Sunday, July 18, 2010

From the Garden: Fresh Salsa

Honestly, I feel as if I have been waiting an entire year for tomato season to arrive.  And though I see the ever-so-slight absurdity of that statement, after making the first batch of fresh tomato sauce this past week, and then whipping up our first giant bowl of salsa today, it seemed as if it had been years since we had last feasted on these seasonal delicacies.

I know most people salivate over their first tomato sandwich, or even just their first sliced tomato of the summer, but we are a little weird in our tomato-loving ways.  Neither I nor The Carnivore really get into fresh tomatoes on their own.  I mean, we'll go utterly nutso over tomatoes in many dishes, but solo and unadorned?  Not so much.

If I see quartered tomatoes in my salad at a restaurant, I generally push them to the side, though to be fair, those tomatoes tend to be out-of-season and therefore not really tomatoes at all, if you know what I mean.  The same fate befalls tomato slices in my sandwich at a deli - unceremoniously pulled out and left forgotten on the plate.

But fresh salsa?  Be still my beating heart.

We have tweaked our favorite recipe over the past few summers, finally settling on an entirely raw recipe that incorporates the tomato peel.  The peel is incredibly nutritious, you see, and I was raised on a fairly strict waste-not, want-not philosophy so it distressed me to discard it, as is done for aesthetic reasons in so many recipes.   

I also go pretty heavy on the onions and cilantro in our recipe, and add just enough jalapeno peppers (seeds and all) to give just enough heat to nearly bring a tear to your eye, but to stop short of actually making one cry.  The flavor is quite lovely really, with a bit of salt and lime juice to brighten it all up.  It tastes fresh, spicy, and best of all, very summery.

It is a fine line, I believe, to achieve that elusive balance of acidity, heat, and tang, but I have provided some loose generalizations in the following recipe because everyone's tolerance and balance is a little different.  Now that we have found ours, I have sworn off any further tinkering.  This is our favorite recipe, and it has been for a few summers now so I have taken an oath to Hereby Leave It Alone.

My dream is to fill a pantry shelf with jars of salsa come August some year, but since we have been known to dispose of an entire quart in just one day, I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.


FRESH TOMATO SALSA (makes about 2 quarts)
  • 2 lbs tomatoes, quartered (for chunkier texture, squeeze out and discard excess seeds and juice)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, minced (for less heat, discard the seeds)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped, about 1 cup (or use less, to taste)
  • juice of 2 limes (use more or less, to taste)
  1. Combine the tomatoes, garlic cloves, cumin, cayenne, salt, and jalapenos in a food processor, pulsing until desired texture is achieved.  We prefer ours fairly thin, as you can see from the photo.  If end result is too watery, strain out and discard a little of the liquid.
  2. Stir in the onion, cilantro and lime juice.  Taste and adjust for salt.


Susan said...

Looks delish. This is probably a question that everyone else on the planet knows the answer to, but how long would something like this last? Is there anything special one would do to make it last longer?

Sarah Beam said...

Susan, I usually make this one recipe batch at a time, and it has lasted up to a week in the fridge. It may last longer, but we eat it too quickly around here to find out. I have also frozen it once before, but we weren't terribly happy with how watery it was once it was defrosted. Just this past week though, as an experiment between methods, I canned one batch, and froze another. As soon as we run out of the other batch, which was refrigerated, we are going to open the canned jar, and then the frozen one, and see which preservation method is most true to the texture & flavor of the fresh salsa. I will do my level best to report back here with the results.

Susan said...

Thanks for the information and explanation. I'm just starting my journey into eating fresh food and making things where I can..learning, learning, learning. I've never understood people who were ever bored when there is so much to learn.