There may not be a better way to indulge in the latter summer harvest than tapping the garden to create dishes with Latin flavor.  And so, in preparation for a visit from the good folks at Organic Valley next Thursday to launch their new American Singles cheese, we challenged our students with a competition to create the best salsa using only local and organic ingredients.  Seven students submitted recipes, along with costing for each recipe, and launched into furious production for an hour to produce one quart each of their unique salsas to submit to our vaunted panel of judges:

Chef White

F.A. Director Carlos

Chef Cronwell

The top three salsas, as decided on by our judges, will be featured on Thursday (September 6, 2012) when Organic Valley’s Cheese Singles tour visits Oregon Culinary Institute.  For the event, Chef White’s Food Ethics class will be making cheese quesadillas using Organic Valley’s American cheese singles.

Without further ado, here are the top three salsas and recipes.  Congrats to the winners and everyone who participated, as every submission was very good and worthy of recognition.

Cesar Macias, Culinary Diploma Student

#1 – “Cucumber Tomatillo Salsa” by Cesar Macias 

1 lb. (small) Tomatillos
2 Chile Serranos
1 Cucumber
1/2 Onion
4 Garlic Cloves
1 bunch Cilantro
1 Lime
2 tsp ground Cumin

1. De-seed the cucumber
2. Zest and extract juice from lime
3. Roast tomatillos and chile serranos
4. Set aside diced cucumber
5. Add all ingredients (except cucumber) to blender and mix
6. Add cucumber to final mix for texture
7. Season with Salt and pepper to taste

This is my grandmother’s recipe but I learned it from my mom. Last summer at a BBQ at home in L.A. I decided to add cucumber to see how it would taste, and I’ve been making it this way since. The cucumber adds some freshness to balance out the peppers.” – Cesar Macias

Bryan Hunter, Culinary Management Student

#2 – “Hunter’s Hammerin’ Salsa” by Bryan Hunter

1.5 lbs Tomatoes (Roma or Heirloom)
1 bunch Green Onions
1 Lime
1 Jalapeno pepper
1 Habanero pepper
Salt (pref Kosher) as needed
1 bunch Cilantro
3 cloves Garlic
1 cup Tomato juice

1. Wash produce
2. (With gloves on) de-stem and quarter peppers, place in blender
3. Rough chop green onion, add to blender. Add cup of tomato juice and garlic clove, blitz until uniformly blended
4. Add tomatoes and puree until smooth.

This is a family recipe that I have evolved over the last 15 years.  I make it often as it reminds me of home…good ol’ Arizona.  Love makes this salsa taste right.” – Bryan Hunter

Shannon Martin, Culinary Management Student

#3 – “Roasted ‘Bodacious’ Corn and Tomatillo Salsa” by Shannon Martin

3 ears “bodacious” corn
1/2 sweet onion (Walla Walla preferred)
2 Poblano peppers
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
15 tomatillos
1 clove garlic
3 limes

1. Shuck and clean the corn
2. Finely dice onion
3. De-seed and finely dice peppers
4. Rinse and mince cilantro
5. Chop green onions
6. Clean tomatillos. Puree half of them, dice the other half.
7. Mince garlic
8. Zest and mince one lime
9. Extract juice of two remaining limes
10. Poach all but a few tomatillos for three minutes then puree
11. Chop remaining tomatillos
12. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix carefully with utensils
13. Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe is inspired by my first visit to Houston, Texas at Ninfa’s, the birthplace of Tex-Mex Cuisine.  This is my own personal take on their famous salsa verde.  I love the sweet corn in this salsa, it balances the tartness of the lime and tomatillos.” – Shannon Martin

Cesar's #1 on left, Bryan's #2 in the middle, Shannon's #3 on right