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Ancho Chile and Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa with Goat Cheese


Ancho Chile and Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa with Goat Cheese

Texas produces some of the most incredible goat cheese you are likely to encounter. One way of using it is in this appetizer, which comes from Mozzarella Company founder Paula Lambert by way of Mexican culinary authority Patricia Quintana. It’s perfect for Fiesta parties or any time of year. As Lambert says in “The Cheese Lovers Cookbook & Guide, “You’ll find that mild fresh goat cheese is the perfect match for this spicy, vinegary salsa. This is a great hors d’oeuvre to serve before a Mexican meal, or anytime, for that matter.”

Ancho Chile and Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa with Goat Cheese

4 large dried ancho chiles
10 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves
½ small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 ounces (2/3 cup) fresh goat cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving

Slit the ancho chiles lengthwise. Remove the seeds and discard. Place the chiles and tomatoes in a dry skillet. Toast them over medium heat, flattening the chiles and tomatoes with the back of a spatula and turning them several times, until aromatic and slightly darkened. Watch carefully, as they can burn quickly. Transfer the chiles and tomatoes to two separate bowls and cover each with hot water. Let them sit until plumped and pliable, about 15 minutes for the tomatoes and 30 minutes for the chiles; to keep them immersed in the water, push them down with the back of a spoon every 5 minutes or so.

Remove the tomatoes from the water, pat dry and cut into ¼-inch julienne strips. Place in a bowl.

Remove the chiles from the water, pat dry and remove any remaining seeds, the ribs and the stems. Cut into 1/4 –inch julienne strips. Add to the tomatoes, then add the onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, oregano and salt. Let the salsa stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour so that the flavors blend.

To serve, put the salsa in a shallow dish. Slice the goat cheese into 1-inch-thick rounds and place on top of the salsa, or coarsely crumble it over the salsa. Serve at room temperature accompanied by the tortilla chips.

Makes about 6 servings.

From “The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook and Guide” by Paula Lambert

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Zucchini Salad Crowns Jamie Oliver’s Tuna on Roasted Salsa


How hot do you like your salsa? Use 2 or 3 chiles in the recipe to taste.

Jamie Oliver’s dish isn’t just appropriate for Lent; it is healthful and very colorful.

Tuna on Roasted Salsa

Salsa:
2 to 3 fresh green chiles
2 green bell peppers
1 red onion, peeled and halved
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 medium red tomatoes
Juice of 3 limes
Large handful of fresh cilantro
Olive oil

Zucchini salad:
2 zucchini or yellow squash
Handful of fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Fish:
4-by-7 ounce (1-inch thick) pieces of sustainably caught (sushi grade) tuna
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

First get your salsa going. Prick the chiles all over, then, on a hot grill or grill pan, blacken and blister the salsa vegetables. Once nice and black all over, pop them into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put to one side. Halve and seed the bell peppers and chiles, then peel the skins off the charred veggies. Don’t wash any of these veggies under the tap or you’ll wash away their wonderful flavors.

At this point, get the tuna out of the refrigerator  so it has time to come up to room temperature. Put all your charred vegetables into a food processor. Add lime juice, cilantro, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and a few good lugs of olive oil, and pulse until it is  the right consistency for you. Have a taste — it’s important to get the flavors right, so add more salt, pepper or lime juice until you’re happy. Put the salsa into a bowl and set aside. Remember to check the seasoning later, as the flavors may change.

Peel the zucchini or squash lengthwise into thin ribbons. If you’ve got big zucchini, avoid the fluffy center. Put these ribbons into a bowl with the mint leaves, then drizzle with a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and the lemon juice and toss until nicely coated.

Put the grill pan on a high heat and let it get screaming hot. Drizzle the tuna with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay it in the hot pan and sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side if you like it blushing like I do, or for a little longer if you prefer.

Put a big spoonful of salsa on each of your plates and lay a piece of tuna on top. Give the zucchini salad a good squeeze of lemon juice and another drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, taste it for seasoning, then plonk a nice handful of ribbons over each piece of tuna. Such fresh flavors.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Jamie’s America” by Jamie Oliver

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Hyatt Hill Country Bottles Its 99 Brand Salsa


If you’ve ever stayed at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, you probably tasted the salsa, made from roasted tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. It’s a taste many of you have wanted to take with you upon leaving.

Well, now you can.

The Hyatt has begun to bottle its 99 Brand Salsa, which the resort’s culinary team, led by chefs Jeffrey Axell and Troy Knapp, have made ready for mass production.

The name is derived from the cattle brands that Texas began registering in the 1830’s.  D. G. Rogers, founder of the Rogers-Wiseman ranch, now home to the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, designed the 99 brand and officially registered it in 1888.

Family legend states that Rogers chose the 99 after a passage in the Bible, where the question was asked, “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 and go to look for the one that wandered off?” This parable was directed at his son Henry, who preferred to spend time in town socializing in San Antonio’s Produce Row to a hard day’s work on the ranch.

The salsa is the first in a trilogy of products that will be labeled under the 99 Brand. A barbecue sauce and dry rub are in production and will be available soon. The 16-ounce jars of salsa are available in the hotel’s General Store for $6. Call 210-647-1234.

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Texas Red Grapefruit Salsa


Texas red grapefruit make this salsa, which is perfect with grilled chicken and fish.

“Try this tangy salsa on grilled chicken or fish,” writes Robb Walsh in “The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook” (Broadway Books, $18.99). “It’s easy once you learn how to supreme a grapefruit.”

Texas Red Grapefruit Salsa

2 Texas red grapefruits
1 medium tomato, chopped fine
1 cup diced green, red and yellow bell pepper, in any combination
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt, to taste

Supreme the grapefruit (remove peel, pith and membrane) and dice the sections. Combine with the tomato, peppers, cilantro and salt, to taste. Allow to mellow for 30 minutes in the refrigerator for the flavors to combine.

Makes 2 cups.

From “The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook” by Robb Walsh

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Caracheo’s: A Small Taqueria with Bold Flavors


Tortas at Caracheo's are a meaty treat.

The first taste you’re likely to get of Caracheo’s Mexican Restaurant at 3033 Bitters Road is the salsa. It’s a reddish-brown mix with plenty of chile seeds that tells of having been cooked well before it was ground up. The first taste is smoky with a nice amount of heat that lingers just long enough for you get the next chip ready.

Bells started going off in my taste bud memory, and I immediately thought of Rosario’s, which has one of the best salsas in town. There’s a reason for that, I found out later: The cook here once worked at Rosario’s, and he obviously learned his lesson well. There’s a rustic richness that makes you want to drizzle it over refrieds, over carne asada, over eggs, over just about anything you order.

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Value: 4.0

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

Many of the dishes at this appealing yet non-descript little restaurant, with a sister location at 8014 Crosscreek, have the same effect.

Try the mole with its earthy mixture of chile de arbol as well as the expected chocolate and peanut. This is not a sweet rendition, but a complex sauce that is perfect over chicken or used, as I had it, over chicken-filled enchiladas ($6.50).

Mole enchiladas at Caracheo's.

The carnitas ($5.99) are not the pristine shavings of meat you’ll find at many another restaurant. Instead, Caracheo’s serves large chunks of pork that has been crisped on one side and remains moist on the other. The roasted bits of meat also have plenty of fat on then, if you choose to eat it.

I have enjoyed many of the breakfast tacos ($85 cents-$2 apiece), served in handmade corn tortillas, on request. The pork chop taco, a favorite of mine, came with the peppery pieces of meat boned and cut in slivers before being tucked in the warm wrapping. Barbacoa, carnitas and the Nacogdoches, sort of a cousin to the taco Norteño with its inclusion of beans and avocado, were all worth investigating.

You can hardly go wrong with any of the lunch specials. There you’ll usually find some more interior Mexican dishes as well as caldos, special enchiladas, even puffy tacos.

As with any restaurant, some dishes I’ve sampled on more than a half-dozen visits are naturally better than others. The Milanesa ($5.99), pounded to a perfect thinness, was traditional yet nothing special. The mini-tacos ($4.99), with a scant amount of carne asada on each, tasted more of slightly undercooked corn tortillas than anything else, despite being covered with onion, cilantro and some of the green salsa.

The only genuine misfire was a set of beef empanadas ($5.99) made in puff pastry. The flavor was fine, but the filling was far too greasy and kept pouring out for too long a period of time to be appetizing. Yet I know someone who swears by them because of the delicate pastry.

Service has always been good, though the kitchen can be inconsistent. On several occasions, I’ve ordered the tortas ($3.99), loaded with all manner of wonderful fillings, from puerco en chile colorado to carnitas. Each arrived on a toasty hot bun that was covered with refrieds on one side and stacked high with avocado, lettuce and tomato. A friend ordered one on a separate visit, and hers was not only missing the refrieds (which she, as a Mexico City native, expected), but the bun was barely warm.

I know the restaurant was short-staffed that day, so I will give Caracheo’s a break. And I will be back, for the salsa as much as a desire to try the shrimp fajitas, the enchiladas verdes and more.

Caracheo’s Mexican Restaurant
3033 Bitters Road
210-590-4020

8014 Crosscreek
210-637-6192

Open daily for breakfast and lunch

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Value: 4

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A Treat for Cinco de Mayo


Grill fish in a basket.

Looking for a new way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or merely enjoy grilled fish? Then check out this easy, yet low-calorie dish from celebrated grill master Steven Raichlen, who will be in San Antonio on May 24 for a fund-raiser benefiting KLRN. (Click here for details.)

“You may not find this dish in traditional Mexican cookbooks,” Raichlen writes in “High-Flavor, Low-Fat Mexican Cooking,” “but the flavors of the simply grilled fish served with a silken salsa of avocado, chiles and fried garlic are as ancient as the country itself. I’ve called for snapper here, but you can really use any fish. For ease in turning the fish on the grill, cook it in a wire fish basket.”

Grilled Snapper with Avocado Sauce

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless snapper fillets
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice

For the salsa:
1 poblano chile
1 jalapeño
1/2 medium white onion, cut in half
5 cloves garlic (2 cloves peeled, 3 cloves peeled and thinly sliced), divided use
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large avocado, peeled and seeded
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup no-fat sour cream
1/2 cup water, fish broth or bottled clam juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Arrange the fillets in a baking dish and pour the orange and grapefruit juices over them. Marinate for 1 hour, turning once or twice.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa. Heat a comal or cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat. Roast the chiles, onion and the 2 peeled garlic cloves until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes for the poblano and onion, 4 to 6 minutes for the jalapeño and the garlic. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Seed the chiles.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry the sliced garlic until it is lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let it burn. Drain the fried garlic in a strainer.

Place the roasted chiles, onion and garlic in a blender with the avocado, chopped cilantro, cumin, sour cream, water or fish broth, and lime juice. Purée until smooth, adding water as needed to obtain a thick but pourable sauce. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Add the fried garlic and pulse the blender just to mix.

Preheat the grill to high. Place the fish in a fish basket sprayed with cooking spray oil. Grill the fish until it’s cooked to taste, about 4 minutes per side. Arrange the fish fillets on places or a platter and pour the salsa over them. Garnish with cilantro sprig and serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis: 290 calories per serving, 36 g protein, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 118 mg sodium, 62 mg cholesterol.

From “High-Flavor, Low-Fat Mexican Cooking” by Steven Raichlen

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Cowboy Eggs With Smoky Black Beans and Lime-Avocado Salsa


To save time on this recipe, use 1 1/4 cups salsa in place of the onions and tomatoes in the sauce.

Cowboy Eggs With Smoky Black Beans and Lime-Avocado Salsa

2 tablespoons vegetable, oil, divided use
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 canned chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 large eggs
4 (6-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack or sharp cheddar cheese

[amazon-product]0373892136[/amazon-product]Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, until softened, stirring often. Add cumin; cook 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes with juice, beans and chile; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat; simmer 6 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, combine avocado, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm remaining 1 tablespoon oil in another large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Crack eggs into skillet; fry about 2 1/2 minutes, until whites are just set but yolks are still soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in paper towels and warm in microwave or one at a time in another skillet on stove. Set 1 tortilla on each of 4 plates. Divide bean mixture among tortillas. Top each with 1 fried egg. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with lime-avocado salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Grove Cookbook”

(photo: Mats Heyman)

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Manzano Chile Salsa (Salsa de Chile Manzano)


CIASalas1Roberto Santibañez offered this recipe at his class Friday at the Culinary Institute of America’s conference, Latin Flavors, American Kitchens.

Manzano Chile Salsa

3 ounces manzano chile
3 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound fresh tomatillos, cut up into smaller pieces
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
2 scallions (green onions), sliced
Salt, to taste

Make sure all ingredients except onions and spices are carefully washed. Blend everything together until it is a smooth mixture.  Then season with salt, to taste.

Makes 3-4 cups salsa
From Roberto Santibañez

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Ranchera Sauce With Red Jalapeño Chiles


CIASalas1This smooth, tomato and jalapeño sauce, from chef Roberto Santibañez, is spiced with a little bit of cinnamon.

Ranchera Sauce With Red Jalapeño Chiles

6 pounds whole, ripe tomatoes
2 small white onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 red jalapeños, boiled, stem removed
5 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 2-inch long stick cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Put tomatoes core side down on sheet pan and broil 8 inches from heat source until tomatoes are soft and skins are blackened and shriveled.

Once cooled, peel and core the tomatoes. Blend the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños and garlic until smooth. Tie cinnamon stick in a square of cheesecloth.

Heat canola oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato purée and bring to a boil. Stir in salt, sugar, if using and cinnamon bundle. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 hour. If sauce thickens too much before that time, lower the heat and add water, a half-cup at a time, to prevent sauce from thickening too much.

Makes 2 quarts.

From Roberto Santibañez

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Ask a Foodie: Seasoning a Molcajete


jean_victor_balin_toque1Q. I just got my first molcajete. Somebody said I had to season it. How do I that?

A. The molcajete is Mexico’s answer to the mortar and the tejolote is its pestle. Seasoning a new one is advisable, in case any rock should break off into your food. The best advice on how to do this comes from Marilyn Tausend in her book, “Cocina de la Familia”: The molcajete “should have the darkest possible color and very small pores. So as not to grind rock into your salsas, first put a handful of uncooked rice in the bowl and grind it to a powder with the tejolote. Rinse out the molcajete and repeat the process three or four times, until no grit can be seen mingling with the rice. Then it’s ready to use.”

Tausend goes on to give the following advice: “When making a salsa, always start with the most solid ingredients first, rotating the pestle until they are pulverised. Then add the softer ones and continue grinding until the mixture is of the desired consistency. The molcajete is also useful for grinding certain foods to a rough texture, such as the tougher-skinned dried chiles, fresh corn or meat.”

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