Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (Southern Salsa Verde)

When I went to a local fruit stand last weekend, the cashier started ringing me up for items an earlier customer decided not to buy and had left on the counter.  I thought I had cleared things up, but realized when I got home that some beautiful green tomatoes made their way into my Baggu bag.  I have been hesitant to buy green tomatoes since the only way I know how to prepare them is fried.  This clearly shows I had some learning to do.  I started browsing for green tomato recipes and came across several salsa recipes.  I remembered making Bobby Flay’s recipe for Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos with Queso Fresco and how much I loved the taste of the chicken after it soaked up the roasted green salsa flavor.  So I decided to use this as a guide to make some roasted green tomato salsa.

Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients:

  • 3 large green tomatoes, whole
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, whole
  • 1 bulb of garlic, top cut off to expose cloves
  • grapeseed or vegetable oil for drizzling
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup of packed cilantro
  • half of a lime
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbls. honey or agave
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place green tomatoes, a bulb of garlic (top cut off so oil can reach cloves), and a jalapeño pepper in an oven-safe pan.  Drizzle with grape seed or canola oil.
  2. Roast vegetables in oven for 25-30 minutes.  Tomatoes and pepper should start to blacken on the outside, and the garlic should begin to turn soft.  Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then remove stems of tomatoes and pepper and remove garlic cloves from skin.  If you want your salsa to be less spicy, remove the seeds from the jalapeño.
  3. Place tomatoes, pepper, garlic, cilantro, red onion, juice of half a lime, honey, and cumin into a blender or food processor (I had to add my cilantro after blending the first ingredients because my blender is too small!).  Use a blender if you want the finished product to be more sauce-like, and a pulse on a food processor if you like your salsa chunky.  Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Store in the refrigerator and use within the week, or use this guide for freezing and canning food at home.

 

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (Southern Salsa Verde)

Before and after roasting green tomatoes, jalapeño, and garlic.

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (Southern Salsa Verde)

Blend the roasted vegetables with red onion and seasonings.

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (Southern Salsa Verde)

Add the cilantro (this adds the extra green color).

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (Southern Salsa Verde)

Use within the week, or can or freeze it for later.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy this salsa.  Scooping it up with chips, using it in Skinnytaste’s crock pot chicken tacos, using Bobby Flay’s taco recipe above, Jamie Oliver’s steak and salsa verde, add it to a taco salad or black beans and rice, or pour over poached whitefish.  Have more ideas or ways you use salsa verde?  Please share!  Comment below, or send me a tweet (@southernbeets).

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Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans

“Banh mi” is the Vietnamese term for bread, and Dong Phuong Bakery in eastern New Orleans is known to have the best French bread in the city.  When I saw people leaving with shopping bags full of bread, it was clear that this place is no secret.  They’re also known for banh mi sandwiches (readers of Eat NOLA named it the best bahn mi in New Orleans last year).  These start with their house-made bread, which is filled with lightly pickled carrots, cucumber, jalapeño slices, homemade aioli, and your choice of meat (I get the #4, which is Chinese barbecue pork).  The bread is soft and crusty on the outside, and the fillings are fresh, crunchy, and flavorful.  My cravings for these sandwiches is to the point that I take a 20-minute detour home from New Orleans to pick up a few of these to go (it’s located along Chef Menteur Highway).  Another bonus:  at under $4 a sandwich, this is probably the best lunch deal in the city.

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Dong Phuong Bakery

Dong Phuong consists of both a bakery and a restaurant.  The banh mi and sandwiches are served up on the bakery side.  I also go crazy for their Vietnamese iced coffee, which is sweetened and strong, and you can buy at the counter on the north side of the restaurant (if you’re in the bakery, walk though the doorway into the restaurant, then continue walking straight along the front of the restaurant).  You won’t see a menu, but they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about when you order it.

There are lots of other goodies, both savory and sweet, and they make their own King Cake during carnival season.  I usually get some cinnamon rolls to warm up the next morning, or coconut rolls to make into French toast.  I wish there were more gems like this, or at least Vietnamese coffee stands that sell banh mi sandwiches.

 

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Hours and other bakery items at Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans.

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands

The neighborhood farmers’ markets and road-side fruit stands are buzzing!  Some of you may have year-round markets near your home, but now is the time that spring and summer fruits and veggies start stealing the show.  The difference in product availability and, for some, price makes for a different shopping experiencing than running to the nearest grocery store.  Here are a few of my tips for making the most out of  your market or fruit stand trip.

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands| southernbeets

Roadside Fruit Stand

Before You Go:

  • Take an inventory of what you already have at home.  Just bought a few pounds of apples?  Then you probably don’t need to buy more (if you do, they may not be fresh when you eat them).
  • Make a list of anything you want to make sure you remember, such as ingredients for dinner.  If you do what I do some weekends and throw something together like a contestant on Chopped, get some ideas by browsing through some recipes online that feature seasonal fruits and veggies,

At the Market/Fruit Stand:

  • If it’s perishable, only buy enough for the next week.  I get excited when I see the perfect tomato or taste some super sweet berries, but over-buying can lead to waste.  You can also can, pickle, or freeze different fruits and veggies, but consider if you’ll have time to spend in the kitchen to prepare and process everything while it’s fresh (more information on preserving food at home here).
  • Check fruits to see if they are ripe.  Here’s a guide to tell if it’s ripe or not.  Some vendors provide samples or give samples if you ask.
  • Consider price.  At some markets and fruit stands, prices can be much higher than a grocery store.  The benefit of these places is that the produce is usually fresher, produced on a local farm, and has a smaller carbon footprint because it wasn’t transported across the country.  Some markets and stands, however, are tourist spots and charge more (which may be a direct reflection of their high rent).  If the price is high and the bounty doesn’t look great, consider holding off until your next trip to the grocery store.
  • Bring cash.  Credit and debit cards zap profit from small businesses.  Help them out (and it’ll help you when vendors are able to keep their prices low).
  • Bring your own bag or basket.  Again, it helps keep the carbon footprint and costs for vendors low.  And it makes you look like a market warrior.  My favorite bags are from Baggu.  They’re made of recycled plastic, can be washed in the washing machine, come in different sizes, and easily fit into my purse.  I never leave home without one.
  • If you want the best selection at a market, go early.  If you want a chance to bargain prices down, go late.  Some vendors will also cut a deal if you’re buying in bulk (like for canning or storing).
  • Check out the other goodies (some have canned goods, nuts, honey, or baked items).  It doesn’t hurt to take a look, as these will keep much longer in the kitchen.
  • Take care when getting your findings home.  I keep a small cooler in the back of my car for things that need to be chilled (eggs, cheese, fresh yogurt).  And secure your watermelon (I’m not kidding!).  I’ve made the mistake of putting it on my back seat, and it ended up rolling around on the way home right over my tomatoes and peaches.
Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands| southernbeets

For everyone’s safety, secure the watermelon.

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands| southernbeets

Fruit Stand Goodies

When you get home:  Once you get your market haul home, take some time to store and/or prep your goods.  Fruits and veggies can be kept fresh longer if you store them properly.  For example, berries can last longer if you soak them for 5 minutes in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and 3 cups water (don’t rinse afterwards), then store in a covered bowl lined with paper towels.  I have found tips online for storing fresh produce and refer to them often.  The worst thing is buying beautiful fruits and veggies and never having the chance to enjoy them.

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands| southernbeets

A Local Farmers Market

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets and Fruit Stands| southernbeets

Country Tyme Fruit Stand along Highway 49 in Mississippi

Do you have some more tips to share?  I’d love to hear them!  Comment below, or send me a tweet (@southernbeets).  Happy shopping!

Will Run for Crawfish: The Louisiana Blue Crab Run

Louisiana Blue Crab Run in Kenner, LA| southernbeets

Louisiana Blue Crab Run

Last weekend I spent the morning running along Lake Ponchartrain as part of the Louisiana Blue Crab Run.  This fun run was held in Kenner, Louisiana (a few miles north of the New Orleans international airport), and it was the coordinators’ third year putting on the event.  The mission of the event is to bring awareness to the Louisiana wetlands.

The event entry included all-you-can-eat crawfish, which was the primary draw for me.  That, and having a chance to run in a new venue.  The group was small (under 100 participants), and it had apparently decreased since last year’s run across the lake on the north shore.  There were a couple of big runs in New Orleans the same day, which may have drawn some runners away from this event.  The coordinators expected a lot more people, which meant there was no shortage of crawfish!  I ate about 5 pounds myself, and they were delicious.  As far as race runs go, this one was noncompetitive and relaxed.  There were no timing chips, and some people started late due to an early official start (I was one of them).  They did have awards for top runners, as well as last place.  The course was hot (in the 80’s, and it didn’t start until mid-morning) and shade-free, which was tough on this lady from the rainy city.  But overall, the awesome crawfish and relaxing time spent in the waterfront park made the run worth it.  In future years, I’d probably go for a run on my own earlier in the morning, but pay to come enjoy the crawfish boil for lunch.

Louisiana Blue Crab Run in Kenner, LA| southernbeets

Louisiana Blue Crab Run

Louisiana Blue Crab Run in Kenner, LA| southernbeets

Lunch provided at the Louisiana Blue Crab Run

Have you ran in any super fun races lately?  Or had a run with something delicious to eat afterwards?  I’m always looking for recommendations!

Saturday Happiness Inspiration: 8 Things You Can Do This Weekend to Smile

Happiness Inspirations for the Weekend| southernbeets

Seward Park in Seattle.

It’s the weekend!  And better yet, it’s a 3-day weekend for most of us, which means there’s plenty of opportunities to fit some happiness boosters into your weekend.  Greatist shared a list of 25 science-backed ways to feel happier, and I wanted to share my favorites.

1.  Spend time outside.  Even 15 minutes in the sun helps boost mood, and you’ll get even more benefits  if you do something active.

2.  Exercise.  This doesn’t have to be going to the gym.  Find an activity you love to do, or something you can spend time with people you love.  Even going for a walk around the neighborhood releases endorphins.

3.  Sleep in.  Getting enough Zzzzs helps restore the brain, and helps you manage stressors more effectively.

4.  Knock out a small project (or a big one).  Procrastination decreases happiness, and a sense of accomplish increases it.  Find something manageable so you can have the satisfaction of finishing it.

5.  Buy produce from the farmers’ market, then eat it.  Nutrients, especially from fruits and vegetables, can contribute to how we feel.

6.  Try something new.  Take a class or try a new sport with a friend.  Learning a new skill can help increase confidence and self-satisfaction.

7.  Practice gratitude.  People that purposefully acknowledge what they’re grateful for are tend to be happier.  Here is an easy gratitude exercise I posted a couple of weeks ago that’s almost as easy as counting to “3.”

8.  Connect with someone.  Positive relationships and connecting with others can help boost mood.  Grab a cup of coffee, go for a walk, or invite some friends over to make brunch.

I’m thinking I can definitely try some of these out this weekend.  What do you think?

Happy World Turtle Day!

Happy World Turtle Day! | southernbeets

Sea turtles in Poipu, Kauai.

Happy World Turtle Day!  It’s been celebrated on May 23 of each year since 2000.  It’s sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue and brings awareness to how we can help preserve the populations of these gentle guys.  TedEd has a video here that shows the journey of the sea turtle from egg to adulthood, and how difficult it is for sea turtles to survive long enough to create more baby sea turtles.  Sea turtles are one of my favorite animals.  Spotting them swimming along the shoreline seemed to be my sole mission last time I went to Hawaii, and I hope they’re around to enjoy for many generations to come.  The Sea Turtle Conservancy has many suggestions to help our sea turtles, and I thought I’d share a few:

  1. Recycle and buy sustainable products.  Ocean debris (like plastic bags, balloons, netting, and containers) looks like food, and turtles try to eat it.  There’s several “garbage patches” in the ocean, with some as large as Texas.  National Geographic discusses this growing problem in more detail here.
  2. Try walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation.  Replacing some or all of your commutes with something that uses less gasoline can help reduce our overall use, and therefore decrease demand for drilling in marine areas.
  3. Haul out what you haul in to the beach.  Leftovers can attract raccoons and other animals that pray on sea turtles and their eggs.
  4. Use biodegradable lawn and garden produces to reduce the amount of toxins that make it to our water supplies.
  5. Enjoy turtles (and other endangered animals) from a distance.  As tempting as it can be to approach these gentle giants, many animals are easily scared away from nesting and resting grounds.

 

My Quick and Easy Thai Curry Recipe

My Quick and Easy Thai Curry Recipe | southernbeets

Chicken and Bell Pepper Panang Curry

I love curry dishes, and it’s usually what I order when I’m out for Thai food (pumpkin red curry is my fave!).  I found myself craving vegetables swimming in spicy coconut sauce, so I started browsing online for a recipe until I found one.  When I finally did, I couldn’t believe how simple it was (it’s more than boiling water, but really, it’s easy!).  It’s my new 20-minute weeknight dinner.  It only requires a few ingredients, and I can keep a stock of some of them in my pantry and refrigerator.

My Quick and Easy Thai Curry Recipe | southernbeets

Keep curry paste and coconut milk on hand.

I got my recipe for Thai curry from Rachel Cooks Thai, and I used a recipe for Panang Curry with Beef as a general guideline for meat and veggie curry dishes.  As for ingredients, you can buy curry paste and coconut milk at most Asian markets.  There’s different types of curry pastes:  green, yellow, panang, and massaman are a few.  They come in resealable plastic containers and are stored in the refrigerator after opening.  I also use an onion, a pound of protein (shrimp, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or beef for stir-fry), and some vegetables (a few bell peppers or a couple of heads of broccoli, or a couple of small eggplants).  If you’re able to find some Thai basil or lime leaves, that’s a bonus!

Here’s my basic curry recipe:

  • 1 can (13.5-15 oz.) coconut milk (if you use low-fat, it will turn out watery)
  • 2-3 Tbls. curry paste
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into strips (rather than chopping or dicing)
  • 1 lb. cubed meat or peeled shrimp
  • 3-4 cups vegetables, cubed or cut into strips
  • 4-6 large kaffir lime or Thai basil leaves, sliced thin
  1. Add curry paste to a pan heated up to med-high.  Scoop the cream (the thick stuff at the top of the can) of the coconut milk into a pan and stir until well combined.
  2. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until onion begins to soften.
  3. If using meat, add meat and cook until outside is browned (inside will still be pink).
  4. Add vegetables and stir well, so curry paste coats the outside.  Cook 5 minutes or until vegetables start to soften.
  5. Add remaining coconut milk and leaves (optional) and bring to a boil.  If you’re using shrimp, add them now and cook through until they curl and are no longer translucent (adding them at the end keeps them from being overcooked).
  6. Serve once coconut milk is heated and meat/shrimp are cooked through.

Serve with cooked rice, roasted sweet or golden potatoes, or your favorite noodles.  I’ve used zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) in place of rice and they were delicious because the zoodles absorb the coconut milk and curry flavors.

Below, I used a pound of shrimp, a large peeled eggplant, a large handful of baby arugula, and green curry paste.

My Quick and Easy Thai Curry Recipe | southernbeets

Shrimp and Eggplant Green Curry

If you give this a try, let me know how it turns out!  And do you have a favorite Thai or curry recipe?  I’d love to try it!  Comment below, or send me a tweet (@southernbeets).