Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Simple & Fresh Salsa

Do you ever wonder how sometimes the simplest dishes are the tastiest. This salsa involves no cooking, the only tools you need are a knife and a cutting board. It has a grand total of 5 ingredients, yet it's always a hit whenever I make it. Great for snacking on, or pair it with some eggs, chicken breast or fish. Did I mention it's super healthy too?

  • 5 Large Tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 4 Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1 Handful of Cilantro
  • 1 Lime
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper

Start by rinsing off your tomatoes then cut each one in half horizontally.

Remove the seeds and goop inside the tomato by sticking your finger in the cavities and pulling everything out. I highly recommend doing this over the sink. Once you have your tomato "shells", season them generously with salt and pepper. Make sure you get it in all the crevices. If you look closely at the picture you can almost make out the salt on the tomatoes.

Line a cutting board with paper towels and invert the tomatoes on the towels. This will pull some of the moisture out of the tomatoes and help to concentrate their flavor.

Now is the perfect time to take a break. Pour yourself a cerveza and relax while the salt does it's work. I was cleaning house, and you can proceed dicing up the other ingredients, but then my pictures will be out of order and that's not cool.

Ok, it's been about 40 or 45 minutes, let's take a look at our tomatoes. Look how much water they have released!

It's time to get to dicing them up. I go with a fine dice on everything in my salsa, but it really depends on how you like it.

Next, take your onion and finely dice it. Throw that into the salsa and mix it up with the tomatoes.
Then take some Jalapeno Peppers. In my opinion, this makes the salsa. Cut the peppers in half length wise and ask yourself "How hot do I want my salsa?" By removing the seeds and veins from within the peppers, you can remove a lot of the heat. Below is a picture of Jalapenos ranging from mild (left) to medium (middle) to hot (right).

I recommend 2 mild and 2 medium Jalapenos for the average person (that's what I make for my guests), but if it's me, I'll step it up to 3.5 mediums and 1 hot. I'm crazy like that.

To dice the Jalapenos, slice them vertically first. They should look like match sticks. This picture is a little crappy, and I apologize. Like I said in my previous post, I am new to the digital camera game. All we can do is hope I get better with time.

Then slice horizontally and throw into the salsa.

Next, grab a handful of rinsed cilantro. Make sure you clean it well as it can really hold a lot of dirt sometimes. I'm a little OCD and have to pull all the leaves off of the stems before I chop it up, but you don't have to be as anal as me. The smaller stems are really unnoticeable. Chop the leaves and throw them into the salsa. We are almost done!

By this point, your salsa should be looking (and smelling) pretty good. Depending on how long this process has taken, your tomatoes may have given up some more of the water. At this point, I'll take a spoon and remove a couple spoonfuls of "water" out of the salsa before the final step. Finally, we will slice a lime in half and put all of the juice into the salsa. This, along with the cilantro, gives it that super fresh taste.

Now get yourself a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and go to town on this salsa. I made it over the memorial day weekend while at my sister's house with the family and they were eating it before I was done making it. Needless to say, it didn't last long.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


First off, let me say that this is my first blog post ever. I have never taken pictures of food before today, so please forgive me if they come out a little blurry and less professional than you expect to see. In the future I will try to do better.

  • 3 Cans of Whole Tomatoes (14.5 oz each)
  • ½ can of tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp of Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp of Oregano
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch or two of Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 splash of Red Wine
  • 1 32 oz tub of Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 handful of fresh Parsely
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lbs of Italian Sausage (I mixed 1 lb of Hot and 1 lb of Sweet)
  • 1 lb of Lasagna noodles
  • 2 lbs of Mozarella cheese (and a little parmesan if you have it!)
Everybody loves lasagna, and I have had many requests from friends to make my recipe for them. I make this as gifts for people and they are forever in my debt. This recipe that I used tonight, will create one 9x14 inch pan filled with lasagna and one 8x8 pan filled with lasagna. You may ask, “Kenny, why would you create such an odd combination?”. Like I said earlier, I gift this and I had a friend do an incredible favor for me this past weekend. Big enough to deserve the ultimate gift. The 9x14 is for my friend and his family, however I couldn’t justify making lasagna without keeping some for myself, and that is where the 8x8 comes into play. This could make one LARGE 9x14, just make sure you have a real deep pan b/c it will be 4-5 layers high. Oh God, that would be a delicious lasagna. Anywho, enough with the introduction, on to the recipe.

First things first, remove the casings off of the sausages. Toss them into a pan with some kosher salt, a little pepper, and a little Italian seasoning.

Then proceed to brown them in a large pan. The key here is to use a high heat and caramelize bits of the sausage. You can see the little bits of brown in the image below. We call that deliciousness.

Once brown, remove the sausage from the pan and all but 2 tbsp of the left over grease (mmmm…..pork fat). Place the sausage in your refrigerator as we will come back to that a little later. Dice up the medium onion and place it into the saucepan with the left over sausage grease. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.

Dice up the cloves of garlic and add to the onions in the pan (with a little salt and pepper, of course!). Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Take 3 ozs (half of the can) of tomato paste and add to the onion/garlic mixture. Stir well and turn the heat to medium high. Keep an eye on this for the next 3-4 minutes, as you want to caramelize the sugars in the tomatoes, but do not want it to burn.

Once the paste has darkened, add the can of tomato sauce, and the 3 cans of whole tomatoes diced and with seeds removed (add the juice too, since we will reduce it anyway). Throw in the 2 tsp of Italian seasoning, the teaspoon of oregano, a pinch of sugar and the crushed red pepper.

Put a splash of red wine in (I used a Pinot Noir I had open, but you can get away with nearly any red wine here. Nothing fancy) and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Then throw the sausage back in the sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes.

If you are anything like me, you will realize that you have made a complete mess of the kitchen and right now is the perfect time to play catch up on clean up. After you clean up and while the sauce is still simmering (it didn’t take you 30 min to clean up, did it?), prepare your ricotta filling. Mix the full 32 oz of ricotta cheese with 2 eggs and a handful of parsley.

It should look like this:

Get a large pot, fill it with water and set on high (don’t forget to season the water with salt). Once boiling, drop your pasta in (lasagna noodles, of course) and cook to al dente (it should be about 8-9 minutes, follow the instructions on the box of pasta). I don't have pictures for this part b/c my lense would steam up when trying to take the picture. Besides, everyone knows how to cook pasta, right? Of course, so onwards to the easiest part, assembly. If you are using disposable pans like I am, make sure that you wash them before use to clean off any of the manufacturer’s glue (not to mention anybody’s germs who handled the pans before you). First, add a layer of sauce to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom.

Next add a layer of noodles followed by a layer of ricotta.

Follow that with a layer of sauce again and a layer of mozzarella cheese. I had a little left over parmesan cheese, so I am mixing that in with the mozzarella. Can you tell the difference between the two cheeses?

Follow with noodles, ricotta, meat sauce, mozzarella/parmesan mix until you run out of room or ingredients. Finally, sprinkle a little parsley on top to make it look pretty and you are good to go. You should end up with a masterpiece of cuisine that looks almost as good as it tastes.

You can cover this with plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Or, or if you are anything like me, you will cover with foil and bake in a 375° oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until gooey and bubbly. If you are wondering why all my previous posts have an aluminum foil pan and this last one is glass, allow me to explain. No, I am not trying to pull the bait and switch on you. I had original thought I was going to have enough ingredients to make two lasagna pans worth. That failed to happen and so I had to use a smaller pan for my dish. My friend still gets the large pan.

Dinner fit for a king. I poured myself a glass of the red wine that I used for the sauce, a 2006 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir for you winos out there. Then I went to town. I will close my first blog post with the final image I saw before dinner tonight. Yes, that is a piece of garlic Texas Toast on the plate next to the lasagna.

Please leave comments, and feel free to try this recipe at home. More to come soon!!