March 25, 2014

Salsa 101 (Plus Secret Ingredient for Addictive Salsa).


I could honestly eat Mexican food every day and never get tired of it.

Mexican food is light, vegetarian friendly and filled with exciting flavors, so it’s impossible to get bored. Luckily, I married into a family that feels the same way about Mexican food as I do (my in-laws’ tacos are unrivaled) and my husband’s family also happens to be filled with master salsa makers who gladly taught me their tricks.

A lot of people buy jarred salsas, but most of these are made with dried, reconstituted produce. They’re filled with salt, some even have preservatives or flavorings added and none of them even remotely resemble the real thing, which is a crisp, bright melange of fresh veggies and herbs.

Take a couple extra minutes and make your own salsa. It’s absurdly simple, a lot healthier and about a million times tastier. Make it once and you’ll toss the jarred stuff in the recycle bin and never look back.

There are hundreds of wonderful, fresh salsa variations (something that truly thrills me, I admit) but this is a basic, beginner’s, tomato salsa. It is extremely versatile and completely addictive.

The family recipe goes well on all Mexican dishes, salads, sandwiches, with eggs, on baked potatoes, beans and of course chips. Stir it into mashed avocados for instant guacamole.

Traditional salsa is made with lime juice, but my family’s secret recipe calls for lemon juice and lemon pepper instead. I think this switch is what gives our salsa added zip and makes it extra special.

Basic Tomato Salsa (With a Little Twist)

4-5 Big, Very Ripe Tomatoes (Organic, in-season, fully ripe, red tomatoes, kept at room temperature will give the best flavor). 

2 cloves of Fresh Garlic, finely minced or pressed

2 Green Onions, sliced (white and green parts)

1 Large, Fresh Jalapeño Pepper finely chopped—Jalapeños can be very inconsistent. While some are as mild as bell peppers, others can sear your tongue. It’s best to test out your pepper before adding it to the salsa and then  add as little or as much as suits your preference. Some people can tolerate more spiciness than others. Make this recipe so that it tastes good to you.

1/4 cup (small handful) of Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 Lemon

1/2 teaspoon Lemon Pepper

Dash of hot sauce (such as Sriracha)

Sea Salt to taste

Chop tomatoes and add to a glass or ceramic bowl (this dish is too acidic for metal or plastic containers, which will ruin the flavor of the salsa). I like a rough, coarse chop because I like my salsa really chunky and rustic. If you want a finer product, by all means cut the tomatoes smaller. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. Taste it and adjust your seasonings as necessary. Serve at room temperature or store, covered in the fridge, for up to two days. I like to make my salsa a couple hours before I plan to eat it so the flavors have time to meld.

That’s it! How easy was that?

Note: If you like your salsa extra fiery, add more peppers and more hot sauce. You can also use red jalapeños, which are much hotter, or substitute a hotter pepper variety such as habanero.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Flickr

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