Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

I hope I live to see the day green salsa is as plentiful as the red stuff.

tomatillo-salsa

The only reason I ever entertain the thought of eating at Moe’s is because I love their salsa verde. Only recently have I found a jarred brand of tomatillo salsa that doesn’t suck (this stuff). Which, of course, means I’ve become obsessed. I go through at least one jar a week.  [Read more…]

Best Ever Greek Dressing

This is probably the simplest recipe on this blog. But don’t let that fool you…

This Greek dressing is somehow outstanding despite having a humble ingredient list; it’s truly an instance of the whole being greater than its parts. Any time I dress a salad with this at any sort of gathering, I’m asked for the recipe. It’s almost embarrassing to show how simple it is.

I use this dressing on a classic Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and cucumber. It pairs especially well with feta cheese, so it’s the perfect match for any salad with feta in it. I’ve also used it as a marinade for chicken.

I found the original recipe years ago on All Recipes. It’s from an Italian restaurant and makes a gallon of dressing. I’ve obviously reduced the volume of the recipe (it makes just about a cup). I also made a few other adjustments, like making the vinegar to oil ratio 1:1.

If you taste the dressing on its own, you might be surprised at just how much of a bite it has. It’s much less potent when actually on a salad. Still, I usually add in just a bit of sugar. You can also add a little less vinegar if you want less tang.

Best Ever Greek Dressing

Adapted from All Recipes

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • pinch of sugar

Mix everything but the olive oil together, then slowly whisk in the oil. Or, put everything in a container and shake it vigorously until well combined.

Sunday Sauce

This past Sunday was pretty typical for Florida winter weather: not a cloud in the sky and quite warm. The rest of Tampa was headed for the beach. But me? I chose to spend my Sunday indoors, making homemade sauce and ravioli. I completely take the weather here for granted and I’m sure any Northerners reading this probably want to punch me. I promise I’ll spend this coming weekend outside.

For me, a great marinara sauce is the food equivalent of a warm hug and something near and dear to me. I have a lot of sauce-related memories. Between the smell of my mom’s sauce filling the house, to being an honorary member of Cassie’s Italian family, to occasionally making meatballs and sauce for Sunday dinner in college.  I even made marinara sauce (along with meatballs) when I spent my first-ever Christmas away from home while I was in Australia.

I’m pretty particular about my sauce, as most people are. My preference is a thick, even sauce with a faint sweetness, and that is what this recipe makes. The balsamic vinegar may seem like an odd ingredient for marinara sauce, but it really gives it an additional sweetness as well as depth of flavor.

After my recent hand blender purchase, the first thing I wanted to do was make sauce and get it totally smooth and free from chunks, just how I love it. I pulsed the hand blender in the sauce right after it had heated through and all my smooth sauce dreams came true. If you prefer it chunkier, or thinner, I’ve provided notes below on how to adjust for those preferences.

I’m calling this Sunday Sauce because there’s meat in it, but you can call it whatever you want. Given the sauce to meat ratio, this is not a bolognese or meat sauce. The sauce itself is the true star. The sausage is just for flavor.  Nix the sausage and you’ll still have a delicious basic marinara sauce.

Really, this is just a teaser for the homemade ravioli I served this over. Stay tuned…

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Sunday Sauce

Makes about 12 cups of sauce (which is a lot, but I like to freeze half)

This is a recipe “mash up” of my mom’s preferred sauce (Cooking Light’s Basic Marinara) and Cassie’s mom’s sauce. I recommend Pomi strained tomatoes, which can be tough to find. If they’re not in your grocery store, try Whole Foods or an organic super market. You could also use the Pomi chopped tomatoes and puree them in a food processor or blender before adding to the pot.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian pork sausage, removed from casings
  • 3  cups yellow onion, finely chopped (about 3 medium)
  • 1  tablespoon sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2  teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1  teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2  teaspoons salt
  • 1  teaspoon black pepper
  • 2  tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 boxes Pomi brand strained tomatoes (or 3 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes if you like a chunkier sauce) *

 

Heat olive oil in a large pot (the biggest one you have!) over medium heat. Add sausage to pot and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until just browned, then add onion to pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients up to the vinegar, stirring well to combine. Cook for about one minute. Add about 1 cup broth and the tomatoes.  As the sauce cooks you can add more broth to your desired consistency (I like a thick sauce so only used a little more than a cup total). Bring sauce to a simmer and let it cook for at least an hour over low heat, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta or whatever tickles your fancy. And of course, sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese!

Any remaining sauce will keep in the freezer for 3 months.

Some quick tips:

  • Taste the sauce as you go. I ate at least 1/4 cup of sauce while it was cooking. Use the recipe above as a guideline and add seasonings as you see fit.
  • The sauce should have one or two bubbles slowly breaking the surface but be nowhere near a full boil. Low and slow, my friends.
  • Per Cooking Light, adding in a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar when you’re reheating frozen sauce will help bring the flavor back to life.

 

Creamy Caesar Dressing and Homemade Croutons

This is not Caesar dressing in its purest form, but it’s damn good. Some people around the dinner table may have even said “the best they’ve ever had.” If anything, it’s certainly restaurant quality. And I’m talking upscale steakhouse, not T.G.I. Friday’s.

I got a little carried away adding in every ingredient ever used in the history of Caesar dressing. But, I think it turned out perfect. And by perfect I mean strong. You will be breathing garlic for the rest of the month. Of course, if you don’t like a serious garlic flavor, this would be fine with just one clove.

There are two things in here that’ll make people squeamish: raw egg yolk and anchovies. If you’re scared of raw eggs, you can buy pasteurized eggs or even leave it out. In a pure Caesar dressing, egg yolks are necessary since they’re combined with olive oil to make the creamy, mayo-licious base. Since this recipe uses mayo, I suppose the egg yolk isn’t entirely necessary, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt in terms of acting as a binder.

As for the anchovies, what are you so afraid of? Why are you grossed out by little fish in a can that have probably been sitting on the grocery shelf for a year? Ok, I see your point, but I think anchovies have a bad rep. Yes, they are strong. That’s why I only used two (I’ve seen recipes using an entire can). Feel free to leave out the anchovies, but the saltiness is really what gives the dressing its characteristic zing. If you do leave them out, add another 1/2 teaspoon or more of Worcestershire sauce (side note: How do you pronounce Worcestershire? I’m convinced no one knows. I think I’ve avoiding saying it out loud for my entire life.).

A little of this goes a long way. You don’t need to drench the lettuce, just a light overall coating works wonderfully. I dressed 3 bags of romaine lettuce with this much dressing. So, unless you’re serving this at a dinner party (and you should), chances are you won’t need this much. Good news is the dressing will keep in an airtight jar or container for at least a week in the fridge. I wish I had some leftover because I’ve been craving it for days… always a sign of something truly tasty.

Also, I wish I’d taken a better picture. This was after we’d eaten and I had to scrape up the tiny bit of salad left in the bowl.

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Creamy Caesar Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 anchovy fillets OR 1 1/2 tablespoons anchovy paste *
  • 3 garlic cloves * (or less, depending on your taste)
  • 1 cup real mayo
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

* If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll need to mince the garlic and finely chop the anchovies. Then, whisk with all of the other ingredients until well combined.

Place anchovies and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency.

You can use the dressing immediately but I recommend storing in the fridge for a few hours to overnight to really let the flavors combine.

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And what needs to be said about homemade croutons? You already know they’re better than anything that comes out of a box. I made these to go in Caesar salad (obviously), but they’d work in any old salad. They’d also be great sprinkled on soup.

Homemade Croutons

Makes a bunch (sorry, didn’t measure, but you can use as much or as little bread as you’d like)

  • 1 loaf day old French bread, cut into cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bread cubes into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to combine.

Spread cubes evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden.

Croutons can be made ahead and stored for up to a day in a sealed plastic bag or Tupperware container.