Thursday, November 5, 2009
It's funny how your ideas of what's doable vs. difficult are shaped by what you were exposed to growing up. My mom would make a hundred zhongzi every year: a two-day process that involved soaking, chopping, and cooking a million different ingredients, then laboriously wrapping intricate bamboo leaf packets and steaming them for two hours. But we ate mac and cheese from the box, and salsa came in a jar. So I always thought making salsa was some super-complicated thing. And I don't think I'm alone. I threw a taco night a couple of months ago and laid out all the fixings, and the salsa easily got the most attention. "You made these yourself?" everyone asked in awed tones. Yes, and they took about twenty minutes total to make.That's twenty minutes for all three, not apiece.
As usual, my recipes are make-you-sweat-spicy. Still, I've fed these to over a dozen people from all different backgrounds and everyone has been able to handle the heat. Serve any or all of these with tacos, quesadillas, or just plain tortilla chips. I also like them with scrambled eggs.
Fiery Salsa Verde
This was inspired by the addictive salsa verde at Taqueria Cancun. I was too shy to ask for their secret, so I just kept tweaking until I landed on this. My husband and I consume it by the gallon.
4 serranos and 3 birds eye chilis chopped roughly, including seeds (Note: this makes a super hot salsa. Beginners may want to use only 2 serranos, no birds eyes)
Half a medium-sized avocado (or 1 small avocado)
Cup of loosely-packed cilantro (leaves only)
Juice of two limes
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of cumin
Blend all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender.
Smoky Hot Chipotle Salsa
This one is from Rick Bayless, whose Frontera chipotle salsa is the only bottled salsa I've found worth eating. Of course, freshly made is even better. At first, I couldn't believe this combo of ingredients would turn into the deep, smoky red I was hoping for, but it came together beautifully in the blender. I found this version on Not Without Salt.
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 medium tomatillos, husked, washed, and cut in half
1 (7 oz.) can of chipotles in adobo sauce (Caution: very hot!)
Pinch of salt (optional)
1. Place a medium-sized, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. It's best to use non-stick, as the tomatillos will ooze sticky juice when you grill them.
2. Put the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down) on the pan for 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Turn and brown the other sides for 3 or 4 minutes.
3. Place ingredients in a mini food processor or blender. Add 1 can of chipotles in adobo sauce (or less, to taste). Blend.
4. Add salt if necessary (I think it isn't). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Super Simple Guacamole
I used to make a more elaborate guacamole with cilantro and tomatoes and chilis, but it turns out this is all you really need. Simpler and tastier, you know I like the sound of that! Can you believe I left chilis out of a recipe? And my husband and I still scarf it down like avocado crack? That's when you know you have a winner.
2 best-quality, ripe, medium avocados (or 1 large, or 3 small)
½ red onion, diced very finely
Juice from 1 lime
Pinch of sea salt
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until chunky/smooth (if that makes sense). It may not look like much, but if your avocados are good, this will disappear before you know it. Dice the red onion as finely as you can. You can even soak it in the lime juice to remove some of the bite. But as long as you get the pieces pretty teensy, you should be fine just throwing it in as is.