Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fresh Garden Salsa

Tomatoes are here! My dad has been bringing home tomatoes from my grandma's backyard tomato plants, which have been growing spectacularly. Mine, on the other hand, were complete duds this year.

(Whoa, back up. Did that sound weird to anyone but me? My dad has been bringing home tomatoes... Yes, it's true, I am now living with my parents. I am a grown woman, so let me explain. My husband and I sold our house this week and aren't able to move into the house we are trying to buy for another month, so it's purely transitionary living. Now that's not so bad, huh? Actually, it's kind of fun living with my parents again!)

And I'm super lucky that my parents get the whole "healthy eating" thing. In fact, they are bonafide aficionados of a local co-op and shop there weekly. Their counter and refrigerator are always full of fresh produce. They wake up to fresh fruit and veggie smoothies, lunch on simple salads, and enjoy cooking whole foods at every meal. Their kitchen is truly like my own kitchen. Isn't that grand?

So back to the tomatoes. When I saw them laying on the counter this evening, the salsa craving struck. My husband used to be the salsa maker in our house, but he's been just a tad busy lately with work and the move (!!!) of course, so I thought I'd pick up the ball and run with it. I'm glad I documented my salsa making experience tonight because it turned out perfect.

This is such a simple, delicious salsa, you'll wonder why you ever buy store-bought salsa again.

Fresh Garden Salsa

3 medium size tomatoes, quartered (about 3 cups)
1 zucchini flower, quartered
1 small serrano pepper, seeded
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped cilantro and/or parsley
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 drops liquid stevia
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in the order listed in a Vitamix or blender. Pulse on low speed until salsa reaches desired consistency.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eggplant Panzanella (gluten free, dairy free)

It's been a frustrating year of growing vegetables in my backyard. First, the weather has been quite A typical of a normal Minnesota summer. Lots of storms, lots of heat, lots of humidity, and all very early on in the season. Then there were the rabbits. And then there were (and still are) the Japanese Beetles. Oh boy. With that combination of farming nightmares (at least farming in my own little urban garden), I have only three out of my nine crops planted left: eggplant, peppers, and a very small portion of kale. All of my other plants had to be uprooted last week. It was very sad, especially when you think of the time, money, and patience put into the growing process. Thankfully, this is the first year we decided to sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), so despite my lack of backyard produce, we have not been short of fresh and local veggies.

That being said, my eggplant not only survived the harshness of the season, it has flourished. And now I have a ton of it. That, combined with the zucchini and summer squash from my CSA, has pretty much filled up my crisper drawer. Time to put those fresh veggies to good use.

I've never been a "bread" salad kind of girl, especially after giving up gluten. However, I was watching an episode of Kelsey Nixon's Kelsey's Essentials recently during my workout, and she had an inspiring recipe for a fresh panzanella salad that looked divine. And as luck would have it, I just so happened to have a bag of gluten free bread chunks in my freezer just waiting to be used up. So I came up with a version of the panzanella salad, gluten free style. And now that I know how easy and delicious it is to make this (and gluten free no less), it will be a staple in my house this time of year when those veggies come knocking on my crisper door.

Eggplant Panzanella (gluten free, dairy free)

1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 small summer squash
1 green pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 2 medium fresh tomatoes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

6 cups gluten free bread chunks or crumbs (I get a bag of GF bread chunks in the freezer section of my local coop)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt, pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Chop eggplant, zucchini, squash, and pepper into large bite size chunks and place in a large bowl. Drain juice from can of tomatoes, or if using fresh tomatoes, chop into large chunks and add to bowl. Drizzle veggies with oil and salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each). Stir to combine. Spread in a single layer onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes in preheated oven.

Meanwhile, spread bread chunks evenly onto the other prepared baking sheet. Grate garlic cloves over bread and drizzle with oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes, during last part of baking time for the veggies.

Remove both pans from oven. Place bread chunks in a large bowl to stop from browning further. Let veggies cool on pan for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then add to bowl with bread chunks.

For the dressing, add vinegar, mustard, and a pinch of both salt and pepper to a small mixing bowl. Whisk in oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Pour dressing over bread salad. Stir to combine.

This salad can be served immediately, but flavors deepen if allowed to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Minute Steaks in Garlic Tomato Sauce

Ahh, the minute steak. The seemingly last cut of meat to get cooked out of my bulk purchase of 30 lbs. of grass fed beef from our local beef farmer. What to do with these guys? I am always asking myself. Usually I make chicken fried steak out of the minute steak, but the other night I wanted something different. Something juicy. Something comforting.

In my online research about the best ways to cook this often neglected cut of meat, I found that it really should be slow cooked in some form of acid to get it to a tender state. After some thought, I realized I haven't made a lot of tomato-based dishes lately, so that became my cooking-acid of choice. It worked out fabulously! My four year old told me the house smelled "delicious" while this was cooking on the stove, "just like a restaurant," (a sure sign that I've hit the mark on dinner).

In fact, it was so good, I raved to my husband about this dish (he unfortunately missed this manly meat-and-potatoes meal due to some work deadlines), and I'm not one to rave about steaks in general, let alone minute steaks. So I knew it had to make an appearance on the 18 Hour Kitchen as this will definitely be one recipe I'll keep coming back to when our next round of beef is scheduled for delivery and those minute steaks need to get used up quick!

Minute Steaks in Garlic Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 lb. minute steaks (about three 1/3 lb. steaks)
1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour blend
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt, pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Chop onion and add to pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes until translucent.

Meanwhile, rough chop garlic and dredge steaks on both sides in GF flour, shaking off excess flour. Add steaks to pan and spread garlic around steaks in pan. Cook steaks 3-4 minutes per side, until browned.

Next pour the whole can of tomatoes over the steaks in pan (including juice). Sprinkle oregano over tomatoes and add a few shakes of salt and pepper. Stir to evenly distribute sauce over and around steaks.

Bring to a gentle boil, then turn heat down to low, cover, and cook an additional 20 minutes, until steaks are tender. Serve steaks topped with garlic tomato sauce.

This dish pairs wonderfully with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Asian Slaw Salad

I'm going crazy with CSA produce, now that peak season is here. Last week we had a beautiful head of napa cabbage in our boxes and I thought it would be perfect turned into a sweet and savory Asian slaw.

I whipped this up one night for dinner as a side to go with some grass fed beef round steak from our favorite beef farmer. The slaw turned out so good! It reminds me of the Asian Chicken Salad (sans the chicken) from Applebee's that I remember from my past (gosh, I haven't been to an Applebee's in years, thank God, but I am thankful for the inspiration from their standby menu).

The dressing is so distinct and the toasted sunflower seeds really shine as an added flavor dimension. You could turn this into a meal all by itself by topping it with shredded or chopped cooked chicken (ala Applebee's). And it does really well the next day too, once the dressing has soaked completely into the cabbage and given it even more depth of flavor. If you don't have napa cabbage, you could sub any of your favorite cabbage in its place.

Asian Slaw Salad

1 head napa cabbage
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave or honey
1 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos or tamari
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Chop cabbage into thin strips and place in a large bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine dressing ingredients (mustard through sesame oil) and stir. While continuing to stir, whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until thoroughly combined. Pour dressing over cabbage, add cranberries and sunflower seeds, and toss to coat.