Monday, December 29, 2014

Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde with Home-Fried Tortilla Chips

Cilantro Lime Salsa Verde is versatile enough to serve on its own or use as a marinade for chicken, to top eggs, in a salad dressing mixed with Greek yogurt or added to sour cream for a creamy vegetable dip.


Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have people enter our lives who take up residence in our hearts even when long spans of time or distance keeps us apart. You know the kind, right? The friends that you once spent tons of time with but kids, work, and life have filled the space between you and were it anyone else those things would have driven you apart, spinning you in to different directions. But not these friends. These are the ones that when you do finally get together it's as if you're picking up the conversation where it left off. And even though you might miss some of the things you used to do together, you rest in the knowledge that if something profound happened, if you needed a huge favor, or if you just needed to feel connected to someone, they're just a phone call away. Those are the friends I call lifers. Do you have friends like that in your life?

I have been blessed with several such friends, two of which are Nathan and Jess. I haven't seen them in more than a year but not for lack of trying. Illness and work kept making us postpone our get-togethers. This past weekend before Christmas, I finally made it over for brunch and as expected, we fell right back into our comfortable friendship, enriched now with the addition of their sweet little toddler, Cami.

I've written about these two before but to summarize, Jess is in public relations which is how I might her. I was a features photo editor and she was assistant marketing director at the La Jolla Playhouse so we spent quite a bit of time on the phone organizing shoots for our arts coverage at the newspaper. When she found out that I made custom beaded jewelry, she hired me to design her wedding jewelry. From the moment I met her in person more than 10 years ago now, her warmth and kindness grabbed hold of me and we've been friends ever since. Nathan, a fellow food enthusiast, is her husband. When I met him, he was in construction but a few years ago he made a career switch and jumped into being a full-time architectural photographer, giving us even more to geek out over because now we added all things photography to our shared love of cooking.

A few nights before brunch, I texted Jess to find out what I should bring over. She said the "chef" didn't know yet what he was going to make for brunch so I was to just take over some juice. The morning of, Nathan messaged to ask besides not eating flour or potatoes, was there anything else off-limits for me? His concern over making sure that whatever he made fit into my current dietary needs really sums up the kind person he is. Jess and he really are a great couple and I'm so blessed to have them in my life.

When I got there, he was making chicken chorizo from scratch and when I offered up my help in the kitchen, he put me to work on an incredibly simple yet complex tasting salsa made from cilantro, lime, blanched garlic and olive oil. It was the perfect topping for our egg and chorizo tacos and we all decided that it would taste delicious on chicken and fish, as well. I teased then that this salsa might find it's way to my blog.

All week long, I've thought about this simple, yet delicious salsa and knew that my off-hand comment was about to become a reality: I had to make a version of it for myself and my Grandmother to enjoy. Grams likes a bit of heat so I decided to add some pasilla chile and some onion to the mix making this essentially a salsa verde without the tomatillos.

This salsa is super versatile. In addition to using it in place of a tomato-based salsa for chips, here are a few more suggestions for using it:

  • Swirl several tablespoons into a ½ cup of sour cream for a creamy veggie dip
  • Use as a marinade for chicken or steak by massaging several tablespoons into the meat and letting it sit overnight before cooking
  • Add 2 tablespoons to a ¼ cup greek yogurt and use as a salad dressing
  • Top just about anything: from eggs or warm roasted vegetables to burritos and tacos for added brightness and an herbaceous finish
  • Toss with freshly cooked pasta and some added olive oil, if needed
  • Add a few dollops to a bowl of puréed carrot soup for some added heat and acidity

Thank you, Nathan, for teaching me something new. This salsa is about to become a staple in my refrigerator. I hope you give it a whirl and let me know how you like to use it. 



This recipe takes several cloves of garlic. Here's a quick tip for peeling lots of cloves all at once: Place the cloves in a clean mason jar and seal the jar then shake it vigorously for a minute or two.


Magically, all the cloves are released from their papery skins.  


When I started to make the salsa in Nathan's kitchen, he brought over a pot of garlic and asked if I had ever heard of blanching garlic? Uh, no, I hadn't. He had me taste one so I popped a whole blanched garlic in my mouth and was blown away. Basically, the blanching process removes the sharp bite of garlic while leaving all of it's aromatic and floral taste in tact. I've since read a little more about it and found that Thomas Keller suggests blanching several times in milk for optimal mellowing. I merely blanched it once in boiling water and it was plenty mellow for this application. It's a simple technique that I'll be using a lot from this point forward especially in recipes calling for a lot of raw garlic.


Did you know that cilantro has many health benefits? It's super high in vitamins K and A and is a significant source of vitamins C and B-6. It's also been suggested that it can help lower blood sugar and detoxify the blood from heavy metals. It's also a bit of a polarizing herb: people either love it or hate. I'm one of the lovers, having grown up with it as our family's primary herb of choice. We use it the way I imagine Italians use basil: from just a touch to large amounts in nearly everything. Although the thick stems are edible, they do have a more concentrated cilantro flavor and are often, unknowingly, what cilantro haters object to the most. For this recipe, we're going to want just the leaves of one whole bunch of cilantro.


Do you have a microplane? My aunties bought me this one about ten years ago now and it's one of my favorite kitchen tools. It makes zesting a breeze! It's easy to manage, clean and store. I use if for zesting and finely grating garlic or hard cheeses all the time.


For some reason, this gorgeous pepper is often mislabeled in the United States as pasilla. It's actually a poblano. A true pasilla is a dried version of a fresh chilaca pepper. The dried version, or pasilla (also called chile negro), we use a lot of in chile sauces like mole. So if your grocer has it labeled as a pasilla when you're recipe calls for poblano, now you know it is the pepper you are looking, despite the mislabeling. They range from mild to medium in heat, making them perfect for chiles rellenos and in raw salsas such as this cilantro-lime one we're making today.


This is a fresh salsa: no cooking needed. Just throw all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and you're good to go.


Look at that color! So vibrant.


I gotta say, making chips at home from good quality corn tortillas beats store-bought for me every time. Besides being less greasy than their store-bought counterparts, being able to use fresh corn tortillas from a local tortilleria gives these a more authentic and satisfying taste. It's also easier to control the amount of sodium added afterwards. To make a quick snack for one person, simply stack two tortillas, slice them in half then into thirds to make little triangles.


Place the tortillas triangles into a bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon of vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil) and toss and massage the oil into the tortillas until they are evenly coated.


Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on a hot, preferably cast iron, skillet and toast until they are crispy, golden and starting to curl up. Flip them and toast on the other side until golden and just beginning to brown. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.


CILANTRO-LIME SALSA VERDE 
WITH HOME-FRIED TORTILLA CHIPS
Yield: makes 1 ¼ cups salsa; Enough chips for one or two people

INGREDIENTS
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For the salsa:
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch fresh cilantro
½ to 1 whole poblano chile pepper, seeds and stem removed, rough chopped
¼ onion, rough chopped (about ⅓ cup)
1 lime, zest and juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch sea salt, or to taste

For chips for two people:
2 -3 fresh corn tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil or canola oil, divided, more as needed
pinch sea salt

DIRECTIONS
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1. Once the papery skins of the garlic cloves have been removed, place cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water by 1-inch. Place on high heat and bring to a boil for two minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

2. Remove the cilantro leaves from their stems; discard stems. Place leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Add the poblano chile (½ for less heat, or entire poblano, rough chopped, for more heat), onion, lime zest and juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Process until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes, scrapping down sides as needed. Taste and add additional salt if needed; set aside. 

3. Stack tortillas, slice in half, then stack again. Cut tortillas into three wedges to form triangle shapes. Place tortillas into a small bowl; drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and massage oil into the tortillas making sure to coat evenly. Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil into the skillet and swirl to coat. Add the tortilla chips to the skillet in a single layer (you might need to do this in batches); cook on one side until the chips are golden, starting to brown and have started to curl up. Turn chips over and repeat on the other side. Remove chips to a serving dish when desired color, crispness has been reached and dress with a pinch of sea salt. If working in batches,  add additional oil to skillet if needed before toasting second batch. Serve toasted chips immediately with salsa. 

Until next time! Happy Monday... 
xo, Ani

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tip about blanching garlic cloves! I am making a dressing for Hoppin John tomorrow and am trying it now. Think it will mellow the flavor nicely.

    ReplyDelete