Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicks and Salsa

It must get awfully boring being a chicken.  There's nothing to read, no coloring books laying around, and - gasp! No TV!  No wonder the Rooster in Aaron Reynold's Chicks and Salsa snuck up near the house to watch what Farmer Nuthatcher's wife was watching - Food Network, as it turns out.  And they're making Mexican food tonight!

The Rooster is intreigued.  Maybe chicken feed isn't the best there is?  He plans a field trip to the garden to scrounge tomatoes, onions, and peppers and makes salsa - Ole!  Nothing boring about that!  This spicy dinner inspired the ducks - tired as they were of life at the pond - to make "Quackamole", and the pigs to indulge in Hog Wild Nachos. 

It looks like everyone wants to get in on the fun, and the Rooster (along with an enterprising group of mice, who supply the trimmings that you just can't get in the garden like tortilla chips) plans a fiesta!  But what happens if Farmer Nuthatcher and his wife get in on the fun?  Will there be enough to go around?

I loved both the story and illustrations in Chicks and Salsa, and it only got better when I found out that there are recipes for Salsa, Quackamole, and Hog Wild Nachos in the back of the book.  In the interest of honesty, I'll let you know that I didn't make the salsa recipe in the book, and I'll tell you why: for one thing, the recipe wants you to roast the tomatoes on a grill, and I didn't want to do that.  For another, I have a salsa recipe that I use fairly often, that I really enjoy.  If you'd like to try those recipes, please let me know how they turn out for you!  Otherwise, here's my own:

Chicks and Salsa
3 tomatoes
1-2 jalapenos, depending how spicy you want your finished salsa
1/2 bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1 tbsp. lime juice OR red wine vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
Bouquet of cilantro
Salt, to taste

1. Swish the cilantro in a bowl of water and let it soak for about ten minutes.  Any dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl, and the clean leaves will float.
2. Meanwhile, seed and dice the tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, and onion and put them into a bowl. (If you like, you can use a food processor to make this go very quickly.)  Be very, very careful with the peppers, especially the jalapenos; wash your hands thoroughly after touching them, because there is enough heat in them that they can seriously sting!  (Particularly if you touch them and then cut onions, because then you'll want to rub your eyes and everything will burn!)
2. Pull the leaves off the bouquet of cilantro and pat them dry with paper towels - the amount of cilantro you use is up to you.  (My Official Food Taster and I really like cilantro, so we use a lot, but if you're unsure, you can add it at the end and keep tasting it until it tastes right.)  Stack the leaves on top of each other on a cutting board, and carefully chop them fine.  Add to the vegetables.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.  Trust me; salt really brings the flavors out of the vegetables.
4. Let the salsa sit for at least a few minutes to let the flavors blend.  Eating it the next day is better yet.

I use red wine vinegar instead of lime juice because limes don't agree with me.  You can use lemon juice, but I find that the vinegar has a nice acidic quality that lemon juice just doesn't have. 

It's just so good!  I ate it on chips...
And then I made it into Hog Wild Nachos!
To make these, simply lay out tortilla chips on a cookie sheet, and top with any combination of salsa, black beans, cheese, and even taco meat, and bake until melted.  Serve with additional salsa, sour cream, or quackamole.

You can use any variation of vegetables to make salsa, and it's so delicious, you don't even usually remember that it's healthy!  Try adding peach, mango, or pineapple for a special fruity kick.  What's your favorite type of salsa?

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