Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Tomatillo Salsa Verde, like pickled red onions, is a great condiment for Mexican food. The slightly acidic tomatillos make a mild green sauce that is perfect with delicate fish tacos.

The tomatillos that Ample Bites used in the preparation of this salsa came from the Ample Bite Vegetable Farm. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes that are encased in a thin husk but they taste nothing like tomatoes.


Tomatillo Salsa Verde
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, July 2014)

Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2 Serrano pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 strong dashes of Garlic Hot Sauce
Kosher salt

Puree the tomatillos in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree, adding water as needed, until smooth. Season with salt. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes

You’ve undoubtedly had many versions of twice-baked potatoes but you probably haven’t seen one quite like this one. Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes are actually boiled and then grilled and then topped with a decadent but simple crab salad. The Ample Bites version of this dish used big, fresh potatoes straight from the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm.


Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 6

6 russet potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 pound crab claw meat, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 minutes. Potatoes should be almost completely cooked through but still firm. Drain and allow the potatoes to cool until they can be handled by hand, about 10 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides of the potato halves with oil. Let stand for 5 minutes and then brush them again. Season the cut sides with salt and pepper to taste.

While the potatoes are boiling, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mayonnaise and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add the crabmeat, green onions, and parsley and fold together. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat grill to medium-high for direct grilling.

Put the potatoes on the grill cut side down and grill until there is a good sear and grill marks on the potato, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and grill for another 4 to 6 minutes.

To serve, place the potatoes on serving plates and spoon a generous portion of the crab salad over the cut side of the potato.

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Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly

The Ample Bites Vegetable Farm yielded just enough jalapeno peppers to give Ample Bites the opportunity to try canning for the first time. After scouring the Internet and studying a few cook books, including American Country Living – Canning and Preserving, Linda Ferrari, 1991, Ample Bites arrived at the following recipe.

Many of the recipes that I studied included green or red food coloring to impart a jalapeno hue to the jelly. Ample Bites opted to omit the food coloring and go “natural”.

A popular use for Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly is to spread it over cracker or bagels with warm cream cheese. The jelly can also be used to compliment soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert.

Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Makes about 4 (8 oz) jars

12 medium jalapeno pepper
2 cups cider vinegar, divided
6 cups sugar
2 3 ounce pouches of liquid pectin or 3 Tbsp powdered pectin
4 half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare the jars and lids in a large, deep saucepan in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

Remove stems and most of the seeds from the peppers. Puree peppers in food processor or blender with 1 cup cider vinegar until smooth. Do not strain the puree.

Combine the puree with remaining cup cider vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim any foam that may have formed.

Ladle the hot jelly into the hot jars leaving about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rim of each jar. Center a lid on each jar and apply band until fit is finger tight.

Process in a boiling water bath with the jars submerged under 2″ of water for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool for about 30 minutes. Invert the jars a few times after cooling to distribute the peppers evenly before the jelly completely sets.

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Freezing Tomatoes for the Winter

It is late September and the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm is still producing mass quantities of tomatoes. We have more than we can eat or give away so it is time to start preparing some of the fruit for use this winter. We have already frozen some tomato sauce and canned some tomato salsa. Some of this batch of tomatoes will be oven-roasted and then frozen. The oven-roasted tomatoes can be added to hearty winter soups and stews.

Today’s Tomato Harvest

Frozen Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

3 pounds tomatoes, halved
1 – 2 heads garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
1 handful fresh basil, torn
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven, on bake, to 375F.

Squeeze the tomatoes to remove most of the tomatoes’ seeds. Place the tomatoes in a single layer at the bottom of a large roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Place the crushed garlic in the gaps between the tomatoes. Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.

Bake the tomatoes for about 90 minutes, checking every 25 minutes after the first 30 minutes to make sure the tomatoes do not burn.

When the tomatoes are done allow them to cool. Ladle the tomatoes and garlic pieces into ziptop bags and press all of the air out before placing them in the freezer. Freeze for up to 4 months.

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Homemade Tomato Sauce

When life gives you tomatoes, make tomato sauce.

The Ample Bites Vegetable Farm has produced an abundance of Roma tomatoes and Sandy, the proprietor of “The Farm”, has developed an outstanding recipe for Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce. It is so good that it can be used as a pasta sauce without any further embellishment.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce
(Sandy Kelly)

Makes about 1 Quart

3 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 handful fresh basil leaves
2 tsp Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the tomatoes in half through their equators and squeeze out the seeds.

In a large roasting pan or Dutch oven combine all of the ingredients. Stir to blend then transfer to the oven and bake for about 90 minutes or until the juices of the tomatoes release and begin to get syrupy and the tomatoes begin to caramelize. Check the tomatoes every 15 minutes after the first 30 minutes to make sure they don’t burn.

Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature. In batches, spoon the tomatoes into a food mill and work them through the mill into a large bowl.

Pour the tomato sauce into a quart jar and use the same day or store in a refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a year.

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Another Garden Bounty Salad

This rich Avocado Salad with Tomato and Radish incorporates bounty from the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm. Juice cherry tomatoes, radishes and fresh basil accompany silky green avocados. If only we could grow avocados in the Midwest. Try this salad alongside Lamb Pizza (see previous post). They make a nice dinner combination.

Avocado Salad with Tomato and Radish
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2012)

Serves 6

1 large shallot, sliced thin
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp mayonnaise
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 radishes, sliced thin
½ cup chopped fresh basil
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Place shallot in 2 cups ice water and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Whisk vinegar, garlic, mayonnaise, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in non- reactive bowl until mixture appears milky and no lumps remain. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil.

Gently toss avocados, 2 tablespoons dressing, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Transfer avocados to a large platter or individual plates.

Toss shallot, tomatoes, radishes and basil with remaining dressing. Spoon tomato mixture over avocados and sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately.

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Summer Tomato Week – Part 1

Here in the Midwest, where Ample Bites is based, the summer tomatoes harvest is beginning. The Ample Bites Vegetable Farm has already yielded some robust, juicy beauties. Tomatoes are so versatile and they are enjoyed by most people so finding recipes and people to help consume the tomato bounty is very easy. Rather than share the basic recipes that most of us have in our repertoire I have looked for and found some different dishes. Enjoy!

Cheesy Creole Tomato Pie
(Adapted from Farm to Fork, Emeril Lagasse, 2010)

Serves 6 to 8

1 frozen savory pie shell
2 egg, separated
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
¾ cup thinly sliced sweet onions (such as Vidalia)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
2 ounces Fontina cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
2 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Bake the pie shell for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.

Remove the pie shell from oven and place it on a wire rack. Lightly beat the egg white with a fork. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the entire warm crust with the egg white. You will not use all of the egg white. Allow the crust to cool and the egg white to set, at which point the crust will look glazed.

Slice the tomatoes into ¼”-thick rounds, discarding the stem and root ends. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Combine the mayonnaise with the egg yolk in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

Sprinkle one-third of the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Layer half of the tomato slices over the breadcrumbs in a circular pattern and top with half of the sliced onions. Drizzle on half of the mayonnaise mixture and top with half of the herbs, half of the Fontina, half of the Mozzarella, and half of the remaining breadcrumbs. Make a second layer with the tomato slices, onions, mayonnaise mixture, herbs, Fontina, Mozzarella, and remaining breadcrumbs. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pie in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hours, until it is bubbly hot and golden brown. Allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes or up to 5 hours before serving. The pie is best served at room temperature.

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Pan-fried Northern Pike with Summer Vegetables

Ample Bites finally got a chance to cook some the Northern Pike that we caught on our early June fishing trip to Crystal Falls, Michigan. Tonight we combined the pan-fried fish with some summer vegetables most of which were from the Ample Bites Vegetable Garden.

Preparing pan-fried fish scares some cooks away. It is really very easy as long as you have a good heat source that you can control like a gas burner or a gas grill. Pan-frying any fish or meat takes some preparation and there is some clean-up but it is all well worth the effort.

A key technique in pan-frying is to use a milk wash and an egg wash along with a seasoned bread crumb or corn meal breading mixture. Another key is to heat oil over medium to medium high heat until it ripples before putting the fish in to cook. Finally, take care not to overcook the fish. Over proper heat the fish should only take a minute or two per side depending on the thickness of the fish fillets.

Our meal tonight included a fresh beet salad with feta cheese and a medley of sauteed zucchini with onions, tomatoes and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Pan-fried Fish
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

4 Tbsp canola oil
4 large eggs, whisked in a shallow bowl or dish
1/2 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
2 lemons, cut into 12 wedges
2 – 3 lbs fresh northern pike, walleye, or tilapia fillets (10 – 12 total)

Pour the milk into a shallow dish or bowl with sides at least 3/4″ high. In another shallow dish or bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder, pepper and Creole seasoning. Mix with a fork until fully combined.

In a large heavy skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat until it ripples then reduce the heat to medium.

In batches, soak 2 – 3 fish fillets in the milk for 1 minute, dredge the fillets one at a time in the bread crumbs, dip the each fillet in the egg wash and the re-dredge in the bread crumbs before placing them in the skillet. Cook each fillet for 1 – 2 minutes per side until and remove them to a baking sheet. Keep fish warm in an oven at 200F until serving. Repeat the breading process and pan frying until all fillets are cooked and ready to serve.

During the pan-frying process it may be necessary to add more oil to the hot pan. This can be done between batches and the oil will reach cooking temperature quite quickly.

When all of the fish has been cooked it is ready to serve right away. Garnish with the lemon wedges and enjoy.

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Ample Bites Farm Update #3

Despite an extended drought and a string of high temperatures in the 90s the Ample Bites vegetable garden is in full bloom. The green beans have recovered from an early season infestation of some type of bug, probably an aphid of some sort. The garden has already yielded several meals worth of lettuce and spinach and a few zucchini – with many more to come soon.

The tomato plants look like they will produce a bounty of beautiful and delicious fruit.

Less than a month from juicy tomatoes

The mustard greens are the most recent harvest.

These beautiful, healthy greens were prepared using the following recipe:

Mustard Greens with Chipotle and Bacon

Serves 10

2 ¾ lb curly mustard greens (2-3 bunches), stems and coarse ribs discarded
4 bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp minced canned chipotles in adobo
½ tsp salt

Coarsely chop greens, then cook in 2 batches in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling salted water uncovered, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking process. Drain greens in a colander, pressing gently to release excess moisture.

Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, 4-5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet. Add oil, chipotle, greens and salt to fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with bacon.

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Ample Bites Farm Update #2

Despite a paucity of rain the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm is coming along nicely. In fact, we have already harvested some of the lettuce, spinach and radishes and used them in a salad.

The tomatillo plants that Sandy was given by a co-worker, and nurtured by our neighbor while we were away, did not survive. The beans are under siege by some sort of bug and a couple of the potato plants seem not to be emerging. Otherwise, all of the plants are doing very well thanks to some watering by friends and family and Sandy’s persistent weeding.

The farm really looks cool with the emerging plants and the hay that we have placed around them to help subdue the omnipresent and aggressive weeds, which seem to grow as quickly as any vegetable with or without water.

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