Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watermelon

As I mentioned in my "Growing Peppers" post, I grew watermelons for the first time this year. I went into this endeavor not really knowing what to expect and a little bit skeptical about the outcome. All-in-all, we had a horrible gardening season this year. None of our crops (corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) did that well, so I did not have high hopes for our watermelons. Let me tell you...we hit the jackpot! (And by "jackpot", I mean we have successfully grown one, delicious watermelon:)


Vining Watermelon Plant

I purchased a couple small watermelon plants from a local greenhouse, and planted them in mid-May. We watched the plant vine its way throughout the garden bed during June. Finally in early July, the vine began flowering (a male and female flower) and cute, little melons began growing. 

Rotten Watermelon
Young Melon
Much to my dismay, I started with about a dozen baby melons and was left with only three after something (perhaps a bug or insufficient pollination???) caused the remaining fruits to shrivel up and die. I desperately wanted to see these three petite gourds thrive!

Ripe Melon
Finally, one hot day last week in mid-August, the day had arrived to pick my first watermelon. I prepared for this day by scouring the internet to make sure I would pick a ripe melon. I really didn't want to cut the stem and slice it open only to find a white, under-ripe fruit. (I learned that melons do not ripen after you pick them, so once you cut the stem, it's a done deal.) I probably would have cried after all that work and such failure with the rest of the garden. From what I researched, here are a few ways to tell if your watermelon is ripe:

  • The bottom of the watermelon should be a yellow or creamy color, not white. 
  • When you tap the melon, it should sound like a "thump", not hollow. 
  • The curly-cue (or pig tail) next to the watermelon's stem should be brown and dead. 
  • The melon should feel heavier than it appears. 

Check, check, check, and check. My melon satisfied all of those requirements, so I took the kitchen shears (as I also read that you should cut the melon and not pull or pick it) and headed for the garden. Feel free to watch the exciting [note sarcasm:)] live footage of me picking the fruit from my garden:


I took the giant melon in the house and cut her open. Boy o' boy was I ever excited...we have a winner!



Here's some more footage of me cutting into the watermelon. I know you're just dying to see! ;)



I must admit that it was a little weird eating a watermelon with seeds. I can't remember the last time that's happened since all the watermelons in the store are seedless these days. Despite the minor annoyance of seed spitting (but really, isn't that the fun part?), there is nothing like letting the juice drip down your chin from eating a freshly picked watermelon in August. This really was the sweetest, juiciest melon I ate all year. Happy summer!
My husband made the perfect analogy after picking our very first watermelon. Our garden was like a game of golf, and this watermelon was our hole-in-one. Even though we had a really crumby round of golf (i.e., we had horrible success with our garden this year), that one hole-in-one (i.e., the lone watermelon) made us say, "yep...we'll be doing that again". Here's to more hole-in-ones!  
I kept a few seeds from our watermelon and dried them in hopes of planting a few watermelons from seed next year. We'll see how that little adventure turns out. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Salsa

Skill Level: Intermediate
Skills Attained: Roasting Vegetables
Supplies/Ingredients:
  • Baking Sheet (lined with foil)
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers (sweet and/or hot)
  • Cilantro
  • Lime Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Canned Chipotle in Adobo Sauce
  • Ground Cumin
  • Salt
Salsa holds a special place in my heart. I believe it's an essential condiment that no home should ever go without. Salsa pairs well with so many dishes: tacos, baked potatoes, hamburgers, and yes, even eggs. The dynamic chips and salsa duo satisfies my snack craving nearly 100 percent of the time. It also brings back fond memories of college as chips and salsa were the Raman Noodles of my college experience. 

Not only does salsa hold a special place in my heart, but I have observed that salsa can be a very personal condiment to others as well. Some people like a lot of heat while others prefer it mild. Some like chunky salsa while others prefer theirs pureed. Still others prefer to fruit their salsa with mangos or peaches. I've tried a number of salsa recipes in my day, and this recipe is one of the best -- if not THE best -- salsa I have ever made! Chunky with some smokey heat. In this post, I'll share with you my favorite salsa recipe....

Salsa is a great way to use your "ugly" produce. As you can see, my tomatoes don't look perfect. They have a lot of cracks and imperfections. I cut up and roast these bad boys, so a perfect exterior doesn't matter.

This recipe is quite adaptable, so you don't need a certain number of tomatoes. The more tomatoes you use, the more salsa you will yield. In this recipe, I use approximately 6 tomatoes, 2 green peppers, and 1-2 hot peppers (depending on how spicy you prefer your salsa). 


Wash the tomatoes and peppers and cut them in half. 


Remove the tomatoes' seeds by squeezing the tomatoes and using your fingers to remove the seeds. By removing the excess liquid, this will help prevent the salsa from being too runny. Cut the peppers in half length-wise as well. 


Arrange the tomatoes and peppers on a baking sheet lined with tin foil; adjust the rack to the highest level; and set the oven to a "high broil". Roast the produce until the skins are charred -- approximately 10 - 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it.




Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow it to cool until the tomatoes and peppers are cool to the touch.


Remove the charred skins from the peppers and tomatoes. 




Chop the roasted peppers and tomatoes into small pieces. You can really make the salsa your own at this point. If you like chunkier salsa, then cut the pieces larger. If you prefer a smoother consistency, then you could even stick it in a blender or food processor to puree. 
  


Combine the remaining ingredients with the roasted peppers and tomatoes. These ingredients are used for flavor purposes, so feel free to alter the amounts to your liking. Many salsa recipes I see include chopped onions. Personally, I don't care for the taste or texture of raw onions next to the roasted tomatoes and peppers, but you may want to include onions. Note that the chipotle peppers should be finely diced. Even if you like a chunkier salsa, the chipotles pack a lot of heat, and you wouldn't want to bite into a large piece of this smokey chile.

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced canned chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt to taste


Recipe:
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1-2 jalapenos (or other hot pepper)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced canned chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt to taste
  1. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes by cutting them in half and squeezing out the seeds and excess liquid. Cut the peppers in half length-wise. 
  2. Place the halved tomatoes and peppers face down on a tin foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven on "high broil" on the highest rack for 10-15 minutes -- or until charred. 
  3. Once cooled, remove the charred skins from the tomatoes and peppers. Chop them to desired consistency and place them in a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix with spoon. If you would like a smoother consistency, zip the salsa in a food processor or blender.