Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

During our years living in Columbia, we loved going to the Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia. Now that we live in Richmond, we’ve turned to the South of the James market for our Saturday morning perusing. For better or for worse, Soda City Market isn’t exactly a farmers market in our opinion. There are a handful of farmers with fresh goods, but they are definitely outnumbered by food vendors and artisans. South of the James is more of a true farmers market, with quite a few farms and farmers in attendance, in addition to some other vendors. Pro: there are way more options of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from which to choose! Con: there are not as many brunch-while-strolling-the-market options, though there are several.

This is in fact relevant to our recipe today and our goals of having this blog. While we were browsing through the produce at one stand, one of the proprietors was popping open these little tomatillos for people to taste. He told us these were “pineapple tomatillos” and would you believe it, they really do taste like a combination of a tangy, sweet pineapple and a sharply earthy green tomato. We bought a carton without a second thought. We’re certainly not tomatillo connoisseurs, but we’d never heard of these little guys. We also acquired some pretty purple beans, a few bell peppers and onions (which are also making their appearance in this salsa), and delicious plump blackberries that we finished before we even got to the car! Overall a successful trip 🙌🏼 Soooo… hopefully no one clicked on this link looking for a pineapple AND tomatillo salsa, because that’s not what we’re making tonight!

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Little pineapple tomatillos!

With a little research, we learned that tomatillos generally belong to two species of the same genus (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), but that there are dozens of varieties. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but are generally cultivated all over the Americas today outside of the coldest reaches to the north and south. The largest natural and cultivated variety of tomatillos grow in Mexico. Our pineapple tomatillos are one of those many varietals! Another interesting tidbit: the modern Spanish word tomatillo is derived from the Native American/Aztec word for the same plant and ingredient, tomatl.

I know these pineapple tomatillos aren’t exactly an ingredient everyone has on hand or can run out to the store and pick up, but if you come across them anywhere, get some! This salsa was refreshing – light and fresh! Everyone who ate it remarked that it tasted like a tropical fruit salsa, even though it obviously doesn’t contain any mangoes or pineapples or the like!


Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:
  • ~2 cups pineapple tomatillos (~1 cup, husks removed)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 scant cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions:
  1. Husk the tomatillos and roughly chop. (These are pretty small, so we essentially quartered them.)
  2. Place in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle with a shake or two of salt.
  3. Stir the onion, pepper, cilantro, vinegar, lime zest, and 4 turns fresh ground black pepper in with the tomatillos.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and until ready to serve.
Yields ~2 cups of salsa
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Midnight Quick Pickles

Every time we visit my cousin and her husband, we always come home with more than when we arrived. They live in a more rural county, have a HUGE backyard garden, and freezers full of hunting spoils. We were there this past weekend to visit with them and their brand new baby 😍😍😍 We cooked dinner for the new parents, so we brought a fair amount of ingredients with us. But still, our bag was more full when we went home! They sent us home with a bounty of cucumbers and squash from the garden, three whole trout, and a package of venison sausage links from last hunting season! Even a cucumber lover like me can’t eat all those cucumbers before they go bad, so I made some pickles!

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If you take a quick glance at this recipe, you’re probably thinking that it’s a pretty standard dill pickle recipe. Vinegar, water, sugar, dill, garlic… they’re standard fair for dill pickles. Why then do ours look dark and why did we call them “midnight” pickles? For that, we have to thank Selim’s devotion to turbinado sugar, which turns liquid darker when dissolved, as compared to refined white sugar.

As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.

This recipes follows a 2 part vinegar / 1 part water / 1 part sugar pickling ratio by which we usually abide. Using that ratio, pickles can be infinitely adjusted for more or less produce, different vinegars, alternate sugars, and a variety of herbs & spices!

Midnight Quick Pickles

Ingredients:
  • 5-6 small pickling cucumbers
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp dill
Instructions:
  1. Slice the cucumbers and place in a large mason jar or similar.
  2. Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat. Leave sitting out or refrigerate until cool.
  4. Pour cool pickling liquid over the sliced cucumbers.
  5. Refrigerate for several days. (They’re edible essentially immediately, but will have more flavor if you leave them be for 48+ hours.)

Baked Beef Empanadas

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Just a few weeks ago, we shared our Farewell Columbia homage to our food faves from our home for the past three-ish years. One of Ally’s favorite things to do in Columbia was to walk up and down the market, pretending like she might branch out, but then settle back on her favorite empanadas for brunch. Can’t blame her! We’ve been a little apprehensive to make empanadas at home for fear we won’t do them justice. But since we have time off between graduation and starting our new jobs, we’ve promised ourselves that we would attempt some of the more intimidating/time-consuming/difficult dishes that we’ve been too afraid to try! Fingers crossed 🤞🏽

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A lot of time when we attempt a recipe from a cuisine that we didn’t grow up cooking (ie: most of them), we struggle to find the authentic recipe. We don’t want to misrepresent anything on here. In standard fashion, we spent a lot of time scouring the internet for the perfect empanada dough recipe. For a basic empanada dough for baking, it seems that the biggest controversy is whether or not to use an egg in the dough. We decided to try no egg dough today. We mostly leaned on one of Ally’s favorite sites, Global Table Adventure, for our dough recipe and inspiration for the empanadas themselves. Her video of repulgue-ing the dough edges was really helpful! While Sasha made empanadas for her Argentina meal, we didn’t add the more traditional Argentine ingredients (hard-boiled egg, olives) to ours tonight – we wanted to start our homemade empanada adventure with a basic recipe. We also consulted an article – Common Empanada Mistakes – for help too!

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Baked Beef Empanadas

(Roughly adapted from Global Table Adventure)
Ingredients:
  • Dough
    • 4 cups AP flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 16 tbsp (2 stick) cold butter
    • 1 – 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Filling
    • 1 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 6 cloves garlic
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (omit for those who can’t take the heat)
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 lb ground beef
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the dough first. Place the butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
    • Sift the salt into the flour.
    • Grate the cold butter into the flour.
    • Slowly stir the water into the mixture until a shaggy mixture forms. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and smush into a ball with your hands. (You don’t need to knead this dough!)
    • Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Once warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. The add the tomato paste and the herbs & spices. Cook another minute.
  4. Now add the meat to the pan. Break up into small pieces and cook until almost completely done.
  5. Refrigerate the filling while rolling out and cutting the dough. The filling should be cool before placing on the dough.
  6. Remove your dough from the fridge. Roll out into two circles, an 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a mold (or a cup or a bowl), cut out rounds of dough.
  7. Place a small dollop of meat into the center. Don’t overfill! Crimp the edges together to seal. (Check out the link in our post above or YouTube “repulgue” to get visual hints how to make it pretty!)
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
*Side note: these can be frozen prior to baking. They then can be baked from frozen, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Makes ~ 2 dozen – this obviously depends on the size you decide to make!

Summer Turkey Kofte

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We’ve chatted about köfte here before (see our post for Sultan Selim Kofte). Usually they are made from lamb and/or beef, but really köfte can be anything. The origin of the word is from the classic Persian, meaning “to pound” or “to grind.” This obviously describes the ground meat, but really works for many other ingredients. We’re having steaks tomorrow night (a new attempt – in the cast iron skillet, on the grill!) and didn’t want red meat two nights in a row, so we thought we’d try our hand at some white meat köftes.

With the lighter turkey and the addition of the cilantro, these were a perfect summer dinner. They’re so flavorful, that when I was eating them it actually took me a minute to remember that they were turkey instead of a heartier meat. We grilled ours for ultimate summer-ness, but they would work well in a pan or under a broiler I suspect. There is a lot of delicious juice, so you want something to soak it all up. We had ours with flatbread, which was perfect for mopping up the plate, but rice or couscous would be great too.

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Side note: You may notice in our pictures that we skewered ours on the grill. This is definitely unnecessary and probably hurt us a little bit. Next time I’ll put them directly on the grill. 

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Blue Ridge Mountain sunsets just make dinner that much better!

Summer Turkey Kofte

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground turkey (85/15)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Combine all of the ingredients together. Can be done ahead of time and refrigerated for enhanced flavor melding.
  2. Get you grill ready or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Form oblong köftes. Grill over medium-high heat for just 3-4 minutes on each side.
  4. Serve with rice or flatbread. Hummus, veggies, feta, and/or tzatziki would go well too!
Serves 3-4

Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

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It seems like people have very strong feelings about cast iron skillets, positive or negative. Those who don’t own or use cast iron skillets regularly sometimes are scared of using them, because they think they’re hard to care for. The seasoning of the skillet is a little intimidating unless you’ve read a little bit about it. But on the other hand, those people who own and use cast iron skillets really love theirs. Prior to this past Christmas, we probably the only South Carolinians who didn’t own one.

We’ve been using it these past months for burgers and steaks, and we definitely are on Team Cast Iron Skillet now. But we also got a cast iron skillet cookbook for Christmas and had yet to make anything out of it. These scones were our first choice out of there and accidentally, were perfect for today! We didn’t plan it that way, but what is more perfectly British than a scone? And on today, Royal Wedding Day, where Americans pretend we didn’t rebel against the crown and join the rest of the world in being awe-struck by the pageantry of it all, what better day to share this scone recipe! We’ve now moved on from watching the Royal Wedding to English Premier League soccer football, so we’re basically British today 🇬🇧

We really enjoyed these scones. They aren’t overly cheesy, but have a nice flavor. We topped them with our Bacon Jam, which was basically magical. They stayed nice and moist in the middle, which is great since I think some dislike scones, thinking they’re too dry. And honestly, they’re really nothing like what you think a traditional British scone would be. You probably wouldn’t serve this with clotted cream or Earl Grey. They taste like they came from a Southern cook, instead of a British one, but we’ll pretend.

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Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)
Ingredients:
  • 8+ tbsp very cold butter*
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
*COLD butter is important. Try this: place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the scones. Use a grater to cut into small pieces.
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Whisk together the liquid ingredients and then stir in the cheese and shallots.
  4. Work the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Gently combine with your hands.
  5. Stir the bowl of wet ingredients into the dry bowl + butter. Don’t over-combine, as best you can.
  6. Once the dough has just come together, flour your hands and counter-top and then knead the dough just a few times.
  7. Grease the cast iron skillet with butter. Turn the ball of dough into the skillet and pat down until it completely covers the bottom of the skillet. Slice the dough about 2/3s of the way through into triangles. (Cutting 8 slices is easy, but you can go bigger or smaller.)
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and finish the slice all the way through before serving.
Makes 8-12 scones

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

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You know how avocado toast suddenly became a thing? Kudos to whoever first thought, “Hmm… let me smash some avocado on a piece of bread, top it was something Instagrammable, and see if people will pay 10 times more than the ingredients are worth for it…” #avocadotoast And Instagram has never been the same.

Well I’m here to tell you that ricotta toast is the next avocado toast. Dare I say it… It may be bigger than avocado toast. Unlike the avocado, ricotta can pair with sweet or savory ingredients. I really can’t think of anything that wouldn’t work with ricotta. And that white background will provide quite the Instagrammable contrast for the toppings. We have a ways to go until my theory is proven – #avocadotoast has been used more than 760,000 times on Instagram, while #ricottatoast is hovering just under 3,000. I always favor the underdog 💪🏼💪🏼

I’ve seen ricotta toast on a few restaurant menus (and a few Instagram shots) and thought it’d be perfect for my breakfast. I have leftover ricotta from our Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle dish the other night. Leftover basil makes an appearance on this one too. Best part about this breakfast was that every ingredient already resided in my kitchen. All of these proportions and ingredients could easily be adjusted to personal tastes as well.

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Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Ingredients:
  • Slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • A few strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (preferably a thicker, more syrupy type)
  • Fresh basil, torn
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Toast your bread.
  2. Smear the toast with ricotta.
  3. Top with strawberries, basil, a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  4. Instagram your creation.

Southern Pimento Cheese

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A ways back, in our first year of the blog, we made pimento cheese as Christmas gifts in honor of our new home in South Carolina. We made two varieties – Selim created Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese, and Ally made a more traditional version. For some reason, we didn’t share the traditional recipe at the time, probably because we were so wowed by the dressed up variety. We’ll remedy that here today!

Some of our very favorite Clevelanders are passing through town today ❤ When we were trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, Sarah wanted to “go back to that place we went last time” they were in Columbia, “the one with the pimento cheese.” [Shout out to DiPrato’s – their pimento cheese really is legendary, as are their inexplicable warm and fluffy pita chips!] So we thought today would be the perfect day to whip up another homemade batch – some for them and some for us! Ally could live off of pimento cheese and crackers, probably for the rest of her life, so it’s really a win-win!

We stuck with the basics for this pimento cheese recipe – cheddar, pimentos, and mayo… well, homemade mayonnaise for us! Selim is the king of whipping up aioli or mayo by hand. We added a pinch of extras, just because we can’t help ourselves, but there’s not too much to distract from the cheese. We prefer our pimento cheese to be lighter on the mayonnaise, attempting not to over-blend the shredded cheese. Our ratio of cheese to pimentos definitely favors the cheese. Hand-shredded cheese is preferable to pre-shredded. And heaven forbid – we do not add cream cheese to ours!

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Southern Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 16oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 heaping tbsp chopped pimentos
  • 1 tsp worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt to taste
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the mayo. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites and discard the whites. Whisk the yolk. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  2. By hand, mix together the aioli with the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Once combined, add salt to taste at the end.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Makes a little more than 2 cups