salsa! (or was it a waltz?)

When life hands you lemons you make Limoncello (well at least I do). And when life hands you a bounty of tomatoes, hot peppers and onions you make… Salsa!

The calendar may read October but my garden is still churning out a summer’s share of the aforementioned vegetables. I’ve made countless batches of tomato sauce, sliced, diced and sautéed peppers and onions for every dish imaginable and made a super spicy simple salsa (say that three times fast), yet I still have plenty more vegetables left to use.

The traditional raw salsa I made was really fresh and delicious, but I wondered what would happen if I took the same ingredients and roasted them. I often slow roast tomatoes and serve them as appetizers along with herbed olives and cheese and I love how roasting broccoli turns the ordinary into extraordinary, so I was intrigued by the idea of a slow roasted salsa. As expected it was delicious with a depth of flavor the raw ingredients alone could never have achieved, although it struck me as more of a caponata and less like a salsa. Regardless of what you call it, I ended up with way more of this spicy little number than I thought we would eat with chips or enjoy in tacos. So, what did I do… Made soup of course!

We consume gallons of soup in our house. Once the weather cools off I often roast a chicken for dinner on Sundays, which means I always have a bit of leftover bird to do something with during the week. Soup is usually my solution and this spicy chicken and black bean soup was a particularly delicious creation.

It would appear that roasting is the never fail dance in 3/4 time method of cooking!

Spicy Chicken & Black Bean Soup
This soup is the perfect busy weeknight dinner.

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2 cups roasted tomato-chile salsa (see recipe below)
4 cups chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 cups leftover chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tbsp. lime juice
diced avocado, for garnish
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
tortilla chips, for garnish

  1. In a large stockpot add the salsa, broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer. Add the beans and let simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  2. Uncover and add the chicken and frozen corn and allow to cook until everything is heated through, about 8-10 min.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice (don’t skip the lime juice, it really adds a wonderful freshness to the soup), adjust the seasonings and serve garnished with avocado, fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese with a few tortilla chips on the side.

Roasted Tomato-Chile Salsa
Roasting the vegetable and adding a little raw onion at the end makes this the perfect salsa.

2 1/2 lbs. Roma tomatoes
1 lg. onion, quartered
1 head of garlic
1/2 lb. fresh Poblano chilies
3 fresh Habanero chilies
2 tbsp. olive oil
a handful of cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup finely diced onion

  1. Turn the broiler on to high. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and set aside.
  2. Break the head of garlic into cloves (leaving the skins on) and place in a large bowl. Add to the bowl the tomatoes, the quartered onion and chilies and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Toss to cover each vegetable in oil and place in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil until the skins begin to blister and pop (the peppers will be ready before the tomatoes.)
  4. Remove the charred vegetables from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the stems from the Poblano peppers, tear in half and wipe out as many seeds as you can (don’t make yourself crazy trying to get them all.)
  5. Add all the vegetables, fresh cilantro, salt and lime juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is chopped but the salsa is still chunky. Stir in the diced onion and allow to chill before serving. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator.
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A Side of Broccoli (with a Twist)

We eat a lot of veggies around here. Some, such as broccoli and sweet potatoes, everyone will generally eat without complaint. Others, like string beans or cooked carrots require a bit of cajoling. But even I, the broccoli lover of all broccoli lovers gets tired of the same old steamed version week after week.

Faced with the prospect of another boring broccoli side dish I took to the internet to find something better. It turns out that roasting was the answer I was searching for! I discovered that most every celebrity chef seemed to have a roasted broccoli recipe; including Martha, Ina and Alton, but that no one recipe seemed quite perfect. So as I am known to do, I did a bit of tweaking, took a little something from each recipe and came up with a version of my own.

My Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon was delicious! It turned ordinary broccoli into something fresh and interesting. Roasting really mellowed the broccoli flavor, the finely minced garlic caramelized and became mild and sweet and finishing the dish off with the lemon juice and zest really gave it a fresh clean bite.

After this tasty version I’m not sure my family will never settle for plain ‘ol steamed broccoli again. But then I guess I only have myself to blame…

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon
My family is crazy about garlic so I added quite a bit. However if yours
is not, feel free to cut back on it.

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2 pounds broccoli crowns
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
5 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the minced garlic and salt. Let the garlic seep and flavor the oil while you prep the broccoli.
  3. Cut the broccoli florets from the large stalks and separate into bite size pieces. Peal the remaining stalks and cut them into bite size pieces as well.
  4. Place all the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil/garlic/salt mixture. Spread the broccoli out on a sided sheet pan large enough to hold it in a single layer.
  5. Roast for 15 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of of the florets have begun to brown and caramelize.
  6. While the broccoli is roasting quickly toast the Panko crumbs in a skillet, being careful not to burn them. Set aside.
  7. When the broccoli is finished roasting sprinkle it with the lemon zest, grated cheese, Panko crumbs and lemon juice. Give it a gentle toss and serve.