Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Josefina's Green Chile Salsa

Another way in which I'm learning to appreciate mostly homemade foods!

Before starting this blog, there are several things I always sort of assumed would be difficult to make because most people I know choose to buy them prepackaged. Things like soup, sauces and salsa were all things I barely ever considered making myself because hey, if it was easy to make tasty, homemade versions of Campbell's or Pace or whatever, why would people - especially people who already love to cook, like my mom - buy them from the grocery store?

Obviously, I've learned my lesson, and this feature is no exception. Although it's definitely easier to just open a jar of salsa and dump it into a bowl - or just eat it straight from the jar - I have a much greater appreciation for the fact that most people choose to buy prepackaged foods because they're faster, not because it's more difficult to make them from scratch. I always assumed speed was just part of the equation, that maybe there was something inherently really, really hard about cooking, and it was only until I started digging in to this blog that I realized it's not that bad at all, really.

Well, most of the time. We can still have mishaps, as you'll hear about in a little bit.

New Mexicans are very proud of their food culture, and get very frustrated by people who call it things like Tex Mex because it's not. New Mexican cuisine is its own unique thing, and many of the flavor and ingredient staples are things Josefina probably would have been familiar with over the course of her life thanks to other Mexicans, the Spanish, new American immigrants to the area (both Black and white) and Native groups like the Navajo and Apache. One part they're most proud and protective of is their chiles, and while New Mexico chiles as a cultivated, commercialized brand have only been around since the late 1800's, distinctive, unique chiles were grown by the Pueblo since the 1700's and were enjoyed by everyone, no matter what part of the world your family was originally from.

The New Mexico chile as we know them today can either be green or red depending on when you pick them, and most are still grown in New Mexico today because of the certain conditions you need to make the chile the right flavor. They can be roasted, dried, fried, baked... pretty much anything you can think of! And while you're more than welcome to eat them on their own, they make a great addition to almost any meal.

I decided to try my hand at salsa, mostly because while it's generally something people think of as a side dish, it can be used to - literally and figuratively - spice up things like burritos, quesadillas, burgers, and much, much more. After looking at a couple recipes for New Mexican salsas, I decided I'd try my hand at a simple one I kind of threw together myself after seeing what we had in the pantry and what the recipes were suggesting to add. And it was super stress free!

Seriously, I can't stress how easy this was to throw together by myself. I just chopped up a tomato and an onion, added two cans of green chiles (totaling about three fourths of a cup of chiles), added about half a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of garlic powder, and mixed it all together. Voila! Instant easy salsa.

Now, as I said, there are many ways to enjoy salsas, and I thought I had the perfect idea: quesadillas. A common fast dinner in my house growing up was burrito night, but since I was a picky eater, I always insisted on having a plain cheese quesadilla instead. It was also one of the first meals I learned how to make for myself, and would sometimes make them for friends when they came over after school, or smuggled them some when they stayed after school for theater rehearsal and I came in later. Since my early years, my tastes have evolved a little, and so the quesadilla I was intending on sharing with you was a little more sophisticated.

You start by heating up some shortening in a pan, dipping corn tortillas in it and then patting them dry with paper towels. This is supposed to help soften the tortillas and prevent them from ripping, which corn tortillas are very prone to doing, as I discovered while making enchiladas about a year ago.

Monterey Jack cheese and some salsa gets put on one side of the tortilla, which is then folded in half and placed in a pan to cook. Ideally, these should cook up in about eight minutes - four minutes on each side to melt the cheese and fry up the tortilla a little bit. I was really excited for them to cook because they definitely smelled nice, and I've made these so many time, I figured nothing can go wrong.


And then we had what I've taken to calling the Great Quesadilla Disaster of 2015, because my nonstick pan? Not actually nonstick. Maybe not at all. I went to flip the tortillas and oh, the foodmanity! There was cheese, salsa and tortilla everywhere, I think one managed to flip over without ripping and spilling everything all over the place, so now this pan has been relegated to the "should not be trusted" along with our food processor, and my dad is very disappointed I didn't take pictures of the carnage. Sorry about that! I was too busy laughing and attempting to scrape the remains onto a plate so we could eat what we could.

On the plus side, this didn't trigger some kind of emotional breakdown because of how much time and energy I'd poured into making something that totally fell apart, so I'm counting that as progress. Good progress!

Even so, after all that, we decided to enjoy the rest of the salsa with tortilla chips. It seemed safer.

Despite the disaster with the quesadillas, I thought the salsa turned out to be a pretty decent success for my first try. Admittedly, this might have more to do with the fact that tomatoes, chiles and onions are pretty delicious together no matter how you combine them, but I still figure this could be a decent trick to have on hand if you ever run out of salsa at a party, or just want to impress people by trying something more home made.

It wasn't all that spicy, but that's something you can easily tweak yourself. Since this was initially designed more as an experiment into making my own salsa and changing up one of my favorite lunches, I wasn't really looking to make a super spicy, punch you in the mouth kind of salsa. Now that I know this isn't too difficult to do by yourself, maybe I'll try something a little wilder next time!

Overall, a sign of good things to come!


  1. Sorry about your quesadillas! I always appreciate your candor.

    1. I'm glad you enjoy it! And don't worry, the remains were tasty too.

  2. Heh, if you're going to have an experiment gone wrong, having one that's epic enough to call "Great Quesadilla Disaster of 2015" is definitely the way to go! ;)

    1. This is true! And I guess it's better to find out the pan's not nonstick with something that's pretty easy to make again if you really want to.