Friday, March 28, 2014

Bring the Heat: Fiery Tomatillo & Avocado Salsa

March is a tricky month. If you're like me and live in a climate with all four seasons, Spring is teasing you with hints of green poking through last Fall's detritus and blue skies with cotton candy clouds. But, if you live in somewhere northernish, like New York, it is still bitterly cold. You might believe the promise of those brilliant blue skies and run outside in an optimistically light jacket, only to return, windswept and numbed, a short time later. Yes, there are crocuses blooming, and I'm sure in a few months I'll be roasting, but for now, I want thick socks (highly uncharacteristic) and warm baked goods with melty chocolate (all too typical).

March is tricky for cooking, too. You still want something warm and a bit substantial, but after months of root veggies, casseroles, hearty soups, and creamy sauces...all that sort of hearty warmth has lost a bit of its comforting appeal. We're ready for crisp spring vegetables and vibrant colors of summer farmer's market stalls.

It's always this time of year that I dive into stir-fries with Thai influences, Indian curries, and, citrus-infused Mexican food. Sweet and sour becomes my sauce of choice and everything gets doused with citrus, just to ward of any scurvy that might be setting in. I realize that the possibility of developing scurvy pretty much doesn't exist, but that $#!% is terrifying, so, why even get close to risking it? Plus, limes are delicious.

So just don't. Try this salsa instead. Its vibrant kick is sure to brighten up tacos, salads, burritos, fajitas, or even just a big bowl of chips. I had, um, somehow managed to forget that serrano pepers are quite a bit hotter than jalapeños. I only used one, so the salsa wasn't too fiery, but I probably could have done without the pinch of red pepper flakes I added...

This is a terrible photo from my phone. But it's all I've got as far as
photography equipment goes right now. Wah wah. 

Fiery Tomatillo & Avocado Salsa

The flavor of this salsa is deepened by roasting some of the veggies before dumping everything in your blender and buzzing it to perfection. It's almost TOO easy. If you want less heat, you could definitely exchange the serrano for a jalapeño

3 or 4 medium to large tomatillos
1 small green bell pepper, seeded & halved
1 small yellow onion, halved & skin removed
1 serrano pepper
2 limes
1 avocado
Large handful of cilantro, about 1/2 cup
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
dash paprika
olive oil
salt, to taste (a heaping 1/2 tsp, for me)
water, for thinning consistency of salsa
for hotter salsa, add a pinch of red pepper flakes

1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Peel skins from tomatillos and wash thoroughly. Place whole tomatillos, serrano, half of the onion, & half of the bell pepper on a baking sheet lined with foil or in glass pan. Toss veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, and roast until slightly charred; this should take about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your oven. My oven heats very unevenly, so to get the char I wanted on my veggies, I had to turn on the broiler for the last minute or two of cooking time.

2. Let roasted veggies cool. Once they are cool enough to touch, break open the serrano pepper with your fingers and remove the seeds and membrane. (You can skip this step if you want atomic heat.) Add tomatillos, roasted peppers & onions to blender along with raw green pepper & onion, garlic, spices, and salt. Cut avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into the blender. Add the juice of both limes and a 3 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth. 

For thinner dressing-like salsa, add more water. 

Serve with chips, bell pepper strips, or on top of your favorite South-of-the-Border foods! 

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