Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tried and True - Salsa

Not so humid today -  I am so grateful.  Consider making some fresh salsa today.  It won't even heat up your kitchen.  This dish requires no cooking (unless you use fresh corn and then you do need to cook it a few minutes before you cut the kernels off the cob.)

I spent a lovely three hours yesterday at the Ridgedale Library drop site for Featherstone Farm.  It was great to meet some shareholders in person and chat a bit.  I always learn a lot when I have these opportunities for face time.  Blogs and the internet can be wonderful, but there is no substitute for direct human contact.  One of my take home messages was that many of you find this blog useful, which makes me very happy.   It totally makes my day when somebody tells me they cooked eggplant for the first time and they liked it and my recipe worked for them.

I don't know about you, but I still haven't given up on the idea of helping to make the world a better place.  It is kind of a Lutheran curse.  There are a countless ways to make a difference and I have tried a lot of them - peace marching,  serving in elected office, reading to a child, listening to a friend, cleaning a bathroom.  Increasing the vegetable literacy rate is right up there.  Maybe as important as reforming our health insurance system.  Really.  If more people spent more time growing, cooking or eating real, healthy food together maybe we wouldn't be spending almost 18% of our GNP on medical care.   So it is an honor to be of assistance to you -  the vanguard of cooks who have the audacity to cook real food in their own kitchens, day in and day out.

Okay it is a lot of hand chopping but worth it.
Okay - enough soap box.  You are waiting to learn about salsa.  I brought some salsa with me to Ridgedale for sampling.  It was pretty popular, unless people were just being nice.  I actually measured the ingredients when I made it, so I could tell you how I did it.  Here is my mise en place set up for today's recipe. (note - I doubled it - so the amounts look pretty big)

I usually work without a net and make salsa without a recipe.  I am guided by five one syllable salsa concepts - spice, heat, acid, base and bite (this makes an acronym - SHABB.)  Here are some examples of each component:
1. Spice - salt, sugar or honey, fresh cilantro, basil, cumin or mint
2.  Heat - chopped hot peppers such as jalapeno, serrano, or chipotle (smoked jalapenos).  There are many varieties of hot peppers that can be used in salsa - either in fresh, roasted, dried or smoked form.)
With peppers, use caution.  The heat is in the seeds.  De-seed, mince flesh (not words), and don't add seeds unless you want more heat.  Some peppers are so hot you need to be careful about handling them.  Some people even use gloves.  For sure don't touch your eyes if you have been cutting up hot peppers.
3.  Acid - I like red wine vinegar for salsa.  Fresh lemon or lime juice or other types of vinegars are great too.  You might consider rice vinegar if you want a milder effect and if you are going for an Asian taste.
4.  Base - This is where fresh fruits and vegetables come in.  You can use tomatoes, tomatillos, corn, mango, melon, cucumber, sweet peppers or beans (the dried kind, not green beans).
5.  Bite -  This category covers onions, garlic or scallions - it is always nice to have some member of the allium family in your salsa.  Red onions are especially good with some salsas.  Sweet onions are great with mangos, pineapple or melons.

Once you have made salsa several times using a recipe, you will understand more about how the SHABB principles operate.  You will develop your own tastes and preferences.  You will be able to experiment and take advantage of whatever is fresh and in season and maybe work without a net, like me - at least when it comes to salsa.

Height of summer salsa
There are many ways to use this salsa other than with chips.  Don't hold back - it is full of nutrition and very low in calories.  Eat it within a week or freeze.  Best eaten fresh.
Serve as an accompaniment to quesadillas (grilled tortilla sandwiches made with cheese, meat or beans).
Make huevos rancheros - warmed corn tortillas, fried eggs, maybe some refried beans, salsa.  Sour cream is pretty great too if you can do the calories.
Serve plain in a little dish -  as a side salad with grilled meats or vegetables.
Make a taco salad - toss salsa together with tortilla chips, lettuce, a little extra meat or beans.  Serve in bowls garnished with a little crema - Mexican style sour cream.  Creme fraiche or even plain yogurt would work too.

Ingredients - mix all together in a large bowl.  I find that no salt is necessary in this recipe. It has a hint of natural sweetness - I think from the sweet corn.
4 cups diced fresh tomatoes (do this by hand.  Put the cut tomatoes in a strainer or colander to drain for about half an hour - while you are preparing the other ingredients.  Drink the tomato water or save for soup.  If you have tomatillos - you can substitute for up to half the tomatoes.
1 t. minced fresh garlic
3/4 cup chopped onion (I did this in the food processor to save time - don't over process - you want pieces not mush)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (you can add this to the onion and process together) (Note on cilantro.  This is the herb that looks a little like parsley but tastes a lot different.  Most people love it or hate it.  I highly recommend using it in salsa if you can find it.  Over time you will come to appreciate its virtues and it will add flair and authenticity to your salsa.  If you decide you really do hate it, that it ok.  Use some cumin or parsley in your salsa.) 
1/2 cup chopped cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1 cup black beans, canned or home cooked
1 1/2 cups cooked corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned.  Fresh is best)
2 T. finely minced jalapeno peppers (2 regular sized peppers)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (If you have fresh lime or lemon juice you can use half juice and half vinegar)  Add a bit more vinegar if you think the salsa needs it.

FOOD PRESERVATION NEWS FLASH - due to popular demand, I will begin a conversation next week about canning tomatoes.  And if you don't live too far from Winona and want to brush up on your canning chops - sign up for this class.  I did and I will tell you all about it.
University of MN Extension, Winona will host a food preservation class on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2-5 pm at the Extension office, lower level Winona County Government Building, 202 W Third Street. General class for the beginner and expert on safe preservation procedures, whether you can, freeze, dry, pickle, jelly, etc. Cost is $10. For market gardeners and small farm owners, a free marketing class with Extension Educator Kari Foord will follow at 5:30-7 p.m.  Pre-register for either or both classes by Aug. 20. Call (507) 457-6440. Enrollment limited to 30. Bring your pressure canner gauge if you want it tested. 

1 comment:

  1. Do you have 101 uses for Swiss chard both the stalk and the leaves. I would like to figure out a good use that kids would like.