I was fairly adept in the kitchen before I understood that you can make a salsa with just about anything. I mean anything. I've made salsas using mint and oranges. I've made them using kiwi, peach and cherries. And of course there's salsa with corn, cucumbers, even ginger as an ingredient. Just think about what benefits from a little zing, and either lime juice or another acid, and you can consider it a salsa.
In this case I am showcasing two dishes that make the most of salsa brilliance. One, a simple pan sauteed chicken breast with a pineapple and tomato salsa, (don't kid yourself. I loaded it up with other amazing flavors, too...) and secondly, a quick twist on a Mexican classic, the meat enchilada.
ONE - Take a look at this beauty. the secret is sauteeing the chicken in good flavors, then reducing it ever so slightly with a good white wine. Adding pineapple allows you a lot of latitude with other sweet flavors so I finished it with a few dots of fig balsamic reduced to a yummy syrup. And to serve it, I rested it atop quinoa cooked with a bit of jalapeno oil. It was just sweet enough and just savory enough to keep me entertained and cha, cha, charged about this new recipe.
TWO - The other salsa-sensational dinner is a twist on the meat enchilada (BELOW), wherein the tortilla is swapped for a tasty pastry you could hold in your hand. However, once you add a simple salsa that was quickly composed of canned tomatoes, canned ortega chiles, and some cilantro, it might be advisable to use a fork. I had a hard time not using my hands I wanted to eat it all so quickly! Resting on a plate of black beans and finished with some lime juice made this just about the prettiest enchilada I've EVER seen.
What's fun about this meal is the meat mixture that goes inside. You could use a tender skirt steak for fancy nights, but well seasoned hamburger with peppers, jalapeno and onion work just fine. By adding a little canned enchilada sauce and some cumin, you've gone all inventive without all the fuss.
Both of these meals were ridiculously simple and used a lot of ready-made ingredients that added lots of flavor in no time.
Check out the recipes below!
RECIPE: Pan Seared Chicken with Pineapple Tomato Salsa
Serves 4 / Click here for printable version.
4, 6 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise
1 C canned seasoned diced tomatoes, such as basil and garlic flavored, drained
4 rings of canned pineapple cut into small chunks, reserving just a few T of the juice
1/3 small white onion chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
½ t dried basil leaves
1/3 white wine such as a Riesling (or chicken stock)
3 T fig balsamic vinegar or other sweet, dark balsamic, cooked to thicken for about 5 minutes
2 T canola oil
1 T jalapeno oil if you have it, for the quinoa
1 C quinoa
¼ t ground coriander powder
Sprinkling of hot chili flakes
1 T salted butter
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 ½ C water and some salt as well as the jalapeno oil in a saucepan. When boiling add the quinoa. Stir, turn heat to very low, keep covered and cook for 20 minutes.
Heat a large saucepan to high and add 1 T canola oil. Add the onions and a little salt and pepper and cook until they are soft but some are browned. Add the pineapple juice, tomatoes, pineapple and chili flakes. Toss to coat and let cook until hot and all the flavors are cooked together which only takes a few minutes. Add the dried basil and a little more salt and pepper. Stir for a minute and then remove all the ingredients to a bowl and cover it. Do not wipe out the pan. Bring it back to medium high heat and add 1 T canola oil. Making sure the chicken is room temperature, sear on both sides for about 2-3 minutes and then turn the pan to medium low and let cook for about 4 minutes so the chicken can finish cooking on the inside. Now, add the wine and let it reduce for about 3 minutes. Add 1 T of the reduced balsamic and toss. By now your chicken should be just barely done. It’s important that all your pieces be the same size and not too thick so they cook evenly and not get over done. Now add back in the salsa, and stir it in with all of the balsamic and pan juices.
To serve, arrange the chicken over the quinoa and top with the salsa.
RECIPE: Meat Enchilada Hand Pies with Ortega Chile Salsa
Serves 4 - 6 / Click here for printable version.
1 package of pie crust mix, or your own homemade pie crust with enough for 2 crusts
2 T butter to grease baking sheet
1 lb 85% lean, grass fed ground beef
½ large red pepper diced
1 small jalapeno diced
1/3 C sweet onion diced
1 12 oz can enchilada sauce
½ t ground cumin
1 C chopped cilantro
1 15 oz can refried black beans
Juice from half a lime and the other half cut into 4 slices for garnish
1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
1, 4 ounce can diced green Ortega chiles
3/4 C diced tomatoes drained
Salt and pepper
1/3 C heavy cream to brush onto pastry
In a large sauce pan, brown the meat. Then add the red pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until done. Add about 1/3 C of the enchilada sauce. Set aside.
In another pan, heat the black beans through. In a small pan or microwave safe bowl, heat the enchilada sauce with the cumin. Chop the cilantro. Cut the lime and juice half of it and add the juice in a bowl with the tomatoes, ortega chiles, about a third of the chopped cilantro, and a little kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the baking sheet. Roll out the pie crust dough very thinly and make 6 rectangles about 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches. Place about 1/3 C of the meat mixture in the center of the bottom half of the rectangle. Close over to make a pocket and seal. Can use a fork to make marks along the border with the tines if desired. Cut “x” into the top of each hand pie for steam to be released. Place hand pies on the cookie sheet, brush with a little cream, and bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is browned.
To serve, place a serving of the refried black beans on the center of the plate, set the hand pie on top of that, add cheese, cover with some of the hot enchilada sauce, add some of the salsa, and sprinkle each serving generously with remaining cilantro. Garnish with a lemon wedge and avocado if you’d like.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style is one of combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.