As the short tomato season winds down here in Michiana it’s a good time to find a way to use or preserve your remaining tomato harvest. Canning tomatoes is always a popular option and this makes them a versatile ingredient year-round, but another great use is making salsa. Salsa itself is a simple combination of a few fresh ingredients, but when done right it is light years better than anything you’ll find in the jars at the store, and it’s so inexpensive and healthy that you can make it all the time or feed a group when entertaining. That’s why today I want to share my simple, inexpensive, yet very tasty salsa recipe that can use fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or even store-bought tomatoes making this a year-round classic.
As I mentioned above, you can use virtually any tomatoes you can get your hands on, but fresh, in-season local tomatoes will be an added treat. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, I recommend peeling them since the skin can sometimes be an unwelcome texture in the finished product. To do this, simply cut out the stem portion of the tomato and then make a small cut in the skin on the bottom. Then toss them into boiling water for just a few seconds before removing and placing into an ice water bath. As soon as they cool you’ll be able to easily peel the skin right off the tomato. This extra step will give you a better texture in the end, but it is by no means necessary. If you are using whole tomatoes in a can from the store, they are typically already peeled.
- 8-10 roma-sized tomatoes (or one 28 oz can of whole tomatoes)
- One 10 oz can of diced tomatoes with mild chilies
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 of a medium onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 tsp kosher/sea salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
- Large handful of cilantro
I’ve had a number of people ask me why I bother with the small can of diced tomatoes with mild chilies, so I figure I better explain it here. This is obviously an optional ingredient, but having made salsa many different ways for a number of years, there’s something about adding the can to the mix that makes the salsa even better. The stuff in the can seems to have a very mellow heat, which is quite a contrast to the sharp bite you get from fresh jalapeno. You can obviously compensate and get more heat by adding more peppers, but I think having the extra layer of mild heat behind the fresh bite of jalapeno just gives the salsa more depth. Feel free to experiment, but this is what I’ve settled on.
Making the Salsa
One of the best things about this recipe is that you can let a machine do most of the work. Other than a few quick cuts, the food processor will turn this salsa out in a matter of seconds. Don’t have a food processor? Well, a blender will work, but you’ll need to be careful so that you don’t end up with soup, and if you don’t have a blender you’ll need to rely on fine knife skills and like a chunkier salsa. Neither option is a deal breaker, but this is just one more good excuse to go out and buy a food processor.
So, we’re going to start by adding the onion, garlic, and pepper to the processor. Take an onion and cut it in half, peel it, and then roughly chop it into quarters. Next, peel the garlic and add the whole cloves. Finally, cut the stem off a jalapeno and quarter it lengthwise. If you’re sensitive to the heat in peppers, consider taking the seeds and membranes out of half the jalapeno to start. You can always introduce more heat, but you can’t take it out.
Give this mixture a few pulses. The reason you chop these ingredients first is because they are tougher and if you were to add the delicate tomatoes at this stage the tomatoes would basically turn into the consistency of a milkshake before the onions, garlic, and peppers were the right size. So, start by getting a good chop on these first and then when it’s time to add the tomatoes, cilantro, and spices, it will just take another few pulses before everything is the perfect consistency. What you’re looking for is in the photo below.
Now that the rough chop is done with the vegetables, it’s time to add the tomatoes, lime juice, spices, and cilantro. So, just dump everything else into the food processor and let it do the work. As you may have noticed in the ingredient list, I use chipotle powder. This provides another mild layer of heat while giving a hint of smokiness to the salsa. If you can get your hands on real chipotle peppers, then that’s obviously the way to go. But in many areas these can be hard to come by, so having some chipotle powder in the spice rack will save the day. After all, it’s a fantastic spice to have anyway because it’s is amazing for making rubs or adding a little heat to a vinaigrette. If you can’t find chipotle powder in your local supermarket, just head over to My Spice Sage.
After a few quick pulses it should start to come together quickly. You can choose the consistency you like best, but I typically go for a finer texture restaurant style as you can see below.
And there you have it. A huge bowl of incredibly fresh and bold salsa in a matter of minutes, and for just a few dollars. The salsa will easily keep for a week in the refrigerator, but it never lasts that long around here. In fact, I make a batch of this almost every week. It’s great for a snack with some chips, add some cheese and sour cream to make nachos, or just as a condiment for any number of Mexican dishes you might serve up during the week. Once you’ve made this, have fun experimenting by adding different peppers, try roasting the tomatoes, or any number of new combinations. I’m sure you’ll find a a winner that will end up being your perfect house blend.