This blog was born two years ago after a seed, a frustrated seed, was planted in my food-obsessed head.
It was just a couple months after we had moved ourselves and our possessions across the ocean and I began paging through the stack of carefully selected cookbooks that were worthy of the big move (if you need help breaking your terrible hoarding habit, try moving across the Atlantic).
At first it was fun getting acquainted with our new town, the fjord!, the midnight sun!, the bakeries, even the town weirdoes. The newness was exciting. But then after a while, the fact that not a single American comfort food was to be found started to take its toll on this Midwestern girl. No apple pie, no chili, no bagels, no mac and cheese, no sticky buns, no cornbread, no bread pudding, no blueberry pancakes, and no decent salsa! What’s a girl to do but to push up her sleeves and find a way to feed her terrible cravings.
I found myself making things from scratch that I would never have dreamed of making in my Minneapolis kitchen. Bagels. Simple, perfect, cream cheese-smeared bagels were an impossibility in our little town, thus, The Transplanted Baker's second post ever was for bagels. Molasses cookies appeared that fall, sticky buns the year after. And today, I give you salsa.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Norwegians are nutty for “Mexican food”. They love themselves a good Saturday night taco feast. But to them, Mexican food is Old El Paso. Of course, I won’t deny indulging in a little grated cheddar cheese (or Jarlsberg!) on my tacos, perhaps even a little Green Giant corn from the can. A taco snob, I am not, but salsa with a running paragraph of ingredients is just not right. Nor tasty.
Making a fresh, nice-tasting batch of salsa for the fridge is really fairly easy. Beyond a little chopping of onions and whirling of the Cuisinart (or not, if you like your salsa chunky), salsa is one of the simplest of summer foods to make. But if you’re a planner and a foreseer, a person who knows that tomatoes during the Norwegian winter are crap (at best), then you need to do your research and learn how to can.
I can understand how canning for the first time can be an intimidating endeavor. The sterilizing, the boiling, the reaching of a setting point, the sealing. It’s scary stuff for anyone who is not a housewife on the prairie. But it can be learned and it can be fun and most important of all- decent salsa can be found in the middle of the Norwegian winter! Success!
Now, the following recipe is for my own tweaked version of a roasted tomato salsa. Naturally, roasting a batch of tomatoes really brings out their natural sweetness and adds a depth of smoky, roasty goodness to your salsa. Delicious! In my smokey sweet salsa, I added the usual salsa suspects (garlic, yellow onion, cilantro, lime juice, peppers, and salt) and tossed in a couple of roasted bell peppers and chipotles in adobo sauce for good measure. Some salsa recipes call for the removal of the tomato skins, which is nice if you’re making a completely smooth salsa and don’t want any little bits to cross your mouth. However, roasting the tomatoes with the skins on adds to that coveted smoky-charred flavor and I quite like the added texture- not to mention, it saves yourself the hassle of removing the skins. For heat, I used a few smallish green Thai peppers from our local Asian market, which were medium-hot, but you decide which and how many peppers to use based on your taste.
The chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is perhaps the only out-of-the-norm ingredient and another really great contributor to the salsa's smokiness. Even if you’ve never used or perhaps never heard of chipotles in adobo, I recommend you pick up a can (they can be found at almost any well stocked grocery store these days) and will keep in your fridge for an eternity if you place the leftovers into a glass jar (a teaspoon added to a little warmed cream and blue cheese makes a killer sauce for steak).***Feel free to play around with the amount of cilantro (add some other herbs if you please), the amount of garlic, and whether or not to include the red bell peppers. However, do be sure to include the entire amount of lime juice called for in the recipe below since this recipes contain a mixture of low-acid foods, and an acid such as lime juice or vinegar must be added to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Siri’s Smoky-Sweet Salsa
Min Røykt og Søt Salsa
*yields 4-5 pints
8 lbs. (3.5 kg) tomatoes, halved (use can use any kind, as long as the tomatoes are ripe)
3 medium yellow onions, chopped into large pieces
6 cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
3 green Thai peppers (or any medium-hot variety)
1 Tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (use both the pepper and the sauce)
1 very large handful (roughly 1 cup, packed) cilantro (coriander), thick stems removed
1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
+1 Tablespoon salt, or to taste
+1 Tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1. Place the tomato halves on baking sheets (you will need at least two, possibly three). Turn your oven onto either the broiling function (if yours is reliable) or a very high heat (450F/225C). If broiling, the tomatoes will need only 3-5 minutes. If you are roasting them under high heat, closer to half an hour. Rotate the baking sheets half way through so that the tomatoes blacken evenly and check frequently so that you don’t completely singe them. Remove them once they start to get a nice charred top and the juices start to seep out. Allow to cool.
2. Once the tomatoes have had time to cool down, use a food processor or blender working to batches to finely chop them along with the onions, garlic, bell peppers, hot peppers, chipotles in adobo, and cilantro.
3. Place the contents of the food processor along with the lime juice into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt and sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust your seasonings. (It is best to take a spoonful, allow it to cool down for a minute and then taste, since you will not be eating the salsa hot and this will give a more accurate idea of the finished result). The salsa should be quite sweet up front, then develop into a full smoky, slightly spicy flavor.4. Using a funnel and good reason, transfer the salsa to hot, sterilized jars (I like to wash them in the dish washer, which will also keep them warm while you are cooking the salsa on the stove). Fill the jars almost to the top, leaving 1/4” (1/2 cm) head room and use a spatula to push out any air bubbles. Finish by placing the sealed jars in boiling water for 15 minutes to make them shelf stable. Check out this site for more information on canning basics.