Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Taco Feed - The Salsas

Our rainy Memorial Day taco feed and board game fest was a blast last night.  We ate, drank, and were generally merry aside from a few game-related grumblings when the die didn't roll our way.  The tacos turned out marvelously, and I picked up a few good cooking *and* recipe writing ideas in the process.  Now I will record them for posterity.  Blog for the win.

Unfortunately, my intended table of contents is having some technical difficulties.  Dear Blogger, please do not automatically edit my HTML for me.  Instead, I will post the recipes in logical groups.  First up, of course, is the appetizer... my favorite and yours too... the elegant and labor intensive dish known in some circles as chips and salsa.

Sure, we buy ready-made salsa every once in awhile.  Costco has a decent deal on organic salsa, and every once in awhile you can get *gasp* medium instead of the usual mild.  However, when faced with the reality that I am saddled with yet another salsa container in addition to the daunting prospect of ingesting the sugary bonus bean dip, I always wonder why I didn't just whip up a batch of our favorite stuff at home.  It's cheaper, tastier, and one batch lives perfectly in a quart-sized mason jar.  It also comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks of all time: The Grit Restaurant Cookbook.   I believe the salsa is a beautiful representation of what makes The Grit so awesome... so I'll let the results speak for themselves.

For the sake of reporting, I also made an ENORMOUS batch of cucumber radish salsa to use up the--guess what--that I ordered by accident last week.  I was pleasantly surprised by the salsa, although the accidental grating of the cucumbers was not helpful in keeping the wateriness of the dish to a minimum.  As a result, the corn tortillas did not get along with this particular taco accompaniment.  Next time I will stick with chopping.  Also, grating radishes by hand sucks.  Signed, My Thumb.

Grit Salsa
yields 4 cups... doubles beautifully

1/2 medium ripe tomato (or 1 small Roma tomato), chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1/2 a lemon... if using bottled, give it a few good dashes and then additional to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro... sometimes I add more :P
1 medium clove fresh garlic
1 small jalapeno chile (or more to taste), chopped... and I suppose you could seed it...?
1/3 medium red onion, chopped
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp dark chili powder (I used the McCormick dark chili powder, not my first choice but it came out pretty good!)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

The original recipe encourages you to chop smaller groups of ingredients in the food processor, then to combine everything in a mixing bowl.  Since we have owned this cookbook since college and have still not managed to get a food processor, we throw everything into aforementioned mixing bowl and pulse with an immersion blender sparingly until the desired consistency is achieved.  I am sure that the same concept would work beautifully in a blender, but proceed with caution--you don't want to completely puree the mixture.

That being said, my only instructions for this recipe are as follows: mix in food processor, blender, or with immersion blender, taking care to achieve a finely chopped, not puréed, consistency.  Refrigerate (in a mason jar, if you like) for a couple of hours, if you can: the flavors are better once developed a bit, but this is also tasty right out of the mixing bowl. 

*A more complicated and potentially more flavorful/less chunky/more complicated salsa may be achieved by finely chopping tomatoes mixed with lemon juice, then setting this aside to process (blender/food processor) or chop (immersion blender--sorry comrades) cilantro, garlic, and jalapeño.  Add chopped onion and pulse until very finely minced--this step applies to all three appliances, as immersion blenders can make quick (but possibly messy) work of the onion mincing.  

Cucumber-Radish Salsa
adapted from Southern Living 

2  cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped... do not grate :-/ 
1  (6-ounce) package radishes, grated 
1  small onion, minced 
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro 
1/4  cup  lime juice 
1/2  teaspoon  salt 
1/4  teaspoon cayenne 

Stir together first 7 ingredients. Cover and chill. 

Next up... THE TACOS

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