added some water, brought it to a boil, and I stirred it occasionally. It was delicious, and lunch for four on that cold afternoon was perfect, it was warm and filled us all up.

So I decided to go home and recreate this with a few twists of my own. First off, I had three very sad-looking zucchinis that either needed to be eaten that night or tossed, so I sliced them and added them to the pan. I upped the garlic and basil, and added a half-cup of white wine and a parmesan rind that I pulled out of the freezer. If you don’t have that, don’t worry, just top the finished pasta with cheese (I discovered as I was about to serve I didn’t have any). This dish is first off easy, but it’s also a nice blend of the vegetables in a flavorful sauce. On yet another cold and rainy evening, served with a nice green salad, this was a quick meal that is perfect for a weeknight dinner!

DSCN0323One Skillet Pasta

Inspired by the June 2013 recipe “One Pan Pasta” published in Martha Stewart Living.

Serves 4-5 eaters.

¾ of a box of linguine, or 12 ounces
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
A big handful of basil
1 onion, thinly sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
3 small zucchini, sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ½ cups water
½ cup white wine (optional. If you aren’t using the wine, add 4 cups water total)
1 big skillet

To the pan, add the linguine, tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil. Add water and wine, if using. Bring to a boil then turn to simmer. Stir occasionally and cook until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes or so. Serve in large bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

Saturday Morning Ritual

Saturday mornings in the summer are a total about-face from my winter routine. Up with the sun with a cup of coffee, I sit with a piece of paper and pencil, figure out what I’m going to cook for the week, grab my bags, and head out for my local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets weren’t something I grew up with, but following college, I visited my  first one when it opened in town, which had just a couple of booths with farmers selling vegetables. At the time, I didn’t really know what organic meant nor were my cooking skills honed enough to know what to do with most of the veggies, so I stuck with what I knew: peas, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes. That same farmer’s market has expanded ten fold in the past two decades, moved its location, and now is one of the largest in the state.

I’ve been going to my own farmer’s market for more than ten years and along with the usual fruits and vegetables has come a plethora of other vendors. This year we have two local vineyards, meat, greeting cards, jewelry, homemade soap, flowers, prepared food, maple syrup, baked goods, and various crafters. This year I can even get my knives sharpened at $3 a pop! But I’m really there for the food.

Unlike my grocery list that is neatly organized, I go to the farmer’s market with some cash in my pocket, no list, and unusual reckless abandon. My method is always the same, start at one end, going down the other, checking out what is available and their prices, then going back to my usual farmers. And I always end up buying more than we can eat in a week’s time. Who can resist the gorgeous fresh garlic still on its stalk? The pint of bright red tomatoes? All the emerald-colored herbs that will fill my car with the  aroma of summer? The fridge overfloweth with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Herbs are something I love to buy, but I usually end up with too much and too many times have made their way to the compost pile because I didn’t use them in time.  A couple of years ago, staring at some wilting herbs in their water, I decided to make something with them so I could use them up and have summer all year long–Garlic Herb Butter! And it’s so easy; take some minced new garlic and some minced herbs, I like basil, parsley, dill, oregano, or a combination, and mix together. Take some butter and make a paste with the herbs. (Depending on how much you have for garlic and herbs will be how much butter you use.) When you finish mixing, take a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and with a tablespoon, measure out into herb butter patties and place in the freezer. When they are frozen, I take them out, wrap each one individually, and store in a freezer bag. I make several different combinations and just keep them in the freezer. I use these for sauteing vegetables in the wintertime and buttering homemade bread; the aroma of the fresh garlic and herbs is wonderful; it takes me back to my hot kitchen in the middle of summer! And they keep forever; I found some in the back of the freezer this winter with a date I won’t to say, but it was still fresh and was delicious with some winter vegetables!

Another dish to make is something I call Farmer’s Market Salad, with veggies that are currently in the season at the farmer’s market, aside from the ingredients for the dressing, of course. You can use any combination: fresh lettuce mix and/or spinach, steamed green beans, tomatoes, fresh corn, scallions, cooked new potatoes, cucumbers, herbs, basically any vegetable you buy can go in the salad. Since everything is so fresh and tasty, I don’t like to adorn it too much, so some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a splash of either lemon or vinegar will do. Who knows, maybe I’ll see olive oil and lemon purveyors next summer!

Fresh Basil and Garlic Scape Pesto

One of my culinary versions of perfect deliciousness is garlic, lots of it, basil, and olive oil: pesto. I regularly make this in the summertime, either in the blender or by hand. Pesto in Italian means “to pound,” so on occasion I try the old school method with a mortar and pestle, but usually revert to the blender, as it’s a lot easier and quicker! You can serve it on warm pasta, over grilled veggies or meat, in soups and salads, or with fresh bread, any place you want a little oomph to the dish you’re cooking. The only thing I have to remember is to not get too close to people the next morning; while I’ll be keeping away the warlocks and bugs with my garlic breath, I might also be keeping away other humans!

I made this the other night and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Admittedly, I put in a little too much garlic, even for me, but it was still peppery, spicy, and delicious. I had a couple of garlic scapes I bought at the farmer’s market, added that to mix this time, along with the basil, chopped garlic, olive oil, and cheese. (Garlic scapes are the tops of garlic bulbs, that come up in June or so. Be sure to use the scape below the little bulb, the very top can be discarded. They are a milder flavor than their counterpart, a little tough, but good! Try them in the recipe or in a stir fry for a little bit of garlic flavor.) If I have it on hand, I’ll also add a small handful of parsley. I’ve also made the same recipe with cilantro in place of the basil. I was skeptical at first, but it too is delicious.

When I have an overflow of basil and garlic in August, I make batches of pesto and freeze it for later use. Placed in tiny containers with plastic wrap on top to ward off freezer burn, opening one of these in the middle of January is like a breath of summer and is a gentle reminder of what we can look forward to in a mere six months.

As with many of dishes I make, this one I make up as I go along, depending on what I have on hand. So, here goes:

Fresh Basil and Garlic Scape Pesto
• About 2 cups fresh basil
• 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
• 2 garlic scapes, chopped
• 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts (optional)
• About 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• About 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

With the blender on “chop,” add the basil through the chute. Add the chopped garlic and scapes, cleaning the sides of the blender as you go along. Add the nuts, if using. With the blender whirring, gently add the olive oil. Add the cheese, then make sure everything is well mixed before adding to your dish.

Get Well Chili

After illness at 1193 Bristol Road extended for more than week, I decided I needed to bring out the big guns: garlic, beef, beans, and spices. Chili! I’ve felt yucky for a week, and I think the cold that was passed to me, has since been passed back! So what better way to rid the beast than garlic, beef, beans, and spices? I discovered as I was making this I didn’t have nearly as much chili powder as I normally use, but felt like I doctored the dish enough to make it tasty. Definitely use more if desired. The real ingredients are the garlic, beef, and beans, protein and garlic can make anyone well, yes? I hope so! I served this atop homemade corn bread, but served with any grain, sauteed or roasted vegetables, or on its own will be delicious.

You may find when you get started it’s a bit on the soupy side, but cooking for about 30 minutes or so allows the chili to absorb some of the water and make it more flavorful.

Get Well Chili
1 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
5-7 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 pound beef
1 28 ounce diced tomatoes
1 15.5 ounce can beans, rinsed (I used pintos, but any bean will taste delicious)
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chili powder
A couple dashes of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Chopped scallions  and low-fat sour cream (if desired)

1. In a dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil. When warm, add the peppers, garlic, and onion. Add a dash of salt, cook until wilted. When finished cooking, set aside in a separate bowl.
2. Add beef to the dutch oven, cook until done. Place into a colander to drain any excess juices. Place back in the pan and add the vegetables. Stir. Add tomatoes, chili powder, and cayenne and stir at low heat. Add beans, tomato paste and mix through.
3. Cook until heated through, about 30 minutes or so. Place in serving bowl and add scallions and sour cream, if desired.

Springtime Challenge 2: Greek Lentil Salad

Another pantry-cleaning recipe. This is loosely based on a Cooking Light recipe from the early 1990s. I have no recollection if this is even close to the original, but this in my take on it. If you wanted to serve warm with watercress, it’s delicious, but it’s also tasty without. I discovered as I was mixing this together I was out of red wine vinegar. Horrors! Then I realized I had only a couple of teaspoons of sherry vinegar left! I figured apple cider would add too much flavor, so I ended up using rice vinegar. It was an decent substitute, but I wouldn’t use it again. This served over greens makes for a great lunch or as a side salad or main dish for supper.

Greek Lentil Salad

Again, apologies for the approximations. I make this by eyeballing the ingredients with frequent tastings.


1 cup dried lentils
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Oregano, preferably Greek
Red wine vinegar
Crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils, and cook in a gentle simmer until cooked, 25-30 minutes or so. While lentils are cooking, mince the garlic.

2. When the lentils are finished cooking, drain off any excess water, and transfer to a bowl. Add garlic and mix. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinegar, or to taste. Add a dash or two of the oregano. Be careful, you don’t want the herb to overpower the salad. Add 1/4 cup of feta, or more if desired.

3. Serve warm or cold!