Winter meals in Wisconsin often conjure up a particular heaviness. They're usually rich, calorie-laden dishes that rely on long, slow cooking and plenty of winter-hearty vegetables. And trust me when I say I don't find anything wrong with that.
But, sometimes I crave something a bit lighter and less laborious. And, on those evenings, I'm likely to look to frozen fish filets for a quick dinner that's both fast and delicious. Not local, necessarily -- but definitely nutritious.
Of course, I'm also always on the look-out for seasonings and condiments that really kick up the flavor quotient. And I get doubly excited when I'm able to source the majority of the ingredients locally. Case-in-point: my new-found love for winter salsa.
Now, this is no time to talk about your typical tomato based salsa. Nope, nope. Winter tomatoes are decidedly mealy, watery, and not really worth seeking out. But, cranberries! Now you're talking.
If you thought cranberries were only useful as a sauce or relish served at Thanksgiving time, I'm going to ask you to think again. These tart little numbers freeze impeccably for up to two years without losing flavor or texture. So, I always stock up on them while they're on sale and in season during the autumn months.
As one of only three commercially cultivated fruits native to North America, the cranberry has a long history in Wisconsin. In addition to using cranberries as a food preservative and fabric dye, many Native American tribes believed cranberries were healing agents that could calm the nerves and draw poison from arrow wounds. By the 1800’s settlers in Berlin, Wisconsin capitalized on the fruits versatility by planting the first commercial cranberry marshes. Today, Wisconsin alone produces over 60% of the nation’s cranberry crop, with a large emphasis on sustainable growing practices. More info here.
This particular salsa recipe, which makes use of Wisconsin cranberries and winter oranges, was inspired by Peef's Dad, who makes a cranberry orange relish for Thanksgiving that everyone loves. I decided to take the idea behind his recipe and create a savory salsa that capitalizes on the tartness of the cranberries & the freshness of citrus, while incorporating the decidedly savory flavors of freshly chopped scallions, jalapenos, and cilantro. Interestingly enough, it turned out to make one of the most flavorful winter salsas I've ever eaten. In addition to being delicious eaten on a tortilla chip, this salsa is also excellent served alongside pork roast, salmon, or even grilled tofu steaks.
For this particular evening's dinner, we decided to go with a couple of sustainably raised tuna steaks for our meal. Asimple sprinkling of adobo seasoning is all these lovely steaks needed to give them a ton of flavor before grilling on our trust Calphalon grill pan.
A dollop of cranberry salsa is all that's needed to pull the flavors in this dish together. Served with a side of deliciously creamy kefir-mashed potatoes and blasted broccoli, this is the perfect sort of winter meal -- one that makes you pretty confident that spring is just right around the corner.
Wisconsin Cranberry Salsa
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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.