Authentic Mexican Homemade Salsa

*I messed around with the settings on my camera, and the result was this ghastly skin tone. Its as though Casper had a bad experience at the tanning bed!

The word "salsa" actually means sauce in Spanish, but interestingly, it predates the Spaniards by a few hundred years. It is a condiment that can be traced back to the time of the Incas and Aztecs, and it is only after conquistadors arrived in this hemisphere that the sauce got its name. Until this time, the Spanish world had never been exposed to the tomato plant.

Due to its high levels of alkaloid, a nitrogen compound that can be toxic if consumed in large quantities,
Europeans considered the tomato plant to be poisonous, and therefore unfit to eat. However, today we know that tomatoes have many health benefits. They are rich in Vitamin A, it's juice is said to assist in liver function, vision, and morning sickness and it is low in carbohydrates. When buying tomatoes, try to stick with organic as this plant is extremely susceptible to contamination by pesticide.

Now to the salsa! My mother-in-law lived in Mexico for about 10 years and while visiting her there, she showed me how to make authentic homemade salsa. We did not use a blender, nor did we roast the tomatoes, but I remember sitting at her kitchen table and seeing how meticulously she chopped all the ingredients. She stressed that everything needed to be chopped as small as possible! We devoured the salsa, and then I was off to a pig roasting party (in dirt) and a donkey ride around the ranch.

The first modification I made to her recipe was to use the blender, but if you do not have one, no worries! If you do have a food processor, this recipe is easy as pie as the food processor does all the work for you! The second modification I made was thanks to Becky who taught me to roast the tomatoes and peppers. I can't begin to describe how much this little step enhances the flavors of the sauce. You have to experience it to understand. Let me know what you think!

Authentic Salsa

6 plum tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1/2 a purple onion, roughly chopped
handful of cilantro
juice of 3 limes (more if they aren't juicy)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes and pepper on a cookie sheet and roast until all sides begin to blacken, or the skin begins to separate. Turn tomatoes and peppers every 4-5 minutes.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend to desired consistency.


Mock Tuna Ceviche

August is coming to an end, and for me this means its back to the daily grind. Being a teacher, I am lucky enough to have summers off which gives me the time to do the things I have always wanted to do (like start a blog) but never have the time to. Most of my friends give me dirty looks come June when I blab about all the goals I hope to achieve during my time off, but my rebuttal is always "I can't help if I chose the mack-daddy of all professions." This summer, I am happy to say that most of my goals have been achieved.

-I vowed to read one book a week and enjoyed every minute of it, most notably The Many Lives and Secret
Sorrows of Josephine B.

-I promised myself to organize some closets in the house and somehow managed to organize ALL the closets in the house.

-I made it a point to work out almost every day in hopes of being able to actually complete Tracy Anderson's Dance Aerobics video. (It took me a month of training, but I am a dance-aholic now!) If you have never heard of Tracy Anderson check out her website (http://tracyandersonmethod.com/) and you will soon realize that you are in an exercise rut and you just don't know it. She has changed my body in ways I could never imagine.
-I made a commitment to meet with my girl crew from work every week as to not lose touch this summer. (I can't begin to express how many mimosas I have drank this summer because of these meetings.)

-Most importantly, I promised myself that I would find some sort of creative outlet, and it came to life through this blog.


To touch a little bit on my last goal. Working full time and being a full time mom has lead me to unknowingly sacrifice a creative side of me that I use to know so well. When summer began I had a voracious urge to express myself. The birth of this blog actually began with a name. While cooking one night, the word (Chef)uality popped in my head after I tasted a delectable plate of pasta and let out a big and satisfying "mmmmmmmmmmm." It occurred to me how food, and the consumption of food, can be a very sexual experience. More often that not, words that we use to describe food and sex can be used interchangeably. Just this week, some friends and I dined at Canyons, one of the best restaurants in Fort Lauderale, and in just those two hours moans and groans of "Oh my God," "amazing," and "this is sinful" were spewed left and right.

When polled, people are more likely to give up sex over food. (This might be attributed to the fact that food is a life sustaining property.) In a separate poll, women expressed that they would rather give up sex for 6 months than gain weight over that same period of time. Obviously, people have a strong connection to the pleasure they receive from eating.

With the word (Chef)uality in my head, I started to brood with what on Earth to do with it and, that night, I had the idea to start my blog. I have been following blogs for years now and was always impressed by how dedicated people are to these web communities. From fashion blogs, to design blogs, to music blogs, I had perused them all, all except food blogs. To be honest, I had never even looked at a food blog until after I started my own. Well, the very next day I was off to Best Buy to purchase a video camera and I came home and filmed my very first webisode. I am happy that I have stuck to it and I sincerely feel that my creative void has been filled. I am sure that most bloggers out there feel the same. I only hope, that during the school year, I can keep up with it!

Well, enough with this banter, and on to the recipe! I swear, once you try this mock tuna ceviche, you will never go back!

Mock Tuna Ceviche

2 cans of tuna packed in water, drained, and flaked
1/3 cup of mayonaise
1 plum tomato, diced
1/4 of a red onion, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 a juicy lime (use the whole lime if its not juicy)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and enjoy! Easy as can be!


Fresh Caught Fish with Teriyaki Sauce

Today's post comes to you from beautiful Key West, Florida. We are staying in a beautiful vacation rental that sits on 5 acres of pristine land, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You can check out the property here: http://www.seaviewestate.net/. Just driving to this compound feels like we, the humans, are disturbing the peace. Flocks of birds stir at the sound of the car, we break so that blue crabs can cross the road, and iguanas run into trees to hide.

This vacation has been dictated by, like all great vacations, our meals. It's been a convergence of great chefs here and, best of all, most of what we have eaten we caught ourselves. From lobsters, to yellow tail snapper, to Spanish mackerel there is nothing quite like a fresh catch. Key West isn't short on amazing places to eat either,and if you are ever in town, I highly recommend Louie's Backyard (http://www.louiesbackyard.com/) for some fine dining action, or Blue Heaven (http://www.blueheavenkw.com/) which is somewhat of a relic around here. It's believed that Ernest Hemingway once refereed boxing matches in the building the restaurant now occupies. Let me tell you, you haven't experienced Sunday brunch, until you sit underneath the canopy of the huge Spanish Lime trees, gaze at the roosters stumbling by your feet, and have a bite of the most delicious lobster benedict, accompanied by a delectable slice of homemade banana bread.

On a side note, I would like all my readers to know that several studies have confirmed that people who spend their money on experiences, rather than material items, are happier in the long run. I concur! Anytime I purchase an item, I do get excited, but the excitement fades rather quickly after I have grown accustomed to seeing it. Contrary, the memories of vacations, extraordinary dinners, and good times with friends bring me constant joy and memories I never will forget. My motto in life is to stop shopping and start living! I guess this is why I love food....

Fresh Caught Fish with Teriyaki Sauce

1 lb. of hearty fish (such as swordfish, halibut, salmon or grouper)
teriyaki sauce (a hearty dose)
2-3 tablespoons hot sesame oil
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a dish or ziplock back and allow fish to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Cook your favorite way and enjoy!


Voyage to Israel: Bourekas

Bourekas take me back to my childhood days of swimming in Safta's pool, running through sand dunes, and catching lightening bugs in my backyard in Isreal. That's what I love so much about food. It transports you to another place in time.

Taking a bite out of salad dressed in Green Goddess dressing vividly remind me of my first camping trip with Micah, where we listened to jam band music and jumped from rope swings into the Black River in northern Florida. Sipping tortilla soup reminds me of my good friend Becky and the summer she spent with us in our house; days spent mostly cooking and drinking and laughing. Oddly, anytime I eat bruschetta I think of a road trip through Mexico that ended disastrously at the U.S. border, leading us to get a meal at an Italian joint before having to "break in" to Mexico to get back in to the United States.

These delectable pastries can be filled with anything you like. I had Gruyere cheese in the fridge, but I have to say, it had an assertive taste. Milder cheeses are a much better alternative. My ultimate favorite filling is mashed potatoes! I mean, seriously, no one can have too much carbohydrates! I have included recipes for a few different fillings, so go to town, and try them all!

Israeli Bourekas

1 sheet of puff pastry
melted butter
filling of your choice (recipe below)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour your workspace. Carefully lay the sheet of puff pastry down and use your fingers to flatten. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 9 squares. Brush melted butter on each square before adding filling. After one tablespoon of your chosen filling has been added fold each square over to form triangles, using your fingers to press shut. Brush with egg yolk and oil mixture. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, until pastries have puffed up and are golden brown.

Cheese filling:

1 cup of mild cheese (such as mozzarella, mild cheddar, feta)

1 egg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Potato filling:

(You can use your favorite store bought mashed potatoes...but add the onions!)

1/4 cup of onion (chopped)
1-2 baking potatoes
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon of sour cream or milk (optional)
tumeric (optional)

Saute onion in oil until softened.

Cut the potatoes in squares and boil in water until softened. Mash potatoes with the butter, sour cream, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of tumeric.

Add the onions and combine.

Spinach filling:

1/2 cup of cooked spinach
1/4 cup feta cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.