Salsa Makes Special
A jar of delicious salsa can give even the most basic of meals some zing. My brother-in-law, who grew up in McAllen, is the family’s resident salsa-maker, and his recipe (if you can call it that) involves a large can of tomatoes, a few jalapenos, a handful of cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lime juice (in varying amounts, according to his mood). All go into the blender for a few moments, and then it’s ready to eat.
However, until you get familiar with proportions, it’s sometimes easier to follow a recipe. Here are my adaptations of recipes found in Cooking with Texas Highways, available from UT Press, at online vendors such as Amazon, and at your local bookseller.
Remember that peppers–especially jalapeños— vary wildly in heat. It’s wise to start with one or two, then blend in additional chiles if you like more fire.
Roasted Red Sauce
This recipe is adapted from a smoked-salsa given to us by Matt Martinez, owner of Matt’s El Rancho in Austin. Since I don’t have a smoker, I roast the vegetables in my trusty kettle barbecue. And instead of the red wine vinegar called for in the original recipe, I like to use lime juice. Here’s my take.
- 3 whole medium tomatoes
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 3 whole jalapeños
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. lime juice
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- ½ cup water
Place all ingredients (except for water) in a tinfoil “platter” and cook on the barbecue until soft.
Mash with water (salsa should be chunky) and serve. Will keep for about two weeks in the fridge, but it probably won’t last that long!
Easy Green Sauce
Tomatillo-based salsas, such as this one, are economical, easy, and taste great with chicken, fish and egg dishes.
- 7 medium tomatillos, husks and stems removed
- ½ white onion, quartered
- 2 serranos or jalapeños
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 large bunch cilantro, stems removed
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 T. lime juice
Place tomatillos in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow tomatillos to cool in the water.
Puree the whole mess in a blender or food processor, and serve. Will keep about a week in the fridge; it’ll thicken up a bit, so feel free to add water to thin it out again.