I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back in black

To get back to where we were, before being so rudely interrupted by political posts, this week begat a new nibble meal. For a year or so I've had this recipe for the Baja Fresh (BF) dark salsa clone from the Top Secret Recipes guy (I bought it from him, but it's also all over the internet if you do a search).

Not being a particularly rabid salsa fan otherwise, the Salsa Baja at this chain is something I could swim in forever and never tire of. Others have declared the same thing. I stop at BF from time to time and order a veggie tostada just to eat the aforementioned salsa. It is rich, black, and smoky, and not at all sweet. So I finally set about trying to make it at home.

And it worked! My result was not nearly as black as the original (probably because I did not use a grill; time to get the George Foreman out of the storage unit), and it was also thicker, but it was so good I may like mine better. I think what everybody loves is the smokiness, as the ingredients are really just standard salsa fare.

The clone recipe calls for roasting whole, cold tomatoes on a grill, and adding a jalapeno pepper halfway through roasting, turning to blacken all the sides evenly. Per the suggestion of another commenter somewhere on the internet, I cut my tomatoes in half and roasted them in the toaster oven cut side down for about 40-45 minutes, and since the sides weren't getting any blacker after 40, that is probably enough time. I also forgot to get a jalapeno on the last grocery store trip so I used a bit of chipotle chili sauce from canned chilies at the end instead of the roasted jalapeno. NOW we got some smoky goin' on, citizens!

Other departures from the cloned recipe include halving it (which may also explain why it is not as dark as the original), and adding a bit more tomatoes, lime juice, onions, and cilantro. I add more veggies anyway when I get the fixins off the Baja Fresh salsa bar- one portion cup of the salsa baja, one of the salsa fresca, one of chopped cilantro, plus a wedge or two of sliced lime- mix and squeeze and apply lavishly. So if you want a less chunky result more like the original salsa itself at BF, cut the veggie proportions in half and add more water to taste.

Serving suggestion for a super Super Bowl- line a shallow serving bowl or casserole with chips, add a sprinkling of chili beans or some Texas Caviar, then a drizzle of black salsa, a drizzle of nacho sauce, and a few dollops of sour cream (my preference is non-dairy), as well as some extra minced onion and jalapeno for the top. Serve with wedges of fresh lime for squeezing over the bowl.

Black Salsa

3 medium-large tomatoes, cut in half

½ tsp. chipotle chile sauce
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
½ tsp. salt

¾ cup water
1 Tbs. lime juice

1 small-medium tomato (such as a Roma), diced
2 Tbs. onion, diced
2 Tbs. cilantro, minced

Set oven to 450 degree F. Place the three medium-large cut tomatoes cut side down on a baking tray with sides on the upper rack of the oven (a toaster oven works fine and saves energy). Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the skins are very charred.

Allow tomatoes to cool a bit until you can comfortably handle. Add roasted tomatoes (with any liquid) through salt to a blender, and puree on high until thoroughly smooth. Add water and lime juice and blend again on high for 30 seconds.

Pour the mixture into a bowl. Add the diced tomato, onion, and cilantro, fold in gently, and adjust seasonings to taste. Refrigerate a few hours to blend flavors.

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