Berry Salsa and Chips

A bonus recipe for Friday! Yay! Here’s the last creation I want to share from Labor Day. This time of year berries are wildly cheap and abundant. If you recall my trip to the farmer’s market, I bought a whole lot of strawberries for $5. The problem is that they don’t keep very long, so I wanted to come up with a recipe that would use a bunch of them all at once. The idea of a salsa came to me. I had some blueberries in the fridge, so I decided to dice two pints of the strawberries very fine along with about the same amount of blueberries. I tossed them with a bit of agave syrup, about two teaspoons of chopped fresh mint (careful, it’s potent stuff), a pinch of salt, and a dash of vanilla. I served it in a bowl topped with some sweetened ricotta cheese (just mix it with some powdered sugar). The combination of fruit and the soft cheese is really incredible. I actually wanted to use marscapone cheese, but Trader Joe’s was apparently out that day. It’s an ingredient that is available at pretty much every market nowadays, but it can be a bit expensive. Trader Joe’s has by far the best prices for all dairy products and since I’m the starving artist and didn’t feel like going on a crusade for some friggin cheese, I decided to go with Trader Joe’s fresh ricotta. It actually worked quite well.

Now this recipe is quite simple as I was sticking to what I had on hand, but you could easily modify this with any fruit, citrus, zest, and even spices you like. But whatever you do, you’re going to need chips. The chips I made for this was phenomenal, in fact I ate many without the dip. Here’s what you do. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt a half stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Cut 6 taco-sized flour tortillas into 8 triangles each (just like a pizza). In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Take one of the tortilla slices, brush each side with a bit of butter, then toss into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place your chips in a single layer on a half-sheet pan that’s been greased with a bit of non-stick spray. You’ll likely need two pans for this many tortillas. Bake in the oven until deeply brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a bit before eating to allow them to crisp fully. These chips are delicious with all kinds of dessert applications. We were spreading them with nutella and then topping them with the ricotta and fruit. Ridiculous.

Happy Friday!

Apple-Cherry-Peach Sauce

So here’s my conundrum. I love the idea of making pies and cobblers and crisps out of fresh summer fruit. I mean come on, I would bathe myself in blueberry pie if I could. But the problem with such treats is that it requires you to turn on your oven and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to sit in an already sweltering apartment with the effin oven on.

I had this big box of fresh cherries I picked up at Trader Joe’s last week and I was wondering what I could do with them aside from making a cherry sauce to dump over ice cream. I noticed I had some white peaches on the shelf as well as a bag of apples I keep around for my morning green juice. Then it hit me – apple sauce. No oven required and one can eat it cold for a perfect treat on a warm summer night. But what about the crumble topping that makes a crisp so desirable? Easy. Just top with some granola or, even better, some crushed up ginger snaps – ooooo!!! Hell you can even top it with whipped cream or a dollop of yogurt if you like. And look at the color – how can you beat that?

No PDF needed for this recipe:

3 apples, cored and diced
4 peaches, cored and diced
1 lb fresh red cherries, pitted
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tbsp maple sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tbsp honey
pinch of kosher salt
Throw everything in a pot/dutch oven/whatever over medium high heat, cover, and let cook down for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once fruit is soft and syrupy, kill heat and puree with a stick blender, or use a potato masher for a chunkier more rustic concoction. Serve chilled with granola for dessert or as a side for pork chops. Yum.

Peaches and Cream

Ok, it’s not actually cream, it’s Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and a dash of vanilla extract. But that would be an awful title. I gotta be honest I’ve not always been the biggest peach fan. Maybe it’s the yankee in me (and by yankee I mean northerner, not the baseball team). But, when they are in season, super ripe, and sprinkled with a bit of maple sugar, they’re utterly divine.

I bought a bag of them at Trader Joe’s last week and forgot about them until just a few days ago. Nearing the overripe stage, I decided it would be best if I put them to use all at once. What better excuse to use butter. I took out my cast iron skillet, got it heating on the stove. I cored and sliced 4 medium peaches. Placed 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and let it get melted and hot. I got the peaches in a pan in an even layer,  sprinkled 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar evenly over the top and let them ride. Once they were brown and syrupy on the bottom, I used my spatula to flip them over and do the same on the other side. Then it was into my bowl and topped with the aforementioned yogurt. A splendid breakfast.

Obviously my peaches were still pretty hot, hence why the yogurt got a bit soupy. Next time I’ll let them cool a bit. Still super yummy, though.

Rosemary Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese

Ok I know you’re all like wtf, the starving artist is roasting figs? What’s next? Lobster? Foie gras?!?! Well let me say that I am first and foremost all about the food. Whether it’s grilled cheese made with wonder bread and kraft singles or roasting figs with rosemary, nothing is out of range for the starving artist. And come on, do you think I would really undertake much less post a pretentious and/or obnoxious recipe? Fear not, dear readers.

There are lots of fresh fruit in season right now in SoCal and it just so happened that Trader Joe’s had some lovely fresh figs on sale. When I saw them I remember attending a party a few months back that had figs roasted with honey and rosemary… an unexpected and divine combination, which you’ll recall I had in some classed up rice krispie treats at my first summer cookout last weekend. So, I decided I would just do it. I sliced all the figs (about 12) in half, tossed them in a little olive oil followed by a few tablespoons of warmed honey. A light sprinkle of salt, few grinds of black pepper, the leaves of one sprig of fresh rosemary, and into the oven they went at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until they were soft and a bit caramelized from the honey. Yum. But I didn’t stop there. While they were still warm I topped them with a dollop of goat cheese, turning them into a delightfully sweet and creamy treat. A perfect party appetizer or bite-sized dessert to eat with coffee.

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post.  I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.