black bean & red pepper salsa

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My Aunt Jan & Uncle Charles are two of the best hosts I’ve ever known.  They are incredibly generous and gracious people, welcoming family and friends into their lovely home for holidays or a simple weekend away in Southern Indiana.  Whenever we visit, the company is wonderful and the food is fantastic.  I remember one particular visit many years ago when a few of us arrived early and sat outside by the pool waiting for everyone else to get there.  There were drinks and snacks, one of them this incredible salsa that disappeared too quickly.  I couldn’t figure out what exactly was in it – there were beans, cilantro, jalapeño, peppers, and something else I couldn’t put my finger on but that made it so good.  It was, as it turns out, a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  ah-mazing.  This salsa is a quicker version of my aunt’s (not that either recipe takes long at all).  It is just as delicious.

black bean & red pepper salsa
yield: about 2 cups salsa

recipe notes:  This is one of the simplest salsas you can make.  It can be embellished in any way you like.  As mentioned above, I think the real gem here is the little drizzle of balsamic vinegar – it does something that wakes up all the other ingredients – adding a little sweetness and a little tang that is so delicious.  Other embellishments?  Jalapeño, freshly grated corn off the cob, cilantro, red onion…

2 cups (or 1 can) cooked black beans, drained
1 red pepper, minced
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1.  Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.  If you can, let sit for about 30 minutes before serving so the flavors can mingle.  If you can’t wait, that’s fine, too.  If you have leftovers, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.

source: my aunt jan 🙂

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pork shoulder ragù

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I’ve been eating more meat recently.  I never avoided it in the past, I simply didn’t actively pursue it.  But, as my iron level remains low enough to require IV iron infusions, I figured I should start working on getting more into my diet the old-fashioned way.  Cooking in cast iron, using molasses to top oatmeal, eating plenty of spinach, snaking on almonds, etc.  A good way to incorporate the meat portion into my diet was to make a big batch of something over the weekend, using the slow cooker (or dutch oven).  We’ve tried Asian Short Ribs (from this book, yum), Steak Tacos (love) and this Pork Shoulder Ragù.  Each of these meals has been something different, that I wouldn’t normally make (I’m a veggie girl, ya know), but they’ve been so welcomed, filling and deliciously appropriate for a shared meal to just sit and enjoy.

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It makes a big batch, so I’ve put away the leftovers in the freezer for those days when I don’t get home to make dinner and I am in serious need of something deliciously filling.

Pork Shoulder Ragù
yield: 6-8 servings

recipe notes: This Pork Shoulder Ragù is easy to make (although it takes awhile, it requires very little hands-on time), has a lovely, simmered tomato-red wine + fennel seed flavor and is great for reheating.  You can serve it sloppy joe style in between buns, wrapped up in a corn tortilla, over pasta – or, my favorite way, over steamed brown rice.

2 to 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 cup red wine
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot sauce, for smokiness
Pasta/Rice/Buns/Tortillas (gluten-free)
Freshly grated Parmesan

1.  Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove excess fat from the pork shoulder.  Liberally salt and pepper the pork roast. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts, but does not burn. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all.

2.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel, and hot sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) if needed. (The liquid should come to about 1/3 of the way up the pork.) The meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. Put on a cutting board and pull it apart with two forks, then add back to pot and stir. Cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta or rice according to package directions.  Or, heat up some corn tortillas or toast some hamburger buns.  Top whatever you’ve cooked or toasted with the ragu and plenty of parmesan.

source:  Dinner A Love Story

 

 

 

 

 

hosting easter brunch

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A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to host brunch for a few of my family members on Easter Sunday.  I love the idea of a dinner party, but hosting brunch has to be one of my very favorite things to do.  Usually when we host brunch, it’s a last minute thing.  But this time, since it was a holiday and there were out of town guests, I made it a little more special.

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I have no doubt that the five of us could have easily found an appropriate place to sit, but because I’m me, these placecards needed to happen.  I simply cut small squares out of cardstock, folded them in half and wrote each person’s name on them in fancy cursive with a fancy pen.

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The menu was pretty simple – mostly low maintenance things I could either prepare ahead or took little preparation the day of.  Plus, I had some help from guests.  All together, it took about an hour to get everything to the table.  We enjoyed:

– Fruit Salad/Granola/Yogurt Parfaits
– Asparagus & Gruyère Frittata
– Home Fries
– Bacon
– Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Scones

All the fruit for the fruit salad was prepped the day before.  About an hour before everyone arrived, I mixed all the fruit together and sprinkled a little sugar/mint mixture over the top and left it.  The yogurt was simple plain vanilla yogurt.  The granola was made earlier in the week.  The frittata ingredients were prepped earlier in the morning. The potatoes were cut up by mom (thanks!).  They were the earliest thing I started actual cooking (about 45 minutes beforehand) but since there’s a lot of hands-off time, I was able to get do everything else at the same time.  The bacon was baked in the oven (see link, but be sure to line your pan with aluminum foil for much easier clean up!).  The scones were made the previous weekend, frozen and baked earlier in the morning before the bacon went in.

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But of course, while the food was all good, the company was the most enjoyable part.  Thanks to all for joining our little Easter brunch 🙂

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how to host brunch, elsewhere:
how to host brunch (and still sleep in) by smitten kitchen
A Book Club Brunch Party from thekitchn
Easter Brunch Ideas on everyday occasions by Jenny Steffens Hobick