Just when you think you have prepared every salsa or hot sauce recipe possible, someone will tag you in a picture with a salsa that you just have to try. One day last week, my friend Donna shared a picture of a salsa she was enjoying at her local Mexican eatery. She asked if I had ever seen or prepared something similar. As far as I could see, it looked like a tomato based salsa, but was not thick, but more like a hot sauce with specs of toasted chiles. I had a rough idea and off I went into my kitchen. As I have talked about before, tomatoes and dried chile peppers are staples in my kitchen. You never know when you might be challenged to a salsa throwdown! Ha, ha, ha!! Bring it Bobby! Just kidding….but, not really. This was my best guess at the taqueria salsa.
Toasted Chile de Arbol Tomato Salsa/Hot Sauce.
My New Favorite Salsa!!! Until the next one comes along…
Inspired by my friend Donna!
1 large vine ripe tomato, chopped 10 chile de arbol, toasted 1 cup water salt to taste 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 tablespoons water Juice of 1/2 a lime juice or 1 tablespoon white vinegar, optional 1 teaspoon crushed chile piquin or toasted chile de arbol
Tips~Simply place the dried chile de arbol in a dry skillet at medium heat. Toast for a few minutes, turning as needed. Do not let them get too dark or they can become bitter tasting.
Tips~I typically only purchase Roma tomatoes for my everyday cooking, but the store was out! Lol! So, I picked up some vine ripe tomatoes. Delicious!
This is the salsa/hot sauce soon after I blended it and strained it into the bowl.
1. To the blender, add the chopped tomato, 1 cup water, toasted chile de arbol (stems removed) and salt to taste. Blend on high until smooth. You want the chiles to really break down as small as possible.
2. Strain salsa using a fine wire mesh strainer into a sauce pan. Transfer salsa/hot sauce to a sauce pan. Bring up to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Mix this into the simmering salsa. Reduce heat and cook for a few more minutes. If using any lime or vinegar, add it while salsa is cooking. Taste for salt. Add crushed chile piquin or more toasted chile de arbol.
Here is the salsa/hot sauce as it cooks. The color deepens. The cornstarch slurry thickens it sligtly and also keeps it from separating. I really enjoyed the tangy tomato flavor. It reminded me of these spicy ketchup potato chips I used to purchase in Mexico, tasty!
Spicy Chorizo Blend. A few months back I taught a Mexican cooking class at the local kitchen store. The star and focus of the evening was my version of a Mexican style chorizo. After several trial runs and many bowls and breakfast tacos filled with homemade chorizo, this dry chile and spice blend was my favorite. The first two versions I tried called for straining sauce and pork and it simply put too much strain on my bad arm and wrist. My approach to this recipe was to simply create a spice blend that was similar to all of the flavors you would find in chili, but with the added flavors of Mexican chorizo. What makes this recipe stand out? For one, using dried peppers and whole spices is so different than already ground spices from the store. The second thing is the toasting of the dried chiles and whole spices. You could never find spices that are this fragant and fresh from a jar. So, my goal was to be able to prepare a chorizo spice blend that I could prepare ahead of time from scratch and have on hand to add to my favorite ground meat for a Mexican chorizo I could feel good about eating.
4 chile ancho
4 chile New Mexico or guajillo
6 to 10 chile de arbol
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
11/2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1/2 piece of cinnamon stick
Pinch of anise seeds
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons annatto powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 pounds ground pork
* I added another 1/2 tablespoon of crushed oregano once it was all mixed
1. In a pan, on low/medium heat, toast the chile ancho, new mexico or guajiilo and chile de arbol for a few minutes. Don’t let them burn, just until they become aromatic and dry out a little more. Remove from heat and let them cool.
2. In that same pan on low/medium heat, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, oregano, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and anise until they become aromatic. Toast for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.Remove from heat.
3. Remove the stems and seeds from peppers. Tear the peppers into smaller pieces. In batches, grind all the toasted peppers and toasted spices to a fine powder, mix all together.
4. In a large bowl, combine the ground spice mix with remaining spices, ground pork and vinegar. Mix well until spices are distributed evenly. Cook a small portion of the chorizo to check for seasoning. Add seasoning to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The flavors will improve imensely the longer the chorizo marinates in the spices. If not using right away, freeze in 1/2 portions using quart size freezer bags. Yields 8 to 10 servings.
Tips~ Not only for preparing chorizo, but this blend would make a great dry rub for beef or pork roast, a whole chicken. It kind of reminds me of a Mexican version of jerk spices. Can’t wait to try it on some shrimp!
Mexican Style Tamales~ “On the Lighter Side”. I am as traditional as they come. When it comes to the foods I grew up with, I don’t like to skimp on ingredients. But, being the cook that I am, curiosity did get the best of me for this “On the Lighter Side” version of Mexican Tamales. In my collection of Mexican cookbooks, I came across a recipe that caught my attention. “Fat Free Masa”. I was like no way! How many times do you hear the celebrity chefs preach that fat equals flavor? Too many times, lol! I agree to a certain degree. In my own journey of weight loss over the years, I learned that just because recipes are lighter this does not mean they should taste bland.
My concept is, if you take out most of the fat, add more flavor using spices, chiles and acid – like Aloha’s salsa verde and chimichurri recipes on their healthy recipe page! I confess, I am one of those people who garnishes my savory dishes with a little hot sauce and fresh lime most of the time. I just think that it brings out the flavors in the savory foods. For this recipe, the fat, which is traditionally pork manteca/lard, you will add whipped potatoes instead. Potatoes? I know, that’s what I thought as well.
To add more of a traditional flavor, I bumped up the amount of chile sauce than I normally would add to the masa. I was skeptical, until I tasted them. I have to say, it is the best fake out for a traditional tamal that I have tried. The texture is pretty much the same with just a subtle flavor of potatoes in the backround. I have prepared these several times since and switch out the fillings depending on what I am in the mood for.
Chile Infused Tamales “On the Lighter Side”. These were filled with queso fresco and chile verde chunky salsa
For Chile Sauce
12 dried New Mexico or guajillo peppers, stems and seeds removed 2 dried chipotle peppers,optional if you like it more spicy 4 cloves garlic, sliced 1/2 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds 1/2 tablespoon crushed Mexican oregano 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth Salt to taste
For Masa 5 cups masa harina All of the chile sauce from recipe above 3 1/2 cups warm water 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 large russet potato or 4 new potatoes, peeled and quartered 1 1/2 to 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
*For Traditional Masa, eliminate the potatoes and add 1 1/2 cups of melted pork manteca or vegetable shortening
You will also need 36 or more large dried cornhusk a large steamer pot
1. Before anything else, cover the corn husk with extra hot water. Use a heavy weight to keep them immersed in the water. Let them soak for a good hour or longer. In a medium saucepan, add all the dried chiles, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain all of the water, transfer to the blender. Add all the remaining ingredients listed for chile sauce to the blender. Blend on high until smooth. Strain, using a wire mesh strainer, set sauce aside.
2. In a separate medium pot, add potatoes, fill with just enough water to cover. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender.
3. While potatoes are cooking, in a bowl combine the masa harina,salt and baking powder. Gradually add in the water and chile sauce until the dough forms. If you do not have a KitchenAid, lol, it’s best to get right in there and use your hands to mix the dough. The dough is ready when it stops sticking to your hands. If it seems too dry add a little more water. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
4. When potatoes are ready, drain all the water, reserving 2 tablespoons it. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, water from potatoes and with a hand mixer whip the potatoes until fluffy. Alternate adding the masa and the chicken broth a little at a time until the dough is smooth like frosting. If using right away, let masa rest for at least 30 minutes. You can cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days until ready to use.
5. When ready to assemble, you are looking for one that is no more than 4 inches across. Spread with about 4 tablespoons of masa, fill with 2 tablespoons of your favorite meat or veggie filling, fols in the sides until they overlap slightly. Fold top down. Fill steamer pot with water and arrange the tamales with open side up. You want the tamales to fit in there pretty snug. This will help them hold their shape better while they steam. Cover tamales with any extra cornhusk or with a wet, clean kitchen towel. Steam at medium heat for 1 hour, adding more hot water after 30 minutes.Pull one tamal out and let cool. If tamal pull away from husk then they are ready. Remove from heat and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes covered. Serve with your favorite salsa. Yields 40 large tamales or 50 medium, more or less.
Embracing my Mexican heritage and sharing all the wonderful flavors, colors and foods I grew up with. Join me on this journey as I also learn new foods and cooking techniques. Dedicated to my parents Ramiro and Blanca.