Posts Tagged ‘Denver’

Salsa Wars – Recipes for Roasted Tomato, Beet & Tomatillo Salsas

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Salsa Wars Finalists

Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a salsa virtuoso. I point to my Mexican roots for precipitating the fondness for chile-based condiments.

Salsa, which means “sauce” in Spanish, originates back to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas in Mexico and Central America, where sauces were made using tomatoes, chiles and a variety of other ingredients including seeds and berries, depending on availability and location. They encompassed sauces that were cooked and smoothed and those that were chunky and raw.

Growing up, salsa was on the table at every meal, right next to the salt and pepper. Whether it was my dad’s hot roasted green chiles mashed to perfection in the molcajete with garlic or my momma’s impromptu fresh pico de gallo with garden-fresh tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos – salsa was the choice condiment for everything from tacos to eggs to pizza.

Today, salsa still reigns. Although my definition of it has expanded beyond Mexican and Latin American cuisine.

So, when I got the chance to be a judge at Salsa Wars, Denver Public Library’s salsa recipe contest, I jumped on it. The event was part of DPL’s Street Food series in July, which highlighted food from Peru, Brazil and Mexico.

As a judge, I had the pleasure of tasting the six finalist salsas, and the task of picking my favorites. I was torn . . .

Do I vote for the more traditional Salsa Jefe with roasted chiles and tomatoes or the roasted tomatillo-based Garlic and Lime Green Salsa – both of which I could eat leisurely with chips while I have a cold beer or margarita? Or, do I vote for the Salsa Puttanesca with capers and anchovies that would be great on fish, but I wouldn’t touch with chips? Then, there was that darn Caramelized Onion Salsa that tasted divine but called for an hour plus to caramelize onions?

There was also the lure of ingenuity with the roasted beet Red Square Salsa – tasty but more of a side dish than a salsa? And, a green tomato salsa that appealed to the gardener in me.

Ultimately, I channeled some Iron Chef judiciousness. Along with two other judges – Chef Shellie Kark of Kitchen cue and Jesse Ogas of Encantada Catering, we selected the winners:

1st Place:  Salsa Puttanesca-Salsa Italian Style – by Beth Hewlett

2nd Place:  Salsa Jefe – by Rocio Rowland

3rd Place:  Caramelized Onion Salsa – by Laura Kark

Other Finalists:

Red Square Salsa-Salsa Russian Style – by Beth Hewlett

Garlic and Lime Green Salsa – by Katherine Linder

Coleen’s Amazin Green Tomato Salsa – by Coleen Walsh

Below are recipes and pictures for half of the finalists. I cooked up the three (in bold) and made a few notes in italics. The remaining three recipes can be found on Chef Kark’s blog and her Facebook page.


Quinoa: SAME Cafe’s Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

SAME Cafe - Denver

This post is my introduction to quinoa. It’s a little out of the ordinary because SAME Café is out of the ordinary . . .

It’s a sunny winter day in Denver, still several minutes before the doors open at SAME Café and there’s a line of people forming outside on this East Colfax sidewalk. The group is a mix of sorts – several in tattered clothes, others in suits, and a few hip folks with piercings and tattoos. They are here for lunch. This, however, is no regular café.

SAME is short for “So All May Eat” and the unusual mode of business here is that people pay what they want. Yeah, that’s right, there’s no set menu price. And, for folks who can’t pay, they can work in exchange. There’s no cash register, just a donation box where people pay what they feel their meal was worth. And, if a person can, leave a little more to help out someone less fortunate.

The nonprofit has been open for three years. In 2009, SAME served over 18,500 meals; since it opened – almost 35,000 meals. It is not a soup kitchen. It’s a communal concept based on dignity with good food at its core. A typical menu looks something like this:  Zuppa Tuscana Soup, Beer Cheese Soup, Chicken Salad, Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad, Sausage & Mushroom Pizza, Apple Walnut & Bleu Cheese Pizza, and cookies. The menu changes daily and focuses on seasonal ingredients with vegetarian options always offered in the daily menu of soups, salads and pizzas.

This month SAME Café was recognized with the Channel 7 Everyday Hero Award and also an impressive MSN Hometown Heroes Award, an online viewer voting contest connected to their NBC Nightly News segment with Brian Williams (watch the video).

SAME is the brainchild of Brad and Libby Birky who were concerned about the hunger issue here in Denver. The two work full-time at the café, along with one part-time employee and the many volunteers who help with meal preparation, cleaning and numerous miscellaneous tasks.

Notably, Libby is also the “Salad Queen” and she generously allowed me to come observe her in action as she prepared the quinoa salad. Her recipe is below with my measurements/ratios (she made a gargantuan bowlful; the recipe is adjusted for a smaller quantity). The salad is refreshing with the citrus-based dressing, fresh parsley and sweet raisins. For those unfamiliar with quinoa salads, this version is tabouleh-esque.

How to Support SAME:

2010 is off to a busy start at SAME. The economic downturn is one reason, as is the season – when the temperatures drop the café sees more people in need of a warm meal. Here’s how you can support their mission:

  • Go in to eat. The food is lovely, particularly the salads and soups!
  • Email them about volunteering
  • Make a donation, financial or in-kind (see their wish list in their weekly blog)
  • Spread the word (share this post with friends and colleagues – see the green icon below). Their meal count helps their funding prospects.

Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad - Parsley Quinoa - Summer