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 Mexican Salsa recipe: Authentic Pico De Gallo recipe

The beautiful colors of this uncooked salsa, also known as Pico de Gallo are  traditionally the colors of the Mexican flag.  We are going to mix it up a bit this week by adding some beautiful heirloom tomatoes to this simple but delicious condiment used everyday in Mexican cooking.

Do you remember when we were young, here in Ohio especially, you could only get one brand of salsa?  It was cooked, very thick, almost like ketchup.  I thought I didn’t like salsa.  I think that is because I did not have authentic salsa.  When I traveled  to Houston Texas for the first time, I was hooked.  The bright, bold, fresh flavors of the uncooked salsa won me over.  Come on out on Saturday to the Anderson Farmers Market and you can taste for yourself the wonderful fresh flavors of this authentic favorite.

I make Pico de Gallo as a topping for grilled chicken breasts, as a dip for chips and for breakfast burritos. It is always a hit at parties.

Prep time: 10 minutes, tops

Ingredients (serves four)

1 white onion (small)
1 tomato (medium size, firm, ripe, spherical)
1/4 bunch of cilantro
1/2 chile serrano
1 lime
1/2 tsp salt

You can find all of the ingredients you need to make this (except lime) at the farmers market!

Instructions

Clean ingredients.

Chop onion  and tomato into small pieces and put in bowl.

Finely chop cilantro and add to bowl.

Finely chop serrano pepper, add to bowl.  The chile’s juice can be very irritating to your skin if you touch it, so you may want to handle the chile with a fork when doing this.  I usually think of jalapeno when it comes to salsa, but the serrano is traditional in Pico.

Add 1/2 tbsp salt to bowl.

Now mix the Salsa Bandera.

And there you have it: you’ve just made some delicious salsa Mexicana from an authentic pico de gallo recipe.  I think it is simple yet perfectly deliciouso!

Keep eating locally,

Barbie Hahn

 

Yet another way to use all of those zucchini in your garden

     I don’t grow zucchini, never have. Until recently, I wouldn’t eat them either.  The zucchini I was offered as a child were cooked with onions on the stove until it was soft and slimy.  It was a total texture violation for me.  It is hard to get past food phobias from childhood and try things that repulsed you long ago.

     I guess I needed to put my money where my mouth was when I was telling Alex and Elliot, ” You should try this, just because you didn’t like it one time, doesn’t mean you won’t like it now”  I hate it when I say stuff like that.  I threw down the gauntlet, and now I had to eat my words.
     I followed the  rule  for eating things you dislike; mix one thing you don’t like, with at least 3 parts that you do like. That seemed to work for me, at least in this instance.  The trick for me is not cooking the zucchini too long.  Just a quick saute to make it al dente and I was good to go.
    There will be lots of zucchini this weekend at the Farmers Market, don’t worry.  I hope this recipe inspires you to come up with creative ways to use all of that pesky, prolific vegetable that ends up on your doorstep in the middle of the night.  I will be making this salad with fresh veggies from the market and providing samples of this to taste on Saturday, I hope you will come out and say “Hello”.
 
Confetti Orzo Salad
Serves 10
1 pound orzo cooked according to package directions
corn from 5 ears of corn cut off the cobb
6 small zucchini diced
1 sweet red pepper diced
1 jalapeno minced 
1 red onion chopped
1 cup basil torn
4 ounces feta cheese                                                                            
Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of three lemons
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
salt and pepper
Sprinkle zucchini with salt and let sit for 15 minutes, rinse.  In large pan  with 2 tablespoons olive oil cook zucchini and corn for a few minutes, only until tender.
Mix corn and zucchini with orzo, red pepper, onion, basil and jalapeno. Toss with dressing and crumble feta over top. 
Can be stored in airtight container for 2 days in refridgerator. 
 
Keep eating locally,
Barbie Hahn

When life gives you cucumbers and melons, make melon-coolers

The only things that seem to be doing well in my garden this year, are my herbs and cucumbers.  And with the extreme heat we have, I have not been willing to turn on the stove to do can any pickles this year.  I have been trying to find creative ways to use all of the cooling cucumbers growing prolifically in my small kitchen garden.

Cucumbers are fast and easy growers, if you do not have a green thumb, try planting cucumbers!

While at the pool one day, I slipped cucumber slices into my sparkling water, it was amazingly refreshing.  The smell of the fresh cucumber with the sparkle of the water seemed to cool me down instantly.  A few days later I was chopping up a melon and plopped a couple of pieces into my sparkling water and slipped in a cucumber slice.  It was amazing, I was so impressed with myself!  I then thought,what would a little mint do to this drink? I went out to my container garden and grabbed a few sprigs,   and it just put the drink over the top! 

It has been hard to find ways to cool down this summer, I have been reading lots of variations of recipes of lemonade and this seemed like a natural application.  When you use the bounty of the season, things that are naturally refreshing like melons and cucumbers, you can’t go wrong.  Because cucumbers and melons are typically over 90 percent water, they have been used to cool the body and throat for centuries. 

The great thing about cooking and creating is that nothing is off-limits, if you put a combination together and it does not work, no worries.  Like this recipe, my family really didn’t go for it. Mike, my husband doesn’t like cucumbers at all.  Alex and Elliot needed the drink sweetened up a bit, so for them, I added a little honey and lime/lemon juice to make it more like a gourmet lemonaide.

You will be able to find most of the ingredients for the cooler at the market on Saturday.  Many of the farmers have cucumbers, some will have melons and you can find honey from Bee Hill honey or Gary at Shadeux breads.  I look forward to having you taste the melon cooler and hearing your feedback about it.

Any melon will work in this recipe, just choose the one your family enjoys the most!

 

People can be funny about melons, they have very distinct opinions about them. My boys LOVE watermelon, but will not eat honeydew or cantalope.  The nice thing about this recipe is you can use whatever type of melon your family prefers.  Once again, no rules here, just a method. You can adjust the recipe to your liking. If you do not want sparkling water in the recipe that is fine, it will not matter. For me, I love the carbonation, it just makes drinks seem more refreshing to me. 

I hope this recipe helps you cool down, and enjoy the rest of summer!

Eat locally,

Barbie Hahn

Sparkling Melon Cooler-Serves 8

Puree 4 cups of melon and press through  a fine strainer or cheesecloth, reserve juice.

Slice a peeled cucumber into 16 slices

1/4 cup of mint

Mint sprigs, at least one per glass

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup lemon or lime juice

1-2 liter botttle of club soda, plain sparkling water or  plain water.

Fill 8 glasses with ice. Place two cucumber slices, and  mint sprig in each glass. Mix honey, lemon or lime juice together, muddle mint in bottom of pitcher. Add melon juice and stir.   Add water or sparkling water to pitcher give one final stir, Pour over ice and enjoy.

Nothing tastes better than a farm fresh egg

I guess you could call me an egg snob, yes you could call me that for sure.  We had a short stint of raising chickens for eggs in our backyard, until we realized we did not quite meet the township rules regarding backyard chickens. Then we had to give our flock to a local farmer.  It was a tough day for us. 

Why? Well, believe it or not, chickens have personalities.  We had a Paula Dean Chicken, all white ,with big puffy feathers, Big Fatty (you can guess why)  and Elliots favorite, Sunny (for Sunny side up) yellow with a furry face and then Road Runner, so fast we could not get her back into the Super Deluxe chicken coop my husband Mike, built.  And we had about 30 more chickens in addition to those we became attached to.

We also became attached to the people who came to buy our eggs.  They would share the stories of their time going to a family farm or farmers market to buy eggs, or being raised on a farm and going out and gathering the eggs. There is always a story of a mean old rooster in there too!

It was also a hard day because we had become used to eating the most wonderful eggs of our entire lives.  A farm egg is just different from store bought eggs, even the really expensive ones in the store do not stack up to those that come from a local farm, where chickens are allowed to roam around the yard and eat bugs, grass and corn.  And lets face it, you do NOT get the beautiful assortment of colors of shells you can get from farm chickens.

A rainbow of natural colored egg shells

When I am working at the Anderson Farmers Market, the subject of eggs just seems to come up with the patrons.  And I have found egg snobs are everywhere.  The first thing everyone wants to comment on is the beautiful bright orange thick yolks and how “eggy” they taste.  I know it sounds silly, but farm eggs just have more flavor. That is why I feel lucky to have access to wonderful eggs from several farmers at the Anderson Farmers Market.

What are some other noticable differences between store bought and farm fresh eggs? Farm Fresh eggs shells are thicker, so make sure to give them a good whack on the counter before you try to break them into the pan.  It make take you several trys if you are used to the thin shells of a store-bought egg.  They are harder to peel when you make hard-boiled eggs. Why, because they are so fresh they have not aged and created the air pocket between the white and the shell that older eggs have. So, if you want to make hard boiled eggs, let your farm fresh eggs “age” for a week or so before boiling them.

The egg on the left is cooked correctly, the egg on the right has a green ring which means it was cooked to hard and too long

Perfect hard cooked eggs

 

Place 6 eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.

Cover pan with lid, turn heat to medium high and watch until it boils.

When water boils, turn off the  heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

To help cool and make peeling easier, pour off hot water and run under cold water  or place in ice bath until you can tell the eggs have cooled.

The next time you stop by the Anderson Farmers Market, pick up a dozen of Farm Fresh eggs and have a breakfast you will never forget.

Keep Eating Locally,

Barbie Hahn

                                                                                                                                  

I recently wrote a thesis paper for graduation from Miami University. Part of the paper studied  the decline of farmers and farming in Ohio, Southwest Ohio and Clermont County in particular.  Overall, there has been a decline in farmsteads, family farmers and producers to the tune of 20 percent over the last 10 years.  One of the key reasons that farming has declined in Ohio is that younger generations coming up in farming families have opted for other careers.  Lets face it, farming is hard and while we come to the market and enjoy the bounty of all of the hard work, I know I do not have the fortitude to run a family farm.  We need young, local farmers to grow our food and to carry on the legacy of our region.  So, when you have a moment, encourage our young farmers, pat them on the back, buy their products, help them carry on the honorable occupation of the Family Farm in Southwest Ohio, where we need them desperately.

I am honored that we have a young couple, Adam and Aubrey Bolender of  Heritage Hills Beef who have chosen to keep the family tradition of farming alive, and to raise hormone free beef to sell at the Anderson Farmers Market. 

Beef in moderation is a healthy part of your diet

I love beef, there are times when I just crave it.  Really, I do! I  know this sounds crazy, but there have been days when I run down to the local butcher shop to buy a steak for myself.  I think it is the iron, our bodies tell us when we are deficient, and when I am running low on iron, steak is where I turn!

Because meat in general has become so expensive, I have stopped buying one steak per person when I am cooking for dinner. I have moved to buying one large  high quality, sirloin steak, preparing it to medium (which seems to make the most people happy in my household) and then slicing.  I usually place the steak on a large platter and surround with lots and lots of veggies.  The portions of meat we are eating  are smaller, but no one seems to notice or mind.  The presentation makes you feel like you are getting so much more, your mind fools you.

We still enjoy steak at our house, we buy one and share it as opposed to each person having their own

I would like to give you some of my tips for cooking steak.  I have had many steak failures in my day so let me pass on my expensive lessons to you. 

  • Lean is good, but you need some fat for flavor.  Look for marbling in your meat.
  • Look for meat that is cut correctly.  You want the entire piece of meat to be the same thickness. If it is not, parts will be overcooked, while other parts will be undercooked.
  • Pull meat out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking.  If meat is cold the outside, it will cook differently than on the inside.
  • Pat your meat dry with paper towels before applying salt or pepper.   I NEVER marinate meat. 
  • Apply only coarse salt and pepper right before cooking.  If you apply salt too early it will draw moisture out of your meat and it will “stew” instead of  turning that beautiful brown or get that char on the grill.
  • Let your meat rest for 10 minutes after cooking.  Use a foil tent to keep heat in while resting.

If you follow these simple tips, I am confident that you will enjoy your wonderful piece of beef from Heritage Hills Beef.

Eat locally!

Barbie Hahn