Friday, September 6, 2013

Salsa Fresca: Fresh Tomato Salsa

Bowl of Salsa with Tomatoes, Lime, Sliced Avocado, Cilantro
Serve with Other Classic Mexican Garnishes

Recipe by Robin

I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually made salsa fresca before. It seems like a no-brainer recipe for a gardener in these days of abundant tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro, but I thought that there must be some tricks to salsa besides fresh veggies. And indeed there are: a couple of aromatics, a bit of acidic flavoring, and some salt. That’s it. The other reason I’ve not made salsa is the mystery of what to eat with it. I don’t want to encourage myself to eat lots of tortilla chips. And being spoiled by the variety of authentic Mexican food available in the neighborhood, I’ve not been motivated to develop my Mexican cooking skills. But tonight I’m making Parmesan-breadcrumb encrusted broiled sole, a recipe from a cooking class way back in May. Fresh salsa will perk up the visual appeal of this fish as well as complimenting its flavor.

Basket of Tomatoes, Carmen mild chilis, jalapenos, green onions, and lime
A Few Flavorful Ingredients
Hand chopping the tomatoes will give your salsa the best texture. Draining and discarding liquid and seeds prevents watery salsa. Onion, a standard salsa ingredient, can be diced red onion or sliced green onion. Garlic is sometimes used, but not always.  Many, but not all, recipes contain mild chili peppers as well as jalapenos. I used green Carmens from my garden, but Anaheims are more traditional. Bell pepper works in a pinch. 

The most common acidic ingredient is either red wine vinegar or lime juice. My former housemate, a Chicano who grew up in east LA, uses lemon juice. Essentially, you can make this summery condiment as you like it, throwing in the veggies on hand and adding your acidic component, salt, and pepper to taste. Some chefs recommend a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and additional herbs like parsley and oregano. Personally, I’ll stick to the very delicious basics. 

Salsa Veggies in a Bowl
Chop Veggies, Add Seasonings, and Stir
Salsa Fresca
makes ~3 ½ cups

1¼ lbs. tomatoes
2 mild green chili peppers, about 3 oz. total
1 – 2 jalapenos, about 1 oz. each
¼ cup sliced green onions
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. lime juice
1/8 – ¼ tsp. salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 – 4 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Slice tomatoes into wedges and remove seeds and liquid. Chop into chunks about ½ inch in size. Chop mild chili peppers into ½ inch or smaller pieces, removing seeds. Mince jalapenos, removing seeds unless you like fiery salsa. Mix tomatoes, mild chilis, jalapenos, and onions together in a bowl.

Press garlic and add to salsa bowl. Add lime juice, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir together. Stir in chopped cilantro. Allow flavors to blend together for about 15 minutes.

Stir and taste salsa. Add lime juice, salt, pepper, jalapeno, etc. to taste.

Salsa is best eaten the first day, but can be stored for a day or two. If you are storing the salsa, drain before serving.

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