Today is all about cooking

After eating ourselves into a coma, I got so hungry for chips and dips.

I knew I would because yesterday, when I was standing in line for two hours to buy last minute “Mike wants pecan pie”, I kept putting red hot cheetos in my basket and taking them out, Putting in sour cream. Looking for tomatoes, limes, lemons. Running my fingers thru the bins of fresh and dried peppers. The teeny little ones from Vietnam. The pretty ones from Fresno. The fresh juicy jalapenos. The almost minty smell of bunches of fresh cilantro. The creamy butter feel of sliced avocado.

First start with large fresh tomatoes; I like to buy a variety at the farmer’s market or in the produce section at the Mexican Market down the block, right down by China Alley. This time of year, where I live,  there are some really great tiny tomatoes, in red and yellow—there are little grape tomatoes and sweet ladybugs, as well as the ordinary cherry tomatoes.  There are also tomatoes from Mexico and Chile—big ones with the vines still on, looking as if they had been smuggled over the border just last night.

Cut them into quarters and toss them into a wok. Mine is on the stove everyday because I can see the flavors collide when I cook from scratch. For every handful of tomato you toss into your wok, add a pepper. It doesn;t make any difference if you are going to use Serrano, jalapenos, Fresno peppers, or some concoction of choice from the dry bins. Toss them in whole, adding a small amount of  tomato juice  or V* juice, plus a flick of salt. Cover the wok with a tight fitting lid and simmer on low for the better part of an hour. Check on it every ten minutes to see if the fresh tomatoes have cooked down into a smash-able texture. Not  soup, but bubbly enough that the skins will slip off and you can smash everything with a fork.

You can keep the salsa fresh and chunky or you can add the juice of a lemon and one lime, and shred the bunch of cilantro roughly, twisting by hand. Want some garlic? Smash mince one clove.  Stir in,

Transfer the hot salsa out of the wok into a heavy mixing bowl. Fold a serving towel in half and place it under the bowl .Put the salsa into the refrigerator and wait.  As the fruits cool, the heat will mix with the lemon and lime juices. The minty cilantro will slide into the tomatoes. When I lived in LA, I would drive home thru the fields in the Central Valley in the middle of the state. Huge fields of every thing grew and in the late summer heat, I could smell and identify the separate fields. Pepper smells hot. Tomatoe has a heavy sweet smell. But the cilantro! Fresh, crisp clean minty…it lay lightly for miles.

You can control the heat if you find it is TOO hot without starting over. Add a avocado…no too soft, with just a slight give. The softer it is, the more buttery it will taste, but if it too hard, it will taste bitter. Slice it round and twist in half. Use your knife to  whack the seed and gently pop it out. Use a fork to roughly mash it in the bowl of its skin, pop it out straight away. The lemon and lime will keep it bright green.

Let that sit for about ten minutes and see how the heat has backed off.  You can add a couple of avocados or several spoons of sour cream—both will take the heat out. While you are waiting for things to cool off, roughly chop a red and purple onion and toss in. If you like onions.

Slice a bunch of radishes thinly and toss them in there, too. Growing up, we always had a dish of radishes sliced thin and kept in ice cold water with a squeeze of lemon. On a hot day, it is a refreshing bite to eat.

And as much as I would like to keep it all for myself,  this salsa needs to go into the center of the shallow chip bowl to be shared. I like the plainest corn chips because the salsa is the star here. Adding fresh shrimp can just dazzle this. Let the shrimp sit in the salsa for about ten minutes to “cook”

As Hawkeye would say, “Finest kind!”

You can also add really ripe peaches, cut small, pineapple, black beans, drained and diced. Try adding the very sweet shoepeg corn. For a sweeter fruitier salsa, decrease the peppers and eliminate the garlic and radishes.

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