It’s hot, finally. But where’s the spice?
Summer in New York City has taken her good old time bursting onto the scene. She’s held out for a late August arrival, and if she can kick rain’s ass to the curb, she may even gift us a final summer weekend or two, perfect for a backyard or rooftop BBQ.
Erin and I are planning a Labor Day BBQ to celebrate our Dinner Belle catering staff, our favorite clients and our best buds. I’m hoping for a hot day, a hot grill and a hot new pair of platform espadrilles to ring in the occasion.
And what pairs well with heat? Spice!
Spicy salsa, to be exact. I love salsa, and without a doubt, house-made tortilla chips are in my top ten favorite foods, but I can’t stomach the stuff that comes in the jar that is so often served alongside ‘em. Especially since making salsa at home couldn’t be easier; it just takes time to chop it all up. My recipe for Sweet & Spicy Summer Salsa takes tomatoes to a new level by expertly pairing heat with char and sweet. Signature summer taste sensations both! I sweat the water out of the tomatoes and make a sweet tomato glaze with the liquid. I then char the corn, caramelize the garlic, and dice the jalapeños, for a perfectly balanced sweet & spicy BBQ dish that can indeed sit outside baking in the sun all day long.
And what pairs well with spicy salsa? Spicy wine!
The Zette Malbec is salsa’s best friend. I know what you’re thinking, “Red wine on a hot summer afternoon?” And my answer is, “Yes! If it has lush fruit flavors, a light to medium body, and notes of spice.” At a great value, this Malbec has all three and is the perfect accompaniment to summer’s zesty buffet staple, salsa.
As this month’s guest-blogger on the Zette wine site, I’ll be offering three summer recipe suggestions for pairing their vino with my cibo. For those die-hards that “just don’t do” red in heat, I’ve got a white and rosé coming up next. And if you wanna try out my Tequila Spiked Mango Guacamole pictured alongside the salsa, I assure you that second to the Zette Malbec, salsa and guac are like totally BFF. ¡Buen provecho!
Sweet & Spicy Summer Salsa (serves a party)
• 4 pints Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (ripe, quartered, about 8 cups)
• 4 Vine-Ripened Tomatoes (pureed, set over a cheesecloth to drain liquid from pulp)
• 1 T Salt
• 1 T Sugar
• 1 cup Tomato Liquid
• 4 TB Lime Juice
• ¼ cup Sugar
• 6 ears Sweet Corn on the Cob (grilled)*
• 4 cloves Garlic (caramelized)*
• 2 Jalapeños (micro-dice)*
• 1 can Black Beans (rinsed)
• 1 large Sweet Onion (micro-dice)
• 1 bunch Scallions (micro-sliced)
• 1 bunch Cilantro (chopped)
• Tomato Pulp
• Tomato Glaze
• Quartered Tomatoes
• Salt & Pepper (to taste)
• Tortilla Chips for Dipping
1. Tomato Liquid: Toss quartered cherry tomatoes with salt and sugar in a large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. In the meantime, puree the vine-ripened tomatoes (in a food processor if available) and set over a cheesecloth to strain the liquid from the pulp. Reserve both. The tomato pulp will be used in the salsa; the tomato liquid will be used to make the glaze. After 30 minutes, transfer the cherry tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin until seeds and excess liquid have been removed (about 1 minute). Reserve both. Return tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. Strain the tomato liquid through the same cheesecloth to remove the seeds. You should end up with about 1 cup total of tomato liquid collected from both tomato varieties. If you have extra, make a bloody martini by combining the liquid with vodka, a drop of Tabasco, and a celery salt rim!
2. Tomato Glaze: Bring 1 cup of the tomato liquid, lime juice and sugar to simmer in small saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer until thick and glaze-like or until the sauce has reduced to approximately ¼ cup (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and cool before adding to salsa.
3. Tomato Salsa: Mix all the ingredients together and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving, giving the flavors time to meld.
***A few tips as concerns the corn, garlic and jalapeños: grill the corn over an open flame or in a grill pan before cutting the kernels from the cob to give it that coveted summer barbeque char; sauté the garlic till golden brown in a TB of olive oil to lend a caramelized flavor to the salsa; proceed with caution with the jalapeños, adding or discarding seeds depending on how hot you like it. I like it spicy and sometimes throw in a third jalapeño, seeds and all!