Summer Cold

“Summer cold”.  Now, that’s an oxymoron! 

I haven’t come down with a cold during the summer months in a long time and this one came at me quickly and with a vengeance.  I slept for two days and, on the few occasions I got out of bed, I staggered around the house like Frankenstein’s monster, wandering aimlessly from room to room, only to collapse back into bed after a few minutes. 

At one point, during a semi-lucid moment, I thought it would be “fun” to submit a post about my favorite chicken broth recipe but I was so exhausted that my fingers refused to type and my brain was operating on emergency reserve power.  I really don’t have a favorite chicken broth recipe, but I like to think that I do, when I’m sick. 

I’m feeling a little better now…still drained of energy but at least my brain is firing on more than one cylinder. 

So, let’s see if I can reconstruct the broth I made while I was feeling ill.  I’m glad I took a few pictures because I can barely remember making this, even though it was only a few days ago!

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth (I used boxed chicken broth)

1 handful of dry, wide, Thai rice stick noodles (why, why, why?)

1 small jalapeño

2 habaneros

A tiny bit of thinly sliced onion

1 garlic clove

¼ cup fresh spinach

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 lime

Directions:

Use a mandoline to slice the chilis and garlic.  I couldn’t tie my shoes because I was so deliriously sick but did that stop me from using a razor sharp kitchen instrument…heck no!  Slice the lime into quarters…again with the sharp tools!  Set these aside before you hurt yourself.

In a 4 quart pot, add the chicken broth and simmer over medium/low heat.  Add the garlic and soy sauce.  Add the Thai noodles.  Simmer for a few minutes.  Hover over the stove for a moment before realizing that the noodles will probably take FOREVER to cook.

Walk away and forget that you are cooking something.  Go back to the kitchen for a glass of water and remember that you have something on the stove.  Check to see if the noodles are soft.  They probably won’t be.  Lean over the broth and slowly breath in through your nose and out through your mouth several times.  Toss a sliver of habanero or jalapeño into the pot and keep breathing.  This is the therapeutic part of the program.  You may not enjoy the broth when it is done but you will at least have had a moment to clear your sinuses!

Once the noodles have softened, Pour the broth into a large bowl.  Add the spinach, onion and as much of the chilis as you dare to.  Squeeze some lime juice into the broth. 

Why on earth did I add the Thai noodles?  The darn things are so wide and slippery that they defy chopsticks, forks and spoons.  The only way I could eat them was to slurp them from the bowl.  And, since I was sick, that was totally acceptable.

¡Salsa Picante!

My garden is at its zenith.  This summer has provided a rare, but welcomed, balance of sunshine, heat  and rain.  I haven’t watered the garden in over two months and I haven’t used any pesticides or fertilizer.  Nature has been kind to me, this season!

This week’s harvest provided four gallons of tomatoes and lots of different varieties of peppers.  That means it’s time to make salsa!   This recipe will make 4 quarts of salsa and, now that I have made it, I wish I would have doubled or tripled the batch.  This is not a quick process…be prepared to spend a more than a couple of hours prepping the vegetables and cooking sauces.  The end result is definitely worth the work.  I plan on giving one or two quarts away to friends and keeping the others for my family.  I don’t know why I even bother canning the stuff, since my family and I can gobble down a quart in a day or two.  But, I will try to hide a quart and bring it out as a surprise, long after summer has gone. 

Aside from the optional habanero and tabasco chiles, I consider this to be a basic salsa.  The proportions listed in the recipe should produce a “medium” heat salsa.  If you want to tweak this recipe, I suggest roasting or smoking one or more of the items.  For example, you could put the jalapeños on the grill and smoke with some mesquite wood, or you could char the onion and tomato over hot coals, or wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Any of these things will add a new, distinct profile to your salsa. 

I stared at the habaneros and tabascos for a long time and finally decided to pass on them.  I would love to include them but I believe the end result would have been too spicy for some folks.  I will dice them and sauté them in a little tomato sauce and add it to my private reserve!

For this recipe, I made the tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.  If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, canned tomato sauce will work just fine. 

Ingredients:

1 gallon diced tomatoes

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced bell pepper

1 ½ cups diced jalapeño

Juice of 2 limes

1 head of garlic (about ¼ cup) minced garlic

3 habanero chiles (optional)

8 tabasco chiles peppers (optional)

½ gallon tomato sauce

2 cups vegetable stock (reduced to sauce)

Directions:

See my previous post to make the vegetable stock reduction: https://toothpicktales.com/2019/08/11/a-conversation-on-conservation-and-consideration/

Heat the tomato sauce in a large uncovered pot on the stove.  If you are using the vegetable stock, add it now.  Simmer at low heat while vegetables are prepared.

Chop vegetables into small pieces.  Tomatoes should be about ½” pieces and the onions and chiles should be cut into ¼” pieces.  Strain the juice from the tomatoes and set aside. 

Add all ingredients to the sauce.  Cook uncovered for one hour.  Turn the heat off and add the lime juice and stir to incorporate. 

I have to confess, I did not cook the salsa long enough and I forgot to add the lime juice when I made this.  Within a day after canning, juice started creeping out of the jars.  When I unscrewed the ring the lid popped off, from the pressure inside.  I dumped the salsa back into a pot and cooked it at a low boil for 30 minutes and then added the lime juice.  I have canned it again and I hope that does the trick.  If not, I will come clean and relay the sordid details!

Sanitize canning jars.  I use a bleach and water solution.  The bleach to water ratio should be 2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water.

Lay empty canning jars, lids and rings in the kitchen sink, after plugging the drain.  Fill the sink with 3 gallons of boiling water.  Add 6 teaspoons of liquid bleach.  Remove the jars after two minutes and allow them to air dry. 

Fill the jars with salsa and leave about ½” air space at the top.  Cover the jar with the lid and secure by gently tightening the ring with your fingertips. 

Immerse the jars in boiling water and pull them out after 15 minutes and allow them to cool on a cooling rack.