Sunday, February 01, 2009

Homemade Salsa (even in the dead of winter!)

Every summer, I plant a weed patch/garden and then work toward the goal of canning the produce so that we can enjoy the bounty during the winter months. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't... This year was, unfortunately a "doesn't," as I lost my legal assistant right as the tomatoes and jalapenos were ready and I was very busy at the office and my produce went to waste. I literally have not gone near my garden since late summer, because it is a sad reminder of that very fact. Oh well - there is always this year!!

Today's Primary Suspects:

Roma tomatoes (about 7), half of a large red onion, 2-3 jalapenos, and one bunch of cilantro

We'll talk about the rest of the ingredients later.

One of our very favorite things to make and can is homemade salsa! Last week, I found some nice-looking Roma tomatoes on sale and decided to give it a go at making some fresh salsa with lowly grocerystore produce. I figured that if it tasted good enough, I could close my eyes and pretend like it's July and there isn't a foot of snow on the ground here. It was delish!

I have just in the last year decided that cilantro is an herb of the gods. Like, I can't cook Mexican food without a big bunch of it being involved. Like I dream of it at night. Like I want to marry it. OK, it's not really that great, but you get the idea. You do NOT want to use the dried stuff that comes in a jar. Ick. I mean, it's probably okay if you have never tasted fresh cilantro, but I honestly wouldn't even bother making fresh salsa unless I have the fresh cilantro - it's just that darn good.

Anyway, the challenge with cooking with it is that it has rather tough stems and it is very time-consuming to pull all those little leaves off before chopping. So, I figured out a trick that makes it much less bothersome. I hold the bunch of cilantro with my left hand (the leaves pointing toward the right). Next, I hold a fork with my right hand and put the tines down so that the tines are pointing straight down amongst the stems and pull the fork to the right, keeping the tines against the cutting board. I continue doing this until my left hand is left pretty much just holding stems. The leaves pull right off of the stems as I drag the fork.

Does that make even one little whit of sense at all? I hope.

Here is the cutting board filled with everything chopped up. Ta-da! Mucho beautiful. Or something like that.

Now, I want you to meet my long-time best friend in the kitchen. It is sometimes called a Bench Scraper and I have also heard it called a Dough Scraper. I call it The Metal Scraper-Thing. Whatever you call it, you want one in your kitchen. I almost always include one when I give a wedding shower gift.

It works great for scooping up the veggies and putting them into the bowl. Another day, I will show you its awesomeness when working with dough. Before then, go buy one. If you want to. Or not. Nevermind.

After you have all the veggies in the bowl, we move on to the "extras." Start with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. You can use regular salt. Or Kosher salt. Or solar-evaporated sea salt. Now us, since it's wintertime here and we're on a tight budget, I usually just go scrape some off of the road after the salt truck passes through. Using my Dough Scraper, of course. Just kidding. Maybe. I also could, in a pinch, go out to the dairy barn and scrape some off of the cows' salt block. I doubt if a little cow saliva ever killed anyone.

I just squirt about 2 teaspoons or so of lime juice in the bowl, but I don't really measure. I also scoop in about 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. That is enough to keep vampires away, so use less if you are going to be in the same room with another person in the next 24 hours. Just a warning.

After making tons of homemade salsa over the years, I have found that the number one mistake people make is not adding enough salt. The right amount of salt really brings out the freshness of the ingredients. Add it slowly, however, because you don't want it to taste salty, but rather just have enough to enhance the flavors.

Ta-da! The finished product. Just grab some tortilla chips and dig in. The men in the house will love you forever for makin this.

S.B. Mom

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