I spent the majority of my 20’s perfecting this recipe. 8 years it took. Then it turned out to be so freaking simple. But this is the result of my determination to try to reverse engineer a salsa at one of my fave Mexican restaurants. Starting when I was 19 I tried everything from a food processor to cooking it down to experimenting with spice blends. Well, by the time I was 27, this is what happened. Fortunately for me (and everyone I know), I ended up with something that actually far surpassed what I was attempting to reverse engineer in the first place.
What you’ll need
8 good sized tomatoes (more info below)
1 red onion
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce or puree
1 1/2 TBl salt
1 TBl sugar
1/4 C cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne
1/4 C lemon juice
So… about the tomatoes. The one on the left is the nice big tomato you need in order to only use 8 of them. I actually had to leave the house, go to the store, and pick that thing up because all I have right now are locally grown farm fresh ‘maters — as seen on the right. You can see it is nearly half the size. Needless to say, I used more than 8 tomatoes. Fortunately for our salsa addiction around here, larger tomatoes will soon be in season.
Today I started with the red onion. It really doesn’t matter what you want to play with first — it ALL needs diced. Which brings us to:
Tools!! Yes, again with the kitchen tools that I am more than happy to utilize to make my day easier. There’s a metric butt-ton of dicing involved in making salsa. Having a chopper on hand makes that so much quicker. If you have one, use the smallest cube insert for the onions and jalapenos. The tomatoes will get the large cube dice. If you do not have one, it’s cool. Just dice your onions and jalapenos small and your tomatoes a bit bigger.
Ahhhhh, jalapenos. I know y’all know what they look like — that first pic there is just so you can see the GLOVE I’m wearing in order to do what is in the second picture. Slice the head and butt ends off the jalapenos, quarter them, and remove the seeds and ribs. Uber important step there. Had a friend years ago that did not do that as she didn’t know she was supposed to. The resulting salsa was a horror show. I no longer leave it up to guessing, I just tell everyone **remove them**. You can always live on the edge and go gloveless. Just don’t come back on me when you try to rub your eye a couple hours later and realize the horrible, horrible mistake you’ve made.
That’s what your stripped out jalapenos will look like. Then plop ’em on the chopper (or hand dice them).
Now the tomatoes: remove the stem end, and the butt end if you prefer. I prefer. Slice them, close to 1/2″ thick-ish. Place on the large cube dice insert and pound through. Or dice by hand if needs must.
Chop the stem ends off of the cilantro. I usually leave the twist tie on the bunch and just cut an inch or so above that. Then go at it with your knife like you’re channeling the spirit of Freddy Krueger. Small small choppy choppy.
Mwahahahahahaha — the garlic press again!! Actually, for the salsa, the garlic press is the choice of garlic squishing because it releases all the oils and juices in the garlic too. If you don’t have one, super small teeny tiny dice. Just press it right into the bowl of colorful goodness and scrape off with your knife.
Add 1/4 C lemon juice and the whole can of tomato sauce/puree to the bowl
Ready for this?? One. Quarter. Cup. Of. Cumin. No, that’s not a typo. That jar in the background? Half of it. Do NOT skimp on the cumin. The cumin is all seeing. The cumin is all knowing. Your salsa will suck if you do not bow down and give the cumin its due. Just do it.
The cayenne? Not so much. Start with 1/2 tsp. That will make a relatively mild salsa. Even only 1/4 tsp more puts it at about where like it around here. Addictively spicy, but won’t make you sweat. Once everything else is in there, give it a taste and adjust the spice to please you.
1 1/2 TBl salt (yeah, really that much) and 1 TBl sugar. Yes, sugar. I’ve tried it without the sugar in the interest of, well, no sugar, but it’s just not right. It’s okay, but not super. And there’s no way I’m using honey or maple syrup in my salsa. Ick.
The post-stirred manna.
1) Salsa is manna. That is all.
Okay, not really. Like I could shut up after just that. Cute.
2) Once again, tools. We are amazing primates. Our rocks now have blades on them. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I HAVE STUFF TO DO. Sometimes work, sometimes I, oh, I don’t know, do laundry or something (so LMAO there), sometimes I spend my day chauffeuring my daughter. Some days I would just prefer to have a binge watching marathon of Stargate or Doctor Who or read a book or 3 than stand in my kitchen for hours on end to get just the right dice. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want real food. I do. I crave it. Save yourself the time you can where you can when you can.
3) The chips are not homemade. Try to go for organic tortilla chips when you can. That way you know your not getting GMO corn or a ridiculous amount of glyphosate with your manna.
Dice the crap out of all the solids (tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, cilantro), squish the garlic. Add it all to a big bowl. Dump in a can of tomato sauce or puree and 1/4 C lemon juice. Add the salt, sugar, cumin (lots and lots of cumin), and cayenne. Taste. Adjust cayenne as necessary. Try to not stick your face in the bowl or growl at anyone else that approaches it.
p.s. Tomorrow we’ll make crock pot chicken tacos to go with this. Suppose I should do something about telling you how to make taco seasoning too…