Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little Something for the January Blahs

I am not at my best these days. My luxurious 3 week winter break is just a fond memory, all the kids' activities are back in full swing, and there's been a great deal of extra stuff needing my attention of late. As one might imagine, nutritious home cooked meals have been few and far between. I should be posting here more often but I can't imagine anyone needing to get the details on the burritos, pasta, and tuna melts that have kept everyone fed around here. Sadly, that's so often what it comes down to. My efforts to uplift my family's meals haven't come to much lately as we've just gone for the old standbys, food without fuss, just enough, really to keep going. Not what I envisioned for my family years ago when the introduction to Laurel's Kitchen regularly got me all fired up. Well, what is parenting all about if not dispelling illusions right and left?

Another oft-used cookbook back in the days when my kids were too young to complain was The Savory Way by Deborah Madison. Among the many treasured recipes this book contains is Smoked Chile Salsa, something I need to make a few times every winter. In her introduction to the recipe Madison writes:

This sauce is based on a Mexican sauce I like very much but that is almost impossible to find. Búfalo is illustrated with a picture of the charging body if a red buffalo, which is just about how it feels in your mouth.

The book was written way back in 1990 before Búfalo became easy enough to find in any town with a Latino population but I find this homemade sauce to be infinitely better even without the stylish little glass bottle. This isn't a tomato-y chip and dip kind of salsa but rather a rich, flavorful, slightly smoky, slightly tangy hot sauce to be served in small dollops. It's plenty picante but also delightfully full of flavor, and just the thing to add some zing to the boring, inoffensive kid food we've been living on. Burritos with tasteless canned refritos? This sauce will help. Stodgy home fries? You'll want this sauce. Another pan of macaroni and cheese? It won't make the boxed stuff edible, but this sauce will definitely do something worthwhile to cheesy pasta. My very favorite way to use it involves sautéing chunks of sweet potato in a bit of broth until tender and tucking them into a warmed tortilla with cheese, and home-cooked pinto beans. A nice drizzle of this smoky, tangy sauce sets off the sweet potatoes beautifully. Too bad my kids won't touch my sweet potato burritos with a ten foot pole.

The recipe is here. I hope it helps to liven up these cold, dull mid-winter days.

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