some like it hot

freestyle friday
notes from maggie's farm

happy mexican independence day!  viva mexico!

in texas, mexican food is where it is at.  it's delicious, it's addictive, it's inexpensive, it's imaginative, it's everything i love and then some. often people think it is overly spicy, but most dishes are not highly spiced. unless, of course, you want it to be.  and i want it to be.  there are all matter of delicious condiments to add for a little heat. if you've been reading along, i bet you may have already noticed this, but i love spicy.  if 2-4 hot peppers are called for in any recipe, i start with 6.  if the pepper grinder turns up empty, we're not eating at home.  and a pot of mild chili?  just as likely get hot ice cream, here.  i try to use a lighter hand with people who like less heat, but they will tell you, try as I might, i don't always succeed. luckily for me, some like it hot.  and the basic building block of mexican food?  spicy, bright, fabulosa salsa! some like it mild, and some like it hot.

when i moved to texas, it is true that i missed the cuisine of louisiana.  i thought i'd never be happy eating out in austin; at the time, good creole food was not to be found.  and then i found the holy grail-- chips and salsa.  free chips and salsa.  with every mexican meal!  and mexican food is found on every block. every block,  my friends!  breakfast. lunch. dinner.  they come early and they stay late.  it's mexican food heaven here!  oh, friends, they had me at chips and salsa.  (and margaritas, too, but that's another post.)

so, why does one even need to make their own salsa with all those restaurants out there?  because we think everything's better when you grow it, and make it, with your own two hands. we are real people out here, and we make real food for ourselves at home, a whole lot. trying to replicate the restaurant experience with off-the-shelf salsa just doesn't cut it.  the commercial canning process changes salsa--takes off the bright edges.  fresh salsa beats canned salsa every single time.  and it's quite easy to make.
there's the traditional verde and roja, both very good, but the salsa we're creating today is my very favorite--roasted tomato salsa.   let's get crackin.

for 2 cups salsa, you will need:
about 3 lbs of tomatoes (we've used a combination of gold and red plum tomatoes and roma tomatoes)
3-4 hot peppers of your choice (we use red jalapeno and serrano)
1/2 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (we throw in about 1/2 tablespoon of chopped stems, too)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2-1tsp cumin (we roast and grind cumin seeds, but cumin powder is just fine, too)
juice of 1-2 limes
salt, to taste

spread tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic on a sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and broil until skins are charred, turning once.  remove and allow to cool.  
remove stems and cores, and skin of onion and garlic.  in food processor, preferably, (but it can be done in a blender, in small batches) pulse peppers, onions, and garlic separately, one at a time, and reserve.  process stemmed and cored tomatoes until the consistency you desire. 

transfer to a mixing bowl.  add onions, peppers, and garlic, experimenting with quantities a little at a time, to get it just the way you like.  the quantities given here yield my favorite combination of flavors and level of spiciness, but make it your own!  season with cumin, lime juice, and salt, to taste. (if you use salted tortilla chips, you'll want to use a lighter hand salting the salsa.) chill (because it brightens the flavors so well when it's chilled for about  30 minutes, or longer).  serve with a heaping bowlful of your favorite tortilla chips, these are ours,

or season anything (or everything) with a little sprinkling atop. try it in that chicken noodle soup or on your morning eggs.  maybe a lowfat, healthy topping for a baked potato, or smothering baked fish. a spoonful in shrimp cocktail really takes things up a notch. the uses are endless.  what is your favorite use for delicious salsa?

are you taking the slow food $5 challenge?  we are, and we're sharing our meal (well, at least the recipes) with you.  stayed tuned for some delicious, family-friendly, economical eats, on
notes from maggie's farm.

ABOUT THE $5 CHALLENGE This September 17, you're invited to help take back the 'value meal' by getting together with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal that costs no more than $5 per person. Find an event happening near you, host a dinner, or have a potluck.

Why? Because slow food shouldn't have to cost more than fast food. If you know how to cook, then teach others. If you want to learn, this is your chance. Together, we're sending a message that too many people live in communities where it's harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops.
How can I get involved? Take the pledge to share a meal with family and friends, find a local meal or host your own. If the date doesn't work you, you can still take the pledge to show your support -- and we'll send you $5 cooking tips and updates on the campaign.
What if $5 is too much for me and my family? We recognize that $5 is actually not a small amount of money -- but it is the cost of a typical fast food "value meal," so we figured that was a good starting place for cooking up a meal that reflects your values.We hope to help people find ways to make eating "slow" easier, while also acknowledging what makes it hard. Understanding the hard part and how to fix the hard part ... is the hard part. And it's where we've all got our work cut out for us.

For more background on the day and the campaign, read
frequently asked questions or our August 16 press release. For $5 cooking tips and other resources, click here.

have a great weekend, friends!

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