((Note: I just found this in my Drafts folder… apparently I had too much to do back in April to hit the “Publish” button. HA!!!))
Two years ago last week, we began the weekly journey of Savoring West Texas. Two years! Where has time gone? Sometimes, I struggle to come up with topics of regional interest to write about… things that entertain and perhaps enlighten more than just me.
Sometimes, there’s so much going on around the Trans Pecos that I think, “Wow! I’ve got the next few weeks of columns taken care of!” This past weekend was one of those busy weekends that could potentially fill up almost a month of newspaper columns.
Last Thursday, we ran into our friend, local barbecue aficionado Frank “Panchito” Hartnett. He asked if I was going to enter the Mile High Chili Cook-off at the Davis Mountains State Park, the one where I was a judge last year.
I said that I wasn’t, and he said I should at least enter the salsa contest. He was entering the contests. Panchito was a judge for the Chili Macho Salsa Contest last summer when I over-limed my beautiful batch of chunky, roasted salsa…
It was one of those moments in the kitchen where I started thinking about something else while juicing limes, and completely over-did it. I was likely thinking about margaritas. He said I probably would’ve won if I didn’t use so much lime.
So, I decided to go ahead and enter the salsa contest. I had plenty of other things on our Saturday Fun List but could start the morning with a drive up to the State Park to drop off my jar of homemade salsa before heading down to Alpine to check out the grand opening of the new Mexican bakery across from Sul Ross, grab a Cuban sandwich at Smokin’ Cuban at Sweet Panaderia’s grand opening, and then head down to Marathon for the grand opening of the Gage Hotel’s Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue. Our busy plans for Saturday were grand indeed.
Last week, we worked really hard on creating a new backyard patio. We finished on Friday afternoon, just in time to get my salsa ready for the contest. We had spent the better part of the week leveling uneven rock-hard dirt, and hauled sand and brick pavers for days. It was the hardest physical labor I’ve experienced in a while.
In preparation, I’d left my not-quite-ripe-enough tomatoes out in the sun for two days to turn perfectly red, and had all the other ingredients ready to go. The salsa turned out magnificent, if I do say so myself.
When my late-sleeping Saturday morning alarm went off at 8:30 a.m., my brick-hauling lower back and achy shoulders said, “Thanks but NO THANKS.” And not only did we not take my probably-winning salsa to the contest, we also didn’t make it to any of the other grand events on our Saturday itinerary.
We did get to sit and enjoy the new patio area, and we ate lots of chips and delicious salsa all weekend. Sometimes not doing everything on your To Do List, no matter how fun and interesting it might sound when you’re making plans, makes for a welcomed and much-needed moment for rest.
Today, I’ll share my salsa recipe. Maybe one of these days, I’ll enter it in a contest again. If you make it, let me know what you think. If you enter a contest with it, let me know when you win first place. Enjoy.
My Roasted Salsa Recipe
6 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
2 small white or yellow onions, cut into wedges
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 Serrano chili peppers, stemmed (use less for a milder salsa)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil because of its tolerance for high heat and mild flavor)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
If you are using a grill, place your veggies that have been tossed in oil and salt on the grill and cook for about five minutes or long enough to char the skins and soften the veggies.
If you are using an oven, preheat the broiler and set an oven rack about 5 inches beneath the heating element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic, whole Serrano chile peppers and vegetable oil directly on the prepared baking sheet and toss with your hands. Broil until softened and charred, 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables and juices to a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or a blender. Add salt and cumin and pulse until just slightly chunky. If you left out some of the Serrano peppers because you were afraid it would be too spicy, taste and add more if you want more heat.
Add cilantro and fresh lime juice, and pulse until the cilantro is chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and more lime juice if necessary. Just don’t go crazy with the lime.
If you don’t like chunky, throw it in the blender and blend away.