It’s definitely tomato season, and what better way to enjoy one of summer’s best veggies than by whipping up a cool, tasty salsa? You can use it as dip for tortilla chips, as a topping for fish, chicken, and tacos, or even mix it in with cottage cheese for a boost of flavor.
However you make it, spice and salsa go hand-in-hand. Different peppers will yield different levels of heat and different flavors. Classic red chile peppers provide clean heat, serranos are richer, jalapeños are sweet (and super tasty pickled), and bells have no heat but are a nice way to add color and texture. We picked up a basket of mixed peppers from the farmer’s market and were amazed by the variations in colors and sizes. Ask your farmer to help you identify which peppers are which, then get chopping!
Not sure where to start? Here’s a recipe for versatile sweet and smoky-spicy salsa from Sue Torres of Sueños. The key is charring the ingredients for intense flavor!
(adapted from Senora Romero from Cuatla, Morelos)
2-3 each ripe tomatoes, plum or beefsteaks. The exact variety isn’t important, just grab about 1 lb of the best looking ‘maters at the market
1/4 c white or spanish onion, medium size dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 ea jalapeno chiles (serrano ok to substitute)
This recipe is really easy and essential salsa for Mexico. It was taught to me by Senora Romero, who is the mother of my then line cook at Hell’s Kitchen. I love the smokiness you get from all the charred ingredients, yet there is a subtle sweetness from the ripe tomatoes. This recipe is great on eggs, with seafood, poulty, vegetables and even meat and pork. It’s probably the most versatile salsa in Mexican cuisine.
Heat a flat pan over high heat of open flame. Place all of the ingredients on the dry pan. Cook until blackened on each side. For best results make by hand in a mocajete or mortar and pestle.
If either is not available to you use a food processor to pulse the ingredients. The end result of the salsa should be somewhat chunky. Season with salt of choice. Shelf life 2-3 days but best eaten immediately.