Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Fare

We have done a lot this week.  Cutting grass, painting a room, clearing out the basement, (well, not clearing out, but at least clearing off the floor)  Today we treated ourselves to brunch with all the change we've been finding doing all this work.  Grand total: $36.10.  Anyway we went out to eat at the Pop Shop in Collingswood and it was SO. GOOD.  Smore French Toast, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Oreo Pancakes, and I had the Veggie Rollo Omelet.   I asked for the salsa on the side and I'm so glad I did.  Not because it wasn't good, no, but because this way I could savor the lime-y-good-ness-soaked-tomatoes and peppers and whatever else made it so.good.  It got me thinking of the myriad ways we can make a salsa.  Too many to count.  Which leads me to the topic of this blog.
Summer afternoons are hot, sticky, slimy, tiresome.  We wish we lived in Europe so we could take a siesta, a long cool nap under the shade of a tree, maybe with a little sangria to induce a summer dream coma.  But we don't.  We're either working or taking care of kids or running around like hot chickens.  We don't want to think about cooking.  Anything.  So I think I have the perfect antidote.  Summer fare: Salsa and tea.
First the tea.  Tea can be made of anything really.  Tea is just soaking something in water to extract its essential-est goodness.  
Tea:any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.  
Bags are easy.  Pick them up at the grocer and top with hot water.  Let it steep and you can pour over ice.  You can also fill a big jug with tea bags and water and let it sit in the sun.  Every summer my mother would buy a new SunTea jug at the grocery store - think 1970s avocado lime funky lettering on the side and you've got the picture.  It was like her summer project and she was very proud of it.  I'm trying to be a bit more homemade.  You can use tea leaves, but you can also use mint leaves or lemon balm leaves or pineapple mint or any leaves that sound good to you.    We have something growing in the backyard that I think is chamomile and I'm going to try them in my tea.  Then there are dandelion leaves?  I don't know.  I have to look that one up.  And then there's fruit.  You can use strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, etc.  Vanilla?  Orange flower extract?  Almond?  Maple syrup?  Honey? Cinnamon?  They are all healthy and SO. GOOD.  There are also recipes out there for Bubble Tea, made with Tapioca and Milk.  It's a Taiwanese drink that sounds pretty good. And you can blend a little of everything to see what marvelous infusions you can conjure up.  

So the blending gets us back to the Salsa.  Just like the tea, salsa can be made from anything.  It's just a sauce that contains chopped up ingredients.  I don't know if I love salsa or the lime and salt that are essential to every good salsa.  Regardless, I've been playing around with all kinds and I'll keep playing.  Here's the playlist so far:
Corn-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Avocado-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Clams-Tomato-Red Pepper
Garbanzo-Avocado-Red Pepper
Mango-Black Bean-Roasted Red Pepper-Lime-Salt

I'm trying to stay away from tomato for now, because in a few weeks we are going to have more tomatoes from the garden than I know what to do with!   But they are quite acidic and today at the Home Depot, the salesperson started talking about how all our diets are so acidic it's influenced the types of countertops that are available?  Really?  I was so stuck on what he was saying, I didn't pay attention to what he said about the new kinds of countertops!  Maybe that Quartz is better than Granite now, because the finish isn't damaged by the acid?!  Anyway...

I want to try fruit salsas too.  Mint and maybe peaches and strawberries? with lime and sugar instead of salt?
Here is a link to another favorite blogger site called Top With Cinnamon.  This girl is amazing, I think she's 16 and from England and her photographs of food are as good as her food.  She has a recipe for Apricot Salsa, that also has tomato in it, and she mentions having had Pineapple Salsa too.  Hmmm.  I could try that.

Anyway, all those leftovers in the back of the fridge are getting put to use tonight.  Just blend a couple together, squirt with a lime and salt and you've got a salsa.  Usually the salsa gets put on some type of cracker or chip.  Tortilla, pita, crostini, a toasted baguette.  But really it can go on pasta or rice too.  Toss it with couscous or quinoa.  It can also be a spread to kick up a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad, or a quesadilla, as in Izy's recipe.  If you find you've made too much, blend it up in a blender and whola! it's Gazpacho!  Tomorrow night's dinner too! Do the Salsa! And then cooking won't seem so laborious and looming.

Recipe for Mango Black Bean Salsa

1 whole mango, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed
1 red pepper, roasted and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (use scissors to cut up about 1 tbsp.)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
juice of 1 lime

Toss ingredients gently together and serve with fresh out of the oven tortilla chips.  (Even the bag chips can be heated up for extra deliciousness!)

Simple Tea

6 bags Green tea
2 tsp. honey
8 mint leaves
Cover with hot, almost boiling, water.  Pour over 4 glasses of ice.  

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