Monday, September 12, 2011

Simple End-of-Summer Condiments: Roasted Tomato + Oregano Salsa and Herbed Mustard Vinaigrette

Hi. Though it probably hasn't seemed like it if you've been checking this site at all, I am here and alive and eating plenty. I've been cooking a fair amount too. But, as frequently happens towards the end of summer, there's not a great deal of creativity to what I'm making. As the pounds of zucchini and corn and tomatoes and cucumbers accumulate, I stick to the tried and true. (Yes. Those all link to the recipes featured elsewhere on this site that are making a big comeback here a year later.) In my effort to not waste the fresh herbs I've been getting before they wilt and decay (in the plastic bags that I'm sure cut against their long-term survival), I've been chopping them finely and throwing them into salsas, dressings, eggs, tortilla fillings (I made flautas!), and - in a rare moment of ambition - a brine I used to pickle green beans, inspired by Lottie + Doof's escabeche recipe. My two recent favorites are both simple and versatile - a good combination, likely why I've been making them repeatedly since we returned from our August vacation.

The first one: Roasted Tomato + Oregano Salsa. Good with tortilla chips, Mexican food, and eggs... but also REALLY good on grilled chicken or baked salmon, slathered onto a slice of bread or crackers and topped with some thinly-sliced veggies and feta, or even tossed with some pasta and parmesan. It's really good. Just don't skimp on the herbs. Or the salt. Did I mention it's good with tortilla chips?

Roasted Tomato + Oregano Salsa

The second one: Herbed Mustard Vinaigrette. Here's why this one is especially special to yours truly (and oh-so-specially). I don't really do mustard. I don't hate it hate it. Meaning, it's not as bad as the superbads in my book: wasabi, horseradish, goat cheese, to name a few. It's more like green olives or Italian parsley - well-concealed, on a good day, after my taste buds are a bit numb from drinking irresponsibly or overindulging in sugar, I can handle a little. I like dry mustard as a general flavor enhancer and I throw a little dijon in my egg and tuna salads for what I consider "depth". But this dressing really complicates my whole relationship with mustard. It's fairly mustard-forward in its flavor profile, and I can taste that, and I know I shouldn't love it, because I would hate it on a burger or a pretzel... but I do. I just love it. Like, totally. I make it three times a week in the summer and dress lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and blanched green beans with it over and over again. Curious indeed.

Mustard of choiceMustard Vinaigrette

Here are the recipes. I hope you find them as simple and versatile and yummy as I do. And I hope your weather is as lovely as ours has been lately.

Roasted Tomato + Oregano Salsa
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: about 2-3 cups

1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced (don't peel, seed, or drain; liquid will evaporate in oven)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium shallot or 2-3 scallions or 1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 small white onion, finely diced
1 small jalapeño, cored, seeded and minced (use half if you don't like much spice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Heat oven to 400°F. Cover a baking tray with foil. Spread diced tomatoes on tray; drizzle with one teaspoon olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Bake until lightly browned and slightly dry, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and toss tomatoes with shallots or scallions or red onion, white onion, jalapeño, garlic and oregano in a bowl. Drizzle an additional teaspoon olive oil over top and serve. This is excellent at room temperature but lasts for at least four days in the refrigerator. (Cautionary note: it gets spicier over time.)

Herbed Mustard Vinaigrette
Adapted from an old Cooking Light annual cookbook (2003 maybe?)
Yield: enough for a side salad for 4 or main salad for 2; easily doubled

1 small (or 1/2 a large) red onion, thinly sliced or diced (a young red onion or shallot is ideal)
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil*
1 teaspoon dried parsley or marjoram
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil (or use half flax seed oil)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk everything together. Toss cucumbers, tomatoes, al dente green beans, or a mixture, and allow veggies to marinate in vinaigrette for an hour or so (veggies will last for a few days in refrigerator and are even tastier on day 2 or 3). Alternatively, use as a salad dressing.

*Again, think versatile. Feel to throw in a handful of whatever other herbs you have on hand, e.g. chives, tarragon, parsley or oregano.

P.S. Today my parents celebrate 41 years of marriage. That is v. nearly FOREVER. Well done, mom and dad. Congratulations and much love from our little fam in Minneapolis.

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