Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Pico de Gallo, Salsa, and Tacos

Seitan Asada Tacos with "grilled" onions, cilnatro, limes, salsa and a side of papas

Salsa is one of those great foods that can do triple duty as a garnish, an appetizer or a condiment. It's also widely available, inexpensive, easy to make and, pretty much always vegan. In fact, the only other food I can think of that fits that bill is hummus. And while both are simple to prepare from scratch, they are generally store bought. Well, since it's the height of tomato and pepper season, and some many beautiful varieties of both are available right now, I thought I'd post a few recipes.

Pico de Gallo
by Christina Terriquez

1/4 cup white or yellow onion
1 clove garlic
sea salt
1 lime, optional
2--4 red ripe tomatoes, skin off, if desired
1--2 jalapenos

Chop the onion and place in glass bowl. Mince garlic and add to onion. Add two pinches of salt and the juice from half of the lime, if using lime. By salting and adding citrus juice to the onion and garlic, you are starting the pickling process, which will take some of the edge off of them.

Chop the tomatoes and drain the seeds and juice. Add tomato pieces to the onions.

Wearing gloves, mince the jalapeno, then add it to the onion. If you like really mild food, remove the seeds and all the white pith from the pepper before mincing it. Mix well and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Season to taste with lime juice and salt.

-Add some chopped cilantro.

-Add some cubed avocado.

Pico de Gallo has many things going for it, it's pretty quick, assuming you have a good knife, it's easy, only requires one bowl, doesn't call for any cooking, keeps for a few days, a little goes a long way, and it can add a lot of texture and flavor. I like pico as a condiment, or for adding it to other things like soup or guacamole. However, when I want salsa to eat with chips, I make the following version.

Simple Summer Salsa
by Christina Terriquez

1--2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
sea salt
2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, washed and dried
4 ripe tomatoes
chopped cilantro, to taste
fresh lime juice, optional

Place minced garlic and onion in a medium size bowl, sprinkle with two pinches of sea salt and toss. Set aside.

In a 3 quart saucepan, place approximately 4 cups of water on to boil. While waiting for that, proceed to the next step.

Roast peppers over flame until skin is black and blistered, being careful not to puncture skin as juices will leak. Set blackened peppers aside or in brown paper bag to cool. Repeat until all peppers are roasted.

Using plastic gloves, under cool running water, peel the skin away from the peppers, de-stem and de-seed. Mince pepper flesh, and place in the bowl with the onions.

Make an x-shaped score in the bottom of each tomato. Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds, then let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin from each tomato, starting at the scored x. Cut each tomato into quarters and discard the juice and seeds. Mince tomatoes and add to bowl.

Mix all ingredients and season with salt, cilantro and lime juice.

-Use a food processor instead of mincing ingredients. This will make a slushier, juicier salsa. If you have a molcajete, you could also crush the chopped ingredients in that.

-Add some fresh diced peaches, mango, pineapple or other seasonal fruit to the salsa.

-For a spicier sals increase thae amount or type of chilies you use.

-To cut the acidity of the onion and garlic, instead of mincing and salting the garlic and onions, cut the onion into 1/2 inch thick wedges, and peel the garlic but leave it whole. Sauté the onion wedges and whole garlic cloves until the onion becomes tender and slightly translucent. Mince or process until finely minced in food processor.
This is my favorite style of salsa because it's fresh, has great texture and flavor, and is still really simple, but the elements that cause most people trouble have been neutralized a bit. The skins from nightshades that are hard to digest have been removed, and the peppers have been cooked just enough to add a wonderful flavor and smell while reducing the risk of heartburn. The onions and garlic which can have an unpleasant edge, have been either salted or sautéed to cut that edge, while maintaining some pungency.

For people who are avoiding nightshades all together, but still want a little heat, quick-pickled pepper onions are perfect.

Quick-Pickled Pepper Onions
by Christina Terriquez

1 whole white, yellow, or red onion
umeboshi vinegar
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Slice onion into thin half moons and place in a glass bowl. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of ume vinegar over the onions, then gently massage the vinegar into onions. Set aside.

Using a rolling pin or coarse pepper mill, crush the peppercorns, and sprinkle half over the onions. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Taste onions. Season with more pepper if desired.

-Use a mixture of lime juice and umeboshi vinegar for a more tangy flavor.

-Omit the black pepper.
These onions are not only tasty and easy to make, they're also a beautiful bright pink.

Quick Ume Pickled Onion (black pepper omitted)

Recently, we've been eating a lot of salsa and tacos. The breakfast taco is ubiquitous in Austin, and it usually contains two ingredients, one of those often being beans. Common pairings include bean and cheese, bean and egg, and chorizo and egg. As a vegan, bean and potato tacos are often the only safe bet (if the beans are free of lard and meat), although many establishments carry some kind of vegetarian friendly item, like tofu scramble, sautéed vegetables, or soy chorizo. They're always served on a flour or corn tortilla(not in a taco shell) and are usually under 2 bucks each. Salsa is available, but vegetables are never served unless specifically requested.

Bean and potato tacos with avocado, green leaf lettuce and salsa
I love bean and potato tacos, but I really like them with salsa, lettuce, and avocado, so when we happened to have all of those ingredients, I knew we had to make some. I also decided that some carna asada-style tacos would be really good with the salsa, so I made some seitan, and homemade tortillas, which I'll post about next.


aTxVegn said...

Yum, I saw your pictures on flickr and was hoping you would post about them. I haven't made my own breakfast tacos in a while. When we have them at the office, they are usually bacon, egg, and cheese. I love the idea of a potato and bean taco.

Keep me posted about the chili meetup! Sounds like fun.

aTxVegn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.