Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cheap Bastids Lights Out Pico de Gallo

Well, it’s been a while since Cheap Bastid came up with a recipe to share. I’ve been too busy trying to eke out a living selling cars to affluent people who are cheaper bastids than Cheap Bastid. Plus there’s been a lot of stuff going on with our family that’s finally starting to wind down. And, I just haven’t felt like coming up with new recipes and writing about them.

But I’ve got something simple and cheap today. And it all started last Thursday. It was my day off and we hit our grocery store, Stater Brothers. While there we had the bright idea of making some homemade salsa which I haven’t done in a while. It’s actually “pico de gallo” which translates from Spanish as “rooster’s beak”. So we picked up some extra tomatoes and a bunch of fresh cilantro along with a bag of chips that was discounted.

We got home and put the groceries away and I set about chopping the ingredients and letting them macerate.

Now up until now it wasn’t any big deal. It was a hot day and that was the reason for the salsa. It’s something that has some zing and zip from the tomatoes and acid and spiciness. So, along about 3:40 in the afternoon I’m sitting in the living room with some mind numbing drivel on the tube, reading a book—just kicking back on my day off. And zap! The power went off.

Now apparently not too many folks elsewhere in the country really knew that a major power outage occurred that effected the extreme southwest corner of the country for more than 12 hours last Thursday. The power blackout stretched from Tijuana through San Diego and into Orange County and from the Pacific Ocean all the way across California and into Arizona. Several million people all at one time without power. Thank goodness I was at home. I live 15 minutes from work and one guy I work with lives near me. It took him 2 ½ hours to get home.

Oh well. Like I said, it was hot and our apartment isn’t air conditioned. But in a blackout, it wouldn’t work anyway. Our cell phones weren’t working. And obviously we had had no internet because our modem wireless network are powered by electricity. There wasn’t any cable TV. We managed to find some batteries for a small radio and there was one station that was on because it has an emergency generator and does 24/7 news. At least we were able to keep track of what was or wasn’t going on.

I had planned on cooking chops on the grill anyway so dinner was grilled pork chops, grilled summer squash planks and fresh salsa and chips. Think about it…pico de gallo is made from fresh tomatoes, onion and jalapeno. That’s both tasty and actually pretty healthy. So we ate pretty good, by candlelight on a powerless Thursday night. And that’s why I call it “Lights Out” Pico de Gallo.

So, before this gets too long, here’s the simple recipe. Try making it yourself. It’s tasty and a whole lot cheaper than buying something in a jar or in the deli section of your grocery store.

Cheap Bastid’s Lights Out Pico de Gallo

• 4 Roma tomatoes
• 1 baseball size white onion (about 2/3 or so cup worth)
• 1 jalapeno
• 1 orange—navel or Valencia
• ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt, garlic powder, chipotle or cayenne

This is really simple. Most of what you’re going to be doing is chopping and cutting so get out your cutting board and good knife along with the bowl for your salsa.

First though, take your jalapeno and roast it. You can use your grill, you can use a burner on your stove or you can put it in the oven at 450. It’s going to take 5 to 10 minutes. If you haven’t done this before, what you’re doing is putting a char on the outside of the pepper and you’re literally steaming it from the inside. When it’s done put it on a plate on top of a paper towel or napkin to cool.

Start dicing your ingredients and putting them in the bowl. You’re going to chop and juice the orange too. I love the flavor that the orange puts into the salsa along with the extra juice that’s both sweet and acidy. When you get all this into the bowl, add a healthy dose of salt—but don’t overdo it. One of the reasons for the salt is to pull the juices from the tomatoes and get the liquid mixed into your salsa.

Now, back to the jalapeno. When cooled, use the paper towel to rub the skin off the surface of the jalapeno. When it’s all peeled off, cut off the top and the cut the jalapeno lengthwise in half. Remove the membrane and seeds and toss them out (this is where the heat is, so quite frankly, you can leave them in if you want your pico de gallo hotter). Chop the jalapeno into about ¼ inch pieces and add to the bowl.

Now, taste your salsa! Add some garlic powder to taste and then add some chipotle or cayenne a little bit at a time until you get the right amount of heat. Then put it in the fridge. Serve it later with tortilla chips or do what we did—we used it as a topping for tostadas tonight.

So, what to do when you’ve got “Lights Out”, you’re hungry and you’re hot. Pull some freshly made Pico de Gallo out of the fridge (be quick going in and out of the fridge if the power’s out!), dig out some tortilla chips, scoop up the salsa and enjoy! That’s what we did. And we like it spicy!

Cheap Bastid Test: This is really inexpensive, especially this time of year. The tomatoes cost about a dollar, the onion was about a quarter, the jalapeno was about a quarter and the orange about 35 cents. Less than 2 bucks! This made the equivalent of 2 jars of salsa. Those 2 jars would cost $6-$7 at the grocery store. And this is a lot fresher and a lot tastier!

The lights were back on the next morning and it all ended up as one of those little adventures that really aren’t all that bad. Except that it really does let you know just how addicted we are to technology.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!

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