tomato basil salsa over chicken breast

I wish I could say something poetic about the glut of tomatoes in my garden this year. But alas, I can not. Because I got a harvest totaling six tomatoes. Six. I had twelve plants of all different varieties, but between the unnaturally cool spring, the obnoxious amount of rain we’ve had, and my lack of attention to the garden as of late, the tomatoes plants all bit the dust.

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So. The six fruits I managed to grow are precious to me.
I felt like I needed to prelude with this because there are a myriad of ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes. (Tomato sandwiches are one of my favorite!) And yet I have chosen to take four of my six and blend them into a sautéed tomato and basil salsa.
But fear not. It’s that good and worth each precious fruit I spent. In addition to which, this recipe is whole 30 friendly.

I mixed up the salsa one morning in about twenty minutes (before I made coffee even!) and stuck it in the fridge for later use. Tonight it was simmered over medium heat until it began to resemble a sauce more than a salsa, and poured lavishly over grilled chicken breast. Summer in its zenith.

The key to eating clean is simplicity and preparedness. If a recipe takes too long to make or is too fussy, then I’m liable to cram fistfuls of chips or thick slices of cheese into my mouth while I’m making dinner because I’m too ravenous to wait. There goes Whole 30. Oops.
So:
Be prepared.
Keep it simple.

This recipe does both. I used a food processor to finish the dicing process for me and pulsed the ingredients below a few times before tasting and adding salt and pepper. You can use a knife and dice each item on its own as well, combining everything in a mixing bowl. Either way, this recipe is diverse, keeps well in the fridge, can be used hot or cold, and is worth the expenditure of four precious garden tomatoes.
Enjoy!

TOMATO BASIL SALSA

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4 medium tomatoes, cubed.
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 whole onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
dash of salt
dash of pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

 

Pesto

There are so many varieties to this gorgeous idea of herbs and olive oil blended and tossed over pasta. Parsley . . . Cilantro . . . Rosemary . . . I even whip up a batch of Balsamic-Lemon Spinach Pesto that’s really delightful! But truly, my favorite variety is the traditional one.
Basil.
The earthy sweetness. Crisp and almost acidic, but not quite. Green like fresh grass. It’s hard to find a meal I enjoy more than one that includes fresh pesto. And knowing this about myself, I planted ten basil plants in my garden this year. That’s right. Ten. And I might double that next year. I have no shame.

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My two oldest girls and I cut a bunch, washed them up, and whipped up a lovely batch of pesto this week. I spooned it generously over three-cheese ravioli and fresh grape tomatoes. Sprinkled with parmesan, only a loaf of crusty bread would have made it better. Next time.

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PESTO 
1 large bunch of basil—roughly 2 cups of leaves, washed, and stems removed
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon garlic
dash of lemon juice

Pine nuts are traditionally part of a solid pesto recipe, but I’m not a fan, so I left them out. If you like them, roast two tablespoons in a hot sauté pan with a splash of olive oil and salt until they brown. Set aside on paper toweling and allow to cool.

In a food processor, whirl basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesan, scraping down sides of the bowl frequently for about a minute, or until a thick, smooth paste forms.

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Everyone has a different opinion about the thickness of a proper pesto. The beauty of making your own, means you get to decide what that looks like! Feel free to add more olive oil if you prefer your pesto a little thinner.
At this point you would also add the roasted pine nuts if you enjoy them.
Whirl again, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Serve over pasta of your choice, hot or cold.

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To store: divide between small jars and freeze what you intend keep beyond immediate use.
Enjoy!

 

buttermilk ranch dressing

I have the distinct pleasure of weekly access to fresh raw milk from a local farmer friend of mine, and it has been so much fun figuring out all kinds of new ways to use it, besides yaknow, just drinking it. I’ve made yogurt, Kiefer, butter, and I skim off the rich heavy cream for my coffee. I’ve yet to try cheese, but it’s on my list, and today I’m using up the last of the buttermilk from my butter-making this week, in a salad dressing recipe.

If you’ve not made butter before, it’s as easy as (literally) whipping heavy cream. And it doesn’t even have to be raw. Take pint (or quart if you prefer) of whole cream and dump it into a mixing bowl. I use my stand mixer for this job but you can use a hand mixer, or even a glass jar with a tightly sealed lid to shake the cream rather than whip it. Add a bit of salt for flavor and whip on medium high until the cream thickens—first to whipped cream, and then past that to butter—which will separate, leaving behind buttermilk.

You’ll need about a cup or more of buttermilk for this recipe, which you can buy in your local grocery store’s dairy department. Or you can make your own butter, and use the leftover buttermilk. Either way is fine.

Enjoy!

BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING

This recipe starts with a base of mayo, and I’ve linked to this whole30 recipe before, but it truly is the most fantastic mayo recipe I’m aware of. It’s the one I return to over and over again. So go ahead and whip up a batch.

Once the mayo is ready, add to it:

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon fresh pressed garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves (or fresh if you have them!)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dry dill weed (or fresh if you have it!)
2 tablespoons white cooking wine
1 cup buttermilk

Blend well and store in an air tight container.

savory applesauce

Sometimes dinner needs a little extra something, yaknow? I’m all for spice rubs, but my heart finds its home in sauces. And when you’re looking to dress up some chicken breasts, or pork tenderloin, or heck, even a pile of spaghetti squash, a savory-sweet applesauce really brings a lot to the table. Pun intended.

4 apples, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup prunes or apricots
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons clarified butter
water

begin by peeling and dicing your apples. —I like to make this sauce out of whatever fruit is starting to show its age in my fruit basket. Can’t let those mealy bruised apples go to waste!
Do the same with the onions and the dried fruit.
Then in a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the clarified butter and toss in the apples, dried fruit, and onions, stirring until they begin to brown/caramelize. Sprinkle cinnamon over the fruit and onions and then add just enough water to cover the fruit. Set it back on the stove and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the fruit softens. Add water as needed, simmering all while while until the fruit melds and becomes a thick, chunky sauce. If you prefer a smoother applesauce, use an emulsion blender to emulsify.

Spoon generously over meat, vegetables, or even dessert.
(I love it over a heavy greek yogurt!)

 

balsamic-lemon spinach pesto

Pesto. That flash of green. That earthy sweetness. Summer encapsulated. I love the stuff. On pasta, eggs, fish, in my coffee . . .
Ha.
Just checking to make sure you’re awake.

I brought two gorgeous basil plants inside from the garden when the weather turned cold. “Surely I can save these!” I thought.
Nope.
I tried.
They died.
There goes pesto.

However, today I whipped up a ‘pesto’ with a base of spinach instead of basil. And yaknow what? It’s almost good enough to drink in your coffee.
Enjoy!

BALSAMIC-LEMON SPINICH PESTO

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• Notes:
This recipe is a two-for-one deal. I use my lemon-balsamic dressing in this in place of straight olive oil.

Balsamic-Lemon Salad Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette
½ teaspoon fresh pressed garlic

a dash of salt

3 cups of organic baby spinach—washed
2 tablespoons Lemon-Balsamic salad dressing
1 tablespoon roasted pine-nuts

In a food processor or blender, pack the spinach down nice and firm, drizzle the dressing over top and sprinkle in pine nuts. Pulse/whirl a couple of times and then remove the cover and scrape down the sides with a soft spatula. Evaluate the consistency at this point. If the pesto seems a little dry add a little more dressing. Too wet? Add more spinach. Whirl again until smooth. Store in an air-tight container.

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