Thing-a-Day – January 6 – salsa macha
Day 6 of the Thing-a-Day Challenge
Materials: amazing recipe (salsa macha) and love of food
So I let myself “cheat” a little for today’s thing. While I would never say that food cannot be an artform, it is my intention to try to stick to techniques and materials that more closely relate to my practice as a sculptor. However, some culinary experiences rise above others and this one is worth mentioning.
I went to an amazing event at the beautiful Mexican Cultural Institute in December – one of their Mexican Table culinary events titled “AfroMexico: African Influences in the Mexican Table,” which highlighted the richly diverse heritage of Veracruz.
Chef Pati Jinich led the event (as she usually does, apparently) at which the 75 (or so) guests got to eat an amazing Mexican dinner while learning the history of the region/specialty and how to cook many of the dishes served that night, complete with demos and a slide show. I have watched Pati’s TV show in the past and thoroughly enjoy her easygoing and enthusiastic style. And the food was mind-blowing – so good! One of my favorite dishes that night was one of the simplest – salsa macha, a smoky sauce that she served on plaintain quesadillas at the dinner (also very easy to make!), but it could go on top of just about anything from bread to eggs to chicken, etc., etc. Frankly, I just like to open the jar and smell it.
I have provided links to the site and the recipe, but just in case, here it is again.
(makes about 3 cups)
2 ounces (about 1½ to 2 cups) dried chipotle chiles, stemmed, seeded torn into pieces (JB note – Careful! While not the hottest chilis around, deseeding these babies will infuse your fingers with the heat, so do not lick your fingers unless you want very numb lips and absolutely do not rub your eyes until you have washed your hands a few times!)
2 1/2 cups olive oil
1/3 cup raw unsalted peanuts (or unsalted other nuts you may prefer such as pecans or pine nuts)
4 garlic cloves (JB note – I put in a few extra)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
Set a large heavy skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic cloves. Stir and fry for about one minute, until they start to gain color. Add the chipotle chiles and peanuts, stir and fry for about two minutes. Add the sesame seeds, stir and continue to fry for about a minute. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer all the contents from the skillet into the jar of a blender. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
Add the salt, sugar and vinegar. Process until smooth, starting with low speed and building up to high speed. Pour into a container, let cool and refrigerate if the salsa will not be used that day.
The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of olive oil (that’s why it makes 3 cups of salsa) but I think you could easily make it with 1 1/2 cups and still have enough to cook the ingredients properly without so much extra olive oil. The thick goopy part is the yummiest and ends up being only about half of the volume. However, now that I have made it according to the original recipe, I am going to pour off some of the olive oil from the top of the jar and store it separately. Chipotle/garlic/peanut infused olive oil is going to be a great thing to have around!
The one ingredient that may be difficult to find is the dried chipotle chilis. I discovered a lovely spices website that sells them and many other less common chilis and spices – so I recommend you visit Spices Inc. Also, I couldn’t find raw peanuts, so used regular unsalted roasted ones.
How does this fit into the theme of reusing/recycling materials? I took home the menu (which contained many of the recipes) and have been moving it around the kitchen since early December, using it as a reminder to make that amazing salsa. Now that I have made it, and discovered that all of the recipes are on Pati’s website, I can recycle it.