Restaurant Style Salsa

13 Jun

I love the chips and salsa served at family-owned local mexican restaurants all over the country. The salsa is usually pretty smooth, medium hot and has lovely flecks of green. So I have been working on a homemade version for a while and have decided this is the best I can do! This recipe has many wonderful qualities:

  • You can make it in less than 5 minutes
  • The ingredients are easy to come by
  • It is really cheap to make! The total cost for this recipe was $2.50. It makes the equivalent of 2 jars of store-bought salsa (which around here runs about $3.50 a jar). So it basically saves you over $2 per jar of salsa!
  • It is delicious.
  • And of course, it only has 7 ingredients.

Here are the ingredients:


You basically throw all of the ingredients into a large food processor, blend until it is as smooth as you like it, and it is ready.

It will keep in the refrigerator but only for a few days. I put it in a sealed jar and try to use it up as fast as I can…

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Restaurant Style Salsa

Diced tomatoes (one 14.5 ounce can)

Diced tomatoes with green chiles (one 14.5 ounce can)

Green onions (two stalks)

Fresh cilantro (one handful, leaves & stems are fine)

Garlic powder (1/2 tsp.)

Lime (juice of 1/2 of one lime)

Jalapeno slices (2 tablespoons, from a jar)

Salt (1 tsp.)


Blend all ingredients in a large food processor until it reaches the desired consistency. Yields 3-4 cups of medium hot salsa.



Seared Ahi Tuna with Edamame Corn Stew

22 Apr

Close friends of ours (we love you Stan & Pam) spend a lot of time at the North Carolina coast and went on a charter fishing trip about a week ago. They caught some yellowfin tuna and brought some home to share with us! It had to be kept very cold (on ice but not frozen) and we used it straight away. I made a sesame seed spice crust, seared it and placed it on top of an edamame & corn stew.

The crust pictured on the tuna is slightly different than the recipe because I adapted the recipe as I went along. I thought this was a good chance to use up some of my coriander.  It is an under-appreciated spice made from the ground-up seeds of the cilantro plant. I think it is kind of citrisy and adds a lot of depth without overpowering a dish… perfect for some delicious ingredients like tuna and edamame.

Here is the raw tuna. It is from a yellowfin tuna which you will often see called by its name in Hawaiian, “Ahi”.

I seared it (high heat, short cooking time) in my beloved cast iron skillet. My husband it so protective over it he has almost thrown people out of our house who tried to wash it with soap. Apparently one of the Commandments is “Thou shall clean thy cast iron skillet without the use of soap” and I just dozed off in church. I guess soap strips off coating that builds up on the skillet which makes it virtually stick-proof.

The best part was the edamame corn stew the fish is served over. I had something like it at a restaurant called “The Wave” at Walt Disney World a few years back. I could eat just the stew and be happy. Here is the end result:

Seared Coriander Ahi Tuna with Edamame Corn Stew

Serves 2-3 people

Sushi grade yellowfin (“Ahi”) tuna (about 1 lb.)

Black sesame seeds (2-3 tablespoons)

Coriander (2 teaspoons, divided)

Edamame (shelled, thawed if frozen, about 1 cup)

Corn (fresh or frozen & thawed, about 1 cup)

Chicken stock (1 cup)

Garlic (3 cloves minced or 3 teaspoons)


1) Heat a large skillet on the stovetop on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, 1 teaspoon coriander, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Sauté until the garlic is tender and fragrant, about 1 minute.

2) Add the edamame and corn and sauté another few minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down as low as it will go to keep the stew warm and cover.

3)  Heat a skillet (preferably cast iron) on the stovetop to medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of cooking oil to the pan, preferably one that has a high smoke point (such as soybean oil or olive oil).

4) Clean the tuna and cut into thick steaks if necessary, being sure to use a sanitized cutting board and sanitized knife. Combine the sesame seeds, the other teaspoon of coriander, and salt and pepper (about a ½ teaspoon of each) and spread on a plate or pie dish. Press each side of the tuna steaks into the seasoning mix.

5) Cook the tuna in the hot skillet for about 2 minutes on each side. The tuna will turn white when it is cooked. Remove from the skillet and cut on a diagonal into thin slices (use a sanitized cutting board and knife again as the inside of the tuna is still mostly raw).

6) Spoon some stew onto a plate and top with the tuna. Serve immediately.

Portabella & Zucchini Grilled Flatbread Pizza

9 Apr

This is my favorite way to make pizza – on the grill.

Start with some delicious and simple homemade dough.

For the toppings I like the flavors of zucchini and portabella mushroom sauteed with garlic and olive oil.

Then it all comes together on the grill. The dough gets cooked on one side, then taken off the grill to add the toppings.

That’s my grill I got two years ago for $35 on Craigslist. Its pretty gnarly, I know.

They don’t take very long to cook once you’ve prepped all the ingredients. Folks tend to hover around these after they come off the grill smelling amazing. Shoo them away with your tongs and make them wait for the cheese to cool for a few minutes.

Portabella & Zucchini Grilled Flatbread

Serves 2 – 4 people

Flour (unbleached all-purpose, 2 cups)

Yeast * (fast-acting, ½ tsp)

Zucchini (sliced, 2 small)

Portabella Mushroom (sliced, 1 large cap)

Garlic (minced, 3 cloves or 3 tsp)

Parmesan Cheese (shredded, about 2 cups)

Tomato Paste (3 tablespoons)

Fresh Basil (finely chopped, about 1 tablespoon, or ½ tablespoon dried basil)


1) Prepare the dough 1 – 1½ hours in advance. First, heat ¾ cup of water in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Sprinkle the yeast on the water. In a separate large bowl, mix the flour with ½ tsp salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir the yeast mixture and add it to the flour. Mix and knead until completely combined, about 3 minutes. Coat a bowl with olive oil, add the dough and toss to cover the dough in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about an hour.

2) To make a simple pizza sauce, mix the 3 tablespoons tomato paste with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ cups water, the basil and salt and pepper to taste (I use about ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper).

3) While the dough rises, heat some olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a skillet. Add the zucchini, mushroom, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes or until soft but not mushy.

4) Once the dough has risen, flour a surface and rolling pin and roll the dough out thinly. I usually get 2 rectangular flatbreads out of this dough.

5) Preheat a gas grill to medium-low heat and brush the grate with olive oil. Add the dough to the grill and cover. It should cook the side that is down on the grill in about 5 minutes. After it is cooked through, remove it from the grill and place it cooked side up on a baking sheet.

6) Smear the flatbread with some pizza sauce, add part of the cheese, the cooked vegetables and then cover with remaining parmesan cheese. Carefully return the flatbread to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted through.

7) Remove from the grill, allow the flatbread to cool for several minutes, slice and enjoy.

* I realize that technically this recipe has 8 ingredients. But is yeast really an ingredient? Or just a reactant to make the dough rise? I don’t know so you can decide for yourself!

Shortbread, Mascarpone and Strawberry Tart

7 Apr

I was inspired by a strawberry mascarpone cheesecake I had recently to experiment with these superstar ingredients. Here is my creation:

This lucky girl lives down the road from a farm with almost year-round fresh produce. I saw the “Pick Your Own Strawberries” signs up yesterday and was amazed that the strawberries were ready so early!

Farmer Walker said they were ready two and a half weeks early due to the warm winter and spring.

So I picked a bunch and decided to make a tart for Easter. I made a simple shortbread crust, filled it with sweetened mascarpone cheese and covered that with the fresh strawberries. Mascarpone is like an italian cream cheese, though lighter and fluffier than the cream cheese we usually smear on bagels here in the U.S. I ended up with a delcious and simple tart with less than seven ingredients. Here are the stars of the recipe:

Butter (1 stick, softened)

Flour (1 1/4 cups, unbleached all purpose)

Powdered Sugar (2/3 cup, divided)

Mascarpone Cheese (8 – 12 ounces)

Lemon Juice (1 tsp, zest optional)

Strawberries (about a pound and a half, quartered)


1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2) Cream the butter and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Mix in the flour and a 1/4 tsp salt. Blend well with your hands and press into the sides of a tart pan.

3) Bake the shell for about 15 minutes or until it starts to brown. While it is baking, mix the other 1/3 cup powdered sugar with the mascarpone cheese. Mix in the lemon juice.

4) After the tart shell has cooled completely, spread the mascarpone mixture in the shell. Dump the strawberries on top and sprinkle with some powdered sugar and/or lemon zest.

The Rules of Seven

7 Apr

I thought I should mention the rules I created for this blog.

1) No recipe can have over 7 ingredients. In attempt to focus on the purity of the ingredients, none of those seven should be a mixture of other ingredients. For example, listing one ingredient as “pasta sauce” is cheating.

2) There are three ingredients basic to almost all recipes that do not count towards the total. These are salt, pepper, and olive oil. Or call it EVOO if you are a Ray Ray fan.

3) All other spices COUNT! This is the most challening rule!

What do you think of the rules? Too strict? Too lenient?

The Genesis of Seven

6 Apr

When I turned 30 years old I was horrified to discover that I had little to no skill in the kitchen. I don’t know why it hit me then… it must have been part of some crisis related to leaving my twenties behind. Despite growing up in the restaurant business, I had not a clue how to create anything that tasted good from basic ingredients. I decided it was time to learn how to cook and bake.

I didn’t just want to be able to follow recipes (not that I could have done that either… my cooking vocabulary was limited to terms such as “mix” and “blend”) and instead posed a challenge to myself. Could I, given ingredients that were readily available, create something delicious without referencing a recipe? How do these kitchen magicians just “throw something together” from what they find in their cupboards and make something that actually tastes good?

I realized quickly that I would need some instruction to even know where to begin. So I took classes at excellent local cooking schools that covered the basic techniques and traditions in the kitchen. I also bought cookbooks that caught my eye and dog-eared pages for inspiration. After I had been experimenting for several years, it dawned on me that the best dishes I made were those that really allowed the ingredients to shine. I began to wonder if it was possible to make any type of dish delicious without using a ton of ingredients. I settled on a maximum of seven ingredients as my new challenge… to focus on quality ingredients and developing simple but amazing recipes that anyone can make. Even my former clueless self. So the Seven food blog was born.