Growing up in my family, we always sat down for dinner together. Barring softball or baseball practice, gymnastics or Tae Kwon Do, we pretty much always ate, talked, laughed, sulked, tried to leave early to read my book, or otherwise spent time together. We don't have so many family meals now, living in three different cities on two continents, but we still manage to connect around dinner. These days, often in the form of sharing recipes and ideas. Last week was a contribution from my mother. Today, one from my brother. (I'll never have to blog again!)
In September, my little brother will be getting married. Yes, my baby brother is all grown up: and someone has come along to take him off our hands! But seriously -- and I suppose this is what it must be like to have children -- I have watched him go from a little boy to a grown man. Nowhere is this more apparent (and important, clearly) than in his eating habits. For years, Lil' Bro subsisted on an all-white diet. Rice, pasta, chicken breast, pancakes: the four food groups (though he reminds me he rounded out his diet with cereal). Nevertheless, he managed to avoid rickets and scurvy, and has turned into someone who emails me about the best technique for cooking risotto or the particular peppercorn needed for a pasta and pecorino recipe.
This week, he sent me some pics and recipes. He said, "Feel free to elaborate, pontificate, or re-write as you desire. Actually, any re-writing would probably be an improvement since you have more practice at this." I have to disagree -- I think he does it very well on his own. Aw. Anyway, here you have it: a trio of recipes for a hot summer day. Chips, salsa, guacamole, and a holy moly fresh fruit smoothie: I am so proud.
Pico de gallo
4 fresh, ripe tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 C. finely diced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
3 T. diced cilantro
Juice of 1-2 limes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
Preparation is fairly straightforward. Just takes a bit of patience and chopping. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds, dice, and deposit into a medium sized mixing bowl. Chop the onions, garlic, and cilantro and add them to the tomatoes. Add the lime juice and mix. Sprinkle the salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin into the mix to disperse and mix again. Finally add the cilantro and give it a final mix. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to bring out the flavors.
The ingredients you use and the amount in which they are used is rather flexible. You can use more or less of any ingredient to suit your tastes better. The key is to use the best produce you can find to keep a fresh and flavorful salsa.
I have to give credit for the basic recipe to the Momster. Indeed her recipes are what my cooking experience is founded on. A lot of this preparation is done to taste (as you will see in the directions) and I will modify it based on who I am preparing it for.
4 ripe avocados
1 tomato, diced
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 T. diced cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Halve the avocados and remove the pit. Using a fork, scrape the meat (meat? flesh? yummy green stuff?) of the avocado into a mixing bowl. This will make the mixing easier. Add the lime and salt and mix with a fork using the tines to smush any large pieces until you have a fairly even consistency. Taste and add lime or salt as desired. Mix in cayenne pepper and cilantro. Check taste. Finally mix in the chopped tomato and serve.
Again, the ingredients can be modified but having nice, ripe avocados will make or break the guacamole. Some people will add onion to their guacamole but I find that the powerful flavor detracts from the avocado. Similarly, with the cayenne pepper, I add just enough to give it a subtle kick at the end but not enough to overpower the other ingredients.
Fresh Fruit Smoothie
Earlier in the summer my fiancée went berry picking and the abundance of berries inspired me to try my hand at smoothies using our stick blender.
1/2 cup+ of fresh mixed berries (I use blackberries, raspberries, and a few blueberries)
1 scoop of: fresh vanilla ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet, your choice
Roughly 1/2 cup apple cider
Add the berries and your frozen medium to the mixing beaker for your stick blender and compress slightly with the blender. Add enough apple cider to submerge the end of the blender and blend to the desired consistency. Pour into chilled pint glass and enjoy. This can likely also be done with a regular blender but I haven't tried it myself.