I was 13 when I first learned that salsa was something one could make at home. Up until that point, I functioned under the belief that salsa was the product of some mysterious alchemy, making it something that could only be purchased at Safeway or Trader Joe’s. This culinary revelation came when my parents decided to go to Europe for work/vacation and left my sister and me with the older daughter of a family friend.
Deliah had a completely different approach to food than the 3 balanced meals a day routine that Raina and I were familiar with. She used lots of bright, vivid flavors and believed that dinner could consist of fresh salsa, tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream. Needless to say, we adored her.
One afternoon, I watched as she made the salsa, dragging the colander of tomatoes out to the living room coffee table, along with a cutting board, mixing bowl, sharp knife and salt shaker. She set up her tools in front of the TV and I observed as she chopped the tomatoes and added diced onion, minced jalapeno, torn cilantro, lime juice and lots of salt. She set the bowl aside for awhile, to let the flavors mingle and later we feasted until our lips blistered from the acids.
Later, I taught my mom how to make salsa and we would make batch after batch from the tomatoes that grew in the backyard, using it to top scrambled eggs or digging in with chips. The first year I was living in Philadelphia, my dad and sister came to visit me for Thanksgiving. My mom couldn’t fly that year, so in her place, she sent a quart jar of homemade salsa in her place, triple wrapped and tucked into my dad’s checked luggage. It wasn’t quite as good as seeing her, but nearly.
These days, fresh salsa is one of my summertime refrigerator staples. I make it at least once or twice a week, alternating between spiking it with jalapeño/cilantro/lime or black pepper/basil/olive oil (for an italian flavor instead of a Mexican one). It’s not something I typically make on a larger scale and can (although I am planning on canning some cooked salsas and tomatillo condiments this summer), but I always stash it in a canning jar for temporary storage.
Last night, I made Molly Watson’s Turkey Tacos for dinner and they cried out to be accompanied by some fresh salsa. Tomatoes aren’t even remotely in season at the moment, and so I stood in the aisle of Sue’s Produce for a moment, tortillas, limes and jalapeños heaped in the crook of my arm, debating whether to indulge or not. The craving won out and I picked up a single Ugly-branded tomato. It didn’t come close to the tomatoes I get in the summer, but it did the job.
My very basic recipe is after the jump…
Homemade Salsa Fresca
- 1 large tomato diced
- 1/2 white/yellow onion finely minced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro washed and chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños seeded and minced (you can leave the seeds in if you want a hotter flavor)
- 1 lime juiced
- 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.