May 17, 2010

Peanut Chile Salsa

When I was at DiBruno's Market in Philadelphia yesterday, the vine-ripe tomatoes smelled so sweet and looked so fresh that I had to buy a couple of pounds. When I got home, I knew exactly what I would do with them... Convert them to a rich, nutty and spicy sauce I had seen recently in the New York Times Recipes for Health. The recipe requests Roma tomatoes and spicy chiles, neither of which I exactly had on hand. So I broiled my tomatoes on the vine and used a few dashes of hot sauce and half of a jalapeno instead for a kick. Made almost creamy by the pureed peanuts, this thick salsa begs eating by the spoonful. This is a serious sauce that will stick with love to whatever it's poured over... namely, the seared tuna steaks I have waiting in the fridge for tomorrow night...

Peanut Chile Salsa

1 tablespoon mild ground chili powder or 6 de arbol chiles
1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, preferably roma tomatoes
1 plump garlic clove, skin on
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
1 clove
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
About 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt to taste

1. If using the dried chiles, heat a dry skillet or griddle over medium heat, and toast the chiles just until they change color — a few seconds on each side. Remove from the heat, and place in a bowl. Cover with hot water, and place a saucer on top to keep them submerged. Soak for 15 minutes. Drain and remove the stems.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and place the tomatoes on top. Place under the broiler a couple of inches from the heat. Broil until blistered and charred on one side, five to six minutes. Using tongs, turn the tomatoes over and repeat on the other side. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool until you can handle them, then cut away the core and transfer to a blender.

3. Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet over medium heat, and toast the garlic, turning often, until it smells toasty, has softened and is colored in spots. Remove from the heat. Remove the skin and trim away the root end. Add to the blender, along with the cinnamon, clove, chili powder (or the stemmed, soaked chiles), oregano and peanuts. Blend to a purée, adding a little stock if necessary.

4. Set a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the oil. When the oil is hot and a small amount of the purée sears when you add it to the pan, add all of the purée. It will splatter, so have a lid close by. Cook the purée, stirring constantly, until it thickens and darkens, five to eight minutes. Add the remaining stock, and combine well. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened and darkened, eight to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt. The salsa should be thick. Remove from the heat, and serve hot or warm, with grains and vegetables (or with fish).

Yield: Makes 1 3/4 cups, serving about six.

Advance preparation: The salsa keeps well for several days in the refrigerator and freezes well. Reheat and stir after thawing.
Recipe from Martha Rose Shulman's 'Recipes for Health'

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