Sizzling Summer and Salsa Cream



We talk about the weather a lot on the west coast. I mean, we have other very entertaining topics that we also revert to, such as ferry fares (outrageous!), HST (money outa the pocket!), what’s in the garden (zucchini is off the hook!), and how the economy is doing (chug chug chugging along!). That’s not to say there isn’t an Albert Camus or Dylan Moran among us, but you know how much we love exclaiming about the weather when it legitimately does something exciting. Summer heat has been pumped up on Vancouver Island for the last week, and I’ve never been at a lack of what to say to customers as I hand them change or ice cream. “You keeping cool in this heat?” is the usual remark followed by a chuckle or a sigh by said customer as we exchange knowing looks that say I know I complained about rain for nine straight months, but now I’m burnt to a crisp and dressed in pure sweat. To be honest, I love the sweltering heat. It motivates me to wake up early for that sunrise-run that would be impossible to do in the middle of the day. It gives way to the edge of the lake that I jump in after work every hot day, eyes squeezed shut and ears plugged, bracing for the cold. It means ice cream after breakfast. It puts the sun in sundress. Another great thing about the heat is I find South America and the Mediterranean creeps back into my cooking. Grilled fish broken over fresh greens, Greek salad stuffed into a toasted pita, fresh cut salsa always in the fridge, and crispy taco salad all make a come back. The season of beer and BBQ’d corn is coming up on us fast, so I thought I’d include a simple little sauce that has a little dressiness in its back pocket- salsa cream. Call it whatever you want to add a little zip or crispiness, just make sure you slather it on anything and everything.

Salsa Cream

I improvised this recipe when I wanted a Mexican style sauce to spoon onto some scallops wrapped in bacon. The idea of a roasted salsa, smoothed out with a little milk and sour cream, seemed just right. Spoon over chicken, steak, scallops, crab cakes, or crispy fried tofu. This recipe makes quite a bit, so plan to shake it up the next day by adding roughly chopped fresh salsa ingredients (more tomatoes, black beans, corn, red onion, green onions etc) and serving it with chips. If you’re not feeling the same thing twice, freeze it in individual portions for convenient use on a rainy day (if you can even think about rain in this heat).

6 tomatoes
3 chilies
1 head of garlic
1 small onion
1 bunch cilantro
juice + zest of 2 limes
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp homo milk
1 c. sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash and remove stems of tomatoes and chilies, then arrange on trays. Rub most of the skin off the head of garlic and wrap well in tin foil. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are soft and skin is broken, chilies are blackening, and garlic is soft to poke. Unwrap the garlic and let all ingredients cool. Meanwhile, chop up that onion and fry in a little oil until soft and translucent. Get the roasted veggies ready while the onions cool down. Get the garlic out by chopping off the very top with a big sharp knife, and squeezing the soft garlic out of its cloves with your hands. Put directly into the blender. Pull the skin off the tomatoes, either by pulling with a small knife or your hands (careful for juices that haven’t cooled!). Put the tomatoes in the blender. Depending on how spicy you want this dish, remove half or all of the chili seeds (more seeds, more spice) and all of the skin. Place in blender. Add the onion, cilantro, lime juice + zest, salt, and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Taste- always taste the seasoning of your dishes, no matter what the recipe says! Check for a bit of lime taste, and that its not too salty or bland. Adjust as needed. Add the cream and blend. When smooth, blend the sour cream in.

Why doesn’t the picture look like it contains cilantro? To be honest, I tried to get away with using cilantro from my garden that had gone to seed, so it was very pale green. The sauce tasted fine with a very subtle cilantro flavor, but I amped it up the next day by adding a whole lively green bunch, and liked that better, so that’s what I included in the recipe.

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