Sunday, September 10, 2006

Salsa Fest 2006

In September-ish, when the tomatoes come in torrents, is the time to can salsa. Salsa costs about 3-4 bucks a jar, and it is definitely worth canning. The downside is that salsa is one of the more difficult water bath canning methods to make, because of the prep work. So, a team of 4 gathered for Salsa Fest 2006.

If you decide to can salsa, a psychologist canning buddy of mine suggests that canning salsa takes you through the stages of grief, slightly modified:

  • Initial Enthusiasm "I love salsa, let's can some!"
  • Shock or Disbelief "Wow, peeling, seeding and chopping tomatoes can't be this labor intensive, can it?"
  • Denial "I never wanted to can salsa anyway"
  • Bargaining "If you finish up these tomatoes, I will chop and seed the jalapenos for you, okay?"
  • Guilt "I really shouldn't be doing this when I could be home right now vacuuming"
  • Anger "I never really liked these women anyway, this is the dumbest thing I have ever agreed to do in my life!"
  • Depression "We are NEVER going to be done with this, and this salsa is going to suck."
  • Acceptance and Hope "Thank God the last jars are in the canner. Don't those jars cooling on the countertop look kind of pretty? I feel just like Ma stocking the root cellar in any book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Maybe someday I will want to eat tomatoes again. Just not today..."

Many hands made the work light, though. I had 3 friends join me for this day long affair this year. The day started at 8 am at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market to buy a bushel of tomatoes, hot peppers, etc. It ended at 4 pm with the last jars out of the canner. Actually, it hasn't yet ended because all of my canning accoutrement is still piled up all over the kitchen. The major downside to canning salsa is that it really isn't activity conducive to wine drinking. There are too many opportunities for injury, i.e. burns from the boiling water canner, cuts from dicing way too many vegetables, broken glass from the jars you drop, botulism if you don't follow the rules, etc. However, once the last jars of salsa are in the canner, we needed some wine.

Later, when I have my jars all lined up in the pantry to show off to my friends, it is really something. I will bring it as my "dish to pass" with a bag of Tostitos to potlucks and parties. When people ask, you can say noncommittally "oh is salsa... I canned it myself". Talk about SHOCK and AWE. Inevitably, a woman or tow will come up shyly and ask how I did it. And the next thing I know, I've got another participant lined up for next year's Salsa Fest. Like childbirth, I will have forgotten the pain of labor - like cleaning up the jalapeno seeds on the kitchen floor, the hot pepper juice in my eyes, and let's not forget the container of Cremora that flew out of the cabinet when I was looking for the pepper and landed in the salsa kettle. Eventually, l will start fantasizing about making a new tomatillo recipe next year.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Here's a good, easy soup that only I will eat at my house. (we've got lots of non vegetable fans here). I can and will eat the whole batch - give it a try. It's great this time of year!

Curried Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 onions, sliced 1 inch thick
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups water
2 cups reduced-sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450°. On a baking sheet, toss cauliflower with vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread out, and roast until the florets turn brown, about 25 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder, cauliflower, water, and broth; cover, and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups cauliflower to a bowl, and set aside. Put remaining florets into a blender or food processor, add 1 teaspoon salt, and process until smooth. Stir purée into broth in pan, and reheat if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls, and top with reserved florets and parsley.