Friday, June 18, 2004

Salsa Fresca

Every so often in the summer, I make salsa. Usually more than any sane person could eat. Which means I take it to work for my co-workers.

They love the salsa. I've never really understood why. There's no big trick to it. Every once in awhile, one of them will ask for the recipe. Since I don't measure when I cook, that's a little tricky. Below is the best effort to date.


onion, preferrably red
garlic, chopped finely (secret ingredient #1)
ground black pepper (not traditional, but I like it)
a fresh jalepeno, chopped finely
optional: corn, black beans (canned)
lime juice (secret ingredient #2)

Everything gets chopped up and tossed in a bowl until the proportions look right and it tastes good.

If it's early in the season and your tomatoes aren't so good, you may want to add a little salt.

You'll want to chop the garlic fairly fine. My family's Italian, so we'll forgive you if you don't, but normal people don't particularly like big chunks of raw garlic. This is marked as secret ingredient number one, because when I forget it, I can never quite get the salsa to taste right.

Some people's genetics cause cilantro to taste like soap. Unfortunately for them, I really like it, so I use it anyway.

I usually chop the jalapeno very finely, just because I don't like getting a sudden mouthful of hot pepper. The seeds and the veins in a pepper contain more heat, so I remove them. You may want to wear latex gloves to do this, since the oils will get into your hands otherwise and will not wash off. If you rub your eyes or any other sensitive body parts later, the oils will transfer. This can be an unpleasant experience, especially for men. A-hem.

I don't always add the corn and black beans, but usually if I do one, I do both. They help to stretch things out if you're feeding a crowd, or if you don't have many tomatoes. I like to use frozen corn, since I think it has a better texture. This also works nicely if you're traveling to an outdoor picnic -- just toss the corn in frozen at the last minute, and it will help keep the salsa cold.

Lime juice is secret ingredient number two, since it's another thing I tend to forget that changes the character of the salsa fairly significantly. Don't add any salt to the salsa until after the lime juice goes in. A lot of times it will do the trick on its own. A trick I saw on TV (I think from Alton Brown): If you need juice from a lime or lemon, but not all of it, just roll it on the counter, then jab it with a fork a few times on one side, and squeeze over your bowl. Pretty nifty!

Giving the salsa time to sit will allow the flavors to meld together. However, the longer it sits, the more water the tomatoes release, so "aging" has both its advantages and disadvantages.