I mentioned this weekend that I can’t stand to have the oven on in hot weather. I need fresh, cold (or cool, or at least room temperature) food this time of year: salads, etc. Salsa is included in that list of cold foods. A jar of salsa & a bag of chips & I’m all set. Although the past 2 days have been pretty cool, temperature wise, I made this on one of the hottest days on record in New York.
I should state before continuing with the post/recipe for salsa that I am indeed a salsa fanatic. Salsa in almost any shape & form- salsa verde, chunky salsa, mild salsa, hot salsa, salsa with lots of cilantro, salsa with corn & black beans- you name it, I will love it. Except for peach or mango salsas. My salsa has to have tomato or tomatillo in it. So when I happened upon my new favorite blog (thanks mom), Food In Jars, I immediately looked for a quick salsa recipe. Salsa means ‘sauce’ in Spanish, and it’s basically a cold version of an Italian tomato sauce with different herbs, and often no cooking required, particularly with ‘salsa fresca’ or ‘fresh sauce.’ Salsa fresca is also sometimes referred to as ‘pico de gallo’ or ‘the rooster’s beak’, referring either to way it was eaten (with the thumb and forefinger, mimicking a rooster pecking) or the shape of the chili peppers used to make it. Although according to the almighty and always correct Wikipedia:
Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo in Spanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho“) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.
However, neither theory can be considered definite, as they assume the use of hot chilis. In many regions of Mexico the term “pico de gallo” refers to any of a variety of salads, condiments or fillings made with sweet fruits, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocado or mild chilis — not necessarily with hot chilis, or any chilis at all. Thus, the name could be a simple allusion to the bird feed-like minced texture and appearance of the sauce.
Although I always considered pico de gallo to be drier, drier as in not as liquidy as regular salsa, and this salsa is liquidy. However I chopped my onion kind of rough, not very fine, so I made it more like a pico. I also added a ton more cilantro because I love it. I also used two pretty small organic “on the vine” tomatoes as opposed to one large one, so it was definitely not as tomato-y. Yes, I know, there isn’t really much to making salsa, and yes, I could’ve figured it out on my own without a recipe (especially since it’s essentially the same as the pico de gallo I’ve made before… but I digress). But it’s easier when you’ve got an idea of exactly how much of what to put in the first time. I plan on experimenting with this, for sure. And next time I make those chicken flautas, I’ll have this on the side & in the filling, thankyouverymuch.
But for now, here’s the basic Salsa Fresca recipe from Marisa at FIJ. Make it & revel in the mouth-puckeringly acidic deliciousness.
HOMEMADE SALSA FRESCA (from Food In Jars)
Makes approximately one pint
- 1 large tomato, diced
- ½ white/yellow onion, finely minced (I used about a little over ¼ of an extremely large white onion)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped (I just tore the leaves off, I didn’t chop)
- 1 – 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (you can leave the seeds in if you want a hotter flavor, I used one & omitted the seeds)
- 1 lime, juiced (about 2 – 2 ½ tablespoons, for you measurement-obsessed freaks)
- 2 big pinches of salt
- Mix everything together in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, but half an hour is even better.
- Store leftovers (if there are any) in a glass canning jar.
I used a washed-out spaghetti sauce jar to save the leftovers in, although the recipe’s author is right: there isn’t much left. Let me just say this is amazingly excellent with some Garden of Eatin’ blue corn tortilla chips. Heavenly, as a matter of fact. Or rather, since I don’t really believe in “heaven”, I’d like to think that my version of heaven would be unlimited fresh salsa & chips. Not sure how long this would last in the fridge, but mine didn’t even make it past the next afternoon. Also, if you’re new to cooking, and you aren’t sure how to dice a tomato, here’s a quick rundown of how it’s done; no judgement here. We all start somewhere! And make sure you roll your lime firmly on the counter before cutting & juicing it, that releases all the juice from the pulp and makes it easier to get every last bit out.
Also, an interesting fact I ran into on Wikipedia that I’d like to share with you all:
In a 2010 press release the Centers for Disease Control reported that during the 1998-to-2008 period, 1 out of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole. According to a 2010 July 13 news item by journalist Elizabeth Weise, a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella was traced back to the peppers used in salsa. Originally reported to the CDC by the New Mexico Department of Health, over the course of several months, the outbreak sickened a total of 1,442 people in 43 states and resulted in 286 hospitalizations. Weise reports:
“Refrigeration is the key to safe salsa, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, who published a paper on the topic earlier this year. ‘An unusual finding was if you used fresh garlic and fresh lime juice, it prevented the growth’ of bacteria. ‘You couldn’t use powdered, it had to be fresh,’ he says.”
Crazy, huh? You learn something new everyday. That should ease the fears of some of you germ-phobes, though. Just make sure your salsa’s are made with fresh ingredients and you’re good. Besides, who’s afraid of a little E. Coli or Salmonella?
OH! I almost forgot: I am also now a member at Punk Domestics. So come see me over there & we can discuss canning & pickling & micro-farming. You know, all that hardcore punk rock stuff.