Sunday, January 20, 2013

I Love To Salsa

I've been looking around at cooking blogs.  It looks so easy to have a blog with photos documenting in excruciating detail how to build the chemistry experiments you feed to your family.  Honestly, I think they’re pure genius.  Suddenly, a tedious task like making supper becomes exciting! Awe inspiring! Photo worthy! 

And so I thought to myself, Self—why don't you put up a blog like that?  Tons of photos—fewer comments.  Less is more, right? Now, what do I know how to cook in twenty steps or less?

Salsa!  I am a gringo, but I make a pretty good salsa.  Every time I serve it, someone asks me for the recipe.  Which is ironic, because that’s how I got the recipe—someone served it to me, made me swear never to share the how-to with anyone and . . . oh, yeah.  I hope she doesn’t see it here.  If she does, remember—you didn’t get it from me.

First, you need a cutting board, a big fat knife, one bunch of green onions (you know, six or eight held together with a skinny blue rubber band), and one large can of WHOLE tomatoes.  The word “whole” is very important. 

Wash the green onions. Dry them. Cut off the roots, pull off any saggy, unattractive stalks, trim off the raggedy ends opposite the root end, and start chopping. On the cutting board. With the knife.

If you drop a piece of scallion—that’s just a fancy word for green onion—leave it on the floor.  Girls know this.  Boys don’t. Usually.

Now you need to chop those little green bits into even littler green bits.  Use your safest knife skills—keep those fingertips out of the way—and chop, chop, chop!  It makes the texture nicer in your finished salsa.  I learned this from a friend I shared the recipe with.  See?  That’s why you shouldn’t keep recipes a secret.  First of all, when you die, the recipe dies and the world suffers from inferior salsas.  And secondly, if someone shows you how to improve it, then do it!

Here's where you add the spices.  It probably doesn’t matter when you add them, but this is how I was first shown to do it, so this is how I do it.  These are also not the original spices she used in her secret recipe.  These are better.  You’ll need:  1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (or cumino as some call it); 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt; 1-1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning; ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon sugar (sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes).

Now toss them in and toss them around.  Very pretty.  And a little blurry. 
Time for the heat.  You need one large canned jalapeno pepper.  You can use fresh ones, but I always use jalapenos from a can which I’ve transferred into an old plastic bottle with a sad orange screwtop.  If you can’t find one of those, you can still transfer all the leftover peppers from that large can you bought into something from your kitchen.  It won’t look as cool as mine, but the peppers will taste just fine. Use a fork or tongs when you put the unused peppers into another container.  There's no reason to touch these peppers, but if you do, wash your hands before you touch anything else, especially your eyes. You don't want a few thousand scoville units in your baby blues. It makes them really red.

Once you’ve crammed all those extra peppers into your container, top it off with some of that liquid from the can they used to live in.  Just keeps them moist. Put a lid on them, stick them in the back of your fridge, and you’ll have peppers on hand for weeks or months, anytime you want to whip up some salsa. If there are carrots in the can with your peppers, feel free to use them or toss them.  I don't know why they're in there. But they add a little color.

Put that single giant jalapeno pepper—stem and all—into a blender. Open the large can of tomatoes and pour all the juice into the blender, too, reserving the whole tomatoes for a minute. Set that puppy to its highest speed and puree to your heart’s content.  Read a novel, take a bath, call your mom—whatever you want for as long as you want.  But probably it will only take about fifteen seconds on super duper high.

Now pour about half the ‘hot sauce’ you just made into the bowl with the seasoned scallions. Pour the remaining hot sauce into a small container and set aside.  You can add more later and use it to adjust the heat to your own taste.  I’ve learned that no two jalapenos have the same heat, so I always try to adjust at the end.

Pour all the reserved whole tomatoes into your blender.

Okay.  This is the ‘big secret’ of my friend’s salsa recipe which I’ve altered so now it’s my salsa recipe. Actually, I learned this secret from another friend.  Phew!  No more guilt!  That one didn’t make me promise my first child in exchange for her secret.

Back to the secret. Sorry.  This is how you get the perfect texture and size for the tomatoes in your salsa.  Set the blender at its lowest setting.  Probably that will be low and pulse.  Keep your eyes glued to the blender.  Lid on. Finger ready. Push pulse. OK, STOP!  You might have to do that twice. But look inside the blender—without turning it on—and check to see if your tomatoes have exploded. This is why you want WHOLE tomatoes. They explode at a low speed for a short amount of time into nearly uniform pieces that are perfect  for your cute little salsa chip. If they’re not quite small enough, do that one to two second pulse again.  Ta dah!

Hmmm.  I don’t think I was multi-tasking very well here.  Usually I’m not pulsing and taking photographs at the same time. Well, it should look a bit more chunky than this does, but we’ll use it anyway. You could always add another can of tomatoes to fix the texture—just adjust your spices, too.

Stir it all up with the spicy onions, load up a chip and taste for heat and spice. Annddd . . . hold the camera still if you decide to snap a photo.  Word.

Well, it needed just a little bit more hot sauce from the reserve we set aside earlier.  Any leftover sauce can be left out for use by guests with asbestos tongues. Or you can freeze it for your next batch of salsa.

Taste it again, and  . . . okay, perfect!  Load up those tortilla chips and salsa down, baby!  You can add other items to this basic recipe to tweak it your way.  Sometimes I chop up and add in fresh cilantro.  I’ve also added chopped fresh mangoes.  Fruit is delicious added to fresh salsa.

Enjoy!  I don’t know if this kind of blogging is for me.  It's a lot harder than it looks. I took way more photos than this. I wrote the narrative twice. It took twice as long as my normal posts to write, and probably twice as long for you to read.  But if you whip up some salsa, and enjoy it, let me know! 

I know a few pie crust tricks, too, in case you’re interested.


  1. Replies
    1. I knew this one was too long. You didn't read to the end? I do put cilantro in it sometimes, but it's really good without it as well.

  2. Mmkay... First of all, I can personally vouch for the amazingness of this salsa. Muy bueno!! I can also attest to its chemical component altering skills on certain tupperware dishes. :-)
    That being said.... After reading this blog, you need a cooking show!! Emiril, Rachel, Paula and the rest have got nothin on you!

    1. Good point about tupperware - store it in glass! And . . . you made me laugh at the end. Thanks for the compliment and the plug!