I've got the best problem a gardener can have: too many vegetables. Especially bountiful are tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs.
Every year, my husband and I turn our late-summer harvest into Salsa Roja, tangy hot sauce, tomato sauce and pesto, and freeze or dry our herbs. And the best part is, we can enjoy the taste of summer long after the season has ended.
So we make several batches and use the lazy way of preserving; we store our salsa and sauces in the freezer until we're ready to use them. When we defrost some in January, we're pulled right back to those late-summer days in front of the cutting board.
Adjust the heat of Homemade Hot Sauce to your preference: in our tests, two habaneros yielded a pleasantly spicy sauce without excessive heat-take it up a notch for spicy-food fans by adding extra hot peppers.
Homemade Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 medium chile peppers, such as poblano, New Mexico or Anaheim, diced
2-4 habanero peppers or other small hot chile peppers, stemmed, halved and seeded (see Tip, below)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound tomatoes, diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1-3 teaspoons sugar
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, chile peppers, habaneros to taste and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt and sugar to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 minutes.
3. Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot ingredients.) Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; pour the pureed mixture through the sieve, pushing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid. (Discard solids.) Let the sauce cool to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.
Tip: The membranes that hold the seeds are the spiciest part of chile peppers (that's where the capsaicin is). The seeds pick up some spiciness by association. You can customize the heat of salsa or hot sauce by using some or all of the seeds along with the flesh of the pepper and tasting as you go. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after chopping hot peppers or wear rubber gloves.
Makes about 2 2/3 cups.
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 14 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 114 mg sodium; 40 mg potassium.
Have more garden bounty to save? Use these easy tips and techniques to:
- Take advantage of the summer tomato harvest to stock your freezer with Fresh Tomato Sauce and you'll be one step closer to a garden-fresh meal.
- Freeze fresh berries to keep for up to 1 year.
- Freeze fresh herbs, a method well-suited to tender varieties, such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint and parsley, or make and freeze Basic Basil Pesto to enjoy long after summer has passed.
Basic Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted (see Tip)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 large clove garlic, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place basil, walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, oil, water, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor; pulse a few times, then process until fairly smooth, or to the desired consistency, scraping down the sides occasionally.
Tip: To toast walnuts: Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, 7 to 9 minutes.
Makes about 1 cup.
Per 2-tablespoon serving: 83 calories; 8 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 2 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 176 mg sodium.
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell assistant editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing recipes. Here, she writes about how summer cocktails can wreak havoc on our daily calorie tallies. "But on a tropical island, I want the piña colada," she admits. Meyer is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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Dry fresh herbs with hardier leaves, such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage.
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