If you've read my blog up into this point, you may have learned I'm a teacher and as such, I like to categorize things. I like to have students categorize elements as a learning strategie and I like to categorize things based on similarity because I'm a dork. When it comes to cooking definitions, I've found that a lot of categories disintegrate under very a little inspection. To bake something is to roast it and ragouts and stews are pretty much the same thing. As a veggie lover, when it came to developing ideas for different salsas in the summer, I came to find that salsa is somewhat of segue between salad and a dip or sauce. While its contents are solid, like a salad, it is meant to be used as a dip much as a creamy hummus or even pesto sauce would be. To even find an exact definition of salsa is difficult (unless, of course, you are looking up the dance).
At one point, I read a recipe for Crushed Spring Peas with Mint by renown chef, April Bloomfield. The delightful English recipe fit into my "soft foods" category as well as my seasonal one, featuring tender, green, Spring peas. Several weeks later, I created a peach salsa for a dinner in which I tried to use spring ingredients as well. To this extent, I suppose I had both peas and salsa on the mind when I came home and heard my frozen peas begging to be made into something I could put on a chip. I don't typically deal in the realm of recipes. I often feature them and comment on how healthy they often are. There's a first time for everything though and below you will find a recipe for "Spring Salsa" as well as the healthy attributes of each ingredient. Enjoy!
Peas: Obviously the base of the salsa, I often by peas that are frozen as they are high in nutrients (the freezing process maintains a high nutrient level in vegetables) and do not require shelling. While shelling, like peeling an artichoke can be very zen, my fine motor skills just won't stand for it.
Chicken (feet) Stock: In All in One I talked about the benefits of using chicken feet to make a stock for both its health and flavoring effects. Having checked out Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, goop, a few months ago, I came across an article featuring the Hemsley sisters (of Hemsley + Hemsley) which talked about the benefits of bone broth on the skin and body. In general, the gelatin pulled from animal bones when simmered in hot water results in an stock which is chock full of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. To make chicken feet or any bone based stock, simply throw bones (for extra flavor cover bones in tomato paste) in a slow cooker with some cider vinegar and aromatic vegetables (leeks, carrots, etc.) and cook on low for around eight hours or overnight (alternatively, the referenced recipe can be found here).
To add a little extra flavor to your peas, you may wish to simmer them in the stock above until the liquid is absorbed or you can go straight to the following ingredients...
Onions: While you may have added onions to your chicken (feet) stock which you then may have added to your peas, what's a quality salsa without the sharp crunch of an onion? I, myself, did not add stock to may peas and subsequently decided to pack a punch through the use of "pickled" onions in my salsa. At the dinner where I made my peach salsa above, I also made a recipe by David Tanis of the New York Times entitled Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette. While the recipe called for preparing the asparagus by simply boiling it in water for 3-5 minutes, I was more intrigued by the construction of the vinaigrette which called for "softening" shallots in red wine vinegar and salt for several minutes before incorporating them into a dressing. While I was hesitant to let onions sit in red wine vinegar before adding them to a salsa (I was afraid the red wine might not complement the sweet taste of the [albeit frozen] peas) I let them soak in rice vinegar and salt in order to reduce their raw taste before adding them to my dish.
Jalapenos: Salsa is generally a very simple dish. Cut up some tomatoes, onions and peppers (maybe add some cilantro if you're not cooking for my fiance) and voila, you have the prototypical salsa. To this end, I decided to pay homage to salsa simplicity if not its ingredients. Jalapenos are great. You can roast them, pickle them or keep them raw (in this case, you'll want to discard the seeds). Recently, I found goop to feature an article on fermented foods which can do wonders in maintaining a healthy gut and therefore, keep vandals from invading our bloodstream. (This article, I can't recommend highly enough and you can read it here.) While I didn't feel like pickling my jalapenos, I cut them up and added them raw for extra heat.
Spices: Here, you can play around a little bit. I like to toast cumin seeds and coriander before grinding them and adding them to any dish but simple salt and pepper probably works just as well.
And below lies my first, official recipe on Eat Your Ethos:
- 2 cups frozen or shelled peas
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted