My blog is mainly about gnomes and dead people, which is why I usually leave the cooking to the folks who know more about that kind of stuff. My sister’s blog, Dinner is the Evening, or Andrea’s Cooking with a Wallflower, are two fine examples of what the experts can accomplish when they wield camera and spatula with equal aplomb.
Still, I venture into the kitchen now and again, and sometimes I even come back out without suffering any injuries that are too grievous. I’m certainly no Giada. I rarely measure anything, much preferring the little-of-this-little-of-that approach, which doesn’t always translate into anything you could easily duplicate.
That’s the approach I took today when I made a batch of what I’m calling Jingle Bell Salsa. Why jingle bell? Because the namesake ingredient — dried cascabel chiles — look a bit like the bell that gnomes are known to wear on the end of their caps on certain holidays, and because the cascabel seeds make a rattling noise when you shake the dried chiles.
I know you’re wondering where in the hell you’re going to get dried cascabel chiles, so let me tell you that one of my children gave me mine as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, and they were living a very dry existence in my pantry until today. If your family isn’t as weird as mine, choosing to give each other socks and underwear for Christmas instead of dried chile peppers, then I guess you’re on your own. Try looking on the Internet, or on the shelves of a Mexican grocery in your neighborhood.
So okay, with the preliminaries out of the way, let’s head to the kitchen!
Jingle Bell Salsa
10 cascabel chile pods, stems removed and seeds shaken out
Juice from half a lime
3 cloves garlic
Generous dollop of olive oil (more than a small dollop, but less than a glug)
One 15oz can tomato sauce
Splash of white vinegar (How much is a splash? Use your imagination!)
Handful of salt (Inexact, but err on the side of more)
1/4 large Vidalia onion (Okay to be flexible)
Good-sized bunch of fresh cilantro (Hell, just finish whatever was left in the fridge)
Step One: Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated, because what comes next will make you think you’re living in a Mace factory.
Step Two: Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Slice the garlic and put it in the pan, along with the flesh from the stemmed and seeded chile pods. Sauté until the garlic turns a nice caramel color, and just before everyone in the house runs screaming out the door.
Step Three: If you can still see, pour the garlic, chile and oil into a blender. Add everything EXCEPT the onion. Blend well, then scrape into a bowl.
Step Four: Mince the onion very fine, then stir it into the salsa. This is what gives it its texture.
Step Five: Enjoy with chips, or if you don’t like it, put the salsa into a pump sprayer and use it as a personal protection device.
My Jingle Bell Salsa borrows heavily from my sister’s Salsa de Arbol, though the astute among you will notice that mine has a couple of different ingredients, most notably the lime, which I think really adds something! Besides, I don’t feel too bad since she stole her recipe from somebody else!