In the winter I crave bold flavor. Yes, I enjoy winter stews and root vegetables, but come the end of January, I miss the fresh flavors of summer. That's where a good salsa comes in---a salsa that primarily utilizes pantry ingredients. A good salsa will take you places and lend a hand when mealtime creativity is becoming a bit lackluster.
This salsa makes a hearty dip for chips and an excellent sauce. In this case, I placed the salsa in my crockpot with chicken thighs and walked away. When I came back much later, I found exultingly tender chicken in a scrumptious sauce.
A few notes:
On the heat scale, this salsa is not very hot. Ancho chiles are milder than Guajillo chiles. New Mexican and Californian chiles can be substituted, as well.
*Use good quality canned tomatoes here. I recommend Muir Glen, though Safeway & Whole Foods have their own organic store brands that are good, too. Canned tomatoes of excellent quality are important because the canned tomatoes make up a large percentage of the salsa.
The pepitas add both flavor and substance to the salsa-----a stick-to-your-chip texture you want in a salsa! However, if you cannot find them, they may be omitted.
The salsa can be frozen for later use as a sauce...
Pantry Red Salsa
5 dried Ancho or Guajillo chiles
28-oz can whole tomatoes* (see note above)
1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 white onion
4 cloves garlic
juice of 3 large limes
1/2 C. toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 tsp. salt
Method: Soak chiles in boiling water for at least 30 minutes. When soft, remove stems and seeds. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth (my blender completely purees the pepitas---a food processor might leave them a little chunky). If using as a dip, allow the salsa to sit a bit to allow the flavors to blend. Makes over four cups.
3 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, rinsed and trimmed of fat
2 C. Pantry Red Salsa
1/4 C. chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
Taco Fixins... such as avocado, tomatoes, black beans, and sour cream.
Method: Place the chicken thighs and the salsa in a crockpot or dutch oven set to medium low and cook for approximately four hours; until cooked through and falling apart. While in the pan, use two forks to shred the meat. Sprinkle lime juice and cilantro over meat to serve.
Add 1/3 C. salsa to white rice and cook the rice using your favorite method (rice cooker, etc). Don't reduce the liquid; the salsa is in addition to it.When done, fluff with a fork.