Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa

Our pepper plants are on a roll! They’ve yielded over a dozen peppers so far and there are new peppers growing and ripening in the garden right now. After harvesting 2 “big boy” green jalapeños, 5 small red jalapeños and 4 small serranos all in one afternoon I realized that we needed to find a good recipe to take advantage of all of this spicy goodness. We turned to the pages of our trusty Mexican Everyday cookbook and found this recipe for Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa.

Our mid-July bounty: green beans, tomatoes, jalapeños and serranos!

Salsa de Chile Fresco Asado (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless)

You will need…
4-5 fresh Jalapeños (the recipe calls for green chiles but ours were red)
4 fresh Serranos (omit if you want a milder salsa)
4 cloves Garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Directions:
Trim the stems off of the chiles and slice in half lengthwise, then place face down in a glass baking pan. Arrange the garlic cloves between the peppers. Broil in the oven for 4-5 minutes or until the chile peppers are soft and starting to form blotchy black spots. Remove from broiler and carefully transfer the roasted chiles and garlic to a blender. Add the lime juice and water and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and, if necessary, stir in more water to reach your desired consistency. Taste the salsa (watch out though, it might be super hot!) and add salt if needed.

OK… so now you have a bowl of freshly roasted liquid fire. What the heck are you supposed to do with it?

Our chile peppers must have been extra potent because our “salsa” was so hot that we could barely inhale near it. (I say “salsa” in quotes because I could never, ever handle a serving of this stuff on a chip… I’d die!) Luckily there are plenty of things that you can do with hot salsa that don’t involve burning your mouth and sweating profusely. Here are some ideas:

  • Use it anywhere that you’d normally add hot sauce. We used a few drops on our Jalapeño Garlic Chicken Quesadillas and it brought a great amount of heat to the dish. It would also be good (in moderation!) on Tortas with Chorizo and Black Beans and Chicken Fajitas.
  • Use it as a steak marinade. (This is Rick Bayless’s suggestion.) Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the salsa and brush it onto all sides of a nice steak (we shared a NY strip, yum!). Sear both sides of the steak over high heat and then grill over indirect medium heat until cooked to your desired temperature.
  • Use it to season potatoes. (Also Rick’s idea.) Quarter two yukon gold potatoes, sprinkle with salt, and microwave on high in a covered bowl for 4 minutes to soften. Brush some of the salsa onto the potatoes and finish cooking them on a grill in a grill basket over direct medium-high heat.

What is your favorite way to use a surplus of chile peppers? Please share!

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Tomato Salad with Guajillo Chile Dressing AND a Giveaway Contest Sponsored by Slimkicker!!

I’m excited to announce that the team over at Slimkicker.com has asked me to host a Giveaway on my blog!  Slimkicker is an online “game” that helps you reach health goals by setting a series personalized challenges and rewards for yourself… but more on that in a moment.  First, I want to share a recipe for a healthy meal that Matt and I enjoyed last week.

Oh… and I have to brag a little here – those perfect little rosy red tomatoes are from our garden!  They were delicious.  🙂

Tomato Salad with Guajillo Chile Dressing (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless)

You will need…
3/4 cup Olive Oil (can also be a mixture of Olive Oil and Veggie/Canola Oil)
2 Dried Guajillo Chiles or New Mexico Chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar (also try Sherry Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar)
Salt, to taste
6 Green Onions, wilted leaves and white root tips removed
1 1/2 cups Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Handful of Watercress Leaves
2 oz. crumbled Queso Fresco Cheese

Directions:
To make the Guajillo Chile Dressing, pour the oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat.  Add the chiles and garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for approximately 30 seconds until the chiles become fragrant.  Remove from heat and carefully transfer the chiles (leaving the garlic and oil) into a blender.  Add the vinegar and salt and blend for 30 seconds.  Once the oil and garlic have cooled, add them to the blender and blend until smooth.

Return the unwashed skillet to medium heat.  Brush the green onions with oil and place them in the skillet, turning occasionally, until wilted and browned.  Remove from skillet and slice into 1/4 inch pieces.  Reserve a few of the smaller onions as a garnish if desired.

To assemble your Tomato Salad, arrange a layer of watercress on a small plate.  Next, add a handful of the tomatoes (sprinkle some coarse salt on the tomatoes if desired) and add the green onions.  Add the crumbled queso fresco and drizzle on a few teaspoons of your Guajillo Chile Dressing.  Enjoy as a healthy main course or as a satisfying appetizer.

And now on to the Slimkicker Giveaway!  One of my readers will win this digital kitchen scale simply by commenting on this post!  Cool, right?

Slimkicker is an online “game” that helps you track your calorie intake and exercise.  Why is it a game, you ask?  Well, with Slimkicker you set a series of fun challenges (things like quitting soda for a week or cooking your dinner five days in a row rather than getting takeout) and you earn “points” if you complete your challenges.  After you earn a certain number of points you are eligible for Slimkicker giveaways and the program encourages you to reward yourself with a self-selected “perk” like indulging in something really tasty, taking a day off from your workout routine, or (if you earn a lot of points!) buying yourself a new iPod.

Since creating and sticking with fun challenges is an important part of the Slimkicker program, the folks at Slimkicker would like to read YOUR ideas for a Healthy Challenge!  To enter the contest and be eligible to win the digital scale, simply leave me a comment below with your own idea for a Healthy Challenge.  Slimkicker will select one person who leaves a comment in this post (pretty good odds, right?) as the winner of the digital scale.

My personal healthy challenge is to sit with good posture at work for one hour every day for a week.  Other challenges that have piqued my interest are to drink a glass of water before every meal (helps with feeling fuller sooner) and to replace juice with unsweetened iced tea for a week.  What are YOUR ideas for a healthy challenge?  Please share!

Contest ends at 11:59PM EDT on Wednesday, August 1st.  Comment before then for your chance to win!

Disclosure: The Ozeri Professional Digital Scale and all information about the program have been supplied by Slimkicker.  I downloaded the Slimkicker App but haven’t used it yet… I’ve been too busy sitting with good posture!

Mexican Tortas with Chorizo and Black Beans

This recipe for tasty tortas comes from our Mexican Everyday cookbook by Rick Bayless.  A torta is a Mexican-sandwich that features a smear of mashed beans and a wide variety of toppings including cheese, lettuce, sour cream, or salsa.  For these tortas we garnished our sandwiches with Queso Fresco, avocado, and Cholula hot sauce.  The resulting tortas contained the perfect combination of warm beans, spicy chorizo, and savory cheese and avocado, all nestled between golden-brown pieces of crusty bread.

Tortas de Chorizo y Frijoles Negros (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless)

You will need…
8 oz. Chorizo Sausage, removed from casing
Olive Oil
2 – 15 oz. cans Black Beans, undrained
Salt, to taste
2-3 Crusty Rolls, approx. 6 inches long (we used a French Baguette and cut it into three 6″ sections)
6 oz. Queso Fresco cheese, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 ripe Avocado, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Cholula Hot Sauce, or other bottled sauce or hot salsa

Directions:
Brown the chorizo and break it up in a large skillet over medium heat.  After the chorizo is completely cooked through, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the black beans.  Bring the beans to a simmer and mash them with the back of a large spoon.  (You can also use a bean masher or potato masher if you have one but the spoon worked fine for us.)  Continue to cook the bean mixture, stirring almost constantly, for about 10 minutes.  Taste the mixture and add salt if needed.  Cover the beans and leave on the stove over low heat.

Meanwhile, slice each roll in half lengthwise.  Use your fingers to pull out some of the soft bread in the center to make room for the bean mixture.  Use a spoon or brush to spread approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the inside faces of each roll.  Place the rolls face-down on a preheated heavy-bottomed skillet and toast the bread until it turns golden brown.  We had to do this in batches since only one roll could fit in our skillet.  Press the rolls down as they cook so that they toast evenly.

To assemble your torta, spread a liberal amount of the chorizo-bean mixture along the bottom half of each roll.  Top with the sliced queso fresco and avocados, then add a few drops (or many drops… your choice!) of hot sauce.  Cut the torta in half and enjoy!

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos

I know that it’s already ocho de Mayo but I’ve been busy at work (and in the garden!) so I’m finally just getting around to posting about our yummy dinner from Saturday night.  Ever since we made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas back in March we’ve been obsessed with La Tortilla Factory’s Green Chile Corn Tortillas and, as a result, we decided to make a meal that utilized these delicious little disks for Cinco de Mayo.  We pulled out our trusty Mexican Everyday cookbook by Rick Bayless and Matt quickly declared that the Pork Tinga Taco recipe sounded like a winner.

After a quick mid-day trip to the grocery store we had the taco filling prepped and in the Crockpot.  Most of the work for this recipe is done during the initial prep stage (6 hours before you eat) which is nice because this means that your dinner is basically sitting their waiting for you once dinnertime rolls around.  In our case we were able to use our “free time” in the evening to enjoy homemade Salsa and Margaritas.  🙂

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Queso Fresco (from Mexican Everyday)
(serves an army in one sitting or serves two for dinner and provides 4-5 leftover lunches throughout the week)

You will need…
1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 lbs. Boneless Pork Shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 – 15 oz. cans Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes, undrained
3 canned Chipotle Chiles en Adobo, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1 tablespoon Adobo canning sauce from Chipotles
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
3 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 1/4 teaspoons Salt
1 Medium White Onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 Mexican Chorizo Sausage, casing removed
16 Corn Tortillas, warmed
1 cup Crumbled Queso Fresco Cheese (substitute feta if you can’t find QF)
2 large Avocados, pitted and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

Directions:
Approximately 6 hours before you plan to eat dinner, line the bottom of your slow cooker with the potatoes and top with an even layer of the pork.  Combine the next seven ingredients (tomatoes thru salt) in a bowl and mix together.  Pour the tomato mixture over the pork and top with the sliced white onion.  Cook on “high” for 6 hours.

Pork Tinga mixture after slow-cooking for 6 hours. After this photo was taken we poured out the excess liquid, reduced it, and stirred it back into the pork to retain the intense flavor.

When your pork is done, brown and crumble the chorizo, drain the excess fat, and stir it into your pork mixture.  Break up the pork into smaller shredded pieces as you stir.  At this point check to see how much liquid is in your slow cooker.  If yours is anything like ours was, it will be way too watery to spoon onto a tortilla.  Rather than throwing away this excess liquid, pour it into a sauce pan and boil rapidly to reduce.  Stir the syrupy reduced liquid back into the meat for maximum flavor.

Warm your tortillas.  An easy shortcut is to sandwich a tortilla between two damp paper towels and microwave it on high for 30-45 seconds.  This makes the tortillas warm, moist and pliable without dirtying a frying pan.  🙂  To build your Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos, place a few spoonfuls of the pork mixture on the warm tortilla and top with queso fresco and avocado.  Enjoy!