There’s more than one way to salsa, but it better always be spicy. A mild salsa is like a tomato sauce wearing a badly painted luchador mask. There’s simply no excuse for it. I know that some people can’t handle spice, yet these same people (read: my husband) enjoy the slow burn of a whiskey and dishes of kick-your-butt kimchi. Let’s just hope our future children inherit my heat tolerance (and love of breakfast tacos). I come from a long line of spice-seekers: my Grandfather carries his own bottle of hot sauce wherever he goes, my Dad puts peppers on almost everything, and I’m pretty sure the very last meal my Mom ever enjoyed was homemade jalapeno poppers (we grew a crop of seriously spicy peppers in my Dad’s garden and spice was one of the few things she could taste). In other words, salsas and their heat level are very important in this here household.
These recipes for Stove-top Salsa and Salsa Verde were the last two recipes I worked on with Mom before she went the way of the Dodo (she said I could use that phrase) and they were both recently published in the Boston Globe. They are the simplest of recipes and easy to adjust to one’s personal heat preferences — if you must — but Mom would think less of you, just sayin’.
Makes 6 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 large tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
4 large jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and diced (include seeds if you want a hotter mixture)
1 cup water
Juice of 2 small limes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1. In a large flameproof casserole over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
2. Add the tomatoes and jalapenos. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break apart and the mixture reduces slightly.
3. Add water, lime juice, salt, and black pepper; stir well.
4. Turn off the heat and let mixture cool slightly. Stir in cilantro.
5. In a blender, puree half the mixture until smooth. Add to the remaining salsa and stir well.
6. Store in a Mason jar or container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 3 cups
8 tomatillos, husks removed and halved
1 small onion, halved
3 limes, 2 halved and seeded, 1 juiced
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1½ cups water
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.
2. On the sheet, toss the tomatillos, onion, 4 unjuiced lime halves, garlic, and olive oil. Spread out and sprinkle with salt.
3. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until the tomatillos are slightly browned on top. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the lime halves from the baking sheet. Transfer the remaining mixture to a blender.
5. Use a citrus reamer to squeeze the juice from the roasted limes. Add to the blender with the fresh lime juice, cilantro, water, and salt.
6. Blend the mixture until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool completely. Store in Mason jars in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Both of these salsas also can well. If you’d like to take that extra step, follow the USDA guidelines for water-bath canning or check out Canning Across America for more in-depth videos and how-tos.