The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.
Last year was a great year for tomatoes around here. We also had a mild fall, and plenty of rainfall. That left us with a lot of green tomatoes late in the season, and with me scrambling to find new ways to use them. I made green tomato chutney, green tomato bread, and of course we enjoyed fried green tomatoes.
But perhaps one of the best things I made with those green tomatoes was salsa. I found a recipe for Green Tomato Salsa Verde, made a few modifications to suit my tastes, and packed most of the finished salsa in jars for freezing. My version of the salsa featured lots of green tomatoes, garden fresh Anaheim type chilies and jalapenos, onions and garlic, along with some lime juice and a few spices. And most of the ingredients came right from our own back yard.
The resulting salsa was, to me, pretty amazing. I could eat it by itself, or with chips! It was definitely good with tacos and burritos. The green tomatoes took the place of the more usual tomatillos used to make salsa verde. But I had one more thing I wanted to make with the salsa, and that was a layered chicken and tortilla casserole. And that made for a great Dark Days Challenge meal.
Last week I made whole wheat tortillas, using some local hard red wheat berries I ground into flour. My tortilla recipe calls for lard, and I used some I got from a local source that I keep in the freezer. Lard gives the tortillas a wonderful flavor and texture.
Yesterday I cooked one of our whole chickens from our CSA in a crock pot till it was tender. My wife took it off the bones, then made stock with the carcass. We froze the stock for later use. About 3 cups of the meat went into the casserole. I shredded the chicken into bite size pieces, then simmered it for about 15 minutes with a quart of the green tomato salsa.
To make the casserole, I layered tortilla pieces with the chicken/salsa mix and sprinkled on a little shredded Mexican cheese blend. I topped the casserole with more tortilla pieces. I covered the dish with foil and cooked the casserole for about 45 minutes in a 350°F oven, until everything was hot and bubbling. I sprinkled a little more cheese on top while it was still hot.
Keeping with the Southwestern dinner theme, I served some grilled sweet potatoes for a side dish. To make these potatoes I cut a large Beauregard sweet potato into 1/4 inch thick slices, then tossed them in some olive oil with some of our homemade chili powder added. This is one of my favorite ways to fix sweet potatoes, and I usually save the larger ones since they make nice big slices that are easy to handle on the grill.
I cooked them for about 10 minutes on a hot grill, turning once. The grilling really brings out the flavor of the sweet potatoes, and the mild chili powder adds a little smoky heat. They made a colorful and tasty accompaniment to the casserole.
For my wife and I, this casserole is real comfort food. But unlike the frozen pot pies of my youth, I made this myself with wholesome and healthy ingredients. Except for the cheese and spices, everything was either homegrown or local. And like most casseroles, it should be even better the next day! We’ll freeze any leftovers for more comfort food later on.