Some Like It Hot
February 27, 2006 10:21 PM   Subscribe

I need a simple salsa recipe.

Sometimes, Google works against you. I did a quick search for a simple basic salsa recipe (I'll experiement later) and was promptly buried in electrons. Heck, I found single sites with hundreds of recipes. I'm flummoxed.

Look, here's the sit: three Mexican markets opened in my neighborhood, pushing out the Mom-n-Pops. I won't grouse ... I'll try to make the best of the opportunity. They have a wide variety peppers (Serrano, Ancho, Jalapeño, Chipotle, Habnero, etc.) Several types of tomatoes (fresh, canned, sundried, roasted), spices (many of which I have no clue about), etc.

I have a small food processor. I just wanna simple base recipe that gets me somewhere in the neighborhood of "Pace" or "Tostito's" slasa/picante sauces. I'll get adventurous after I'm comfortable with the basics.

General tips would be welcomed as well as a basic recipe.

nb: I'm not a purist; "authentic" means much less than "tastes good" to me.
posted by RavinDave to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
2 beefsteak tomatoes
2/3 a white onion
30 stalks of cilantro
a teaspoon of pressed garlic oil/liquid
a jalapeno
a serrano
a quarter lemon's worth of juice
half a lime's worth of juice
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cumin
freshly ground pepper to taste
a splash of vinegar
half a mango

try to dissolve the salt in the vinegar, and get all of the juice out of the tomatoes. Process. If you like chunkier salsa, only process half of the onion and tomato, and combine those left diced ingredients to salsa. Experimentation is the best way to get really good salsa. Play with different peppers, sample the spices.
posted by duende at 10:45 PM on February 27, 2006

I don't have a recipe, I just go to the store and swing it but this pretty much would be what I was looking for...

6 tomatoes
1 onion
1 anaheim pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 "other" pepper (what ever the store has and looks good)
5 cloves garlic (I like garlic but you don't need this)
1 lemon
1 handfull cilantro (great but not necessary)
5 shakes of vinegar (maybe less but trust me, this IS necessary)
7 shakes salt (it's all about the vinigar and salt for me)

Get a big bowl
Chop the smallest peppers up if necessary
Dice or crush the garlic
Squeeze the lemon juice
Cut the onion in half and peel, then get our your cheese grater and start grating it
Wash and grate any peppers you didn't chop (anaheim and maybe others)
Wash your tomates and grate them too, watch your knuckles

I can never remember exactly how many tomatoes to use, so just keep going until it looks right. I always buy two or three too many tomatoes

Add the salt and the vinegar
Chop up and add the cilantro

Give it a taste. If it needs more salt or more vinegar add it, if it's too spicey add more tomato, if you want to add more garlic or another onion.

Let sit in the fridge for an hour or so before serving
posted by pwb503 at 10:58 PM on February 27, 2006

Response by poster: So far ... so good ...

But what type of vinegar you guys using?
posted by RavinDave at 11:08 PM on February 27, 2006

I don't use vinegar or lemon juice, you may want to try it without first and see what you think. I like a pinch of cumin too.

FYI, the Pace style salsas are cooked and the recipes above are fresh salsas (more like what you'd find in the refrigerated section by the cheeses and fresh pastas). I like the fresh style better anyway.
posted by cali at 11:31 PM on February 27, 2006

Response by poster: So what's the difference between salsa and picante sauce? I had thought it was "cooked" vs. "uncooked".

Regardless, these suggestions look fantastic and I'm anxious to try'em. Thanks all.
posted by RavinDave at 11:35 PM on February 27, 2006

I concur with the recopies so far but tomatillos make all the difference between merely good salsa and great salsa as far as I'm concerned.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 AM on February 28, 2006

Vinegar - for basic things it might as well just be cider vinegar, but seriously... norally salsa fresca, it's just a bunch of chopped tomatoes (I prefer de-gelled romas), onion, garlic, lime, jalapeno, salt, pepper, cumin, and lime and cilantro to finish. (No food processor.. that just makes salsa mush)

As you go further into the world of salsa making you'll cross through and into a world of no tomatoes including salsa that consists of little more than minced onion, vinegar, oil and super finely chopped roasted dry mild chiles allowed to rehydrate.
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:48 AM on February 28, 2006

It depends on whether you like the cooked salsa taste or not.

I like the fresh kind: chopped tomatoes (I saw a great new product for this in the store the other day, finely diced minimally processed tomatoes in a jar, I think from Del Monte, great because it eliminates the chopping and because fresh tomatoes are so nasty this time of year) a dash of some regular white vinegar, salt, chopped onions, a little garlic, some minced jalapenos and a shitload of fresh cilantro and lime juice. You have to fiddle with the amounts to get the taste you like. Oh and remember to leave it in the fridge for a while for the flavors to marry. This salsa becomes very wet, so get the scoopy kind of chips. There's never any left when I make this.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:38 AM on February 28, 2006

Oh and lemon juice? No no no! It really must be lime instead.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:40 AM on February 28, 2006

You want simple? I got simple and fast and very popular with my friends.

tomatoes (several fresh or 1 can)
white onion (1/2 if large, whole thing if small)
serranos or jalepeños (*see note below)
juice of one or two limes
big handful of cilantro

roughly chop chiles, pulse in processor
roughly chop onion, add to processor, pulse
dice fresh tomatoes (if canned, just throw 'em in) add, pulse
roughly chop cilantro, add to mixture with lime and salt

Processor is totally not necessary, but if you're using one, the above is the right order -- you want your chiles minced, your onions in a finer dice, and your tomatoes chopped. Don't go overboard with the processing.

* Note on chiles: I prefer serranos because they're available to me and I like the flavor, but use whatever. Serranos are hotter than jalepeños, but if you want the flavor without the heat, scrape out the cartiledge and seeds. I usually use two smallish serranos with the seeds partially scraped from one for a mild-medium salsa. You can safely throw 2-3 jalepeños in without worrying about removing seeds.
posted by desuetude at 6:09 AM on February 28, 2006

Vinegar is distasteful to some people, but it has the benefit of extending the life span of your salsa by another day or two (depending on amount of vinegar).

This is really a personal taste question.
Use a food processor if you like loose, runny salsas. Use a knife if you like pico.

Keep a bag of chips next to you as you chop and mix your ingredients. Stop adding tasty ingredients when it reaches a flavor you like. Then let it sit for a few hours to meld.

If you use a processor, you can cook your salsa in sauce pan just until it boils, throw it in a clean jar, seal and let cool. This will last a few weeks usually in the fridge (especially if it contains vinegar). This is great for cooking. Spread some on some mild fish before you broil, and so on. Also still good with chips, though different than a salsa fresca.
posted by Seamus at 6:54 AM on February 28, 2006

Here's a recipe for Fresh Red Table Salsa taken from the Cook's Illustrated cookbook, The Best Recipe. My wife and I just like to call it...

The Best Salsa Ever!
  • 3 large very ripe tomatoes (~2#), cored and diced small
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1 small jalapeno or other fresh chile, minced (remove seeds for mild salsa)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced small
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 cup juice from 4 medium limes
  • salt to taste
Blend every thing together in blender or food processor. Put the salsa in the fridge for 8+ hours (the longer the better). Enjoy!

(Bonus feature: Things we have learned with this recipe:
  • Be careful with the lime juice. Too much lime juice spoils the flavor.
  • If, like me, you're not a fan of cilantro, be sure the leaves are chopped fine. You may want to reduce the cilantro to just 1/4 cup.
  • For optimum flavor, follow J.D.'s Rule of Garlic: "Always add five times the amount of garlic called for by the recipe." In this case, use five cloves of garlic instead of one clove. You'll thank me for it later.
  • To vary the heat of the salsa, alter the number of chiles (in particular, the quantity of seeds from the chiles). Kris doesn't like hot salsa, so we don't use any chile seeds. It tastes fantastic even without them.
  • No vinegar necessary!
Try this salsa. You'll be glad you did.
posted by jdroth at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks all! I'm off to the store this very moment to stock up on chips and ingredients.
posted by RavinDave at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2006

"Salsa" can mean just about anything. Here's a recipe that I came up with when working in a restaurant and had to do something with the cases of mangos and tomatillos ordered by the previous chef who'd just quit.

Two ripe mangos, peeled and seeded
Four tomatillos, husked
1 tsp salt
dried, powdered chili (ancho is good)

Puree the mangos in a blender with the salt. Add the tomatillos one by one until the salsa is as tart as you like it. Add powdered chili 1/4 tsp at a time until it's as hot as you like it. Add more salt if needed.

The key here is that the mangos need to be fully ripened. You could probably use canned tomatillos. I'm guessing at quantities because I literally just threw all these things together and hoped for the best. Adjust the flavorings until you get the right combinations of sweet/tart/spicy/salty.

I served the salsa poured over a burrito and people were absolutely floored by it. You wouldn't believe how many people requested the recipe (including my notoriously hard to please supervisor).
posted by luneray at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2006

buy tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapenos, & whatever other fresh chiles are's fun to experiment with different kinds & I've never had bad results from just trying different ones. The proportions aren't super-important, just think about what taste you want to be strongest.

Put them all in the oven in foil & roast them until they're tender, even a bit blackened around the edges...that's the key to a really awesome taste. I don't like vinegar in it, tomatillos are acidic enough. Then just put it all in the blender.
posted by octavia at 9:22 PM on March 2, 2006

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