Monday, August 4, 2008

Fresh Tomato Salsa

My friend's sister, Mz Pam, used to make us salsa in the summer. She'd make two with jalapeno and one without and you'd start with your favorite and then finish up the other one. It is, to this day, one of the great pleasures in life.

I started with her recipe, then when we moved to Texas I learned a LOT. And one of those things was that...if it's fresh? It's gooood.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
12 ripe tomatoes
6 large, firm tomatillos
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Peppers...I try to use three different kinds with each batch, one of them taste
Fresh garlic, to taste
1 large onion
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mz Pam used to peel the tomatoes and blanch the tomatillos but in Texas they said...Don't bother. They were right. But because you're not peeling things, they have to be clean. I actually take a large Dutch oven or clean dishpan, fill it with hot water and liquid dish detergent, and wash my vegetables. Just drop them in the water, swish them around and move them to a basin of cold water. Lay out on towels to drain. I even do the cilantro this way...hold the stems, swish the leaves around in the water for 2-3 seconds and then rinse it under cold running water. (This would be because pesticides are petroleum based and if you're going to get ANY of the poisonous stuff off your produce, grease-cutting dish detergent will help.)

The trick here is to turn some of this stuff to mush while keeping most of it chunky. Take one of your tomatoes, cut it into quarters and drop it in the food processor. Peel and smash your garlic...Mz Pam used a clove, we use the whole head...then quarter it and drop it into the processor. Peel and wash your tomatillas and the onion, quarter them and add them to the processor. This part you want well-processed...process it, scrape down the sides, then process it some more. Empty it into a large bowl.

In the processor, quarter another tomato and then add your peppers. Usually, if you do one bell pepper, a couple of banana peppers and jalapeno to taste, it works out well. Seed if you like, leave 'em in if you're brave. Quarter the peppers and process this until chopped (but with character.) Scrape into the big bowl.

Quarter another tomato into the bowl, add the cilantro and pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped, scraping once. Pour this into the big bowl.

Quarter the rest of the tomatoes and coarsely chop; pour into the big bowl. (Adding one tomato to each processor container gives just enough moisture to make sure everything chops evenly.) Mix everything, add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. It seems to me that no matter how it tastes when I first season it, I end up adding more salt later so taste it again before you serve it.

Sometimes we char the peppers on the grill...if you have time you can char half the tomatoes and get a lovely smoky taste. Fresh roasted corn kernels, cut off the cob, are a neat addition, too. Serve this with good tortilla chips and really cold beer. And a lot of fun people.

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