The Art of Salsa

Salsa (the dip, not the dance) has been one of my favorite things to eat for years and years, ever since I fell in love with Mexican food in my late teens.  I have worked on a recipe over thsalsa-2-550e years that works well for me and I’m going to share it here.  Impress that special guy you’re dating with your very own homemade salsa!

The first thing to realize about salsa is that making it is an art, not a science.  No two jalapeno peppers will have exactly the same level of heat.  And that, my friends, means that I can’t just tell you to “add 1 tablespoon of chopped jalapeno” and be done with it.  There’s a lot of tasting involved here to get this right.  And, this recipe is best made 24 hours in advance of when you want to serve it.  It allows time for the flavors to blend and develop properly.

Gather these ingredients:

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 lime

1 to 2 cloves of garlic

1 small onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 fresh jalapeno pepper

sea salt

freshly ground cracked pepper

tortilla chips

 

Put the tomatoes in a bowl.  (If you like super smooth salsa, use a food processor first to blend them up into a smooth puree.)  Juice the entire lime into the tomatoes.  Get all that lime juice out of that little sucker!

Finely mince up the garlic into the tiniest pieces you can and add it.  Chop the onion into a small dice and add it.  Finely mince up the cilantro and add it to the mixture, then stir everything together.

Cut off the stem of the jalapeno pepper, then slice the pepper lengthwise into four pieces.  Remove the pith and the seeds and set them aside.  Mince the peppers into very small pieces.  Be careful not to touch your eyes while you’re doing this or you will regret it!  DO NOT ADD IT ALL INTO THE MIXTURE.

Here is where the artsy part comes in…. start with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/4 of the chopped up jalapeno.  Add those and stir.  Then, start tasting with the chips!  If it needs more salt, add more 1/2 teaspoon at a time.  If the jalapeno isn’t strong enough, add another 1/4 of it.  Stir everything together, then taste again.  If you have added the entire pepper and it’s still not hot enough?  Try adding some of the seeds that you set aside.  (Most of the heat in peppers is found in the seeds).

One thing to remember is that raw jalapeno flavor will intensify as the flavors blend.  So if it’s “a little hot” now, it will be “more hot” tomorrow.  Keep that in mind as you decide how hot you want it.  It is sometimes best to let it sit for an hour or two, stir again, taste again, and THEN decide if it needs more jalapeno.  Just remember, you can always add more jalapeno, but you can’t take it out.

Really love hot salsa?  Then use a serrano pepper in addition to or instead of the jalapeno.

Finally, remove the salsa from the fridge one hour before serving.  It’s not really at its best when it’s ice cold.

Serve with tortilla chips.  And by the way,  homemade chips are by far and away the BEST, but that’s another recipe for another day.

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