Watermelon Salsa

I confess that this will be a photo-lite post. I came up with watermelon salsa completely on a whim, or, as the French say, caprice. (I prefer caprice, don’t you? “Whim” sounds so, well, wimpy, but “caprice” trips across the ear in a sparkly way, like a little fairy dancing past my head. Careful, fairy! Don’t buzz like a mosquito, or you’ll be fairy toast.) So I didn’t do much planning, just snapped the final product. watermelon salsa with corn, scallions, and cilantro

Read this brief post about how I came up with this wondrous thing, or jump to the recipe.

I had been experimenting with a black-eyed pea and collard taco, based on an Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe (from Isa Does It). I’m not publishing results for my version of the taco, because I’m still fiddling a bit to deem it shareable with y’all. I admit that most beans taste weird to me. Other people say “earthy”, I say “reminiscent of dirt.” I dunno what it is that bugs me.

Anyway, Ms. Moskowitz features an apple/avocado salsa on her black-eyed pea taco, a great flavor/texture choice. But heck, it’s summer. I don’t want to eat apples. Then I thought: Hey! Black-eyed peas/collards = southern U.S. states, therefore fresh corn and watermelon also = southern U.S. states = what I like to eat in summer. Suddenly, like Rapunzel’s pregnant mother, I could not get watermelon out of my mind. (In her case, she couldn’t get some European lettuce called rapunzel off her mind, hence her kid’s weirdo name.)

Dammit, I HAD to have some watermelon.

So I chopped it up, noticed some scallions in the fridge—the mildest of onions—and sliced them, shaved the kernels off a half ear of corn, squeezed in some lime, sprinkled in cilantro, and voila! Fresh watermelon salsa. Which I immediately ate with a spoon, and then I remembered my taco, which had turned into a collard wrap, and to which I’d added some sweet potato fries. Because southern U.S. states also = sweet potatoes.

watermelon salsa on a collard wrap

I imagine this marrying nicely to any kind of pale meat taco, particularly shrimp or chicken. Maybe even pork (though I only ever eat the stray piece of bacon or sausage, so can’t say for sure). The coolness and crunch of the ingredients complements spicy proteins in a lovely, light way. Enjoy!

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Watermelon Salsa: The Recipe

broccoli pesto

Broccoli Pesto

As I’ll note in my soon-to-be published post on broccoli (part of the WTF, CSA? series), it’s one of those vegetables to which familiarity has bred some contempt. Ok, maybe not contempt, but a yawn or two. Broccoli again? Sigh. Guess we’ll steam it. Unless you have broccoli pesto. Huzzah!

Read about broccoli pesto’s benefits and uses, or jump straight to the recipe.

broccoli-pesto-ingredients

As is often the case, I came upon this recipe in my beloved Greene on Greens cookbook. Are you sick of hearing about it? Get over yourself, I’m all over that thing. Mr. Greene has a myriad of ways to have fun with broccoli—all of them quite legal, by the way. Given that Steve had come home with a haul of it PLUS a big batch of basil, I quickly seized on this creative way to deal with both.

The taste of broccoli pesto is not discernibly different from that of regular pesto. The biggest departure is the texture: slightly crumbly and chewy in a pleasant way. Where regular pesto is a simple sauce, broccoli pesto tastes and behaves more like a side dish. Naturally, the eater receives the greater benefit of eating raw broccoli, primarily increased fiber. Additionally, broccoli pesto registers slightly sweeter on the palate than its non-broc counterpart.

Broccoli Pesto: Uses

Just as with regular pesto, you can use broccoli pesto as your go-to summer pasta sauce. But don’t stop with durum/semolina/gluten-free noodles. Either pesto works quite beautifully on any grain or starch dish. I love it with gnocchi, or tossed with roasted veggies on top of polenta. Steve and I tasted a pesto-based dressing at K-Paul’s in New Orleans about 6 years ago; he still makes his version of the dressing today, mixing a dollop of pesto with olive oil and balsamic. Spread pesto on the bread of your choice and top with roasted peppers and mozzarella for a superb caprese sandwich. Or ditch the bread, and make a caprese salad. This 4th of July, I mixed broccoli pesto with mayo and Greek yogurt as the dressing for a potato salad. Mix a little into deviled eggs.

You get the idea, yes? Or, to be Italian for a moment, capiche? Well, then. Buon appetito!

broccoli-pesto

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Broccoli Pesto: The Recipe

 

Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

On the groaning board that many of us create this time of year, cranberries should be present. They possess an extraordinary ability to cut through the fat, heavy, savory tastes of the season with a just-right bang of tart sweetness. For some folks, cooked cranberry sauce does that trick perfectly. (See the recipe for Ruby Red Cranberry Beet Sauce.) But for others, only something raw will suffice—particularly given the scarcity of raw food at countless holiday gatherings. Enter Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish.

Jump to recipe.

sparkling raw cranberry relish ingredients

If cooked cranberry sauce is easy, Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish is downright ridiculous. Just put raw cranberries and orange flesh in a food processor, buzz til finely chopped. Then put the mixture in a bowl, stir in sugar to your taste, and boom, you’re done. I ended up adding ginger at the last minute and loved it.

And for those who want to be careful about sugar intake, Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish offers tremendous flexibility. With a cooked cranberry sauce, you have to cook the sugar or it won’t dissolve properly. So if you start low and then try to add sugar in, you could end up with a gritty sauce. The raw relish actually sparkles because the sugar crystals catch the light; that nearly imperceptible crunch blends beautifully with the crispy texture of the raw cranberries. Start as minimal as you like. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar; maybe that’s enough. Taste, then stir in the next one. Just keep going until it tastes the way you like it.

You can make Raw Cranberry Orange Relish up to 2 days ahead, and you can freeze leftovers. Due to apples and pears not holding up so well once they’re cut, I wouldn’t recommend substituting them for the orange unless you’re going to eat the relish immediately. With my feasts this time of year, I like to cook as many dishes ahead of time as possible, so I stick with orange. Of course, it’s your call.

Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish: The Recipe

ruby red cranberry beet sauce

Ruby Red Cranberry Beet Sauce

It never ceases to delight me. Raw cranberries, from pink to bright garnet, cook into a luxurious ruby red cranberry beet sauce. Of course, they’d do that without the beet, but the beet adds natural sweetness, vitamin A, and fiber. So go for it.

Jump to recipe.

This one is super easy: Start with a bag of cranberries. You may even want to stock up while they’re in season. They freeze well, and your version of Ruby Red Cranberry Beet Sauce may be just the thing for livening up sandwiches and desserts in the months to come. (For more ideas, see this post on cranberries.)

I always split the bag in half, so that I can have one batch of cooked sauce and one of raw relish. Eating-wise, I identify as a grazer. I prefer a couple of bites of a lot of different stuff to one big slab of anything.

Now, you can go ahead and dump the berries, some cooking liquid, grated beet, and the sugar into the pot at once. In the picture, you don’t see beet, because it ended up being a last minute burst of inspiration.

ruby red cranberry beet relish

If you choose to add minced fruit, herbs and/or spices, add those now as well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for just 4-5 minutes. The cranberries audibly pop, which is sort of adorable. Don’t overcook! Mushy berries are gross.

And speaking of sugar, I recommend reverse engineering the sweetness factor. The classic proportion is 1 part sugar to 2 parts cranberries to half a part liquid. I prefer 1:4, and recommend that’s where you start—unless you really like your sugar. If you want to play it safe and do the 1:2 thing, next time, take it back a notch to 1:3. Eventually, you’ll hit on the right proportions for you. And just because you are adding a sweetener, you’re not undoing the benefits of the cranberries; the sauce will just be less nutritionally dense than the berry on its own. Save a handful of raw berries to throw in your smoothie, and you’ll be good to go.

If, on the other hand, you boldly go ahead with the 1:4 proportion and the sauce isn’t sweet enough, don’t add granulated sugar to the finished product; the crystals won’t dissolve. Instead, pour in a little maple syrup or agave, or even add a drop of Stevia until you get where you need to be.

Ruby Red Cranberry Beet Sauce can be made up to 5 days ahead. Leftovers can be frozen. Use instead of jam on your morning toast or for a completely amazing cream cheese or nut butter sandwich.

ruby red cranberry beet sauce

Ruby Red Cranberry Beet Sauce: The Recipe

sweet savory cranberry beet ketchup from Le Chou Fou

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup

In holiday food magazines, I see lots of cranberry sauces with savory elements. Those might include onion, vinegar, rosemary and/or thyme, and less sugar than the typical cranberry sauce recipe. Cranberry beet ketchup may be the ultimate savory cranberry sauce.

Jump to recipe.

Ingredients to make Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup from Le Chou Fou.

Here it is on a potato waffle, which I promise to get in the recipe index soon.

Savory Sweet Cranberry Beet Ketchup is scrumptious on a potato waffle. (For a sweet cooked cranberry sauce, try this recipe. If you prefer raw cranberry relish, try this recipe. And to learn more about cranberries in general, visit this link.)

For many in my generation, the very word “ketchup” immediately brings to mind Carly Simon bleating “Anticipation” over an endless wait for the tomato variety to emerge from the Heinz bottle. But pectin-heavy fruits make great ketchup. Cranberries teem with pectin, which has tons of health benefits that you can read about here.

And if you feel like you’re overdoing the sweets this time of year, cranberry ketchup’s your buddy. You know, if you’re someone who starts to mildly pig out around Halloween, building to utter debauchery by New Year’s Eve. Cranberry ketchup makes a great sauce for turkey, and is perfect for day-after turkey sandwiches. It pairs beautifully with game, should you eat it. I don’t, but in Michigan, everybody knows and loves a hunter.

This recipe has been inspired by one in American Cooking: The Northwest, by Dale Brown and the editors of Time Life Books (1970). I’ve adapted it a bit, including not pureeing the final mixture. I guess, for some people, it ain’t ketchup if it ain’t pureed. If you’re one of them, feel free to throw the whole thing in a blender at the end. Otherwise, enjoy this unusual take on traditional cranberry sauce.

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup is a great accompaniment to savory treats, like this potato waffle with sour cream from Le Chou Fou.

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup: The Recipe

 

cranberries in their raw state

Cranberries in the Kitchen

Cheery and garnet-colored when raw, deep rich ruby when cooked: Cranberries beautify any harvest or holiday celebration. Bags begin to appear in U.S. stores right around Halloween. I recommend you stock up; they freeze well, and their tart, spiky flavor cuts through rich fare like a sharp knife through a tomato. And while November and December tend to be especially indulgent months, you may still get a craving for cranberries off-season. You’ll be able to whip out a bag, thaw it in no time, and slam together a sauce that you can use to perk up all sorts of dishes, from cheesecakes to a sandwich, to a super healthy bowl.

cranberries

A little background: Cranberries hail from North America. Native Americans harvested them for food and medicine; they’re essential to pemmican, that paste of dried meat and berries that was an early (if not the first) energy bar. Loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, pectin, and fiber, cranberries pack a health whallop in a small package. (For ridiculous amounts of data on their health benefits, see this article.)

Here’s the rub. Cranberries are CRAZY SOUR. To get them palatable for modern tastes, most of us need to sweeten them with a good amount of sugar. One part sugar to four parts cranberries is most often recommended, but that doesn’t exactly boost the nutritional value. What’s a health-conscious cook to do?

Here at Le Chou Fou, we try to help. So we recommend any of the following.

Cranberries: The Cooked

The cranberry sauce that I grew up was shaped like a can, complete with a bulge around the middle. Then Mom discovered how easy it was to make the stuff from scratch. Cooking the cranberries with some liquid and some sugar until the skin pops releases the pectin; let the fruit stand for a while—overnight is great—and the sauce thickens, giving you that nice jammy texture that’s so good on a sandwich.

Mom did the old school method: A package of cranberries, a heaping cup of sugar, and some water. But you can knock that sugar way back by getting creative with the liquid. You can use fruit juice that you have on hand, or diluted port wine (port full strength is a bit much). Maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar can substitute for table sugar at about 1/2 the amount; try a 1:8 ratio instead of 1:4. Mince an apple or pear for more pectin and sweetness. You can even add Stevia if you don’t find the taste too weird. (I always taste bitterness with Stevia, but Steve doesn’t mind it.)

Additionally, cranberries love spices and strong flavorings: cinnamon, clove, fresh ginger, rosemary, thyme. All of those contribute to a richer, more interesting cranberry sauce that isn’t so heavily dependent on sugar. Here’s my recipe blueprint for cooked cranberry sauce. Feel free to to make it your own.

ruby red cranberry beet sauce

Cranberries: The Raw

Raw cranberry relish sparkles—literally, from all the sugar crystals. It’s lovely and wonderful, but the most difficult of the three options to make without sugar. Nonetheless, the same rules apply. Grate in an apple or pear dipped in cider vinegar (less puckery than lemon juice and helpful in keeping the apple or pear from turning brownish). Be generous with orange peel and chopped orange flesh. The great thing here is that you can add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Steve and I like it with just 1 tablespoon; that a 1:16 ratio, which we think is pretty cool. (The courageous can substitute Stevia.) Always, always, always taste test until you hit the proportions that work for you and any people who may be joining your table. Here’s my recipe blueprint for raw cranberry relish.

Sparkling Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

Cranberries: Ketchup!

My head remains on my shoulders; I assure you, I have not lost it. Despite what the Heinz corporation would like you to believe, “ketchup” simply means a thick sweet/savory sauce. It can be made with any number of fruits, and the variety made from cranberries is particularly nice. It also works on anything regular old tomato ketchup will work on. The primary difference between cooked cranberry sauce and cranberry ketchup is the addition of onions and vinegar, as well as more savory spices than you’d typically use. But don’t kid yourself that you can eliminate the sugar altogether. Ketchup is meant to be sweet. And man, does it make a dandy topper for a potato waffle (I promise to do a video and post on vegetable waffles soon.) As above, start with a 1:8 ratio, then increase as you taste. Here’s my recipe for sweet savory cranberry beet ketchup.

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup, made from cranberries, beets, and spices

Cranberries: Other Uses

Cranberries act like a shocking pink pillow in all white room, a welcome kapow or tartness. You just don’t want too many; imagine a dozen shocking pink pillows and you’ll get the idea. Toss a handful of cranberries into a smoothie with plenty of sweet fruit like bananas and mangos; they add beautiful crunch, a hint of pucker, and a ton of antioxidants. Add them to a bowl of vegetables destined to be roasted, coating everything with oil and spices. Fold leftover sweet cranberry sauce or raw cranberry relish into a cheesecake or batch of muffins to turn those comfy sweets into jewel-studded divas of the dessert table. Add any of the recipes in this post to sandwiches, or as the sweet component of a bowl meal. Throw some on top of mashed sweet potatoes. And know that, thanks to a little forethought, you can indulge your cranberry love whenever you like.