These are some gradin’ nachos. I’m fortunate since I didn’t have many final projects to grade this term, but the nachos made it easier. Although I still have a few jars of homemade salsa in the pantry, I thought I’d try something new. Everyone and their brother is trying to get rid of frozen corn, right? I noticed I had a drooping bunch of cilantro and a red onion, so thought I’d throw together a salsa. Winter tomatoes didn’t exactly appeal, hm…
And then, inspiration struck.
When I was an undergraduate in Berkeley, I’d almost exclusively shop at the old Berkeley Bowl, showing up on an odd weekday or first thing in the morning on a weekend to avoid some of the foot traffic. One of the only prepared items I’d buy was a delicious, bright red, zingy corn salsa made by a local company that also (if I remember correctly) made tamales. They’d sample the salsas on a little table on the weekends. I’d buy a pint and a bag of corn chips, then rush home and devour half the container for lunch.
It was that good.
So as I was mulling over my corn salsa possibilities, the remembrance of times past filled me with the holy recipe ghost, and it occurred to me that my decades of experimentation to recreate this salsa were misguided. I had never been able to capture the texture and slightly bitter flavor of the red pepper purée.
But lo! I had a jar of ajvar in the ‘fridge, and my long struggles were over.
This summer, I’m planning to make my own ajvar, but until then, I use the stuff in a jar, available at any Middle Eastern grocery store and many plain ol’ American ones, too. In Orange County, I could buy it at the Safeway, but I’m not so sure about Eugene. They’d probably have it at Market of Choice. It’s bright red and fortified with vegetables, such as carrots and onions and eggplants. The eggplants are the key: they lend the smoky bitterness to the spread that I had been missing when I tried to recreate the corn salsa from Berkeley Bowl.
Did the original recipe use ajvar? Hard to tell, but it sure tastes like it. In any case, the salsa is easy, pretty, and vegetable-y. More importantly, it uses up your freezer corn. Enjoy.
Red and Yellow Winter Salsa
- 2 c. frozen corn, unthawed
- 1/2 c. ajvar red pepper spread, either hot or mild
- 2 T. minced red onion
- good squeeze of fresh lime
- handful cilantro, chopped (optional but recommended)
- chopped fresh jalapeño (optional)
Mix all ingredients together and let sit in the refrigerator until corn defrosts and the corny juice blends with the flavors in the salsa. Serves as an all-in-one nacho topping, quesadilla insert, or taco fiesta.