Blueberry, Basil & Jalapeno Salsa

As strawberry season faded in the last few weeks, I quickly turned my attention to blueberries – my all time favorite berry. And once again, I’m looking for some creative uses for experimenting and sharing with you – at least the successes. With blueberries now in season, and pick your own sites offering some of the lowest prices, there’s every reason to take incorporate berries into your diet on a daily basis.

What was I talking about? Oh, right. It’s useful to learn new ways to use familiar ingredients. That way, you don’t get fatigued on something after just a few days. Though, if you just stock up and freeze your berries for use throughout the year, that’s good too.

favorite pepper

How hot is your favorite pepper?

Even though blueberries are the focus right now, that doesn’t mean I’m disregarding the awesome amount of produce that’s flourishing right now. Often, I find the most interesting uses for fruit to be savory, not sweet. With this simple salsa jalapenos, basil, garlic and red onion pair with the berries for a spicy-sweet flavor.

It takes just a few minutes to get everything ready and toss in the food processor. A blender could work just as well too. Despite what many people think, comparatively speaking, jalapenos are relatively mild. Take a look at this pepper scale from www.liveinthenow.com. Jalapenos fall in between poblanos and cayenne peppers. And there’s a big difference between jalapenos compared and habaneros, which are much, much hotter. But there’s nothing wrong with a little heat. In fact, capsaicin benefits the heart.

If you’re hesitant, I suggest starting out with less. It’s much easier to add heat than to remove it. Start with just a 1/4 of a jalapeno if you’re really cautious. Or, use half and add the second half if it’s too mild for you. Note: remove the seeds of the pepper for less heat. Just slowly slide the edge of your knife across the inside of the pepper.

While you enjoy this simply as a snack with corn tortilla chips, it would pair fantastically with grilled pork chops or pork tacos. As the recipe suggests, try simmering for a few minutes to reduce the amount of liquid if you do decide to use in a taco.

 

Blueberry Basil and Jalapeno Salsa

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Want more heat? Include the seeds and try using the whole pepper. This would also be excellent with cilantro in place of the basil.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 large handful of basil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Puree everything in a food processor until smooth. Optional: Simmer the salsa to remove excess liquid. If using in a taco, for instance, this might be a good idea.

Notes

Adapted from www.closetcooking.com

Corn and Bacon Sauté

We kicked off the expansion of Farm Fresh Connect, our local, online farmers market, to the communities of Pittsford and Chittenden last week. We’re pumped to make local food more accessible in these two Vermont towns, both of which have limited shopping opportunities – particularly for locally grown and produced food.
While the pickup of market orders happens at elementary schools in both towns, anyone in either community – whether they work or live nearby – is open to shopping on Farm Fresh Connect.

As part of the promotion of Farm Fresh Connect, at Wednesday pick ups between 3 & 5pm, we’re offering tastings of dishes made with items found on the market. Last week, it was this simple  corn and bacon sauté.

Sweet corn and smoky bacon are just meant to be paired together, which is why I love to start a pot of corn chowder with the fat left behind after cooking bacon. I add in a little zucchini and jalapeno,  if inclined, but almost always include basil. Thyme would work nicely as well.

The result is an excellent side dish for encapsulating the fleeting tastes of summer, though I’ve had a whole bowl as my entire dinner, too.

Hope to see you at one of our market pick-ups!

Corn and Bacon Sauté

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, as a side

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb bacon
  • 5 ears corn, husked
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small jalapeno (optional)

Instructions

  1. Chop the bacon into a small dice. In a pan over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, watching closely to avoid burning. When crisp, use a slotted spoon to remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Slice the kernels off the corn cobs. A good way to do this is to invert a small bowl inside of a larger bowl and stand the cob on the small bowl. As you slice, the kernels will fall into the large bowl. Then, chop the onion and zucchini into a small dice. If using the jalapeno, remove the seeds and chop as well.
  3. Return the pan with the bacon grease to the heat and add the corn, onion, zucchini and optional jalapeno. Cook 8-10 minutes until the pan is dry and vegetables tender.

Sweet Pepper Bake

I’m always amazed at the end of season productivity of pepper plants and their vibrant hues as they reach peak ripeness.

Yet I’m not quite sure what we do with these beauties to highlight their greatness. Sure, stuffed peppers are delicious. But is that all we have in our repertoire to place peppers in the spotlight?

pot of peppers

Not any more. This sweet pepper bake is all about the peppers. It’s a creamy, tangy casserole chock full of tender bell peppers, onions and garlic baked in a  yogurt based custard to hold it all together. The result is a terrific filling for warm tortillas.

casserole

Sweet Pepper Bake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 6 medium bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
  • a handful of chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onions and saute over medium heat until softened, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the peppers, garlic, jalapeno, currants, salt, cumin, coriander, mustard and black pepper. Cook another 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender. Meanwhile, beat the eggs into the yogurt in a small bowl.
  4. When the peppers are tender, remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt mixture. Top with the cheese and place the pan in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes until the mixture has thickened and is bubbly. Top with parsley.
  5. Serve in warmed tortillas, topped with additional cheese, chopped tomato and a side of black beans.

Notes

Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

Mexican Spaghetti Squash with Tropical Salsa

Winter squash has to be my favorite food of the season, followed up by apples and fresh cranberries. But for the longest time there was one winter squash I never liked, the spaghetti.

For many, the pasta like consistency of cooked spaghetti squash is a welcome alternative to actual pasta. That’s a quality I can appreciate, as it opens the door for creativity. Yet I could never get over its overwhelming blandness. No matter how I cooked and seasoned the squash, it always turned out with zero flavor. And so I wrote it off as the black sheep of the winter squash family.

Until now. Finally, in Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s VeganomiconI found a phenomenal spaghetti squash recipe.  The squash is baked until tender, added to a mildly spicy onion, jalapeno, corn and black bean mixture and then topped with a tomato, avocado and tropical fruit salsa. There are many flavor profiles at play here and they all work. It’s anything but bland.

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The other great aspect of this dish is that it takes advantage of several foods that are perfectly in season right now in early October, including onions, tomatoes, peppers and corn. Seriously, make this now, before tomatoes and peppers have completely disappeared.

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As with any dish that requires roasted squash, I suggest taking care of the roasting  in advance. It really simplifies things. Maybe when you’re relaxing the evening before you’d like to use it, just toss the squash in the oven for about an hour.  If you didn’t plan ahead (and I know how that is) and aren’t opposed to the microwave, you could use it to cook the squash a little faster than the oven.

The flavor of the salsa will only get better after chilling, so consider preparing it in advance as well. With the squash and salsa ready to go, this meal could be ready in 20 minutes.

Mexican Spaghetti Squash with Tropical Salsa

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 spaghetti squash
For the salsa:
    • 1 cup chopped tomato
    • 1 cup chopped pineapple, mango or papaya
    • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, mint or basil or any combo thereof
    • Juice of 1 lime
For the bean mixture:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup red wine or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place in a baking dish cut side down. Bake until tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. This step can be done up to 3 days in advance.
  2. In a bowl toss all of the salsa ingredients together. Chill until using, which can be up to 2 days in advance.
  3. Heat the oil a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes before adding the spices, salt and wine/broth. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the corn and black beans and simmer over low heat until the liquid has reduced and vegetables are tender.
  4. When squash is finished cooking and cool, use a fork to scrape the strands into the pan. Toss with the bean mixture to combine and allow to heat through if the squash was precooked.
  5. Serve in bowls topped with the salsa.

This recipe was adapted (mostly just the seasonings) from Veganomiconan excellent cookbook and resource for vegan and vegetarian cooking.