Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Sauces are one of those things that seemed hard or mysterious to me. After all, if they weren’t hard, why is buying them pre-made such a prevalent practice, even among those who consider themselves good cooks? Why do we surrender the biggest flavor payload in our dish tos omething that makes a gloopy sound as it oozes out of plastic or glass jars? A few weeks ago when I hosted my late summer BBQ, I decided to make my own sauce and it was really pretty easy.

Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup organic or reduced-sguar ketchup
  • 1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 molasses
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Prep

  • Finely chop your onion and garlic.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat your EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes until soft.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. Keep scrapping and folding the sauce off the sides of the pot and stirring. If the sauce seems a little thin you can simmer for another 2 minutes, but keep stirring and folding so it doesn’t get gooey.
  • Taste the sauce and add a little more salt and pepper, as needed.

The end result should be a crowd pleasing, sticky sauce with a nice balance between sweet, savory, and heat. I personally prefer ridiculously spicy sauces like Famous Dave’s Devil Spit or the Memphis/Kansas City varietals, which are hotter and more vinegary, but this sauce was lovely and hit the right notes for a crowd where you can’t go to far in one direction or another. You know a sauce is great when people lick their fingers instead of using a napkin and I saw a lot of that going on.

~Enjoy the bragging rights for making your own sauce and Nom On

Bruschetta Salsa

A staple starter in pretty much every Italian eatery, and most bar and grilles, I think bruschetta get’s over looked. It’s also really easy to make an utterly underwhelming batch; just use off-season tomatoes and dried basil instead of fresh and you will be one sad mac. Here’s how to make it right, and then you can put it on everything!

Bruschetta Mozzarella

Bruschetta Salsa

Ingredients

As a general note, you should shop for all your fresh ingredients at the farmers market for this dish. Good bruschetta hinges entirely on how vibrant the produce and herbs are. Get your toms, garlic, basil, and parsley from the market the day you plan on making the salsa and choose with care.

  • 4 plum, ripe, in-season tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh, minced parsley
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 crushed red pepper flakes

Prep

  • Combine all your ingredients and let soak and chill in the fridge for about an hour before you serve.

If you want an elegant, low-carb snack or starter …

pick up a log of fresh mozzarella and slice into small medallions. Arrange a few large basil leaves on a plate, then 3-4 medallions. Spoon the salsa over the medallions. If you have time, make a simple balsamic reduction and drizzle a little over the dish. Magnifique!

Bruschetta Toast

If you want classic bruschetta toast ….

cut a fresh baguette into thick slices. Spread a little butter on each slice and toast to a medium-well. Getting the slices the right thickness and level of crispy is crucial because the salsa has oil and vinegar and it really soaks through the bread. I can’t tell you how many restaurants have blown this aspect and I am left with a soggy mess and a serious case of situational depression.

I like to add a little leaf of basil to eat slice of bread before I spoon the mixture on. It adds color and a pop of freshness, plus it helps slow the pace of the bread soaking and breaking down. If you think the toast will sit awhile because you are setting it out for a gathering, I recommend this.

Again, if you have time to make a quick balsamic reduction, drizzle this on as a finishing touch. Don’t get carried away though. It’s a strong flavor.

What else can I do with this lovely salsa?

Man, it’s almost endless. The salsa is the flavor so if you want a quick, light vegetarian entree, top off some angel hair pasta and drizzle with balsamic reduction. You can make the dish heartier with slices of grilled chicken.

If you want low-carb, grill chicken breasts or flank steak in a garlic butter and sauté some squash. Top the meat with the salsa and serve with a dollop of balsamic reduction on the side for dipping.

Want a fabulous vegetarian burger? Grill up a portabella mushroom, top with a fat slice of mozzarella cheese and the salsa. Serve on toasted wheat buns with garlic butter. Or, if you want to try something fun, make garlic bread and use two thick slices of that for your bun. Dude.

If you aren’t ready to nom on at this point, you may be hopeless!

Greek Turkey Burgers

The summer continues and so do my experiments with burgers. Today I made a low-carb Greek burger with homemade tzaziki sauce and it was quite yummy.

Greek Turkey Burger

Greek Turkey Burgers

Ingredients

  • 16 oz ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 oz – 3 oz crumbled feta cheese, depending on how strong you want the feta flavor
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Thick slices of beefsteak tomato, cucumbers, leafy lettuce, and red onion for serving.

Prep

  • Combine the ground turkey, onion, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs together in a medium-sized bowl. Use your fingers and mix well.
  • Fold in your feta cheese crumbles and mix well.
  • Finally fold in your spices. Mix well and form into 4 equally sized patties. Set aside.
  • Heat up your griddle and brush with a little olive oil.
  • Grill the patties for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the patties reach 160 degrees internally. Transfer to a plate and let rest for a couple minutes.

Quick Tzaziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 1 half cucumber, diced
  • 1 large roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prep

  • Combine all your ingredients except the salt and pepper. Mix well.
  • Add in about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper and taste.

Note: Tzaziki isn’t meant to be salty, it should taste refreshing. This recipe is by no means a traditional sauce, but it’ll get you the majority of that flavor and it’s quick and easy to prep. Some traditional tzaziki sauces can be very garlic-y and if you like that, add in another fresh garlic clove or add a pinch of garlic powder. 

If you are serving this low-carb, arrange the patties on a bed of leafy lettuce and layer on the sauce. Top with a little more feta, if desired. You can serve with thick slices of tomato, red onion, and cucumber dusted with salt and pepper and a dollop of hummus for dipping. I make my sauces with the veggies and toppings basically folded in so you don’t need to add those extra veggies if you don’t want to. The flavors are all there.

~Nom On

Guacamole Turkey Slides

Well, it’s Friday night and you want to rock something fun, flavorful, but not a ridiculous amount of effort. How about some guac turkey sliders? What I love about guacs and salas is that all your toppings are already in your sauce, so you can get to table with huge flavor, very quickly.

Guacamole Turkey Sliders

Guacamole Turkey Sliders

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp cup grated onion
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried parsley (optional)
  • Guacamole (recipe below)
  • Small hamburger buns or white bread dinner rolls
  • Mayo (optional)

Prep

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine all your ingredients with your hands.
  • Form into a large, patted spread. With a biscuit cutter, cut out your patties. If you have small hands, like me, you can roll out the patties by hand; your choice.
  • Using an electric grill or a cast-iron griddle, cook your patties for about 4-5 minutes per side. The goal is to get a nice sear on each side and reach an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. The meat needs to rest and finish cooking from its internal temp.
    Note: Do NOT press the patties while cooking. They lose their juices. 
  • Place on a plate to rest while you prep your guac and toast your buns buns.

Now, prep your guac…

  • 1 very ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1  small, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 red or white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 fresh garlic clove, minced
  • Fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Ground cayenne, to taste
  • With a fork, mash and stir the avocado. You can leave it a little chunky.
  • Fold in the tomato, onion, jalapeno, diced garlic and stir.
  • Squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  • Add in about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Stir and taste.
  • Add in a few shakes of cayenne. Stir and taste.
  • If your quac seems bland, you can add in a little more salt or cayenne, but don’t go to crazy. Ground spices are more potent than freshly chopped peppers so the taste changes quickly.

Note: This mixture is more potent than usual, which is needed for the burger. It’s not a ‘dipping guac.”

Let’s bring it home…

  • Toast your buns or rolls lightly. Add a little mayo on bottom roll, if using.
  • Add the burger patties to each bottom roll.
  • Spoon guacamole in heaping spoonfuls to each slider and top with bun.

I didn’t serve these with a side; they are dense and loaded with flavor. If you really want a side, I’d say go simple like a handful of tortilla chips or a small salad of mixed greens. To me, a Friday night meal is quick eating.

~Nom On

Chili-Cheese Dip

Generally speaking, I don’t have food addictions. I get on kicks where I will eat a lot of something for a few weeks and move on to my next fixation. Chili-cheese dip seems to be my one constant. I have been making it for so long I have it down to a fine science, and it. is. GOOD. So good I had a guest just take the whole pot off the stove at a party once and sit in a corner, hovering protectively while he shoveled chips heaped with it in his mouth. I think he was even making that weird, growling noise zombies do when they first get infected. Anyway, this dip will solve all your chili-cheese related cravings and situations. Just make sure you have Worcestershire sauce on hand to cure anyone that is starting to turn.

Chili Cheese Dog

Chili-Cheese Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Turkey Chili with Beans, your favorite brand.
  • 1 can Ro-Tel Chili Tomatoes – This is the point where you control the heat. There are mild, regular, and hot versions.
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheese – This is where you control the kick. Any cheese melts and you can make your dip smokey, creamy, mellow, or spicy. NO processed cheeses like velvetta and no skim-milk cheese. It has to be real cheese that you shred yourself. The better the quality, the better the dip.

Optional, cold add-ins

  • Chopped red or white onions
  • Cilantro
  • Green Onion
  • Sour Cream

Prep:

  • In a small sauce pan, heat the chili over a medium-low flame.
  • Drain out all the liquid from the canned tomatoes, then stir into the chili.
  • Once the chili mixture starts simmering, give it about a minute and keep stirring. Turn off the heat completely.
  • Fold in your freshly grated cheese and stir until the cheese is totally melted and blended into the chili.
  • Fold in your cold toppings last, if you are using any.
    • Note: If this mixture is intended to smother, a hot dog or fries for example, add you cold toppings AFTER you smother.

Wait, that’s it? 

Yep! The trick is less about the ingredients than the process. You see, melted cheese is completely easy to screw up. It doesn’t microwave and you can’t ever let it come into contact with direct heat. If you have tried to make cheese dips or melted cheese in the past and the end result was an oily, scorched mess, that’s why. Folding the cheese into your already hot chili that is beginning to cool achieves the perfection you’d otherwise need a double broiler for.

I have my dip, now what?

Well, it’s not rocket science, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you already have your cheese folded in so if you want to make chili dogs or hamburgers, DON’T add slices of cheese and then smoother. Secondly, as I mentioned before, save your cold toppings for last. Even if you want to serve this as a batch of smothered nachos, sprinkle your onions and sliced green onion around after you smother the tortilla chips. Only fold in the cold toppings if you intend to serve as a dip or just eat straight as a chili.

I don’t like canned chili. Can I use my own?

Yeah, absolutely. But, don’t use a low-sodium, low-fat recipe. There is a time to cut calories and sodium, and chili-cheese day ain’t it. Simply put, the FAT and SALT are what make this dish addictive. If you don’t make your chili with enough of these things, the cheese is going to bland it out like there is no tomorrow and the chili-tomato mixture won’t save you. If you have a really solid chili and have crowd-tested it and been given the thumbs up, by all means, use it! But please add more salt than you would normally so it stands up to that full cup of cheese and extra chili and tomatoes.

Where’s the love for us vegetarians??

I do love you guys! I have a great chili for you right here! Fold in some cheese and ditch the pasta in this recipe if you are looking for a great veggie chili-cheese dip. If you are vegan, just skip the cheese. Enjoy!

So, now you have no reason to stop at a fast food joint the next time you need to get your chili-cheese fix.

~Nom on

Salsa Verde

So, you like Mexican food, but maybe you are getting a little burnt out on that red tomato flavor? Enter the verde! This is a great sauce that you can use for just about any dish you would normally garnish or make with a salsa roja or ranchera sauce and get a great, new taste. It’s easy to make and way more flavorful than the crap sold in cans in the “stuff non-white people eat’ isle. Give it a try, you’ll be pleased.

Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 1/2 large, white onion, chopped
  • 1-to-2 Serrano chili peppers, chopped
  • 1 garlc clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Prep

  • In a small sauce pan, add tomatillos, onion, peppers, and cilanto.
  • Add enough water to just cover the veggies, about 2 cups.

Salsa Verde Progress

  • Add cumin, salt, and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Using either a blender or, ideally, an immersion blender that you can stick right in the pot, puree the ingredients.
  • Taste the salsa and add a little more salt, a 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you are happy.

What can I do with my salsa verde?

This sauce is great to use for enchiladas and casseroles, especially if you are looking for an alternative to ranchera sauce. You can also garnish tacos and rellenos, or make a wet burrito by covering in a generous amount of sauce, sprinkling with jack cheese, and baking at 325 degrees for about 5 minutes. You just want the cheese to melt.

If you like to grill, you can use this sauce as a marinade for chicken or garnish on shrimp. The cumin in the sauce makes it very robust so it can stand up to any cut of steak as a garnish, too.

If you are into creative pizzas, you could use this sauce instead of tomato, add slices of cooked steak, chopped white onion, and chopped tomatoes with shredded mozzarella or jack cheese. Sprinkle with cilantro when its out of the oven. Damn, I am making myself really hungry.

Feel free to check out my recipes using salsa verde if you are looking for ideas.

~Nom On

Salsa Roja de Chile de Arbol: Guadalajara’s secret sauce

It’s years back, my waistline was drastically smaller, and my husband, also skinnier, was still a boyfriend. We are at his mother’s house and I see 5 brown faces staring at my pasty, white one with a mix of anxiety and that smile we get when we are expecting to burst out laughing at any moment. A torta stuffed with beans and pork and completely drenched in this neon red sauce sit before me. Behold, the tortas ahogadas, a Guadalajarn treasure most anglos who call themselves Mexican Cuisine aficionados never even hear about. Only Alex’s mom, Maria, doesn’t look like she is going to laugh. She looks terrified because I told her not to hold back, but to drench the torta in the salsa roja as was the tradition. “I can handle it,” I promised.

Now was the moment to demonstrate my spice-eating chops. I cut off a big, heaping chunk of torta, the crowd draws a breath, and I chow down. I close my eyes as all sorts of awesome stuff starts happening in my mouth – heat and savory and, and … holy SHIT THAT’S HOT! I immediately grab my beer and suck down half of it in two gulps, getting an instant buzz. I look at the crowd with a big, dopey smile on my face and go back for more. ‘I can’t believe you can eat that!’ proclaims Alex’s younger brother, Jorge. ‘I just eat it with tomato sauce!’ I smile at him. “Well,” I say, “That settles it. I am more Mexican than you.”

It’s taken me years of experimentation and some coaching from Maria, but I am ready to share this amazing salsa with you. If you want to make it for dunking tortas, you will want a more watered down version of this, but otherwise it’s a great way to add heat and flavor to any dish that you want a salsa or hot sauce for. Buen provecho!

Salsa Roja de Chili de Arbol

Salsa Roja de Chili de Arbol

Ingredients

  • 30 dried chili de arbol peppers (located usually in the aisle with all the hanging bags of dried Mexican spices and specialty items)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Prep

  • In a medium pot, add the water and dried chili peppers and bring the water to a boil.
  • Boil the peppers for 5 minutes. Turn off the flame and cover the pot with a well fitted lid.
  • Let the chilis soak for about 20 minutes.
  • Add the chilis and about 1 cup of the water to a blender. You can use a stick food processor in a large, plastic measuring cup too, if that’s handy.
  • Cut the garlic into quarters and toss in to the blender, along with the can of tomato sauce and vinegar.
  • Blend the ingredients together. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper and blend a bit more.
  • Grab a tortilla chip and taste. From here, you will want to keep adding salt at 1/4 tsp at a time and blending until you are happy with the heat and flavor.

If you are really a spice fanatic you can eat with chips, but I think most will enjoy this as a garnish on tacos, quesadillas, chili, even a dollop in their soup if they want some kick.

A word of caution: This salsa does include the seeds from a very hot chili pepper. While you may have a fairly high tolerance to heat, make sure your mouth isn’t writing checks your ass can’t cash. Seriously, this stuff will tear you up, so either eat it judiciously, or indulge only if you and your partner are comfortable enough with each other that they won’t be horrified by the flames shooting out from under the bathroom door and the sound of the mirror shattering. 

~Nom, and probably poop, on!