Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

Vegetarian

Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad

Salad, Sides, Summer, Vegetarian, Recipe, Make-aheadLeannda Cavalier1 Comment

This light and refreshing salad packs a tangy punch, but has just enough sweetness to balance out the pucker factor. Crunchy cucumbers and onions mingle with juicy tomatoes and summery herbs to make a colorful side for family dinner, or the perfect easy pot luck dish.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

Just here for the cukes, thanks. Jump to the recipe, please!

Holy pho, life has been moving lightning fast lately for our family.

In the past three weeks my catering, teaching and sideline reporting jobs have all started back up, featuring two road games 7-10 hours away and lots of muggy, 90º days. I’ve shot a ton of recipes (more than I’ve posted) so this blog doesn’t fall off the face of the earth this Fall. We’re also scrambling to get ready for our baby—who is due in 8 weeks (what?!)—by taking childbirth education classes and hiring a doula, along with the now bi-weekly midwife appointments (all of which are 40 minutes away).

I love all the things I do, or I wouldn’t do them, and indulging my nesting instincts has been fantastic. That said my feet hurt, my intentions to read all the baby literature are quickly going out the window, and I’m in need of a little simplicity.

Enter Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad. Simplicity and nostalgia soaked in a delicious blend of vinegar and herbs.

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I’ve always said I’m not a huge fan of most the kind of “salads” you find at picnics. Heavily mayo-ed potato and pasta salads, just about any “salad” compared of meats. Fruit salad can be good if it’s not all canned fruit. But this is one I can get behind unquestionably.

One of my favorite snacks is actually just sliced cucumber drizzled with a little vinegar, salt and pepper. My Pop-Pop used to keep a section of the garden just for me with cucumbers and watermelon because I ate them all (also growing the watermelon was my idea, so it was only fair, really).

I can’t even explain how excited I this summer when my morning sickness FINALLY let up enough to let me have my first cucumber snack. It was such a relief to stop living on granola bars and getting all my veggies from fruit squeeze pouches.

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I grew up with my Ya-ya’s version of cucumber salad, which I can’t get enough of when I visit home. Hers is just thinly sliced cucumbers and white onions in white vinegar with salt and pepper. Full stop.

It’s so simple, but so incredibly good, and it goes SO well with the sweltering summer sun and/or a lack of air conditioning in the summer, let me tell you from experience. My house only had a window unit in one room, and my Ya-ya’s house (where I spent at least half my childhood), to this day only has air conditioning in the bedrooms.

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I think everybody’s grandma has a version of cucumber salad where I grew up, as the majority of families are Italian, Polish or Balkan. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one yet.

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Why add the tomatoes? Why NOT add tomatoes? I’ve had variations with and without, but at this time of year when there’s an abundance, I see no reason to hold back.

Shallots fit nicely in this recipe too, rather than the standard red or white onions. Their flavor is a little softer and they bring a nice color to the party. They’re a little thinner, so they don’t take up a lot of real estate, plus they absorb the marinade nicely so you don’t get such a shockingly pungent bite if you’re not watching your onion-to-everything-else ratio closely.

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You can certainly use fresh herbs, as I do sometimes, but lately I’ve been loving partially dried basil. The grocery store closest to my house is hit or miss with fresh herbs, especially basil—sometimes it’s all going bad on the shelf and they often don’t have it at all. Partially dried basil has much better flavor than dried (which I rarely use), and it can stay in your refrigerator much longer than fresh leaves.

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Since moving to the South I’ve encountered something pretty new to me… super SWEET tomato and cucumber salad in a marinade so think it’s almost like a vinaigrette. It’s delicious, but it’s also a lot. To me, marinated cucumber and tomato salad is ideally about simplicity.

Besides, I still like the stuff from home, so I compromise: I add a little sugar (or sometimes honey), but not enough to make it syrupy or sweet to the point where it loses its kick or stops being cooling. Let the vinegar have it’s moment in the sun, please. 

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I also like to hold back on the olive oil a little bit, I don’t want this dish feeling greasy, or it defeats the purpose for me. I’m all about this remaining a light delight. 

The reason I cover Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad tightly with plastic wrap is because it lets the liquid cover the veggies without wasting vinegar just to make sure everything is completely covered. Yes, eventually the vegetables would soak up the liquid even if they aren’t entirely covered, but that takes time and I’m not about that for this dish.

You’ll want to makes sure you squeeze as much of the air out as possible, or it defeats the purpose. The goal is to get all that liquid to travel up around the veggies so it can really soak in.

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And the reveal. Gorgeous.

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Today I’m forcing myself to rest, but I don’t see things slowing down for us anytime soon, and if history is to be trusted, it’s going to continue to feel like summer here until well into the actual fall. I see a lot of this simple Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad in my future.

I’m not mad about it.

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If you make this, snap a pic and show me! I’d love to know how it went. Just tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen.

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Let's get marinating!

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Tricolore Pear Salad

Dinner, Vegetarian, Summer, Fall, Italian, Recipe, Salad, SidesLeannda CavalierComment

Sweet, soft pears and pine nuts complement a mix of buttery, nutty and bitter lettuces dressed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

I need summa those sweet greens—jump to the recipe, please!

Summer isn't over yet and I'm trying to squeeze out every last drop, but... fall has undeniably started creeping into my thoughts. Maybe it's just from spending the majority of my life in school and teaching, but once August hits everything goes into overdrive, hurtling toward September like a defensive end on a pass rush. 

I truly love fall. I love the start of school and football. I love the foliage and wearing sleeves again. I love pumpkins and bold spices. But it still feels like everything summer is ending way too fast. Pools are closing and I'm seeing school buses everywhere. Didn't we just do the Fourth of July? 

Luckily, I've got the perfect dish if you're also struggling to accept all that comes with the inevitable shift from summer nights to autumn evenings.

This Tricolore Pear Salad is incredibly simple from the short ingredient list to the simple dressing, but trust me, it has an undeniable wow factor. 

It's based on the classic Italian insalata tricolore, which uses a mix of dark and light lettuces brilliantly to balance bitterness and sweetness as well as softness and crunch. It also happens to feature the three colors of the Italian flag, green, red and white. 

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Some also call caprese salads insalata tricolore, which makes sense with the color theme, but we'll leave that in its own pedestal where it belongs. 

I do a little catering as a side job, mostly for small events, but sometimes I do personal catering too. I developed this Tricolore Pear Salad for a client whose family wanted to eat a version of the paleo diet, in an effort to keep the choices from getting stale and, oh boy, I could not have predicted what happened.

He told me the first time he picked up the salad that he had never had a fresh pear before—which is actually something I hear pretty frequently about peaches and pears—so nobody here really knew what to expect. 

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They LOVED it. Like ordered it multiple times a week from there on out. It got to the point where I was visiting multiple grocery stores a multiple times a week because I was buying out all the ingredients for it. Once we got into the later fall and fresh pears got harder to find, I had to limit the amount of times they could order just because I literally could not find enough ingredients.

It was a problem, but you know, a nice one. If you guys are reading this, know I love you and your pear madness!

I recommend using green d'anjou pears for this salad, though I've also used green and red bartletts with great results. There's just something special about a d'anjou pear—it's sweet and buttery with just enough crispness. Red ones are nice later in the fall as they're a little more robust.

Whatever you do, use a good one! If all the d'anjous are rock hard? Move on to the next kind. If it's so soft it falls apart in your hand? 

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You got a million ways to get it. Choose one

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I've actually been putting pears on salad for years now, usually in an arugula salad with goat cheese and a sweeter dressing, but I think using no cheese, a more acidic dressing and bitter chicory takes this salad up several notches. 

It's pretty common to serve a tricolore salad with shaved parmesan, but I actually really like this salad without the cheese. The softness of the pears and the nuttiness of the pine nuts and arugula pretty well takes care of that desire for me in this case. 

Speaking of simplifying the dressing, HOLY COW is this EASY. Just combine three ingredients and shake. If you want, you can switch it up with other vinegars or add other things (I might add a garlic clove and let it sit for a different salad), but there's no need, and you probably have balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt on hand already if you cook often. 

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I can't say enough about how much I love this aspect of Italian cooking. I'm a person who tends to make things much more complicated than they need to be, which is sometimes good, and sometimes makes my life a living hell.

Maybe that's why I go back to Italian food so often. Or maybe it's that my husband is Italian, I'm coastal Croatian, and Italian food is TASTY.  

One piece of advice I do have is that when you're making something so simple, use the best quality ingredients you can find. That's one of the reasons simplicity works so well in Italy: pretty much everything they use is grown nearby and freshness is key (with exceptions, of course, because they clearly know how to preserve tomatoes and cheese like wow).

I'm not telling you to break the bank here, but I am saying you can uplevel your kitchen game approximately 100 notches just by investing in a good extra virgin olive oil for cold foods like salads. I typically buy an okay brand in bulk for cooking, but I keep a big bottle of my one of my favorites on hand for dressings and drizzle. 

What are my favorites? I love going to an olive oil specialty store and doing a tasting to figure that out. My favorite is Oil & Vinegar in Greenville, South Carolina. Their products are all high-quality, their staff is super knowledgable (but not snobby!) and they're so friendly and enthusiastic that it's tough to want to buy anywhere else.

My most recent buy, pictured in the background above, was their extra virgin olive oil from Puglia , and it is SO good—robust, peppery and a little sweet. It's got low acidity and high polyphenols (antioxidants), making the flavor more intense and the oil better for you. 

That being said, if you just wanna pick some up from the grocery store or order some from Amazon, that's totally cool too. In that case I encourage you to experiment, but I recommend California Olive Ranch EVOO as a good starting point. 

Here are a few things to pay attention to if you're picking one up on your own: 

How to choose a grocery store olive oil: 

  1. Is it fresh? Most good olive oil brands will have a harvest date somewhere on the bottle, as olive oil doesn't necessarily age well. 
  2. How is it bottled? Olive oil should be stored in a cold dark place, so a dark, glass bottle is the best packaging. You don't want the oil deteriorating as it sits in the truck. 
  3. Where is it from? Check the country or region of origin. First of all, it should only have one. Second, foreign isn't always best, as the further away it is, the longer it probably took to ship and the harder it is to find out about the source. This is why I recommend California Ranch Olive Oil. Now if you're buying imported oil from a specialty store, you can probably go for it safely as they will be more discerning about the source.
  4. How long is the ingredient list? Hint: it should only list one thing. Extra virgin olive oil. 
  5. Is it cold-pressed? Good olive oil is processed with olives that are crushed and pressed without help from heat or chemicals, so the bottle should say cold-pressed. According to Larousse Gastronomique, this designation doesn't necessarily tell us much anymore as processors now have machines that are temperature-controlled, even if they don't use traditional extraction methods. First-pressed means virtually nothing as modern methods don't typically require a second press. Still, if a bottle doesn't even bother saying it? I'd steer clear unless you know the person who made it.
  6. Other factors? Higher polyphenols means more antioxidants and a bolder flavor. The lower the acidity, the better (extra virgin olive oil must have less than 1 percent acidity). You might not be able to find this information on bottles of grocery store olive oil, which is okay, but it's a good sign if you can. 

If all else fails, try out Google University! Here's a great article from The Kitchn that does the work for you with recommendations from Italian cooks.

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I tend to give balsamic vinegar a bit more of a pass, for better or for worse. Don't get me wrong, really good balsamic vinegar makes a huge difference, and you should get an aged vinegar marked Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale with a D.O.P. certification if possible. The thing is... a lot of grocery store brands are pretty good in their own right, and purity is less of an issue. 

That being said, if you live near a specialty store, go in for a tasting! A top-quality balsamic isn't as necessary to me as top-quality olive oil, but it is undoubtedly one of my favorite special occasion splurges. Especially a cherry-flavored one. Mmmmmm. 

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Now let's talk about that green. And red. And white.

You can make many variations of this salad depending on what's available (my local grocery stores don't always make it easy to find good greens), but here are the leafy ingredients I like to use:

  • Arugula (rocket) - A soft, nutty green and situation where stems are okay. You don't have to use it, but I highly recommend it.
  • Baby kale and baby Swiss chard - Soft versions of the big leafy bunches you know. Earthy and lightly bitter, but much more subtle than their later stage selves. You can often find a mix of these (sometimes along with arugula, spinach and other young greens) marketed as "super greens". Bonus: baby swiss kale adds a nice aesthetic touch with its bright pink stems. 
  • Radicchio - It looks like thin red cabbage, but it's not! Radicchio is an Italian chicory with a mildly spicy, slightly bitter flavor. It's not thick and woody like cabbage (and doesn't have the same side effects), but it does still have a crunchy bite. Don't sub in red cabbage. Just don't.
  • Belgian endive - Another chicory plant with delicate, buttery leaves and a nice crunch. This one is a little bitter too, but it's subtle and it works with the dressing and pears. Embrace the bitterness. I typically peel off the outer leaves and then cut off the hard bottom as needed to pull the rest off easily, but you can also cut a cone into the bottom to get all the leaves off at once. 
  • Substitutions - Some of these can be a little hard to find, I'll admit. I don't know if I'd made this unless I can find at least two of them or else it's a different salad, but here are some recommendations. In a pinch, I've used baby romaine instead of endive. It's not the same, but it has a similar texture. If you can't find radicchio, seriously, don't use red cabbage. My grocery stores typically have a box of four "artisan lettuce" varieties that typically include chicories you could use instead. If it's curly and spindly, it's probably a chicory or something with similar flavor.  For the darker greens you could use spring mix if you have to.
  • Red Cabbage - Just don't! I'm warning you.
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The last, but definitely not least important element of my Tricolore Pear Salad is the toasted pine nuts, and yes, I do think toasting them makes a big difference when you're eating them raw. Pine nuts are earthy little tree nuts that give pesto its nutty flavor.

They're much milder than pecans and softer than almonds, which you might typically put in a sweeter salad. I would almost call them creamy based on the feeling of chewing them. 

Toasting them may feel like one more step, but it's super easy and fast. The one skill you need to have is vigilance. 

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How to toast pine nuts: 

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
  2. Pour in the pine nuts and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes, or until you start to smell them and they leave grease trails on the bottom of the pan, and remove them to a plate to cool. Watch them closely and if they start to brown or smoke, remove them to a plate immediately so they don't burn.
  3. That's it!
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This Tricolore Pear Salad is far from rabbit food, and I have family/friends/happy customers to back me up on that if you don't believe me. BUT I hope you'll make it to find out for yourself! You could even make it into an entire meal instead of a side dish by adding a little chicken or even sliced steak, which I sometimes do when I pack up the leftovers for lunch the next day. 

If you do make it, let me know by sharing a photo with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tagging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You can also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest to help out others looking for a salad they don't have to force themselves to eat!

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Let's get this pear party started!

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Summer Party Panzanella

Dinner, Italian, Party, Recipe, Salad, Slow Food, Summer, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

This Italian bread salad boasts the best summer garden bounties and toasted bread cubes, all tossed in a tangy white wine vinaigrette. It’s big enough to bring to your block party—and keeps well enough to keep all to yourself. 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

Ready to party but less ready to read? Click here to jump straight to the recipe. 

Is there any better feeling than walking out to the garden on a sunny day, picking a juicy cucumber, rinsing it off, and eating it right then and there like an apple? Adding a sprinkle of salt and a splash of vinegar might enhance things a bit, but otherwise, probably not.

Growing up in Wellsburg, West Virginia it seemed like every other house had a garden, or at least a vegetable patch. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more abound. Though my Pop-Pop’s garden was huge and we had some tomatoes and peppers sprouting at my house most years, neighbors would still bring over grocery bags full of their extra bounty all summer.

This is what July tastes like. 

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I could walk outside, grab a cucumber, rinse it off and eat it like an apple—and never run out as long as it was warm! I thought I fully appreciated it then, but now that I have a shady yard hundreds of miles away, I’m really missing the abondanza.

Whether you have a plentiful garden, a bustling farmers' market, or even a decent grocery store, sometimes you just end up staring at all those beautiful veggies thinking, "okay, but what am I actually going to do with all of this?!"

Enter panzanella.

What is panzanella?

Um, just the manifestation of summertime joy and happiness. With bread.

What is it really? A bread salad filled with all your favorite summer produce. I think everyone makes it a little differently, but I like a good mix of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and basil. 

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Add a deliciously tangy white wine vinaigrette for good measure and you're golden. Well, golden and all the other colors that taste good. 

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This summer party panzanella lives up to its name. Panzanella in general is great for cookouts because it can safely sit out at room temperature, plus it's best after sitting for a while. Primo vegetarian option, but no one is skipping this dish just because it's not barbecue. 

This specific panzanella recipe has another advantage: the bread is toasted in the oven rather than pan-fried. I do realize both stovetops and ovens are hot (especially in the middle of summer), but the oven method is so much faster, less messy and less greasy-feeling. It’s also a little easier to evenly cook the bread this way.

Hold up, is the bread cooked in authentic panzanella?

Classic panzanella, as it's made in Italy, features stale bread soaked in vinaigrette and tomato juice in yet another example of what I love about Tuscan cooking—finding a way to use what's around and still managing to make it irresistible.

Somehow over the years, especially in American versions, it's evolved a bit to the point where we're grilling, frying or toasting the bread to dry it out enough to really soak up the vinaigrette. I'm gonna be honest. I REALLY like it that way. The texture. The flavor of the slightly browned bread. The crisp from the hot olive oil. Everything about it. 

How do you toast bread for panzanella? Simple. Just toss it in a little olive oil and salt...

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Toast it in the oven until it's just turning golden-brown, turn the oven off, and leave it for a few minutes to dry off.

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That's. It. 

Another difference from panzanella purist recipes? The OG dish is typically made with bread, tomatoes, onions, vinaigrette, maybe basil, and that's it. Sounds delicious, but I have all this amazing produce laying around and it all tastes SO good together. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's a time and a place for making food perfectly authentic, and I'm all about knowing the rules, but you're missing out on some incredible food if you're not willing to be a rule-breaker sometimes. 

HOWEVER, there is one unbreakable rule here. 

This recipe is great for bread that's a day or two old and starting to get a little stale, but for just about everything else it's all about freshness. That goes for all the vegetables down to using garlic you cut yourself—not the jarred stuff. This is a true peak of summer recipe. If you’re not eating all your ingredients as fresh (and ripe) as possible, don’t make this.

You’ll thank me when you take a bite.

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I like to make this with red and orange bell peppers (orange are my favorite to eat raw), but yellow is great too. Green peppers are a little too grassy for me in this particular recipe, but hey, try it out if you have some on hand you want to use up. Let me know how it goes!

I’ve made summer party panzanella for a bridal shower, for dinner parties, for hungry football players who helped us move, and plenty of times on regular old weeknights. My husband and I have been known to destroy one of these in 24 hours—yeah, that’s an entire loaf of bread for two. Yikes. Such a good yikes. 

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As it sits, the vinaigrette and the juices from all those veggies meld and soak into the bread for such explosive flavor that you don't even need fireworks, okay? Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, because you can blow minds all on your own with this. 

Some people will beg you for this recipe. Everyone else will just ask you to make more. 

Luckily for me, we do travel to the land of veggie-sharing (aka West Virginia) pretty often during the summer. I'm actually surrounded by fresh tomatoes and basil at this very moment, some of which I just ate in a frittata. We also live fairly close to some great farmers markets and the famous Grainger County tomatoes in Tennessee, so I’m not completely missing out.

Still, if you live in a community like the one I grew up in, know I’m jealous. Go out and pick the biggest, most misshapen, sun-ripened tomato you can find and slice it up with some salt for me!

So what's the produce situation in your area, and what's your fave summer vegetable or fruit? A super-ripe peach or plum might be runners-up to tomatoes and cucumbers for me. Basil and mint are great too though... Oh God, I almost forgot watermelon! For the record, that was an actual, unedited stream of consciousness.

Anyway, freshen up the comments below with your picks!

If you try out this summer party panzanella, let me know by sharing a photo with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tagging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You can also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest to help others find it too!

Let's get toasting!

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Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce with Gnocchi

Dinner, Comfort Food, Italian, Recipe, Sauces, Winter, Pasta, VegetarianLeannda Cavalier4 Comments

A rich, creamy pasta sauce with sweet onions, savory tomatoes, peppery seasonings and sharp parmesan. This sauce is versatile and easy to throw together with things you probably already have. 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions!

My belly is growling. Jump to the recipe, please!

Have you ever noticed how much colder it feels when it's already been warm and the temperature dips back down? I've been walking around for weeks without needing a coat, and it's SNOWING today! My body is reacting like it's sub-zero in my nearly 70º house. I'm dealing. 

So on a shivery, grey day what better to warm up with than a hearty plate of gnocchi?

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I got the idea for this recipe while shopping at one of my favorite health food stores after a long day out in Knoxville. I was so tired, but I really wanted to eat well that night. Knowing I had a good hour-long drive home, I was looking for convenience food, but like, good convenience food. Something I would feel good about eating and re-eating for lunch the next day.

I settled on a few different kinds of frozen ravioli you can buy in bulk—red pepper eggplant, spinach ricotta, one with sausage, I think—and some vegetables. So I just needed a sauce.

I wandered over to the refrigerated section where they have fresh sauces I always want to try, and saw this incredible-looking vidalia onion sauce that REALLY pulled me in. I could smell it. I could taste it. I was ready to drink it. But it was too expensive for me to justify at that moment.

Listen, I’m not above spending nearly $8 on a little jar of sauce I want to try, but I was already almost over my grocery budget and the ravioli was reasonable, but not exactly cheap. Plus, I knew I could make it at home. I mentally noted the color and texture of the sauce, glanced at the description on the jar and made a plan. 

The best part? I already had all the ingredients. In fact I always have these ingredients, and if you cook often, you likely do too. 

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This sauce goes great with gnocchi texturally because while it’s thick, it’s pretty smooth. It wraps around the ravioli like the edible manifestation of a bear hug. Beyond that soft, pillowy gnocchi makes a tasty canvas for the sweet and savory flavor of this Roasted Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce.

This Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce is super easy to make, and it comes together pretty quickly. It's going to be really great for you if you aren't a fan of doing a lot of chopping, or if you're just too tired to do a bunch of that tonight—which I totally get. It's the reason I thought about buying the sauce in the first place!

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The plan I made in the store was pretty simple, and I was pretty sure I could knock it out in about half an hour. I just needed to roast some sweet onions until they were a little caramelly, and incorporate them into a simple tomato sauce. 

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Like I said, I was pretty worn out, and besides, roasting the onions whole seemed like the way to go. So what to do? Bring out the blender. It honestly made things go so quickly. I just simmered the tomatoes while the onions were in the oven, added everything to the blender, and voila! 

Beautiful sauce that tasted like a lot more work went into it.

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Now for some salt, fat, acid and heat action. A little honey, red pepper flakes, white wine vinegar, basil parmesan cheese and cream go in to build a sauce that tastes like it came from a restaurant (or an $8 jar at a health food store). 

Whirrrrrrr it up.

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I’ve also tried the sauce with pork loin (amazing) and I’m sure it would go with chicken or steak. Probably even with some seafoods like mussels or scallops. It would work well with long noodles such as spaghetti or linguine, with ravioli or other stuffed pastas—really with just about any pasta.

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I have mixed feelings on the “rules” of pasta. I get the point. Pesto goes will with pastas it can stick to rather than pool in. Pastas with hollow shapes are going to go well with sauces they can scoop up like tasty little spoons. The thing is, some people have hard and fast rules just for authenticity’s sake.

I think authenticity has a time and a place, and I can appreciate it. On the other hand, if I want bolognese sauce and only have angel hair on hand, I’m not going to the store just for authenticity’s sake. Besides, why shut down creativity or experimentation? 

Personally, I think it’s worth knowing the rules—if only so you can break them mindfully. 

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There's something so satisfying about knowing you made it yourself, right? 

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Oh, hey, and it's Lenten Friday friendly! I swear I didn't intend to post a chicken recipe on a Friday last time. 

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If you like this recipe, you may want to sign up for my email list for more. If you sign up, you get a free guide to overcoming one of the biggest commonalities of people who say they're not good at cooking—and one of the easiest things to fix! Just click on the graphic below to sign up and download.

P.S. If you ever need help with a recipe or have a question, please reach out. I'd love to help!

Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and let me know! You can always tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (links below), or use the tried it feature on Pinterest.

Until then I'll be here trying to warm up, and hoping all our flowers still bloom and plums and grapes still come in, unlike last year after a 75º February and a bunch of cold snaps. Give me something to look forward to here. 

Let's get roasting!

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Nutrition Facts for Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce (without Gnocchi and Kale)

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Nutrition Facts for Gnocchi with Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce and Kale

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Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast, Fall, Make-ahead, Recipe, Slow Food, Winter, Vegetarian, Comfort FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Hearty steel-cut oats toasted in browned butter get the full pumpkin spice treatment with real pumpkin puree, serious spice and less sugar than your average PS treat. A batch can feed a brunch bunch, or be stored in the refrigerator for a week of healthy breakfasts.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Too early to read the whole post: gimme that breakfast recipe already.

Two vital seasonal truths in my world right now: 1. Though we have left fall behind, I'm not yet finished with the pumpkin. 2. Though it's a new year and blah blah blah, it's TOO COLD for smoothie bowls. I need my breakfast to warm me up right now, thanks. 

One of my absolute favorite things to make for breakfast is steel-cut oats, and there are so many options out there. In fact, here's another recipe for apple-cinnamon steel-cut oats in case this one doesn't tickle your fancy.

Never made them? Nervous? Let me break it down for you:

How to cook steel-cut oats:

  1. Toast the oats in some butter or coconut oil over medium heat for a few minutes.
  2. Add about 3 cups boiling water for every 1 cup oats. 
  3. Cook on low for about half an hour.
  4. Add any flavorings and toppings you want.
  5. That's IT. 

The rest is playing with flavors, which is my spe-ci-al-i-ty.

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Steel-cut oats have a lot of advantages over your typical rolled oats, some of them health-related. They retain more of their nutrients through being less processed. They take longer for you to digest, keeping you full longer. You know what else? They're chewier, roastier and nuttier--all things I'll take over "faster" 99 percent of the time.

Besides, you can just make these ahead and reheat them. I'd much rather make one big batch of hearty, flavorful steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week than spend 5 minutes making decent quick oats every morning anyway.

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P.S. I actually do like rolled oats... meal planning my breakfasts with blueberry rolled oats I could microwave every morning kept me sane at my last full-time job, plus they're great for pancakes and cookies. But steel-cut oats? Pumpkin ones? Those are the approachable but aspirational mornings I'm generally going for.

They also keep me full for more than 15 minutes without seconds, which is honestly pretty impressive.

As for the pumpkin, surprise! Pumpkins are still in season for the winter! 

We tend to attach pumpkins to fall, which is when they come into season, but the favorite among squashes really shouldn’t disappear the moment you take your jack-o-lantern off your doorstep. (You did remember to do that, right? It’s okay, this is a safe space.)

I wavered a little on whether to call this recipe “pumpkin steel-cut oats” or “pumpkin spice steel-cut oats”. Isn’t that stupid? Well in terms of search engine optimization it’s not, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about all the crap women (and men brave enough to admit it) get for loving pumpkin spice.

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My thoughts? Pumpkin spice is delicious and a little over-hyped. Yes, both can be true. 

I shamelessly love a good pumpkin spice latte, especially homemade or one from Starbucks (gasp!). Pumpkin pie? Definitely. Pumpkin spice bread? Yeah! Pumpkin spice bagel? Double yeah. Pumpkin spice muffin? Why not? 

I don’t tend to like PSLs from many other places because the syrup often tastes nothing like pumpkin, but ultra-sugary fireballs (the candy, not the drink). Specifically fireballs that have already had most of the coating worn off.

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Other DOA pumpkin spice items for me include: gum, store-bought coffee creamers (actually those get a big no from me in general) and yogurt. No thank you, please. 

Anyway, maybe it's the seasonality, but pumpkin just feels like a special treat for me. There are plenty of reasons to use real pumpkin in your breakfast well past November. First, it’s delicious with said pumpkin spices. Second, you can easily store cans of it in your freezer. Third, lots of recipes call for a cup of pumpkin, and most cans come with 2.5 cups.

And hey, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. 

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This pumpkin spice steel-cut oats recipe is a great way to use leftover pumpkin puree if you’re anything like me and put it in the fridge with the best of intentions, but no solid plan. Wasted pumpkin is a sad sight (and a bad smell).

These steel-cut oats are so easy to put together, and most of the cook time only requires stirring every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn. Also know it’s okay if some oats do stick—I typically get a thin layer of them on the bottom of my dutch oven. 

I can usually get any stuck oats off pretty easily with a plastic scraper, but you can also put the empty pan back on the stove with some water and bring it to a boil to soften it up. The dutch oven pictured above is a 5.5 qt enameled cast-iron dutch oven from the Food Network. You don't have to use a dutch oven, but I like them for things that cook slowly like this. I also use mine almost daily anyway, so...

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Usually I prefer my oatmeal a little lumpy with milk poured over, of course I know lots of people like creamier oats. If that's you, no problema! Just add more water or milk. You can add another cup in the beginning, or you could stir it in at the end if you decide it's too thick for you.

Sometimes if I'm reaaaaally hungry I'll make creamier just so the water the oats absorb will make me feel full faster—and sometimes I just do it because I'm in a creamy oatmeal mood. It's a thing, just go with it.  

You can top these with whatever you want, but I really love a pat of butter, pepitas (extra protein, extra crunch), maple syrup and a splash of milk. I put some suggestions down in the recipe itself. 

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If you like this recipe, you may want to sign up for my email list for more. Everyone who signs up gets a freebie guide to getting organized in the kitchen, which is one of the biggest commonalities I see when people say they're not good at cooking—and one of the easiest things to fix! Just click on the graphic below to sign up and download. 

P.S. If you ever need help with a recipe or have a question, please reach out. I'd love to help!

Let's get simmering!

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Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and let me know! You can always tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (links below), or use the tried it feature on Pinterest.

Roasted summer squash and tomatoes

Recipe, Sides, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

Yellow squash, zucchini and grape tomatoes team up with herbs in this east side dish to sing the real song of summer. Nutritious and delicious, this simple side is surprisingly filling.

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Hear that? It's my stomach growling. Skip to the recipe, please.

If you could only ever have one side dish ever again, what would it be?

Honestly, I don't know if I could answer that myself. I'm kind of a side dish fiend. Sometimes I need to remind myself that you don't have to have 2-3 with every single meal. 

I like it all. Mac and cheese. Tabouli. Stuffing. Fruit salad. Sweet potato casserole. I love sides so much, sometimes I'll get a bunch of them as a meal if a restaurant has good ones. I do what I want. 

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Through it all, there's a soft spot in my heart for veggies. First, I just love the way they taste. Second, I love the way they make me feel. I know I'm doing something good for my body when I eat them, and it's a health solution that doesn't involve rocket science or too-good-to-be-true fixes.

As I get older... I can definitely feel if I'm not eating enough of them. 

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So if I really had to narrow down to my top five, roasted summer squash and tomatoes would for sure make the list. It's one of my most-made side dishes. It's such a favorite that a form of it was one of the four(!) side dishes at my wedding. It was also a frequent item on the menu when I was doing personal catering. 

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It takes a little prep to get it together, but what it comes down to is throwing a bunch of fresh foods on a sheet pan and roasting it until everything is nice and soft with some crispy spots. The zucchini and yellow squash are perfection when they start to get nice and roasty, especially with the garlic and shallots pitching in. The tomatoes add the perfect tangy twist, almost like a tomato sauce.

It's one of those dishes that tastes fresh and bright, but still comforting and satisfying. You're not going to regret only making one side dish if you choose wisely, and this is choosing wisely.

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Need a shortcut?

Mincing garlic and shallots will be the thing that turns a lot of people off of this recipe, I think. Both can seem daunting to beginners, and it might seem unnecessary to people who just want dinner on the table.

Here's the deal. If you're TRULY in a crunch, you can just cook the squash and tomatoes with some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and any herbs you have on hand. 

I get it, I really do. We’re all busy, and taking the time to make dinner can seem like such a killjoy when you’re on a roll with other tasks. I’ll be honest, I do this almost as much as I do it my preferred way if it's a weeknight.

BUT... and this is an important but. 

Here’s the thing. If you don’t do the work, you’ll never get better at cooking. Do you believe there will ever be a time when you’re less “busy”? Do you believe there will ever be a “right” time? 

There might be. Then again, if you’re one of those people who is constantly saying “yes” to the next challenge and who enjoys work, there might not be. 

A 2016 New York Times article about health habits to build in your 20s points out the decisions we make may be more long-term than we realize. That goes for heart health, how we look and feel, and potentially how much weight we carry.

Cooking is like anything else you do. It takes work.

It comes to some people a little easier than others, but ultimately what you get out of it is what you put into it. If you take a little time a couple of times a week and learn how to effectively do the basics—chop an onion, mince a shallot, crush and mince garlic, cut a tomato in a way that doesn’t leave you wondering if you’re doing it right… you will slowly but surely learn how to cook confidently and more quickly.

That’s the hard truth of cooking. Sometimes what makes it take so long is being in the beginning stages. Wavering over how long it’s going to take to cut an onion, rather than knowing it takes a minute or two with experience. Wobbling as you cut the potato, because how are you supposed to cut something round anyway? 

It takes practice. It takes being slow for a little while. But it's an investment with clear, guaranteed results. 

Listen, you have to eat. No matter what, you’ll have to spend some money, go someplace to get the food (cooked or not), and spend time waiting for and eating it. If you take just a few nights a week regularly to work on making it yourself, you WILL get better. 

You'll need to look some things up, maybe more than once. You may need to ask for help. You may burn a meal or two. But soon, you’ll figure things out well enough that the struggle won’t be how to get something cooked. Instead, it will be how much effort you feel like putting into it tonight.

To add a new ingredient or not? To leave out that hard-to-find, expensive ingredient you’re out of, or try a substitute? To bother plating it, or to let everyone serve themselves right from the stove?

 I'd serve that right. from. the. stove. 

I'd serve that right. from. the. stove. 

Not only will you develop skills, but your brain will start to recognize which flavors go together. What things cook similarly enough that you can put them together in the oven and not burn them. How to throw together a meal with what you found on manager’s special at the supermarket, or what came in your CSA box. 

You’ll learn to cook on the fly, and how to plan to cook based on your resources. THAT is how you get reasonably healthy meals on the table most days.

The goal for most of us, after all, isn’t to become a chef. That’s what culinary school is for. It’s to be able to cook tasty food that fuels your body. It’s to enjoy one of the pillars of life: creating food to eat with your loved ones.

Decent results for making a delicious side dish a couple times a week, right?

So, what's your favorite side dish of all time? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking to add something new to my ever-expanding list. 

As always, I want to hear from you! If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me! 

So let's get roasting!

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Before you go, I want to let you know about a resource I created. If you're still a little intimidated by anything outside of microwaving, I created it just for you!

The WhipSmart Kitchen Guide to Mise En Place is a workbook I put together to show you a method to the madness of cooking. You can use as much or as little of it as you like, but I think every beginning cook should at least get familiar with the concepts in this booklet. 

Just click below for a free download and let me know how you like it! 

Game-changing buttermilk drop scones

Breakfast, Recipe, VegetarianLeannda Cavalier3 Comments

A lightly sweet griddle cake perfect for butter and jam. Buttermilk and sour cream add tangy flavor and a tender, fluffy middle to this cousin of pancakes.

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I'm famished, drop the story and give me the scones.

A few months ago I learned about a griddle cake, and it's changed my life.

Okay, maybe that's hyperbolic—but only a little. I've truly made a batch nearly every week since then. 

They're called drop scones, but they're really not like scones at all. When you make drop biscuits, you start with a similar batter and get a biscuit-like dumpling hybrid. These are more like pancakes than anything else. In fact, these beauties are also called Scotch pancakes. 

So are drop scones the same thing as silver dollar pancakes?

Not really. For one, they're much thicker and they can hold their own and then some. Traditional pancakes are fork and knife food. If you hold one by the edge it's going to droop. Do the same to a drop scone and it will hold its shape. That makes them ideal for jam and butter, and for leftovers.

They're also sweeter, with sugar right in the batter. At the same time, they feel less like a dessert breakfast than pancakes depending on how you dress them up, which makes sense as drop scones are generally served over tea in the UK. Whenever you eat them, they're small and un-syrupy enough to work for everyday meals. 

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Drop scones, while new to me, are a time-tested recipe. They appeared to me in a vision, and by vision I mean in my Google Cards after binge-watching Netflix's "The Crown". I found this article which gives a recipe that it claims Queen Elizabeth II herself used, once making them for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I'm a sucker for food history, so I took the bait.

The recipe features some ingredients measured in teacups, which is just fantastic. It's always fascinating to me when handed-down recipes incorporate non-standard measures like teacups, cans and yogurt containers. 

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The first time, I made them almost exactly the way the recipe describes for the first batch, and they were delicious. The second time I added some orange zest, and that was pretty nice too! The third time, I realized I had run out of cream of tartar, and that stuff is... expensive. Also, fun fact, baking powder is made of baking soda mixed with dry acid, typically cream of tartar. Hmmm. 

 Drop Scones version 1.0 cooked in plenty of buttah. A little spongier, little thinner, little less rich. Still delicious. 

Drop Scones version 1.0 cooked in plenty of buttah. A little spongier, little thinner, little less rich. Still delicious. 

(Imprecise) Chemistry for non-chemists 

I decided to go with two teaspoons baking powder and one teaspoon baking soda. That doesn't exactly add up—technically the ratio would be somewhere between 6 and 8 teaspoons of baking powder 😳—but the thing with leaveners is that less is often more. Have you ever doubled a batch of leavened waffles? You increase the amount of everything but the yeast. Plenty of breads and other leavened goods behave the same way.

Sooooo, I guessed. 

Besides, I wanted to add some acid in the form of buttermilk and sour cream, which meant I could cut down on the dry acid. Buttermilk makes the end product more tender, and plus it reacts with the baking powder to help these little delights rise higher. I only added the sour cream to give the batter a little zip (think sour cream doughnuts). 

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One more change: I put the batter in time out for 10 minutes. Resting the batter makes certain the flour absorbs the liquid. The batter expands a bit too, filling up with tiny bubbles that will stay as you cook the drop scones. 

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Results

These tiny changes created puffier, ultra-tender drop scones with more flavor. More even browning with slightly crispier crust. Bliss? Pretty much. 

 Those dark spots are what happens when the pan is a liiiiittle too hot. Whaddayagunnado? Besides, you know, turn the heat down. 

Those dark spots are what happens when the pan is a liiiiittle too hot. Whaddayagunnado? Besides, you know, turn the heat down. 

 

One of the things I love about drop scones is how versatile they can be. 

Typically I'll grab one out of the refrigerator, toast it (!!!), spread on some butter and jam and have it for breakfast. Preferably with scrambled eggs. Perfetto.

 A gnawed cross section. For scientific purposes. 

A gnawed cross section. For scientific purposes. 

I'm also a big fan of snacking on them when I want something sweet after dinner. Toasted with little PB&J on top? Yes, please. Nutella? Let me think about that.

 I mean, was there ever really a question?

I mean, was there ever really a question?

Next experiment is drop scone sandwiches, but I'm saving that one for a rainy day.

There's something else. 

Right after you take drop scones off the stove. They're still steaming and you can smell the butter on them. They're a bit crisp on the outside, a little gooey in the middle. They're pretty much BEGGING for butter and maple syrup.

HOLD UP. Understand that if you do this, you'll be breaking a rule. Maybe even a cardinal rule? Now that you know that, also know that rule is the same kind that says not to put pesto on a sandwich or dip fries in your Frosty. BREAK IT, with zeal, ASAP.

So, what's your favorite breakfast food? Let me know in the comments! I'm always developing recipes, so I'd love to know what you like. 

As always, I want to hear from you! If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me! 

So let's drop some scones!

One last thing!

Thanks for reading this far! I'm so happy you're here. I really want you to get the most possible out of WhipSmart Kitchen—and really anything kitchen related in general. That's why I created The WhipSmart Kitchen Guide to Mise en Place: How to Get the Recipe Right Every Time. 

I know so many people struggle with cooking, and I truly believe most people could be better cooks with just a few adjustments, and maybe a shift in focus. This guide is designed to help you figure out what's holding you back, and build your confidence by dipping your toes in. 

I really hope you enjoy it!

Tangy, roasted tomatillo sauce

Mexican, Recipe, Sauces, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

A tangy, summery sauce that's both comforting and refreshing. Versatile enough to use over meats or in vegetarian dishes, this sauce works wonders over steak, chicken and pork; in tacos, salads or rice bowls; as a dipping sauce and more.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy any of the products I recommend. I only recommend products I believe in. That means I've used it myself in most cases, and at the very least have researched it thoroughly and find the company trustworthy. I would never recommend anything I wouldn't buy myself. I would love to answer any questions you have!

My belly is growling. Just skip to the recipe pleaaaase.

I like to play this game at the grocery store. I pick one item that I've never cooked with or eaten before, buy it, and learn how to do something tasty with it. Several years ago I put some tomatillos in my cart, and they've been regular LLC cart club members ever since. 

Tomatillos feature in some of my favorite recipes ever. The first dish I created with them was my own take on chicken enchiladas. You can find that recipe for chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce here, as it eventually turned into the first recipe I ever posted to my original blog.

Yes, tomatillos started it all ;)

I’m betting at least a few of you are asking if this is the same thing as a green tomato. No, no, no and nooooo.

Tomatillos are much more flavorful, more substantial and is fully ripe. Green tomatoes are unripe red ones. That’s why they taste so much more “green” than ripe tomatoes. They haven’t had the time and sun exposure to develop the sugars and acids their vine-ripened counterparts are known for. 

So please don't replace tomatillos with green tomatoes in a recipe (or vice versa). 

Tomatillos are used heavily in Mexican cuisine, and they're widely used and grown throughout South America as well.

You can use them cooked or as a raw ingredient, though there's a little something special to them when they're cooked along with garlic and some spice. They’re perfect for sauces either way, because they have a high pectin content.

Pectin is what gives jelly its jiggle. It kindly offers tomatillos a rich texture that accentuates their sour flavor. They're also fairly low in sugar, so while you can enhance their sweetness when you cook them, they don’t lose their acidic punch.

Cook them with savory ingredients and you can take things up several notches.

 Note: I did not use all the onions pictured for this recipe—some were for another application.

Note: I did not use all the onions pictured for this recipe—some were for another application.

Tomatillos aren’t necessarily hard to find in the U.S. especially in the South—the growing season is long, and nearly year-round in some places. Still, they’re kind of a specialty item, and it can be hard to find many good-looking, sizable ones at the same time. That’s why when you find a good bunch of them, you definitely seize the opportunity to make them into something delicious.

Another thing that's great about tomatillos? They're super easy to work with. This sauce proves it—when it comes down to it, all you really have to do is roast them with some onions, then blend them up with the rest of the ingredients. 

I use a slightly older version of this Ninja Master Prep Food Processor set for things like this. It was a wedding gift in 2014 and it's still going strong! I do a LOT of blending, and I highly recommend it. 

This sauce has a mouthfeel similar to gravy, and it’s just as comforting. On the other hand, it tastes fresh and light, not heavy and sleepy. It’s familiar enough to soothe, but also refreshing so that you won’t feel bogged down after dinner. 

If there is a healthy, summery comfort food, this is how it begins.

Another reason I love this sauce is that you can use it for SO many things. I developed the recipe when I was doing personal catering for clients on a paleo diet (loose paleo—yes, I know tomatillos are nightshades and discussed that with them :)). I wanted to make sure they weren't getting bored, so I served it over flat iron steak. Let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. I was a little nervous that it would be drowned out against the strong flavor and texture of the steak, but it held its own with no problem. 

Since then, II've used this sauce over steaks, chicken, pork and sweet potato hash; in tacos and even in salads and rice bowls. It's been to my table more times than I can remember, and it hasn't let me down yet. 

Here it is with its dream date, steak.

Now, for any tomatillo newbies, here's what you need to know to find, buy, clean and store tomatillos. 

I'm kind of a tomatillo expert, just give me the recipe please.

Where to buy tomatillos

I have been able to find them at most large grocery stores, and some farmers markets. If you live in an isolated area—West Virginia born & raised right here, everything is on or between mountains—it might be a little more difficult. 

First, don't be afraid to ask for help if you have trouble finding them. I have found these papery beauties in multiple places in different stores, and even the people who sell them don't always know what they're for (or even what they are, in some cases).

I've found them with the tomatoes, with the garlic and shallots,  randomly placed among the rest of the produce, and in setups just for hispanic foods.

Choosing the best of the bunch

First, make sure you look under the husks before you take your tomatillos home. Typically they're pretty easy to pull back, and if they're too tight, you can just rip them back a little.

Tomatillos should be bright green and plump. The size can range from smaller than a ping-pong ball to almost the size of a billiard ball—the bigger ones will be a little more developed, but it doesn't make much of a difference. They should feel fairly firm to the touch. Not hard like an apple, but not squishy like a tomato.

They shouldn't have a lot of brown spots or wrinkles, and they definitely shouldn't have mold or punctures. If a tomatillo has a few imperfections but they don't look deep or affect the firmness, you can probably just cut the them off and no one will know the difference.

How to clean tomatillos

All you have to do to husk a tomatillo is peel back the papery shells and pop them off.

Once the husks are off, the first thing you'll probably notice is the sticky film on the tomatillos' skin, almost like pine sap. That's perfectly normal, and it's actually pretty easy to remove. 

Just put them in some cold water and rub them with your hands. If they're really sticky, add a little white vinegar to help break it down. You have to wash produce anyway, so this step hardly takes any time. If they still feel a bit tacky after washing, don't worry about it, that's just how they are. 

How to store tomatillos

Unlike their tomato relatives, you can store tomatillos in the refrigerator. I usually keep them on the counter and just use them quickly. You can actually clean and cut them ahead and they'll keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. Just make sure they're dry before packing so they don't get moldy.

By the way...

It's toh-mah-tee-oh.

You may have guessed how to pronounce tomatillo already, but there's a good chance this saved at least a few people from frantically googling it (pretending to be texting someone—I know the drill) shortly before they had to say it out loud.

No judgement here. 

I mean, how could you even bother to judge anyone with this sauce proving the world is full of love and beauty?

As always, I want to hear from you! If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me! 

So what would you do with this tomatillo sauce? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Now, let's get saucy!