Friday, July 13, 2012

Artichoke Salsa with Chardonnay - Hooray! By Bryanne Salazar

I love artichokes; and I love salsa, but never could I have imagined the two blended together with Chardonnay; and tasting amazing! But I've come to expect nothing but the best from Hot Licks® and they haven't disappointed me yet.

My first experience with their Artichoke Salsa was a few weeks back. I spun the lid off the jar as if I were a cowboy twirling my pistol. I got so deep into character I started talking to the jar, "Well hey there pretty little thing. You're new to this town, aren't you?"

Standing behind me the entire time was my husband, who couldn't supress his laughter any longer.

"Wow, really babe?" he asked.

"Oh shut up!" I said. We both started laughing, but I'm pretty sure he's keeping an extra eye on me, watching for signs I might be cracking.

As soon as the coast was clear, I stuck my nose right in the salsa, wanting to get a full-bodied experience. Instead, I got a full-chunk of carrot up my nose. Oops. The second round of sniffing went much smoother, and I kept my nose at a respectable distance.

The first thing I noticed with my second sniff was that it smelled surprisingly like a rich marinara sauce. "Wait, isn't this salsa?" I said. I was speaking out loud again, and threw a guilty look over my shoulder.

I gained my composure and returned to the jar, studying the label once more for certainty. Yes, it was salsa; but there was something else I hadn't noticed under the name. In pretty cursive I had managed to overlook the first time, were three magic words, "
made with Chardonnay."

Now I am no drunk but I want to convey to you just how excited I was to dive in to Chardonnay-laced salsa at three in the afternoon. Unfortunately, there isn't enough alcohol in the salsa to have even remotely given me a buzz, but those warm oaky notes and bright, crisp tropical flavors lend themselves beautifully to a salsa of this pedigree.

I went in for the taste. The first mouthful reminded me of a juicy bruschetta I'd had at this lovely Italian restaurant in Hawaii overlooking the Pacific. There was just a tad of pepper, making this quite mild, but the restraint with the pepper allowed the other ingredients to really shine. Ripe plum tomatoes, aromatic garlic and onions, grassy parsley and sweet bits of tender carrots followed by the tangy gems of artichoke hearts folded throughout the salsa come together in a luscious recipe that knocks grocery-store varieties on their derrieres.

So what did I do with it after eating nearly half the jar with my spoon? I found a small loaf of ciabatta hiding in my refrigerator and cut four semi-thick slices. I got out my favorite stainless steel skillet and added a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil, and added the bread to the oil as soon as it whispered with smoke. I fry-toasted the slices for about three minutes per side on medium high heat, giving them a golden crispiness that made my tongue unfold like a red carpet.

Next, I took a fat clove of raw garlic and cut it in half, and rubbed the cut side across one side of my oil-toasted bread giving it a touch of spicy-garlic goodness before sprinkling the bread lightly with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Then, I spooned the Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa on to each slice of bread. Finally – and it was hard to wait this long, I added a little dab of ch√®vre on the top and inhaled those suckers like a woman who’d been starving on a deserted island and just saw food for the first time in weeks. I’m not even going to tell you how good it was because you need to try this yourself. And I fully expect a thank-you afterwards.

Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa is great as a dip for chips, veggies, pita bread, fingers, spoons, right out of the jar slurped like a beverage; you name it. On the label it suggests tossing the salsa with your favorite pasta or even topping your morning omelette with a spoonful. I think it would make awesome Spanish-rice or even a fun bloody-mary mix.

What can you make with Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa? I’d love to hear it!

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