February 25, 2009

We’ve been making a lot of things from scratch lately.  Simple things, like bread, pasta sauce, and salsa, that a few months ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing anything but buying from a store.  But inspired by a number of things we’ve been reading, we decided to give it a try.

For some reason, my camera wouldnt work, so this isnt actually a picture of the salsa I made.  But it looks very much like it.

For some reason, my camera wouldn't work, so this isn't actually a picture of the salsa I made. But it looks very much like it.

I don’t think we’ll ever go back to store-bought.  For one, all these things made fresh are vastly better than the stuff in stores.  Fresh salsa is worlds better than anything you can buy in a jar.  Second, the “labor-intensive” work of making these things from scratch turns out not to be that hard after all.  Especially in the case of pasta sauce: spend an hour or so making one huge batch on a Sunday afternoon, and you’ve got enough to last you for weeks.  Third, in most cases you save yourself a good bit of money.  A bag of flour costs about $3, and you can make 3-4 loaves of bread with that.

But I think probably our favorite thing made from scratch is salsa.  Lara begs me each week to make it, and generally I’m more than happy to oblige.  The fresh flavors of the simple ingredients shine in a way you’d never have thought possible with a jar of tomato mush from the store.  I’ve adapted this recipe from the wonderful Art of Simple Food by Alice Walters.


(makes about 2 cups)

2 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 18-ounce can whole* tomatoes (when tomatoes aren’t in season), chopped.

1 garlic clove, diced or pressed.

1/2 white or red onion, diced fine

6 cilantro sprigs (stems and leaves), chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime (or more to taste)


1-2 jalapeños, seeds removed, chopped fine

Mix very thoroughly.  Add more salt, lime juice, or jalapeño as needed.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

*For some reason, whole canned tomatoes taste better than the pre-diced ones.  Go figure.

The Art of Simple Food is a wonderful cookbook, by the way.  Alice Walters is a guru of the “buy local, cook simple” movement, and I am a recent convert.  Her cookbook is organized around techniques (“how to make a good broth”) and ingredients (rice, beans, grain) and walks you through how to select the best ingredients to cook with, and maximize the flavors of this naturally wonderful food.  It’s made me appreciate the farmer’s market like I never have before, and I’ve learned a ton about the food I eat and how to prepare it better.  It’s also just made me appreciate food more.  In going to farmer’s markets and learning how to select only the freshest, best-tasting ingredients, and then cooking them up in such a way as to maximize their flavours, I feel more connected with what I eat, and thus more connected to the earth and the world around me.  It’s a wonderful feeling, especially with a mouth full of food.


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