Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Salsa Challenge

In the U.S., most restaurants serve a variation of salsa ranchera and sometimes salsa verde, but there are many other exquisite and nuanced salsas to explore.  Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico contains recipes for over twenty different salsas, including a fiery salsa de chile habanero.  She writes
It would be unthinkable to sit down to an authentic Mexican meal and not find a dish of sauce or some pickled jalapeños on the table; they are as common as salt and pepper.  I suppose it is not surprising given the great variety of chiles that are cultivated--and some grow wild--throughout Mexico.  There is a great difference, too, in the heat level, color, taste in chiles both fresh and dried.  The ways in which chiles are prepared, and the ingredients with which they are combined, are highly regional...I doubt that any other cuisine has such a variety of "condiments."
I enjoy making homemade salsas.  I find that the taste tends to vary slightly with each batch, the outcome dependent upon the ripeness of the tomatoes, the types and amounts of chiles I use and whether the vegetables are roasted or blended raw.

Homemade salsas, whether green or red, raw or roasted are utterly fresh.  Which is why it's hard to understand the seemingly huge demand for bottled salsas sold in stores.  (Some even claim that salsa outsells ketchup as America's favorite condiment!)  It takes very little time to blend the vegetables raw or roast them first and throw them into a blender.

Readers are hereby challenged to reach for the fresh tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles in lieu of who-knows-how-long-they've-been-on-the shelf bottled salsas!  Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Salsa Three Ways

Recipe Type: Salsa

Author: Gilda Claudine

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

Total time: 25 mins

Serves: 4 to 6


  • 5 Ripe Tomatoes

  • 5 tomatillos

  • 2 avocados

  • 1 habanero

  • 2 Jalapeños or chiles serranos

  • Cilantro

  • 1 small onions

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. On a comal or cast iron pan without oil, roast the tomatoes and chiles.

  2. Once the vegetables charred, cool and remove some of the burnt skin.

Salsa de Habanero

  1. Place 1/2 of a habanero (de-seed for less heat), 1/2 clove of garlic, 1/4 raw onion and 3 large tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

  2. Blend until the ingredients are smooth.

  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Salsa Roja

  1. Place 2 jalapeños, 1/2 clove of garlic, two large tomatoes, a bunch of cilantro in a blender or food processor.

  2. Blend until the ingredients are smooth.

  3. Add salt and pepper to taste
Salsa Verde with Aguacate
  1. Place roasted tomatillos, roasted serrano peppers, 1/2 clove of garlic, a bunch of cilantro, 1/4 onion (optional) and 2 ripe avocados in blender or food processor.

  2. Blend until smooth.

  3. Add salt and pepper to taste

A few things to keep in mind:
The jalapeños and serranos can be used interchangeably.
Adjust the spice level accordingly by using more or less chiles in each recipe.
The salsas may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.