Every winter, toward the end of February, all the soups,  stews, braises, and roasts I so eagerly anticipated in September start to weigh me down a bit, and I find myself hankering for something lighter and fresher.  Trouble is, really good tomatoes and corn on the cob and lettuces and berries and other summery inspirations are still many months away.

But don’t despair:  did you know you can make a tangy, spicy, fresh-tasting salsa using canned tomatoes?  It’s true!  And easy!  And just the thing to lift you from your mid-winter doldrums.

Winter Salsa

Yield:  Makes about 1 quart

1/2 of a small red onion, chopped

2 small cloves garlic, chopped

1 fresh jalepeno, seeded and chopped (or 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and chopped), or more to taste

1 28 oz. can best-quality plum tomatoes, drained, juice reserved

Juice of 1 or 2 limes

1/4 c. olive oil

Handful fresh cilantro leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pulse onion, garlic, and jalepeno (or chipotles) in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add tomatoes, lime juice, olive oil, and cilantro, and process until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add reserved tomato juice as needed for desired consistency.

10 things to do with salsa:

  • Dress up simple rice and beans.
  • Serve it over baked fish or sauteed chicken breasts, with a salad of fennel and oranges and a side of Israeli couscous.
  • Make tacos with shredded, leftover chicken or pork, avocado, corn, and grated Monterey Jack.
  • Stuff it in a burrito with leftover chili and brown rice.
  • Use as a dip for shrimp, crudite, and toasted, garlic-rubbed baguette slices.
  • Mix salsa with some cooked beans, spoon into a portobello mushroom cap, top with toasted breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbly.
  • Serve with quesadillas stuffed with mashed sweet potatoes and blue cheese.
  • Stir it into a simple chicken, bean, or vegetable soup for a little kick.
  • Huevos rancheros:  top a toasted corn tortilla with a fried egg and salsa.
  • Dip your chips.  Want to make your own corn tortilla chips?  See here.