Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's in Your Pantry?


Salsa Verde. You may know it as green salsa. I have at least 4 jars of it in my pantry right now. It’s great with tortilla chips as a snack (tasty but low fat), makes a great topper for chicken breasts or fish going into the oven (a sprinkling of queso fresco or feta on top right at the end adds a bit more interest as well), or best, yet, the soup that everyone asks for…my Salsa Verde Chicken Chili (it’s actually more a “soup” but chili sounds better.

Salsa Verde Chicken Chili
3 T. olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced small (or ½ can of jalepenos)
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 qt. chicken stock
1 16 oz. jar of salsa verde (don’t buy the expensive stuff)
1 beer (any you like – I prefer Corona)
1 can hominy (white or yellow) drained and rinsed
1 rotisserie chicken, pulled apart, skin removed
1 bag of corn tortilla chips
1 handful of cilantro leaves
2 limes
Queso fresco (white cheese) or Monterey Jack
Avocado, diced (optional)

In a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, sauté oil, onion, jalapeno and garlic for about 4 minutes.  Add cumin and chili powder, stir for one minute.  Add in stock, salsa, beer and cook until bubbling.  Add in hominy and chicken.  Cook about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put cilantro and two handfuls of chips in a food processor and process until ground.  Add this mixture to the pot of chili, stirring until well combined.  Cook one minute until soup thickens a bit.

Serve bowls of chili garnished with a wedge of lime (to squirt in), cheese, avocado and additional chips for dipping.


Balsamic vinegar.  I always have regular and white balsamic in my pantry (along with red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar – but perhaps that’s a topic for another day).  So versatile.  I use it to make homemade salad dressing; toss it with olive oil into asparagus and green beans; glaze salmon, chicken and grilled shrimp; marinate beef with a mixture of balsamic and olive oil (the balsamic actually works as a meat tenderizer); drizzle tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a caprese salad;  dress fresh berries or watermelon with it.  I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that can’t benefit from a dose of this amazing elixir.  Friends dropping by unexpectedly and you want an easy appetizer?  Try roasted garlic and balsamic:
Roasted Garlic with Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top (pointy end) off of a full head of garlic so that all of the ends of all of the cloves are exposed.  Place cut side up in a small oven-safe dish.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes. 
Squeeze the roasted cloves out of the cooked head and spread on bread or crackers. 

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