Classic Salsa Mexicana Recipe
Should you make your own salsa? After all, it’s not hard to get a good commercial version — for about what it would cost to make your own — that would take no effort. Why bother?
Three reasons. First, are tomatoes are in season? If you have ripe fresh local tomatoes, then the resulting deliciousness of however you prepare them will significantly top store-bought any day.
Second, as good as store-bought can be, you can’t beat pure, fresh ingredients. Homemade, when it’s well made, has the edge. Plus when you make it yourself you know exactly what you are eating, there are no hidden ingredients or preservatives.
The third reason? Because you can. There’s something about taking fresh ingredients and combining them into something appealing and delicious that feeds not just my body but my soul. That’s what led me to make salsa today. Also, I had some cilantro lying around that I didn’t want to go bad.
I had never made salsa before, and decided on Salsa Mexicana, a chunky pico de gallo recipe from Jose Garces’s splendid cookbook “The Latin Road Home,” published by Lake Isle Press. In addition to the standard ingredients — tomato, onion, peppers, cilantro, lime — this recipe calls for tequila blanco (aka silver). I’m not a fan of tequila, silver or otherwise, but even though I don’t drink it I had some on hand, so I added it. The result? It’s making me rethink tequila.
This is a flavorful and fruity salsa that teases your tongue just enough. Tomato is the star here, but the balance of other ingredients lends dimension, with the tequila furnishing a welcome little zing. We’re not at peak tomato season yet, but this was one tasty dish.
The lime and the tequila in the dressing can break down the solid ingredients, and since I knew I’d have some leftovers, I kept the dressing and cilantro separate from the base ingredients and added them right before eating. Worked like a charm. I had the salsa as a dip the first day, added it to scrambled eggs the next morning (without dressing or cilantro), and topped chicken tacos with it that night. Still really fresh with great texture.
Yes, store-bought is fine — sometimes more than fine. But there are times-like when your neighbor shares the bounty of their garden with you, or the veggies at the farmer’s market are screaming your name, or you want to eat well and feed your spirit — when being able whip up a little pantry magic from scratch makes for a fine superpower indeed.
Salsa Mexicana recipe
Classic Salsa with Tequila and Lime
2 jalapeño chiles, roasted and peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 lb plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp tequila blanco (aka silver)
Makes 3 cups
Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 30 minutes, before serving.
ROASTING FRESH CHILES
To roast fresh chiles one by one on a gas stove, turn on one of the burners to high and set a chile directly over the flame, turning it with tongs until the skin is charred all over, 5 to 7 minutes per chile.
Alternatively, dry-roast chiles in a sauté pan over high heat (do not put oil or anything else in the pan other than the chiles), turning them with tongs until charred, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the charred chiles to a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. (This will allow the skins to steam off.) Once the chiles have cooled, use a damp kitchen towel to wipe the charred skins away from the flesh. Discard the skins and stems, and cut open the chiles, scraping the seeds out with a knife. Be sure to wash your hands immediately.
Recipe from “The Latin Road Home,” by Jose Garces, Lake Isle Press, 2012
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on May 4, 2021.