Peach Salsa

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I don’t buy into too many food trends, as you know. I don’t put lavender into ice cream, I don’t like rosemary in cocktails, I like lemongrass only in Thai food, and I don’t stick bacon into everything possible. It will probably be 20 more years before I ever make kale chips. No, I’ll probably never make them.

So years ago when I spotted peach salsa at a gourmet food store, I really surprised myself when I purchased it. I mean, peaches in tomato salsa? I don’t remember the brand, but it really was pretty tasty.

Being me, I knew I could make it even better. Not to say I’m that great of a cook, it’s just that anything home-made will beat anything jarred commercially.

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Anymore, peach salsa doesn’t really even sound very trendy. It’s become as commonplace as boysenberry barbecue sauce and the like.

The salsa works well with good canned tomatoes as well as fresh ones right out of the garden, but that peach needs to be ripe, so I only make it in the summer.

I serve this salsa slightly warmed. Oh, it’s good.

Peach Salsa

2 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 peach, peeled, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Have all of your tomatoes seeded and chopped before you start with this recipe. It doesn’t take long to make.

In a medium enameled pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

After cooking for a minute, stir in the peach, cilantro, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

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Give everything a stir, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. There should be little or no liquid in the salsa.

Add the apple cider vinegar, stir, and cook for about 1 minute.

Then add the lemon juice. Stir to distribute evenly.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly before serving.

This warm, slightly fruit-sweetened salsa is really good with tortilla chips. But it’s also good on a basic cheese quesadilla.

Try out this salsa if you’re skeptical like I once was. You’ll taste the peach and the touch of cinnamon, but also the ripe tomatoes with Mexican seasonings.

And think about how much less expensive this salsa is to make at home!

Green Rice with Corn

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For Cinco de Mayo 2017, I made a Mexican-inspired meal, not surprisingly. Mexican and Southwestern foods are some of our favorites, and any excuse to cook a bunch of delicious food and include friends work for us!

For the main course, I served buffalo fajitas along with sautéed vegetables, plus I made refried black beans and what I called “green rice”.

The rice is green from green chiles and an abundance of cilantro. (Don’t read on if you dislike cilantro!)

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Rice with cilantro? I don’t know, but it was everybody’s favorite dish. I mean, over the queso, the guacamole, and the chipotle shrimp, the green rice was the bomb.

The next morning I heated some up and plopped a fried egg on top. It was just that delicious.

This rice is more of a pilaf, with all of the goodies I included. The green chiles, cilantro, and seasoning turn it into one that’s Mexican-inspired and delicious.

Green Rice with Corn

2 cobs of corn
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Rice of choice, about 1 1/3 cups
Chicken broth, about 3 cups
2 – 4.5 ounce cans chopped green chiles
Lots of chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, optional

Cook the corn cobs in boiling water until they’re done, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and rice, and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the broth.

Bring the rice to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat. Cooking time depends on the kind of rice you use.

Once the rice is about cooked, remove the lid and stir in the remaining ingredients.

Cut the corn from the cobs. Break the corn up into neat pieces and stir into the rice gently.

I like to put the lid on and without heat, let the pot sit at the end of the cooking time. This step encourages more liquid absorption.

You can sprinkle on some cilantro leaves if you wish.

Fancy? Not at all. And just the same amount of time to make any pilaf.

And don’t forget to have the green rice with an egg the next morning!

Note: When I cook at home I always use brown rice, because it’s not processed. It takes a little more cooking time and a little more liquid, typically. White rice can certainly be substituted, and would actually look prettier. It’s just a personal call.

Enchilada Sauce

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My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.

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Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

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Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

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Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.

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I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.

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The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

Ancho Chile Paste

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Having ancho chile pepper paste is a staple in my house, with as much Mexican and Southwestern cooking that I do. I might just need a couple of teaspoons, say, to season some sour cream or mayo, or about 1/2 cup of it to add to a soup, chili, meat loaf, or enchilada sauce. I always keep jars of it frozen, to use when needed. It also keeps refrigerated for about six months.

The name of this dark red stuff comes from the fact that ancho chile peppers are used to make the ancho chile paste, which makes sense. Ancho chile peppers are actually dried poblanos. I don’t know why they can’t just call them dried poblanos, but that’s just not how it works in the chile pepper world.

The flavor of ancho chile paste, made only with ancho chiles, is dense and intense. It’s essentially reconstituted chile peppers.

But you can use other dried chile peppers, and even include hot varieties for a little zing. I personally like to use a mixture of chile peppers. Today, I’m using anchos, plus guajillos and chipotles. I’m running low on my precious chile pepper paste, so it’s time to make more. Here’s what I did:

Ancho, Guajillo, and Chipotle Chile Paste

10 ancho chile peppers (large, stubby, dark and wrinkly in the photo)
8 guajillo chile peppers (long, narrow, red and smooth)
Handful of chipotle peppers, depending on your taste (short, dark wrinkly)

Shown below, from left, ancho chile peppers, chipotle chile peppers, and guajillo chile peppers.
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First you must remove the stems from all of the large dried peppers with a sharp knife, and discard. Then slice open the pepper bodies and remove the seeds.


Please be aware that even though these are not fresh chile peppers, they can still burn your skin and eyes.

Place the pepper body parts in the bottom of a large bowl.

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Add boiling water to cover the peppers. Place a smaller, weighted bowl on top to keep the peppers submerged for at least one hour so they can hydrate.

Set up your blender, and have a measuring cup and a rubber spatula on hand. Using tongs, grab all the peppers you can and place them in the jar of the blender. Save the water in the bowl.


Using the measuring cup, remove some of the beautiful pepper-tinged water from the top. Seeds and any kind of debris will be at the bottom of the bowl. Add about 1/3 cup of the liquid to the blender.

Purée the peppers, adding a little more of the pepper water if necessary. The mixture should be smooth, but not too liquid.

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If you have any pepper water leftover, use it in other dishes, like in a soup.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Scrape all of the ancho chile paste into the colander.

Using a spoon’s bottom, force the paste through the sieve. This process removes the chile pepper peels.
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Scrape the paste from the bottom of the sieve as well, and voila! Chile pepper paste.
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Place the paste in clean jars. Freeze, and thaw as needed.
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Note that this recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on much ancho chile paste you want! It’s the same amount of work!

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Also note that the chile paste will stain everything – your spatula, your sink, your countertop your clothes… You will have many orange spots if you don’t catch the spills immediately!

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Pork Chile Verde

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Pork chile verde just means pork with green chile peppers, which I’m sure everyone knows. But there’s one other green component that’s typically in a chile verde, and that’s tomatillos. If you’ve never worked with them before, I really think you should at least make this recipe to experience the deliciousness that is a tomatillo.

Tomatillos have papery husks, and once they’re removed, they look like green tomatoes although they’re not related to tomatoes at all.
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When you buy tomatillos make sure they’re firm, not wrinkled up or rotten. They can be cooked or used raw. For me, raw tomatillo salsas are a bit on the tart side, so I use them in cooked sauces like in this chile verde.

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Here’s what I did to make this hearty pork stew with green chiles and tomatillos:

Pork Chile Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, quartered
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
4 pound trimmed pork butt, cut into bite-sized pieces
Black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery plus leaves, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 – 4 ounce cans chopped green chiles
2 bunches cilantro, rinsed, divided
3 cups broth, divided
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Sour cream, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees on a roast setting.
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Place the cut up tomatillos, onion, and garlic cloves on a jelly-roll pan and sprinkle with some olive oil.
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Roast them for about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil in a large dutch oven on the stove over high heat. In batches, brown the pork.
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Continue with the remaining pork, adding a little more olive oil as necessary, and placing the browned pork in a large bowl; season generously with black pepper.
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When you are done with the pork, turn down the heat to medium, add the onion, celery, and green onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.


Then add the green chiles, 1 bunch of chopped cilantro, and 2 cups of broth. (I’ve even used a good Mexican beer to braise the pork, and it’s good!)

Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot, and season with oregano and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil, then gently simmer for about 30 minutes.


Keep the pot covered with a lid if you feel there’s not enough liquid to braise the pork. Or, if you feel there’s too much liquid, leave the pot uncovered and let the liquid evaporate gently.

Place the roasted vegetables in a blender jar. Add the second bunch of cilantro, and the remaining 1 cup of broth. Blend until almost smooth.


Pour the green sauce into the pot with the meat.

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Stir well, and simmer for about 1 hour.

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Pork chile verde is a stew. It should be thick, not some cubes of pork floating in a green soup. If you need to reduce the liquid a bit, don’t hesitate to do so. It will not adversely affect the overall dish.

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I like my chile verde with a dollop of sour cream!

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I also sprinkled on a little ground pink peppercorns. You could also use some cayenne flakes.
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Chopped cilantro also adds to the freshness of the chile verde; chopped green onions can also be included.
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note: I usually make pork chile verde the day before I first serve it. Somehow, it’s just better that way.

Fresh Salsa

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We love salsa in our family. All kinds. I guess we’re all Mexican food addicts as well. I found this on Facebook, and it could have been written by anyone of us!

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On this blog, I’ve posted on home-made salsa, which I can every year, and also an exquisite peach salsa. Both are cooked salsas.

But this post is on a fresh salsa, or salsa fresca, sometimes also called pico de gallo. I’ve been making it for over 30 years, and I never change what I do, which is odd for me.

It must be made during the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak of ripeness. Other than tomatoes, you only need a few other ingredients.

So the following salsa I serve with tortilla chips, often along with guacamole for an appetizer, but it’s also good on tacos and fajitas. Heck, it’s good on eggs, fish, you name it.

I never make a large batch because I don’t feel that it keeps well. It’s something about the tomatoes.

As I sometimes do, I’m not giving an exact recipe. You’ll be able to tell from the photos what my ratios of ingredients are, and I can assure you that it will be a completely satisfying salsa! Adjust ingredients as you wish to suit your own taste!

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Fresh Summer Salsa

Fresh tomatoes, finely chopped, I use Romas
Purple onions, finely diced
Green onions, rinsed, drip-dried, thinly sliced
Cilantro, rinsed, drip-dried, chopped
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Tabasco sauce, or your favorite hot sauce

First de-seed the tomatoes by cutting each Roma into 4-5 lengthwise pieces, then removing the seeds. I even place the tomatoes on paper towels first so that they’re not watery.


Then dice them and place in a medium bowl.

Dice the purple onions and place them with the tomatoes.

Slice the green onions, and place them with the tomatoes and purple onions.

Then add the cilantro and mix everything together gently. The salsa should look like this.


Here’s the fun part. Add as much Tabasco sauce as you’d like. I added quite a few glugs, but the hotness of the salsa is up to you.
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Stir gently but thoroughly and let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes.
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Serve at room temperature!


And of course it’s best with Mexican beer!

Enjoy!
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Refried Black Beans

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Today I want to show you something else to do with leftover cooked beans, which I originally wrote about when I posted on black beans. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love beans, and although canned are useful, it’s so easy and so much less expensive to cook your own from dried. So if you are scared to cook dried beans from scratch, check out that link.

Since I made that pot of beans, I’ve posted on a couple of different ways to use the cooked beans, and today is the final post. I’m making refried beans, although there’s no frying involved. By simply using the food processor, you can process cooked beans into the same texture as refried beans. Only a little liquid or broth is required.

So once again, no recipe is required, I’ll just show you what I do to make the refried beans, and turn them into black bean burritos.

1. Place the cooked beans in the jar of a food processor.
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2. Process, using a little leftover bean broth if you have some, or water, just enough to mush up the beans.
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3. For burritos using this refried bean mixture, simply place the amount you want on a tortilla. I’m using whole-wheat tortillas.
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4. Continue doing this with the remaining tortillas and refried beans, placing them in a greased baking pan.
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5. Pour on your home-made ancho chile sauce or even salsa if you have that on hand. Just make sure the salsa isn’t watery. Then sprinkle with cheese. I used a white cheddar, but goat cheese, or Mexican cotija cheese are wonderful as well.

6. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has browned slightly.

And that’s it! You can also fill these burritos with grilled veggies, steak, or chicken, but I typically leave these as is for our one vegetarian household member.
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Besides, they’re really good and meaty on their own.


If you want to season the beans, I would add cumin, dried oregano, and coriander.
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Quesadillas

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It was my mother who first made a quesadilla in our home about the time I was in high school. Of course, she was the one who did the cooking, but there had never been Mexican food prepared in our home before. She cooked food from a lot of international cuisines, like Greece, Russia, France, India, Ethiopia, and China, but somehow had never been exposed to Mexican. Which is funny to me, because she really loves everything spicy. I think she eats more jalapenos than I do, and I love jalapenos!

The way we all discovered Mexican food was at a restaurant in Park City, Utah. It was there where we fell in love with cheesy quesadillas, as well as other Mexican and Southwestern specialties.

And being my mother, she went home and made them herself. So this is recipe I’m presenting for quesadillas is how I learned how to make them, from copying my mother’s technique. I honestly think they’re better than in any restaurant – browned, crispy, with cheesy wonderful goodness inside. Whatever ingredients you choose will work, I promise you, as long as there’s enough cheese to hold everything together!

And that’s the fun part. Today I’m simply using chicken, purple onion, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, cilantro, and lots of Monterey jack cheese. Plus tortillas, of course. But you can add any meat, any kind of cheese, and any accessory ingredients.

On two different occasions, back when I catered, I made quesadillas to order at parties. I had 2 skillets going, and used smaller tortillas, since one larger one can easily fill a person to the brim! The guests got to pick their ingredients. I even had chopped mango, which I love to mix with spicy beef and cilantro in quesadillas. Avocados work well, and are a good meat substitute, if necessary. It’s a really fun thing to do, even at your own party. For a smaller group, of course.

In any case, today I present to you my way of making quesadillas. This will hopefully inspire you to try your own, using your favorite ingredients!

Quesadillas

Olive oil
Red bell pepper, diced
Poblano pepper, diced
Purple onion, diced
Tortillas, I used a multi-grain variety
Grilled chicken, I used one I’d marinated in a lime-garlic marinade, then grilled, sliced thinly
Butter
Grated cheese, I used Monterey jack
Chopped cilantro
Hot sauce or salsa for serving


Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, then add all of the peppers and onion. Saute just until soft and set aside.

Get out another skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Have all of the ingredients nearby; the quesadilla cooking process goes fairly quickly.

First begin by adding about 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot skillet. It will brown, but that’s good. Place the tortilla in the skillet.

Working quickly, place half of the cheese allotted per quesadilla on top of the tortilla, then place the chicken slices over the top.

Quickly add the chopped cilantro and the remaining cheese. Top with another tortilla. Press down on it, then reduce the heat to practically nothing, and place a lid on the skillet.

After a few minutes, flip over the quesadilla. That’s why it’s important to lower the heat, because you need the cheese to be melted to keep the two tortillas sticking together. Otherwise you won’t be able to successfully flip it.

Raise the heat just a little bit to get some browning on the other side, but leave the lid on to heat everything through on the inside. Remove the quesadilla from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board. It will cut better when you rest it.

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Continue with remaining tortillas if you’re making more.
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I am a huge fan of salsa, but for these quesadillas, I used green and red hot sauces that were given to me by Richard, from REM Cooks, when I met him in Dallas. He has recipes on his blog for both of these hot sauces, so if you have an abundance of chile peppers coming up in your garden, check them out.

Quesadillas are best hot or warm, when they’re really crispy. The butter really does the trick in this recipe, but making adjustments with the flames help as well. If you have an electric stove – I’m sorry, I can’t help you. You probably have to be a little more careful!

Queso Chile Verde

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According to my Spanish dictionary, queso means cheese in English. I checked just to make sure. Because for a while now I’ve noticed that a queso can imply a warm cheese dip that’s often served with salsa and chips at Mexican restaurants. It’s usually somewhat gelatinous, tasteless, and just plain awful. Why wouldn’t it be? They’re not going to put a lot of money into something that they’re giving away.

There is an American version of queso that’s popular, made with Velveeta. Now if you’ve followed my blog for any time now, you know that I abhor this cheese “food.” In fact, it’s what my mother and I used to use on our hooks when we went fishing. It wasn’t until I got married that I learned that people actually ate the stuff!

Velveeta “queso” is made from a giant block of Velveeta, plus some canned tomatoes that contains green chilies. And I think that’s it. The only positive with Velveeta is that it melts well, so the dip if smooth. I don’t care how smooth it is. I won’t touch it.

But Mexican quesos, if they’re not giving away the stuff, can be way more interesting. Those cheese dips can be really flavorful when they’re made with good cheese. If I come across a good queso at a Mexican restaurant, I always have my husband, who’s fluent in Spanish, ask the waiter what kind of cheese they use, out of curiosity. They invariably tell me queso blanco, which translates to white cheese. Now, I think they’re either pulling my chain, or they just don’t know. But there’s no Mexican cheese called queso blanco. But I’ll continue asking until I get a good answer!

So you might be wondering why I wrote a post on Southwestern-inspired food last week, and mentioned that I was going to be surprising everyone with exactly that – something inspired by Southwestern cuisine! Well this is it! I’m making a queso, but not an awful American one, nor a gloppy Mexican variation.

I give you queso, chili verde style. You might be familiar with hearty Pork Chile Verde, a version of which is on this blog. It’s what I used for inspiration!

This queso is Southwestern style, because I’m using a combination of jalapenos, poblanos, tomatillos, and cilantro, all of which are chile verde components. And for the queso part, I’m using Oaxaca cheese, which melts just as well as Velveeta. Plus I’m throwing in some chorizo.

So here’s my Southwestern version of a queso, chili verde style!

Queso Chile Verde

1 pound tomatillos
1 large onion
4 jalapenos
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, de-seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup crema, or sour cream
14 ounces Oaxaca cheese, coarsely chopped
Mexican chorizo, cooked and drained, optional
Chopped fresh cilantro, optional
Tortilla chips

Place the tomatillos in a skillet large enough to hold them in one layer. Mine were fairly large so a regular-sized skillet worked well. Turn on the heat to high, and roast the tomatillos a little, moving them around constantly. This will actually help remove the papery peels.

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Let them cool, then remove the peels. If you’d like, you can rinse the tomatillos in warm water to remove some of the natural stickiness. I didn’t.

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Turn on the roast setting on your oven for 425 degrees F, or turn on the broiler.

Get out a jelly-roll pan. Finely chop the onion and place the pieces on the pan. De-stem the tomatillos and place those along with the onion on the pan.

You need to remove the stems and seeds from the jalapenos. I always wear a glove on my left hand to avoid getting jalapeno juice in my eyes.

There are many ways to deal with jalapenos. I’ve even tried two different jalapeno de-seeders and neither worked. So here’s how I do it:

Slice off the stem and hold the jalapeno perpendicular to the cutting board. Slice along the outside of the jalapeno from top to bottom, again and again, until all you have left is the seedy core. This is very similar to avoiding the seeds in a green pepper, if you do it this way. You’re left with lovely strips of jalapeno flesh, which you can simply chop for your purposes.

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For this recipe, finely chop the jalapenos and add them to the onion and tomatillo.
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Drizzle on the olive oil and add a little salt and pepper. Only a little salt; the crema and the Oaxaca cheese are both salty to me.

Roast the vegetables in the oven, taking care to not over brown them. They should look like this:
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If you used a roasting setting, keep the oven on. If you used the broiler, turn it off.

Meanwhile, add the tablespoon of oil to a skillet on the stove. This skillet is also going to be my serving vessel, but it doesn’t have to be.

Saute garlic in the oil for just a few seconds over low heat, then stir in the chopped Poblano peppers.
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Then add the roasted onion, tomatillo and jalapeno to the skillet and stir everything together.

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Add the crema and stir it in well.

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Reduce the mixture for about 5 minutes.

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Then stir in the oregano and cumin.

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Add about half of the chopped cheese to this mixture and stir it in.
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Then top the mixture with the remaining cheese.
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If you’re using the broiler setting on your oven, turn the broiler back on. When it’s ready, place the skillet under the broiler. It should just take a few minutes for the cheese to melt and brown.
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Alternatively, if you want the dip in a nicer serving dish, place everything in it first. Just make sure the dish can withstand heat from the broiler.

For the chorizo, I cooked up the crumbled sausage first, and let it drain on paper towels before starting on the queso.
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To serve, I put the chorizo in the middle of the queso; it also could have been stirred in to the dip as well.

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And at the last minute I sprinkled chopped cilantro over everything.

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Make sure to serve this queso hot, or the cheese will get a little rubbery if it cools. In fact, using a Sterno set-up with this queso would work really well, so it stays hot over time.

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I’m a cheese lover, but I don’t like rubbery, cold cheese!

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I served the chili verde queso with Pacifico, one of my favorite Mexican beers. It went really well. My husband stuck with Guinness.

verdict: I am very proud of this queso, which utilizes many of my favorite Southwestern flavors and ingredients. Although there are Mexican chile verdes, I was influenced by the very popular pork chile verde from New Mexico, utilizing their famous Hatch chile peppers. It was delicious!!!

Home Made Salsa

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This salsa recipe is the one that I make in abundance in the summer and can. That way, in theory, we have lots of good salsa to open during the winter months.

Of course, this is only the second summer that I’ve canned, so it’s only the second summer I’ve made an abundance of salsa. I don’t think last year’s salsa even made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. So I’m determined to do that this month.

I will give you an approximation of my cooked salsa recipe, but I encourage you to create your own recipe that fits you. I don’t like my salsa to be burning hot, but I do like heat. I mostly like flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

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Canned Salsa, or, Salsa for Canning

Lots of tomatoes, probably about 4-5 pounds – I used so many different varieties from my garden that I can’t really quantify them, and I didn’t weigh them ahead of time because I wasn’t sure how many I was going to use
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 green chile peppers like Anaheims, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – cartons Pomi chopped tomatoes, 26.8 ounces each*
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, seed the tomatoes and finely chop them. Set them aside.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions, green bell pepper, and the Anaheim peppers. Saute them for about 5 minutes.

I often chop jalapenos by hand, without gloves. But as a result, I have burned my eyes and nose many times. It’s not pleasant. So it’s really not worth being defiant about jalapenos and other hot chile peppers.

Fortunately, I was given a gift of this chopper, and it works really well on jalapenos! No touching necessary, except for removing the stem. I don’t even de-seed them first. But if you want to remove the seeds, which are what supposedly supply the most heat, use a latex glove. Then throw the jalapeno flesh into your chopper along with the garlic cloves and chop away! It’s just one way to make a nice jalapeno and garlic dice. No chopper? Use your knife!

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Add the jalapeno and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute. Then add the canned tomatoes and the fresh tomatoes.

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Cook the mixture, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. It should not be watery. If it is, cook a little longer. Then add the cilantro and seasonings. Add the apple cider vinegar and cook for about 1 minute. You shouldn’t be able to smell the vinegar any longer. Turn off the stove, add the lemon juice, and give everything a stir. Let cool.
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Someone selling salsa at a trade fair told me that he uses vinegar for that little bit of zing, but then adds lemon juice to cover up the flavor of the vinegar. I don’t know if that really works. Heck, I’m not sure it even makes sense. But I have done it that way for years.

To prepare to can, you need a large sturdy pot with a lid, preferably one with a heat gauge, like this one.

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You can purchase the same one as mine at Wiliams-Sonoma.com.
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One thing about canning, is that it will burn up your stove. What I mean, is that any bit of residue will burn, and because of the high heat, the brown spots can never be removed. At least I can’t. So I just use the same burner for canning.

You also need jars and lids that have been sterilized. I sterilize mine in the dishwasher. Remove them carefully and lay the jars and lids on paper towels. The important thing is to not put your fingers inside the jars and lids.

Then carefully scoop the salsa into the jars. There a wide-mouth funnel that you can use, but I didn’t use mine today because the salsa wasn’t that messy. Using a clean knife or narrow spatula, tamp down the salsa to remove any air bubbles within. Always leave a “headroom” of half an inch. Trust me on this. Otherwise the jars will leak. Then, if necessary, wipe off the tops of the jars with a clean paper towel.

I filled 4 – 12 ounce-capacity jars and had some left over salsa to refrigerate and enjoy over the next few days.

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Place the lids on the jars, and then place the jars in the large pot. Fill the pot with water, at least 1″ above the top of the tallest jar. Place the lid on the pot and turn up the heat to high.

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My gauge tells me when to begin counting the minutes to can. I can’t start counting until it reaches the green.
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To know how many minutes your jars should be in the waterbath, use a reliable reference, like the one below, because canning times vary drastically. This has a lot to do with the acidity of what you’re canning. Tomatoes are acidic, so all tomato products require only 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, remove the jars from the boiling water. It helps to have this tool, which securely grabs the jars for easy and safe removal. This guy is also available at Williams-Sonoma.com.

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Let the jars cool. You will hear a pop from each jar from the vacuum seal. After cooling, test the tops of the lids to make sure they don’t move or pop. They should be somewhat concave, especially if you used the 2-part lids. And as a note, you can re-use the rings, but throw away the used flat lids and replace them the next time you can. They’re cheap.

Store the jars in your pantry and use as necessary. Once the salsa jars are open, of course, refrigerate them. It’s probably wise to always inspect the jars for any strange bubbles or discoloration, and give the salsa a good smell after opening. It’s just about being safe. But seriously, canning is really straight forward.

* If I used approximately 50 something ounces of canned tomatoes, then I’m assuming I used about the same weight of fresh, seeded tomatoes, because it was about a 50-50 mixture of canned and fresh. I weighed a medium, round tomato on the day I wrote this post and it weighed 5 ounces exactly. So, that’s at least ten tomatoes for this recipe. Hope that helps.
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note: If you’ve read my notes on how I cook, then you’ll understand why I don’t have precise recipes. The reason? Preciseness doesn’t really matter in home cooking. You can omit the jalapenos and this salsa will still be good. In fact, the above chile peppers came out of my garden, so I wanted to use them. If I had to buy salsa ingredients only at a grocery store, I might have chosen different ones. Also, you can add more cilantro and it will still be good. I encourage you to make this salsa your own. Trust me, it will still work.