Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tiny House Salsa

I'll be in Michigan for about two more weeks, finishing up various grad school tasks that I can't do from home in California. I'm staying in my old apartment in Ann Arbor, which I've begun referring to as "tiny house." It's a quirky little upstairs apartment in a ramshackle old house with very low ceilings and no parallel lines or right angles to speak of, anywhere. 
It's been a longer-than-usual trip, and tiny house is starting to wear on my nerves. In particular, the kitchen makes me sad. It's always been small and scruffy, but now it's also severely under-equipped. I took loads of kitchen gear with me when I moved away last spring, and my little kitchen in Michigan is left with a few odds and ends and not much else. Three weeks into the trip, I've had my fill of canned soup and pasta, the only things I'm able to make.

So, I finally invested in a sharp knife and a small wooden cutting board, and I am happy to report that I'm feeling much better. Chopping things up can be therapeutic, and eating chopped-up things feels pretty good, too. 

Last weekend I used my new tools to make my favorite fresh salsa. It's one of those recipes where you have to trust your judgement on all the quantities because the ingredients are a little bit different every time you buy them.  The starting point for this salsa is a fantastic pico de gallo recipe from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. Their recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, green and white onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. It has a really nice flavor, but I've made a few adjustments to account for the fact that garden-ripe tomatoes and small, spicy jalapeño peppers aren't always easy to find.

Unless I have access to really nice summer tomatoes, I prefer to use high-quality canned tomatoes in this salsa. A mixture of crushed and diced tomatoes makes for a chunky salsa with a thick, smooth base. Jalapeños provide heat in the original pico de gallo recipe, but the jalapeños at my grocery store are sometimes (often) huge, bitter, and decidedly un-spicy. So, I've started using a mixture of jalapeños and serrano or habañero peppers to make certain that the salsa has some kick. 

After everything is chopped and mixed together, it's a good idea to let the flavors intermingle for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, then to taste the salsa and add additional amounts of the ingredients as necessary to get a nice balance of flavors. It's also important to stir in a good amount of salt to brighten up the salsa and make it taste more like a condiment and less like some kind of weird gazpacho. I like to make a large batch of this salsa. It's great with chips, but it also tastes amazing on tacos, over beans and rice, or mixed with avocado for a quick guacamole. 

Fresh Salsa
  • 3-4 cups of tomatoes:
    • 2 lbs chopped fresh tomatoes, squeezed gently to remove seeds and excess juice, or
    • one 14-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained, and one 14-oz can of crushed tomatoes, or
    • any combination of the above that seems appealing
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 1/2 of a large white onion, finely chopped (reserve the other half in case you decide you need more onion flavor)
  • 3-4 jalapeños, finely chopped with ribs and seeds (consider buying a few serrano or habañero peppers to add as needed for additional spiciness)
  • juice of 1 lime (less if the lime is very juicy/sour/big)
  • two good handfuls of cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
  • lots of salt (I like to use 3-4 teaspoons)
Stir everything together and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Adjust the flavors and serve.

On a related note, here's an interesting article about the flavor of cilantro... 
"Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault" by Harold McGee

1 comment:

  1. I am so pro-cilantro it terrifies me! Also, good for you for buying some more equipment. I'm glad to hear that you ae happier now that you can cook more things.