Friday, February 15, 2013

Jen's Famous Salsa

I don't know about you but I have my go-to dish for any kind of potluck or get together. It's become even more important now that we're gluten free. I have to be able to bring something that I like and that might end up being the only thing that I eat.

So I bring salsa. I grew up in Southern California and spent four years in Arizona so I love good Mexican food. When I moved to the Midwest, I made salsa and tacos to anyone who would eat them. And got a lot of requests for my salsa recipe. Which is more of a taste-as-I-go-along than a real recipe. But for all of you who asked, I actually decided to take pictures and make notes when I made salsa this last time. So, in all it's glory, here's my salsa recipe.

Yummy salsa ingredients

  • 6-8 ripe, flavorful tomatoes
  • 1-2 bunches of green onions
  • 1-2 bunches of cilantro
  • 1-3 jalepeños
  • 1 lime
  • kosher salt
Before you begin you need to roast your jalepeños. I turn my oven on to 400 degrees and spray the peppers with olive oil and put them directly on the rack. By the time I'm ready for them, they're usually nice and roasted. You could also use your broiler, but you'll need to watch them so they don't burn.

Start with 6-8 tomatoes. The flavor of the tomatoes will have a huge impact on the flavor of your salsa. I had horrible experiences trying to get good tomatoes in the winter in the Midwest. I had slightly better success with Roma tomatoes and even tried some canned tomatoes once (not too  bad if you're desperate). Now I generally get the expensive, vine-ripened ones.

Chunk up the tomatoes and throw them in your food processor. You can make salsa without a food processor but it's hard to get the onions and jalepeños small enough so they blend seamlessly with the tomatoes. You don't want a big bite of spicy (or maybe you do!)

Pulse the food processor so you don't end up with tomato soup. Keep the tomatoes chunky.

Dump the chopped tomatoes into a big, non-reactive bowl. If you put tomatoes in a metal bowl, they will start to taste like metal. Use glass, ceramic, or plastic. Liberally add kosher salt in a layer over the tomatoes. This will pull the juices out of the tomatoes. You will need more salt than you think. A lot more.

Next comes the cilantro. It looks like flat leaved parsley but it has a peppery flavor. Rinse well and chop off most of the stems. Cut into a couple of big chunks and throw in the food processor. Pulse, dump in the bowl with the tomatoes.

Take a bunch of green onions and cut off the roots and any of the tops that are ugly and raggedy. Cut into  several big chunks and put in the food processor. Pulse, but not all the way because you want to add your jalepeños with them.

Your jalepeños should look blackened and crispy when you pull them out of the oven. You'll want to cut the stems off then cut them down the center. Scrape out the seeds and the pith with the edge of your knife, since these are the spiciest parts. If you want that, great!

Chop into a couple of pieces and add to the green onions in your food processor. This time you want to finely process them so they will blend nicely and evenly with your tomatoes and cilantro.
I like to squeeze half a lime in my salsa to give it a fresh kick. Plus, I just like lime. To make squeezing easy, roll the lime with the palm of your hand against the countertop to loosen the juices. Cut in half and pop out any seeds that are visible. Squeeze or use a citrus reamer.

The finished product. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or make your own by frying cut up corn tortillas in hot oil.


Friday, February 08, 2013

Epic Mom Fail Part 2

Last week I talked about a recent epic Mom fail. This week I'll share another time I inadvertently risked my child's life about seven years ago when we lived in Arizona.

We had just finished returning books to the library. I buckle my son in, toss all my stuff on the front seat, and close the door. I go around to get in my side.

The door is locked.

Oh crap.

Through the window I can see all the doors are locked, but I still pull on the door handle like somehow reality will change. I can see the keys sitting on the driver’s seat, along with my purse and cell phone.

But I know my son can unlock the doors. Except that he’s strapped in his car seat. However, childproof things have never deterred him before. I tell him how to get himself out of his seat. “Just push that red button.” He pokes at it, sucker in his mouth. Then he pushes harder, but he just doesn’t have the strength to get it. We try seeing if he can unbuckle the car seatbelt and free the car seat, but he can’t reach it.

There’s no hope. I’m going to have to call and get help. But my phone’s in the car, too, so I have to leave him to go back into the library. It goes against every instinct to leave my son alone in a car while I go inside. But, I think, if someone can break into the car to steal it (and who wants a 1998 minivan with 180,000 miles on it?) I could at least get my son out. So I hurry inside to try to find a pay phone. Apparently pay phones don’t exist anymore. I finally ask the librarian.

She laughs. “Oh, I don’t think it works.”

Not funny. “I need a phone. I’ve locked my keys in the car with my son. I need to call somebody.”

“Oh, I guess you can use this then.” She moves her desk phone toward me. I call AAA and go through the whole explanation of how I can't supply them my membership card number because it's in my purse which is locked in my car with my son.

Anyhow, on my way back to the car, there is this guy who has been outside the library trying to get people to sign his petition. I don’t know what for, and I don’t care. He’s seen me walk by now four times and starts pestering me to sign his stupid petition.

“I’m a little busy right now.”

“Doing what?”

Oh, the things that went through my mind. I didn’t say any of them, however. Let’s just say that the next time I need to write a dead body in a book it will be a guy that looks a lot like him trying to get people to sign a petition. I just kept walking to the van where I hoped my son wasn’t a sobbing hysterical mess. He was frowning, but I think that was because he had dropped his sucker.

So I lean my head against this really dirty window—when was the last time I washed this thing anyway?—and talked to him. People driving through the parking lot stared at me. What was this crazy woman doing talking to a car? A police officer drove by. I watched him, half hoping he’d stop. He didn’t. I tell my son to go to sleep, and for once in his life, he minds me.

I'm really thankful it's only the upper 60s and not 112. I start thinking which window would be the cheapest to replace and look around for a big rock. Nothing. If it were 112, I have no idea what I could use to break the window. Well, he's asleep, AAA should be on the way, and other than people thinking I’m nuts, there isn’t any problem with waiting. Just that my daughter gets out of school in 30 minutes and since our neighbors moved, there's not a house for her to go to if I'm not home.

After about 25 minutes a tow truck pulls into the parking lot. They guy gets out with all his equipment. Then he sees my son. “Hey, if we’d known there was a kid in the car we would have gotten here in five minutes. Why didn’t you tell us?”

I'm pretty sure I mentioned it.

The guy gets his equipment out and starts prying open the door with this little inflatable device. Very cool, though frankly I don’t care if he rips the door off.

The door opens. My son wakes up. The tow truck guy packs up his stuff.

I think I’m going to throw up.

So from the desert of Arizona to the upper Midwest, I'm capable of the epic Mom fail. Somehow my children survive my best attempts to raise them properly.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Epic Mom Fail Part 1

You ever have those times where you think you should get the worst mom award? I had one of those last week. My son, eleven, got dropped off at home from school, just to find that the door was locked and his key and his phone were in the house. And none of the stay-at-home neighbors had stayed at home that day. And it was 17 degrees.

I drove up an hour later to find him sobbing, crying ice cubes as he told me later. He'd kept himself busy trying to pick the lock with a stick, opening the garage to see if he could start the barbecue, kicking snow off the porch.

This one was sort of his fault. He knew to the keep the key in his backpack, but remembering is not a strong suit of Asperger's kids. And if I'd thought about it, I'd have left the side door open. But with my daughter in the hospital with a juvenile arthritis flare up, I'm not thinking too clearly either.

It did remind me of another epic Mom fail when my son was a preschooler and we were living in Arizona also involving keys and locks.

It was about seven years ago. We had just finished returning books to the library, the last on a long list of errands that day, and had gotten back into the minivan....

More to come next week. Anybody else want to share memorable epic Mom fails?