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Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto

arugula and parsley pesto

More often than I like to admit, I buy groceries without any sort of plan as to what to do with them. This isn’t much of a problem when the impulse item is a loaf of fancy sourdough (toast! bread crumbs! croutons!) or a bag of lovely pears (salads! snacks! tarts! jam!), but things get more challenging when I end up buying two very large bunches of curly parsley without any sort of strategy.

parsley and arugula

The parsley was my most recent spur-of-the-moment purchase. I was at Reading Terminal Market (it’s Philadelphia’s original market and is still a wonderful place to have lunch or buy groceries). One of the produce stalls was selling gorgeous, curly, green parsley, two bundles for $1. It seemed too good to resist and so I added it to my basket. When I got home, I closed the bag tightly and tucked it into the crisper, certain that inspiration would strike. My mom makes a wonderful stew with lamb, red kidney beans, lemon juice and lots of parsley. I thought I might make that.

toasted pine nuts

Instead, the parsley sat (isn’t that always the way?). On Sunday morning, I was doing a little refrigerator clean-out in preparation for a Costco trip and rediscovered that parsley, as well as some woefully neglected arugula. I picked through both bundles and gave all the good parts a thorough rinsing. When I was done, I had two cups of tightly packed greens.

into the food processor

Digging through the fridge, I discovered that I had all the rest of the necessary ingredients to make pesto. I toasted pine nuts that I’d been hoarding, and processed them with the parsley and arugula, as well as a couple garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and olive oil.

It took all of ten minutes and felt so good to find a use for the parsley instead of simply consigning it to the trash can. There’s pasta on the horizon this week, as well as farro salad with feta and pesto dressing. It’s also lovely smeared on toast with a dab of ricotta cheese.

Have you rescued any destined for the trash ingredients lately?

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Happy New Year + Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

black-eyed pea salsa

I hope everyone had a good holiday season! I spent Christmas out in Portland, Oregon with family and got plenty of quality time with my parents, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and my newly walking nephew (he’s in that sponge stage, where he’s learning as fast as you can say the words. It’s incredible).

I got back to Philadelphia a few days ago and promptly came down with Emmett‘s cold (13 month olds cough in any direction they’re pointed, including straight into your face). Other than an exploratory mission on Sunday to Costco to use our new membership cards, Scott and I have barely left the apartment in days. Oh, how I’m tired of this tradition of mine to end the year mucus and congestion.

black-eyed pea salsa


In the hopes of forging different New Year traditions that have nothing to do with NyQuil, kleenex or throat lozenges, I made a very simple take on a classic “good luck for the New Year” dish. Black-eyed pea salsa.

It’s essentially Texas Caviar, but a version that omits bottled salad dressing and is scaled to fit into a quart jar (because who doesn’t like a salsa that can be made straight into a jar?). It’s good with tortilla chips and even better on top of salad greens and a little crumbled feta (if you’re trying to inject a little bit of healthier eating into your new year).

black-eyed pea salsa above


As far as New Year’s hopes and resolutions go, my plan is to keep the year simple. To find a little peace where I am instead of always having my eye on the next thing. To stop tying myself into knots of struggle and let things move in flow and at their own pace. And to remember how incredibly lucky I am to have such a vibrant community of friends and readers out there across the world (thank you all for being part of that!).

And on to the recipe…

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Guest Post: An Introduction to Homemade Mustard from Kaela Porter of Local Kitchen

I’m off on vacation this week with my husband Scott. While we wander the wilds of Lancaster County, PA, a few of my favorite bloggers will be dropping by to keep you entertained. Up today is Kaela Porter from the blog Local Kitchen. She writes about canning, preserving and eating locally from the Hudson Valley and her blog is one of my favorites. Kaela also happens to be my mustard mentor and so I’m thrilled to post this tutorial today.

Chances are, if you’re here, you can. Maybe you’re a pickle girl, with a love of all things briny; maybe you’re a guy who really kicks out the jams. But I’m here to tell you, if you haven’t tried homemade mustard yet, you are missing out.

Of all the things I make: jams & preserves, chutneys & pickles, salsas and tomatoes galore; mustard is the shining star. The “wow” factor, the double-take, the “you really make mustard?” Friends and family are invariably impressed, even more so when they taste the goods. The paradox is that this most impressive of home-canning treats is by far the easiest one to make.

No slicing or dicing, no blanching or peeling, no running to the store for pectin, no worrying about the set. At its simplest, mustard is simply ground mustard powder + water. That hot mustard you love at the Chinese restaurant near work? Nothing but ‘Oriental’ mustard powder mixed with water: you could make it at home in the blink of an eye.

Homemade Dijon mustard is not much more effort: wine is infused with some onion and garlic for flavor, then whisked with mustard powder and boiled until thick. Pop it in the fridge and in under 30 minutes you’ve got a fancy French mustard, better than most anything you can buy, for only a couple of bucks. No wonder everyone is so impressed by homemade mustard.

Mustard-making at home is comprised of two basic techniques: 1) combining ground mustard powder with liquid for a smooth, thin mustard, that usually has a more subtle flavor (white wine, fresh herbs, and floral infusions are good here); and 2) soaking whole mustard seed in liquid, then puréeing in a food processor for a hearty, grainy mustard (strong flavors shine here, whether it is acidic fruit, a favorite liquor or spicy chiles).

Mustard, both whole seeds and ground, can be expensive at the grocery store, but is quite economical at Penzeys and other spice merchants. And once you have the mustard on hand, the world is your oyster (or pretzel, or sausage, as the case may be). For mustards destined to go straight to the fridge, flavor options are limited only by your imagination: most mustards contain either vinegar or some form of alcohol and as such are acidic enough, even with added herbs or vegetables, for long-term refrigerator storage.

To can mustards for shelf-stable storage, we must, as in all other canning, take into account canning safety: for processing in a boiling water bath, it is best to rely on trusted recipes, or to make substitutions that you are confident will not adversely affect the pH or density (thickness) of the final product.

The canning itself can be a little tricky, simply because the grainier mustards can be thick and viscous, and it is sometimes challenging to keep the mustard boiling hot while filling the last jars. If you’ve ever made a fruit butter, you’ll know what I mean; just make sure to be diligent in bubbling your jars, leave yourself a generous headspace, and do your best to make sure the mustard is piping hot when it goes into your jars in order to prevent siphoning during processing.

Personally? I hate mustard. Loathe it, actually; so the hardest part of mustard making for me is the “adjust to taste” part (because, well, ew). Luckily, my husband, a certified mustardophile, is happy to step into the role of taste tester. And as my mustards have developed quite a following among friends & family, I make a lot of mustard. After the jump, I offer up two basic recipes: a classic Dijon and a sweet & boozy Bourbon Brown Sugar. If you, or someone you love, is a mustard fan, you owe it to yourself to give this a try: you (like me) may never buy mustard again!

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Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

I first discovered the Mrs. Wages line of canning products last year and I’ve used them with some frequency since then. In April, I became a contributor to their monthly newsletter. My little column includes some chatty articles and recipes (much like what you find here). Now, I’m pleased to be giving away a basket of their mixes, pectins and other products. If you’re interested in entering to win, click here and leave a comment. Now, on to the salsa.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

Last summer, I canned peach, tomatillo, tomato and pineapple salsas (all were recipes I was working on for the book). They were delicious, but after all the peeling, chopping and general prepping, an incredible amount of work. Since I’m not writing a canning book this summer, I’m looking to make my preserving decidedly less intense (to be honest, I’m still a bit burnt out). One of the ways I’m planning to do this is by cheating, ever so slightly.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

This Mrs. Wages salsa mix is one of the ways I’m making my life easier. It uses six pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes, 1/2 cup of vinegar and the packet of salsa mix. That’s it. No major chopping sessions, long simmering times or running out to the store when I realize I forgot the cilantro. By taking a little help from Mrs. Wages, I can bang out five pints of salsa (as well as a half full jar for the fridge) in half an hour and move on to something else while it processes.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

You do need to blanch and peel the tomatoes, but once the pot of blanching water comes to a boil, it takes all of six minutes to move the cored and prepped (don’t skip the little cross on the bottom of the tomato, it makes it far easier to slip those skins off) through the boiling water and into a cool bath. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, you should be able to pull the skins away easily.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

The instructions on the packet say to roughly chop the tomatoes, but because I was lazy (and in a bit of a hurry as I also did five pints of dilly beans that morning), I used the Vitamix to break down the peeled tomatoes (imagine a very chunky puree). Once they were all peeled, pureed and in the pot, it was just a matter adding the vinegar and spice mix.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

As soon as the salsa mix went in, my kitchen filled with the smells of garlic, onion, peppers and other spices. I was impressed by how quickly it transformed my pot of plain tomatoes into a flavorful, aromatic condiment. Later that afternoon, I served the finished salsa to some friends and they complimented me on my perfectly balanced, homemade salsa. I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but I ran excitedly to the trash can and fished out the empty packet so that I could show them how easy it had been to make.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

I am so happy to already have a stash of salsa on the shelf for our winter tacos, dinners of chips and breakfast burritos (it normally takes me until September to start thinking tomatoes). This isn’t to say that I won’t try my hand a fully from-scratch salsa later in the summer, but the ease with which this came together was balm for my canning-focused but over-committed brain. And it tastes so bright and fresh (though it’s not very spicy. If you like a lot of heat in your salsa, I recommend boosting it with a few red hot chili flakes or a dab of cayenne).

There you have it. If you’ve been eying one of these salsa mixes, I say go for it. Particularly if you’re swimming in ripe tomatoes and are decidedly short on time.

And don’t forget to click over to the Mrs. Wages giveaway and leave a comment (preferably featuring a story about your apron-wearing habits) to enter. And keep you eyes peeled, I’ll be posting about my first experience making freezer jam tomorrow.

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Open Jars: Apple Butter BBQ Sauce from Coconut & Lime

Got more apple butter than you can eat? Here’s a tasty idea from Rachel at Coconut & Lime. She combined her homemade apple butter with a bit of vinegar, a variety of spices and a little bit of booze for a tasty barbecue sauce. It looks incredibly easy too, just a bit of measuring, a trip through the blender and a bit of reducing over low heat. Make sure to head over to her site to check out the full recipe.

This makes me wonder what other butters and jams could be turned into more full-bodied barbecue sauces. I think that my peach plum ginger jam might make a really good player in a sweet/savory sauce like this.

Do you have a spread in your pantry that is due for a transformation like this one?

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It’s Homemade Salsa Time

makin' salsa

Each year, right around mid-July, I experience an interesting shift in perception. Fresh, local tomatoes go from being a precious commodity, good for little more than slicing, salting and eating, to something just a bit more mundane. I don’t feel the same pressure to focus on every tomato-y bite. I am suddenly free to transform them, to stuff them with spicy couscous concoctions or roast them for soup. I do so adore being rich in tomatoes.

Friday night, I returned home around 7:30 p.m., after two deliciously strong drinks with the Philly-based half of Doris and Jilly Cook. Hungry, but not inclined towards an organized meal (and with no one else to feed), I decided to turn the three remaining tomatoes I had from the previous week’s farmers’ market excursion into a quick batch of salsa.

homemade salsa fresca

I’ve taken to building quickly chopped half-salads like this straight into jars (saves on washing a bowl). I top a quart jar with a wide mouth funnel and drop the ingredients in as I chop. This jar received layers of cubed tomatoes, half a finely minced onion, 2 cloves of quickly crushed garlic, a roughly chopped handful of wispy cilantro (I got a huge bundle in my CSA share this week, I’m planning to make this soup with the rest), a minced pickled jalapeno (if you pickle them, then you always have them around for salsa emergencies), salt, pepper and the juice of one lime.

Once all the ingredients are in the jar, I cap it (tightly) and give a good shake. If the contents resist incorporation, just let it sit for five minutes and try again. You do need to leave the top third of the jar empty for the shaking to work. If you’ve filled it to a brim, you’ll need to enlist the aid of a wooden spoon. It’s good to eat after fifteen minutes of mellowing (although it gets even better overnight).

I like to eat it with crisp tortilla chips (who wouldn’t!) or just with a soup spoon, like a spicy, Mexican-inspired gazpacho. It’s good heaped on scrambled eggs and has the power to lift spirits and brighten days. Just make sure to store any leftovers in the fridge.

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Just a note about salsas like this. They are not cannable. Sadly, it’s impossible to capture the flavors of fresh salsas with our existing preservation techniques. However, there are a number of cooked salsa recipes out there that are appropriate for canning. Do a little searching and make sure to find a tested recipe that’s safe for processing and storage. You’ll find that many of them are quite delicious!

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