Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mexican Everyday Salsa

For Christmas, my sister gave me Rick Bayless' cookbook called Mexican Everyday.  After paging through it that morning, we were both inspired to make a couple salsas while we were staying at our parents' house.  I watched Rick Bayless on Top Chef Masters, and instantly liked him and then really loved him once he won the title of Top Chef Master.  It was refreshing to see a chef just be so nice, down to earth, and humble while at the same time making delicious food.  His cookbook gives off a similar vibe as his persona on television.  It is easy, unpretentious, and everything sounds mouth-watering.  What I particularly like, is each recipe concludes with a few "riffs" on the recipe - such as how to make the chicken tortilla soup vegetarian, or what spices can be substituted, etc.  He also does a mix of fresh ingredients with canned goods, and encourages you to replace with fresh produce when seasonally possible.  My sister and I made Rustic Roasted Tomato Salsa and Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos.  Both were good and very different from one another.  The roasted tomato salsa is nice and fresh and like a roasted pico de gallo, and was great for dipping a chip into.  Next time I will use a hotter chile to make it spicier, but start off with a jalapeno if you are worried about the heat level.  I think the chipotle salsa could have been better, but only because my sister and I didn't know which brand of canned chipotle chiles en adobo were the best, and also I wasn't for sure on the amount.  I felt like the adobo sauce tasted too much like barbecue sauce.  After reading through Mexican Everyday again, Rick Bayless suggests using the San Marcos brand.  Next time I will try his recommendation.

Here are the ingredients for Rustic Roasted Tomato Salsa by Rick Bayless from Mexican Everyday (makes 2 cups): 
-2 fresh jalapeno chiles (or 4 serranos, 1 or 2 habaneros or practically any fresh chiles), I used jalapenos
-3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
-1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
-One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
-1/3 cup (loosely packed) cilantro, roughly chopped
-A teaspoon or so of fresh lime juice or cider vinegar (optional)
-Salt to taste

To begin, lay the chiles and garlic in a small skillet over medium heat.  Dry-roast until soft and blotchy black in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles and about 15 minutes for the garlic.
While the chiles and garlic are roasting, chop the onion and rinse in a strainer under cold water.  Shake off the excess water and place in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
Once chiles and garlic are roasted, pull off the chiles' stems and peel the papery skins off the garlic.  Place them in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, and pulse a few more times, until the mixture is as coarse or as smooth as you like.
Pour the tomato mixture into the medium bowl with the onion.  Add the cilantro and stir thoroughly.  Thin with a little water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.  Taste and season with the lime juice or vinegar, if using, and salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.  
If not using with in an hour or two, cover and refrigerate.

Note: If you're not planning to use the salsa within a few hours, wait until you're ready to serve to add the onions and cilantro.

Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos by Rick Bayless from Mexican Everyday (makes about 1 1/4 cups):
-3 garlic cloves, peeled
-4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
-2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (or more, if you like really spicy salsa)
-Salt to taste

To begin, prepare tomatillos and slice in half.  Place garlic and tomatillos in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side.  The tomatillos should be completely soft.
Place the garlic and tomatillos into a blender or food processor, along with the chiles and 1/4 cup of water.  Process to a coarse puree.  Pour into a salsa dish and cool.
Thin with a little additional water if necessary.  Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon.

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