After trying several kinds of store bought salsa, from the pasty kind to the "fresh" chunky pico de gallo, Tina still found something to be desired. So, I decided to try to put together the salsa her tastes buds were clamoring for. Unless you use a food processor, salsa (in this case, a chunky Mexican style salsa cruda) requires quite a bit of slicing. It's a good thing I find cutting to be stress relieving after a long day at work.
First, I started with a tomato salsa recipe from Cooks Illustrated. The recipe called for tomato, jalapeno chile, garlic, red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, and lime juice.
My tools (from left to right): Board scraper (to move prepared ingredients to bowls, clear the board, and scrape it clean), Paring knife (to core tomatoes and remove membrane from the chile), Chef's knife, and a teaspoon (to remove seeds and ribs from the chile). [IMG]
First I diced the tomatoes. I like doing that in the following steps: <ul><li>Each tomato is sliced in half. <li>Tomatoes are then placed face (the cut part) down and sliced parallel to the board in 3/8" widths <li>Two at a time, the tomato rounds are sliced into 3/8" strips <li>Then rotated, and sliced into 3/8" cubes</ul> [IMG]
I then placed the diced tomatoes into a collander over a bowl to allow excess moisture to remove itself. About 30 minutes should do it. [IMG]
I then diced the onions. Keeping the "base" of the onion intact, I sliced 3/8" parallel cuts into the onion followed by 3/8" vertical cuts. Since I didn't cut through the base, the onion held mostly together. Slicing through the onion at this point produced a suitably even dice. [IMG]
Next, I minced the garlic. Cutting the garlic is performed in a similar manner as dicing the onions, except with smaller distances. [IMG]
I then cut the chile in half lengthwise and used my teaspoon to remove the seeds and ribs. These I placed aside for use later to adjust the hotness of the salsa. I then pressed each chile half flat and using a paring knife removed the bitter membrane from the inside of the chile. The chile in this state should have a "fruity" taste with a hint of spicyness. I julienned (cut into long strips) the pepper halves and then minced.
Grabbing a small handful of cilantro, I bunched it up and just sliced away to produce the chopped cilantro I needed.
Then, I threw the garlic, onion, and cilantro on top of the tomatoes as they finish draining. [IMG]
After the tomatoes have drained for thirty minutes, I poured out the liquid from the bowl emptied the contents of the collander into the bowl. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (I find it easier to sprinkle and manage than table salt), a half twist of my pepper grinder, and about 2 tablespoons of lime juice. I then mixed the salsa together. [IMG]
Now that I had the salsa, Tina and I both tasted it on Tostidos White Corn Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips. The salsa was pretty good, but lacked something. After mincing and mixing in two more cloves of garlic and throwing in some more salt, we found the optimum mixture of flavor.
The final ingredients list ended up as follows: <ul><li>1-1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes, diced <li>1 large jalapeno chile, seeded, minced <li>1/2 cup red onion, diced <li>3 garlic cloves, minced <li>1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped <li>1 teaspoon salt <li>Pinch of ground pepper <li>2 tablespoons lime juice</ul> The chile seeds can be minced and mixed in for varying degrees of hotness. Tina prefers mild, so I only used a few of the seeds.
This recipe sounds a little over complicated to me. For Salsa Cruda I just chop into small dice: Roma tomatos (regular ones just aren't right), yellow (red is for seafood) onions, jalapeno and chop finely some cilanto. Mix, add salt and lime juice. Ahh!
To make REAL guacamole, use roughly equal parts Salsa Cruda and mashed avacdo. Serve in warm flour tortillas. Ahhhh!
A food processor really has no place in mexican cookery. Blenders are used to liquify things, a moljahete is used to mash things, but a food processor makes things too mushy - you want some texture. Just chopping with a good knife (I use a Chinese cleaver frankly) is good enough. You mash the avacado for guacamole with a fork.
You might want to find Diane Kennedy's books on Mexican cookery. They're real eye openers.
This recipe is close to the one my father used to make...he would also add some cumin, use key lime juice, yellow spanish onions if available and roma tomatoes. I never cut the seeds out of the jalapinos and even use a mix of peppers to give it some kick.
I know this wop who owns a restaurant in this teene ass little town in San Luis Potosi.
The ladies in his restaurant always char the tomatoes and peppers on a hot, dry comal (or iron griddle).
Then the peels can be removed. It is a pretty quick extra step and it add a roasted flavor without actually cooking the salsa.
I agree with the yellow onion over red comment. But then I never liked red onions anyway.
As for guacamole, in Messico, you will usually just find a mash of avocado and lime, occasionally with some minced green chiles. I prefer onion garlic tomato and cilantro in it myself.
How about a post on good mexican seafood cocktail?
For what it's worth, here's how I make salsa. I cut roma tomatos crosswise, and then remove the gelatenous pulp and seeds before dicing. To do this, I gently squeeze the tomato halves over the sink as if I were juicing a lemon, and then flip them to get the seeds out. I use a little bit of white onion (a little bit of onion goes a long way, IMO). I simmer the ingredients for a few minutes to soften them up. This also serves to make the harsh flavors of the onion, cilantro, and jalapeno milder, and blends them to make the flavor more homogeneous.
Sorry folks, but living in New Mexico makes your salsa recipes sound blah! Here we use the entire Hatch chilies in our salsa with tomatoes (Roma), yellow onions, celery, garlic, fresh cillantro, and salt. Every thing goes through the food processor on the chop mode. After cooking briefly, then it is placed in quart jars for processing in the canner. Generally We use fresh roasted chili (40#'s), at least a flat (or more) of tomatoes, an equal amount of onions, ten #'s of celery, 5 garlic bulbs, 1/2 dozen bunches of cillantro and 1 tsp. kosher salt in each jar prior to filling. Cook mixture till slight boil, fill jars and can for 1 hour. When done, remove from canner and cool. This is not for whimps salsa!
One nice idea for this sort of salsa cruda (or pico de gallo) is to add a splash of beer. I first read this in a Mark Miller cookbook, and now it's a standard part of my recipe which I make at least once a month.
BTW, I second the request for a good mexican shrimp/seafood cocktail recipe.
My basic "pico de gallo" is: diced tomato (2 small ones) -not drained-diced white onion (1/2 medium one), diced chiles either jalapeņo, serrano or arbol at taste(hot, Hot, HOT), pour white vinegar (1/4 cup), olive oil (just a little) and some salt.
If you use lime, it will be kind of bitter for next day.
As I like juicy salsas, I don't drain the tomatoes.
I dont like garlic in salsas (cooked or raw) as they taste as a stew.
This pico de gallo is traditional on "molletes": french bread opened lengthwise, spread some "frijoles refritos", these are beans that are cooked, mashed, and then fried, usually in lard or bacon, but some pam is ok, put some cheese, manchego or gouda will do, put it in the mini oven until cheesse is melted, and top it with your pico de gallo. You can put a slice of ham or bacon between cheese and beans.
Also I agree with seamus, the salsa that way is great.
Another good and easy salsa is to fry in little oil some small diced onion, meanwhile boil tomatoes and fresh chiles. Blend tomatoes and chiles (dont add any water) mix with fried onions, add salt and fry in low heat until color changes to a dark red (cooked tomatoe).
Hey- I was a little confused on the cutting instructions for tomatoes, they weren't detailed enough for me (yes, I am an engineer). When you slice a tomatoe in half should you slice it down the poles or along the Equator???
Re Salsa Cruda, "cruda" translates into "raw" therefore eliminate all cooking. Regarding this Mexican salsa, it is composed of Red, White and Green (the national colors) therefore, white onion. Also, because the human body does not digest tomato seeds or skin, I heartily recommend eliminating the seed section and dicing the outer shell (with skin). As stated earlier, the chile is a matter of choice (hot, hotter, hottest). And, because cilantro is a powerful herb, chop medium-coarse and use sparingly. Salt? Use a gray sea salt for an interesting result.